By Caoilte de Barra
It was a mixed set of results in Dublin for the IMMAF alumni at Bellator 270. The 3Arena played host to the event where fans were welcomed back for the first time since February 2020. The audience certainly made it known they were back as the Irish crowd had the place rocking like they always do.
The four former IMMAA representatives, they all impressed and showed why they were fighting on such a large platform. Event opener Stephen Costello looked strong in his fight, giving it his all and had the better of his opponent on a lot of occasions. His striking and grappling looked like it levelled up from when we saw him at the IMMAF World Cup, however, he was caught in a heel hook in the second round which forced the tap.
Co-Main Event fighter James Gallagher also fell short via submission but he stepped up to fight a very high calibre fighter in Patchy Mix and did not look out of place. The young fighter showed us he is certainly at that level of competition.
Neilan dominated her fight throughout, it was a well-rounded strong performance. Her opponent threatened with an armbar in round one but outside of that, we got to see Neilan secure takedowns at will. Her striking looked sharp too, especially in round two when she dropped Kerouche.
The final round saw Neilan finish things off with relentless ground and pound late in the round to secure her first TKO/KO win.
In her post-fight interview, Neilan spoke about her involvement with the amateur side of the sport in Ireland. Highlighting Kiya O’Sullivan as the next women’s MMA star to watch in the Irish amateur ranks.
The last of the bunch was Ciaran Clarke who closed the prelim card in style. The five-time IMMAA representative’s experience showed as he dealt with all kinds of adversity in his pursuit of glory. Across from him was a tough Jordan Barton that landed big shots throughout and was always looking to finish the fight. Clarke was patient though, even after eating a knee that would put most people to sleep, he managed to stay in it and bring the fight into his world.
The final round was where we saw the magic happen and all those years of hard work showed. Clarke was able to secure his signature takedown and get to work. He was down two rounds on two judges’ scorecards with the clock ticking when he managed to get his hand around the jaw of Barton. He locked in the choke, forcing the tap and was greeted by an electric response from the crowd.
In an Instagram post, Coach John Kavanagh credited both Clarke and Neilan for their time spent building experience by having an extensive amateur career. Both fighters have been unstoppable since turning pro and showed why they were signed by Bellator MMA right off the bat.