Three of Bellator MMA’s most popular flyweight stars will be in action this April – Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, Anastasia Yankova and Lena Ovchynnikova. Bellator president Scott Coker has confirmed that the organization will introduce a belt for the 125lb division by the end of the year, this months fights could potentially play a crucial role in determining which two fighters will contend for the first ever belt.
First up on April 8th at Bellator 176, undefeated Russian Anastasia Yankova (4-0-0) returns to competition to take on Elina Kallionidou at a catchweight of 130-pounds. The 26-year-old was an accomplished kickboxer before making the transition to mixed martial arts. She made her MMA debut in October 2013 submitting Eleonora Tassinari in the second round via a Scarf Hold Armlock, she followed up with a first round Armbar victory in October 2015. Bellator MMA immediately signed her up after this victory, and she has since won two further fights, taking out Anjela Pink and Veta Arteaga. She has become very popular with fans thanks to the combination of her stunningly good looks, as well as her excellent performances inside the cage. A victory over Kallionidou would put her at 5-0-0 and make her a front-runner to contend for the first ever Bellator flyweight belt.
On April 14th Ukraine’s Lena Ovchynnikova (11-4-0) takes on former The Ultimate Fighter contestant Helen Harper. The 29-year-old was a world champion in kickboxing before making the transition to MMA. Despite her obvious stand-up experience, much like Yankova, she has yet to finish a fight via strikes, with eight armbar victories to her record. She is coming off a dominant unanimous decision victory over Karla Benitez at Bellator 164 in November. She faces a very tough opponent in Harper, who of course has competed on The Ultimate Fighter 23, coached by none other than UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. A victory for Ovchynnikova over Harper would certainly make a statement to the MMA world.
On April 21st Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (5-0-0) takes on fellow undefeated flyweight Jessica Middleton (2-0-0). The 26-year-old has yet to taste defeat throughout her entire amateur or professional career. She possesses the kind of power which not many 125lb competitors possess, as shown by her round one knockout over Katie Castro in her MMA debut. She has since shown the ability to successfully execute a variety of submissions as shown by her Armbar win over Amber Tackett and rear-naked choke win over Rebecca Ruth. Macfarlane will become 6-0 if she takes out Middleton, and it would be hard to deny the Hawaiian beauty a shot at the belt.
Anastasia Yankova takes on Elina Kallionidou on April 8th at Bellator 176. Lena Ovchynnikova battles Helen Harper at Bellator MMA 177 on April 14th. Whilst Ilima-Lei Macfarlane goes to war against Jessica Middleton on April 21st at Bellator MMA 178. All events will be aired live on Spike.