After a couple of weeks off for the promotion, Bellator 224 goes down on Friday, July 12, at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
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The event is headlined by a women’s featherweight title bout that will see undefeated Olga Rubin (6-0) attempt to usurp the current queen of the division, Julia Budd (12-2). Our co-main event of the evening features former Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Caravalho (15-3) squaring off against Chidi Njokuani (18-6).
Read on for a preview of the feature matchups and more.
Bellator 224 Fight Card
MAIN CARD (Paramount, DAZN, 9 p.m. ET)
- Julia Budd (c) vs. Olga Rubin
- Rafael Carvalho vs. Chidi Njokuani
- Juliana Velasquez vs. Kristina Williams
- Kiichi Kunimoto vs. Ed Ruth
PRELIMINARY CARD (DAZN, 6:45 p.m. ET)
- Sinead Kavanagh vs. Leslie Smith
- A.J. Agazarm vs. Jacob Landin
- Lucas Brennan vs. Thomas Lopez
- Jamese Taylor vs. Gabriel Varga
- Amanda Bell vs. Arlene Blencowe
- Will Fleury vs. Antonio Jones
- Christian Edwards vs. Justin Vargas
- Nainoa Dung vs. Brad Robison
- Bruna Ellen vs. Elina Kallionidou
- Kiefer Crosbie vs. Jonathan Gary
- Joel Bauman vs. Jordan Young
- Kona Oliveira vs. Joseph Holmes
Julia Budd vs. Olga Rubin
Bellator featherweight champion Julia Budd first made her way into fans’ households via the Strikeforce Challengers series back in 2010. Airing on Showtime, the events were meant to shine a spotlight on those who the promotion felt could one day be stars of the sport. Budd fought four times in the series, beating Shana Nelson and Germaine de Randamie and losing to the then-relatively unknown Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey.
The loss to Rousey back in 2011 would be Budd’s last one to date. After going 4-0 with three finishes in Invicta FC, “The Jewel” signed with Bellator in 2015. Victories against Roberta Samad, Arlene Blencowe, and Gabrielle Holloway set Budd up for a title fight with former Strikeforce champion Marloes Coenen for the inaugural Bellator women’s featherweight title. Budd won the championship via TKO.
Budd has since defended her title twice. She won a controversial split-decision in a rematch against Arlene Blencowe in 2017. In her last outing, Budd dominated—then finished—Talita Nogueira in the third round at Bellator 202.
Olga Rubin’s path to Bellator 224 is much less storied, but still rather impressive in its own right. The Israeli fighter is 6-0 and picked up the biggest win of her career last November when she beat WMMA veteran Cindy Dandois in just her fifth fight. After the Dandois victory, Rubin was set to take on former champion boxer-turned-MMA fighter, Sinead Kavanagh. Kavanagh would pull out of the bout with an injury and Rubin would instead face and beat Iony Razafiarison at Bellator 217 in February.
Rafael Carvalho vs. Chidi Njokuani
Rafael Carvalho won the Bellator middleweight title when he stopped former champion Brandon Halsey with a body kick in the second round in 2015. Caravalho would then defend his belt against the knockout machine Melvin Manhoef via split decision in a lackluster affair that many thought Manhoef should’ve won. The rematch was booked and Carvalho made sure there was no controversial ending when he flattened Manhoef with a head kick in the fourth round. After a second defense of his belt against Alessio Sakara, Carvalho would lose his strap to Gegard Mousasi last year.
Carvalho attempted to rebound when he met promotional newcomer Lyoto Machida but would lose a hard-fought split decision to the former UFC champion.
Chidi Njokuani will also be looking to get back into the win column this weekend. After going 4-0 to kick off his tenure with the organization, the former kickboxer would first taste defeat in the Bellator cage at the hands of Andrey Koreshkov. Njokuani bounced back with a victory over Hisaki Kato but would be controlled and choked out by John Salter in his next fight, his most recent to date.
Kicking off the main card of the event is an intriguing bout between Ed Ruth and recent Bellator acquisition Kiichi Kunimoto. Ruth, a highly decorated freestyle and folkstyle wrestler, suffered his first defeat in MMA to Neiman Gracie in the opening round of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix.
Kunimoto rose to prominence in Pancrase before amassing a 3-2 record in the UFC. “Strasser” then signed with RIZIN where he won two in a row before making the move to Bellator. Kunimoto is ten years Ruth’s elder and has 22 more fights than the American wrestler.
Also slated for the Paramount broadcast of Bellator 224 is the undefeated Juliana Velasquez taking on Kristina Williams. Now 8-0 as a professional, a win for Velasquez could put her on the short list for a title shot against Bellator women’s flyweight champion and breakout star, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane.
Brandon is a long-time fan of combat sports who has covered them for various outlets since 2017.