Fighting almost complete on the feet with Denise Kielholtz may not have been the recommended strategy for Juliana Velasquez heading into their Bellator 262 main event on Friday night, but the gameplan ultimately paid off with Velasquez scoring a split decision victory to retain her women's flyweight championship.
Kielholtz got off to a fast start in the opening round, using speed and hard-charging combinations to force the champion into long periods of inactivity as Velasquez attempted to figure out the appropriate timing for counter strikes. As Velasquez seemed initially befuddled, Kielholtz got off to an early lead on the scorecards through sheer activity.
By the second round, however, Velasquez found the tool that would ultimately tip the fight her way, working a stiff jab through Kielholtz's guard. The weapon's effectiveness was aided by a massive size advantage for Velasquez, who towered over the challenger.
"I believe I had a lot of success with my jab but a hard time with my straight right," Velasquez said after the fight. "It wasn't exactly like I wanted, but I'm very happy with how I performed and the result of the fight."
The jab slowed Kielholtz's ability to charge in with her powerful flurries and left the challenger with swelling around her eyes by the end of the third round. As Kielholtz was slower to charge in, Velasquez was able to better time the flurries and slide out of the way while taking far less damage than in the opening frame.
The fight would continue to hinge on Velasquez's jab until Kielholtz was able to land some heavy combinations while also avoiding a takedown attempt from Velasquez. In fact, Velasquez was only successful with a single takedown over the 25 minutes of the fight, something she seemed disappointed with despite scoring the win.
"I was actually thinking about working my takedowns but I wasn't finding the timing to do it," Velasquez said. "Most of my fights I do the pressuring but I showed that I can fight on the outside as well as withstand the pressure and that's also what makes a champion."
In the end, two of the three official judges saw Velasquez doing enough over the middle rounds to edge out the win, with the cards reading 48-47, 47-48 and 48-47.
The win was the first defense of the title Velasquez won from Ilima-Lei Macfarlane this past December and improved the champion's record to a perfect 12-0 as a professional.
CBS Sports was with you throughout the evening for the latest updates, highlights and results from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut with our live blog below. Stay tuned for updates all night long.
Bellator 262 card, results
- Juliana Velasquez (c) def. Denise Kielholtz via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
- Tyrell Fortune def. Matt Mitrione via first-round submission (strikes)
- Matheus Mattos def. Cee Jay Hamilton via second-round TKO (punches)
- Arlene Blencowe def. Dayana Silva via third-round TKO (punches)
- Johnny Eblen def. Travis Davis via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
- Said Sowma def. Ronny Markes via first-round TKO (punches)
- Cody Law def. Theodore Macuka via first-round TKO (punches)
- Diana Avsaragova def. Gabriella Gulfin via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Adil Benjilany def. Johnny Soto via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Charlie Campbell def. Nick Giulietti via second-round TKO (strikes)