Zoila GurgelDAYTON – It’s been more than a year since Bellator women’s 115lb champion Zoila Gurgel stepped inside the cage, but she made the most of her return with a victory on Saturday night.

Gurgel suffered a devastating knee injury that kept her out of action for the last year-plus, but following surgery and recovery she finally got back in action on Friday.

Facing Gurgel in her return bout was late notice opponent Casey Noland, and she certainly looked to give the champion everything she could handle.

Noland looked strong in the first round, controlling the pace of the fight after Gurgel initially got a takedown. Noland looked for an ankle lock, but after she lost the hold she ended up on top of Gurgel for the majority of the round.

Gurgel battled back in the 2nd round when she got Noland to the ground, and almost put the fight away with a kimura. Training under her husband and black-belt jiu-jitsu instructor Jorge Gurgel, Zoila Gurgel snatched the kimura and cranked the shoulder lock with every bit of her power, but somehow Noland resisted and eventually got out.

The third round was another strong stanza for Gurgel who clocked Noland with an elbow strike from inside the clinch that not only rattled the California based fighter, but opened a nasty cut over her eye. Gurgel took the fight to the ground before getting back up out of Noland’s guard, where she kicked her legs before the fight came to a close.

All three judges scored the fight the same, 29-28 for Zoila Gurgel who picks up her first win in the Bellator cage since 2011 as she looks to move into her new 125lb division this year.

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