Mixed martial arts fans and bettors don’t have to wait until Saturday this week for a strong event. Bellator 224 kicks off the weekend Friday night from Oklahoma, a card headlined by a 145-pound women’s matchup between Julia Budd and Olga Rubin. Check back for Bellator odds.
Bellator 224 Odds, Preview & Expert Picks
- When: Friday, 9 PM ET
- Where: WinStar World Casino, Thackerville, OK
- TV: Paramount Network
- Live Stream: DAZN
Julia Budd (12-2) vs. Olga Rubin (6-0)
Budd puts her Bellator featherweight title on the line against a top contender in Rubin. Budd practiced Muay Thai for years and would become the only woman to defeat American Gina Carano in Muay Thai competition. Budd’s most recent loss in the ring was to current UFC fighter Germaine de Randamie, after which Budd made the move to MMA. Budd began training in MMA at the end of 2008 and avenged her loss to de Randamie when she defeated her via unanimous decision in a 2011 MMA bout.
That 12-2 mark is her record in MMA only. Her only losses are to current MMA women’s pound-for-pound queen Amanda Nunes in January 2011 and then to former UFC champion Ronda Rousey in November 2011 – both in Strikeforce. Budd has not yet been a part of UFC, starting her career with Strikeforce before moving to Invicta FC and then to Bellator. Budd last was in the Octagon in July of last year and beat Talita Nogueira by third-round TKO. In Round 3, Budd almost immediately went on the attack and launched a right leg kick, then a big right overhand off the kick. That punch dropped Nogueira, and Budd moved in, pinning Nogueira along the fence as she unloaded blow after blow. They were powerful shots, and Nogueira was done well before the ref waved it off.
The Bellator women’s featherweight champion has won 10 consecutive fights and this is her third defense. The 36-year-old is regarded as one of the top women’s featherweights in the world alongside current UFC titleholder Nunes and Cris “Cyborg” Justino. With Justino on the verge of free agency after her fight at UFC 241 later this month, there is the possibility of a Budd-Cyborg showdown in Bellator. Budd recently signed a new multi-fight contract with the organization ahead of this fight.
Not much is known of the 29-year-old Rubin, who is from Israel. She has that unbeaten record but hasn’t fought near the quality of opponents that Budd has. It’s not often that a fighter with only two and a half years of training is thrust into a title shot in a major organization like Rubin is. It wasn’t until she took out Cindy Dandois, an MMA veteran, that she realized what she was truly capable of.
“No one is unbeatable,” Rubin said of Budd. “You can beat them all. It’s just a matter of the right coaching the right skill set and obviously the drive. I’m a hungry wolf climbing up the mountain. I know she [Budd] is going to bring her A-game but my A-game is going to be extremely strong this time.”
Rafael Carvalho (15-3) vs. Chidi Njoukani (18-6)
These are two middleweight contenders. Carvalho made his professional MMA debut against Julio Cesar Araujo Fernandes on December 17, 2011, at Samurai FC 6. Carvalho lost the fight via submission in the first round. Following the loss, Carvalho went on a nine-fight unbeaten streak that included a unanimous decision win over Gustavo Machado that won him the Smash Fight middleweight championship, before signing with Bellator.
Carvalho won the Bellator middleweight title at Bellator 144, beating Brandon Halsey. He defended the title a few times before losing to Gegard Mousasi at Bellator 200. Mousasi won by first-round TKO (punches). Last time in the Octagon, Carvalho lost to Lyoto Machida, a former UFC light heavyweight champion, by split decision last December. On weigh-in day, Carvalho missed weight, weighing in at 186.5 pounds, over the maximum non-title limit of 186.0 pounds. The bout proceeded at catchweight and Carvalho was fined 20% of his purse.
Njokuani lost via first-round submission to John Salter in his last Bellator bout in November. The 30-year-old, a former RFA welterweight champion, holds a 5-2 record in Bellator, being 1-1 since moving up to 185 pounds. Younger brother of UFC veteran Anthony Njokuani, “Chidi Bang Bang” defeated Hisaki Kato via decision in his middleweight debut before losing to Salter.
Expert Bellator 224 Picks
Budd wins by knockout and Carvalho by decision.