Irish Fighters Go Undefeated In Bellator Europe Italian Job

Image Credit: Bellator MMA / Lucas Noonan

It was a clean sweep for Bellator’s Irish contingent on Saturday evening, as SBG Ireland fighters Will Fleury, Frans Mlambo, Richie Smullen, and Danni Neilan all emerged victorious from their matchups at Bellator European Series 8 inside the Allianz Cloud Arena in Milan, Italy.

Image Credit: Bellator MMA / Lucas Noonan

Danni Neilan extended her unblemished professional record to 3-0 to open the prelims portion of the card. After impressing in Bellator’s two most recent Dublin shows with unanimous decision victories over Camila Rivarola and Chiara Penco, Neilan secured the first finish of her pro career over France’s Claire Lopez. After an early period of adversity where Neilan was dropped by Lopez, the Roscommon native overcame her counterpart, busting up Lopez’s nose en route to taking down, mounting and submitting Lopez with a rear-naked choke from the Frenchwoman’s back.

Image Credit: Bellator MMA / Lucas Noonan

Richie Smullen returned to winning ways inside the Bellator cage, while handing opponent Harry Hardwick his first loss under the promotional banner. The SBG Ireland featherweight implemented a gritty, pressure-heavy gameplan, repeatedly dragging Hardwick to the mat before landing ground-and-pound strikes from inside Hardwick’s guard to win the first two rounds. Hardwick rose to the occasion in the third, but the Arklow man had already done enough over the previous 10 minutes to earn the victory, with all three judges scoring the fight 29-28 to Smullen. The win moves Richie Smullen to 6-2-1 in his pro career and 3-1 in Bellator.

Image Credit: Bellator MMA / Lucas Noonan

Frans Mlambo also moved back into the win column with a victory over Cory Tait. Despite his KO loss to Ricky Bandejas on the Dublin card in February, Mlambo has looked very impressive since joining the Bellator ranks, and it was widely regarded that the South Africa-born Irishman was winning the Bandejas fight before being caught with a beautifully-place left hook. True to form, Mlambo impressed throughout his contest with Tait. “The Black Mamba” was first to the punch, displaying high-level distance management and head movement, as he outclassed Tait in the striking department en route to a Unanimous Decision win of 30-27, 29-28, 29-27 on the judges’ scorecards. The win moves Mlambo to 9-5 in his pro career and 3-1 in Bellator.

Image Credit: Bellator MMA / Lucas Noonan

Will Fleury joined his teammates in transitioning back to winning ways with a mature and dominant performance over England’s Kent Kauppinen. The SBG Ireland middleweight may have failed to gain consistent momentum in recent times, but his anywhere/anytime attitude to accepting fights has certainly gained him valuable fight experience. Fleury was composed and tactical with his game plan, avoiding danger on the outside, and timing his entries to precision as he initiated the grappling, taking Kauppinen to the mat. Kauppinen was touted as the favourite coming into the contest, but it was Fleury who reigned supreme, dominating over three rounds in what was arguably his best performance to date. All three judges agreed, each awarding the Tipperary man a 30-27 decision win. The result moves Fleury to 8-3 in his pro career and 4-2 in Bellator.

Andy is a writer, interviewer, and occasional podcaster. Andy's work features on SevereMMA.com, The Severe MMA Podcast, and EuroMMAHub.com. Andy heavily focuses on the Irish MMA scene. Feel free to reach out to Andy on Twitter @andyste123