Jessica Aguilar (left) took a split decision over Carla Esparza.
| Photo: Keith Mills
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Bellator bills its undercard headliners as
“local main events,” and that's exactly what
American Top Team bantamweight Jessica
Aguilar offered the
Bellator 46 crowd at the Seminole Hard Rock Live, earning a
split decision (30-27, 30-27, 28-29) over fellow former Bellator
tournament entrant Carla
Aguilar was the aggressor throughout the bout, chasing down
Esparza, who circled the cage in pursuit of low kicks. Aguilar
dictated the first round with clean right hands that snapped
Esparza's head back and in the second round, was even able to get
the talented wrestler on the mat, as if to simply show off her
Early in the second frame, Aguilar showed off the lesser-known
elements to her game, getting double underhooks and slamming the
talented wrestler to the mat. However, from there, Esparza rallied
as she started to land effective low kicks and was able to show off
her own takedown skills, punctuating the frame with a headlock hip
throw that put her in side control.
It seemed like the
Team Oyama product might be stealing the fight from the local
favorite, as a short counter right put Aguilar on the deck early in
round three. Esparza looked to pounce, but couldn't find any
Aguilar (left) edged Esparza.
From there, the fight belonged to “Jag,” who landed hard low kicks
and steady, stern right hands to keep Esparza circling away and on
the defensive until the final bell.
“I thought I definitely took the first and the third,” said Aguilar
in assessing the fight. “She got me down in round two, but in the
first and third I was aggressive and worked my game and landed
Oddly, Esparza saw the fight in considerably different fashion,
despite the fact the second round seemed to be her strongest.
“I thought I maybe lost the second, but won the first and third,”
said Esparza. “I didn't take a lot of damage, I feel fine.”
Judges Ric Bays and Barry Luxenberg saw the bout 30-27 for Aguilar,
giving her the split decision win, while dissenting judge Hector
Gomez saw it 29-28 Esparza. Sherdog.com scored the bout 29-28 for
With the win, Aguilar moved to 11-4, having won six of her last
seven fights. The lone loss in that span was her controversial
split decision loss to would-be Bellator 115-pound champ Zoila
Gurgel. The 23-year-old Esparza fell to 5-2 in her young,
Heavyweight prospect Tony Johnson
Jr. upped his MMA mark to 6-1 with a unanimous decision (29-28,
29-28, 29-28) over Derrick
Lewis, but earned himself no fans in a one-dimensional display
Johnson Jr. (top) outpointed Lewis.
The 25-year-old Johnson, a former Iowa State Cyclone wrestler,
easily got single-legs, double-legs, and scoop slams for 10
minutes. The Miami-based heavyweight easily passed to side control
and mount, but continued to lose position.
Lewis gave up his back repeatedly, but the former KOTC heavyweight
champion seemed to lack the balance and fitness to secure the
Lewis got back into the fight in the third round as the exhausted
Johnson dove at his legs, landing heavy hammerfists and punches,
but ended up on the ground again before the final bell.
Brazilian transplant Alexandre
Bezerra, now based in Elkins Park, Pa., moved his record to 9-1
with a sensational display of offensive grappling against Sam Jones,
stealing the local undercard.
Bezerra (top) choked Jones.
The 23-year-old Bezerra quickly put the Miramar, Fla., native on
the mat and displayed slick guard passing.
After taking the back briefly, “Popo” took full mount with an
arm-triangle choke attempt, abandoning it for a topside triangle
that ended the lightweight contest at 3:27 of the first round.
UFC veteran Dan Cramer
won his third straight bout, taking three 29-28 scores in a
unanimous decision win over Tallahassee, Fla., native Josh
Samman pushed aggressively for takedowns, but Cramer responded with
clinch knees and hip tosses that left his opponent playing guard
late in all three rounds.