Bellator 202 main-event breakdown: Why picking Julia Budd vs. Talita Nogueira is tough

Julia Budd (10-2 MMA, 5-0 BMMA)

Julia Budd (right).

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 35 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 69″
  • Last fight: Decision win Arlene Blencowe (Dec. 1, 2017)
  • Camp: Gibson MMA (Canada)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ Bellator featherweight champion

+ Pro muay Thai experience (10-2 record)

+ 4 KO victories

+ 1 submission win

+ 2 first-round finishes

+ Consistent pace and pressure

+ Conservative striking approach

^ Seldom out of position

+ Strong inside of the clinch

^ Knees, trips and takedowns

+ Solid positional grappler

^ Works well from topside

Talita Nogueira (7-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA)

Talita Nogueira

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 32 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 68″
  • Last fight: Submission win over Amanda Bell (Aug. 25, 2017)
  • Camp: Gracie Fusion (Brazil)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:

+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt

+ Multiple grappling accolades

+ 2 KO victories

+ 5 submission wins

+ 4 first-round finishes

+ Strong transitional grappler

^ Floats well from topside

+ Crafty guard game

+ Shows to work well from clinch

? Questionable overall striking

+/-Limited sample size

^ 1 fight in 4 years

Summary:

The main event for Bellator 202 features a featherweight title fight between Julia Budd and Talita Nogueira.

A veteran of women’s MMA who hasn’t lost since her 2011 meeting with Ronda Rousey, Budd will look to cement herself further into the annals of history by securing her second title defense under the Bellator banner. Looking to ruin her reign as champion is Nogueira, an accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who was supposed to face Budd back at Bellator 133 before suffering a knee injury.

Now, with a slew of injuries and failed bookings behind her, Nogueira will look to shake up the scene at 145 pounds in what will be just her second fight with the promotion. And with her first appearance only lasting a few minutes, it’s hard to know what exactly we’ll be getting a year later from Nogueira – especially when it comes to her striking.

With only six regional fights that took place over five years ago, tape on Nogueira’s striking was nonexistent, so I’ll spare you any analysis or hyperbole. There was, however, a decent amount of grappling footage, which is not surprising when looking at the Brazilian’s accomplishments in that department.

Whether it was in a gi at IBJJF or without one at ADCC, Nogueira has won many championships in her run as a grappler, competing against the biggest names from Mackenzie Dern to Gabi Garcia. Training in Sao Paulo and sharing a portion of her coaching staff with Demian Maia, I’m sure that the 32-year-old Brazilian is continuing to sharpen and better translate her game to MMA.

In her Bellator debut, Nogueira wasted no time hustling her way into the clinch to use judo-style trips from overhook positions to off-balance her opponent and open up takedown opportunities; Whereas in jiu-jitsu, she typically elected to play from guard before eventually getting going. And given that Nogueira made no attempt to hide her intentions in an interview with MMAjunkie, it appears that Budd’s game plan should be a clear one: Defend the takedowns and keep it standing.

Although that seems more than doable on paper for the only fighter to defeat Gina Carano in professional muay Thai, Budd has had some career trends in MMA that suggest this could be more compelling than meets the eye.

Despite her background in striking, Budd turned a corner stylistically after suffering a knockout via ground-and-pound to now-UFC bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes. After that, Budd went on to lend her strength and athleticism toward her takedown game, developing savvy transitions both in the open and against the fence.

In fact, whenever the former 10-2 kickboxer has elected to strike, she’s often been met with criticism for what tends to be a single-shot approach that primarily consists of body and leg kicks. And considering those strikes are amongst the easier to parlay into takedowns, I will be curious to see if the champion changes her shot selection.

Ultimately, though, this comes down to an IQ test for Budd. On paper, she possesses the fundamentals to go along her with physical abilities that should allow her to reverse gears and stay upright. There, I see her low-out style serving her well in the sense that she’s seldom caught out of position.

That said, it’s difficult to be sure what exactly we’ll get from Nogueira, a fighter who only has a few minutes of cage time in the past four years. There are no current lines on this matchup as of this writing, but I suspect that Budd will be a moderate favorite. I’m siding with the Canadian champion to retain via a conservatively fought decision win.

Official pick: Budd by decision

For more on Bellator 202, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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