After spending nearly 18 months on the sidelines with a torn ACL, Bellator women’s champion Zoila “The Warrior Princess” Gurgel made a successful return to action tonight at Bellator Fighting Championships 78 in Dayton, Ohio. Gurgel earned a Unanimous Decision win over Casey “KO” Noland.
Gurgel got off to a slower start than she had hoped in round one, but began to take control of the fight on the feet and on the ground in the later rounds. She bloodied Noland with a nasty elbow strike from the top in round three that sealed the well-earned decision victory on all three judges’ scorecards.
Gurgel (12-1-0) stunned Noland (4-3-0) with an overhand right early in the fight, but Noland recovered and clinched. Gurgel scored a takedown and worked from the top until Noland used an Achilles lock to sweep. She passed to side control and landed knees to the body. Gurgel countered with an inverted triangle choke and the fighters returned to their feet. Noland was effective with knees to the body in the final minute and appeared to narrowly take the opening round.
More knees scored for Noland in round two until Gurgel took her down and tried to pass to mount. Noland scrambled out, but Gurgel looked to set up a guillotine choke and then took her back. Noland rolled over and Gurgel locked on a Kimura from the top in side control. Noland was clearly in some trouble, but she held on and eventually escaped. Noland stood and landed knees to the body, and Gurgel attempted a flying armbar before the bell.
With the fight even heading into round three, Noland was aggressive with knees early on. Gurgel was able to create space and landed a nice left hook and a one-two. She countered a clinch with an elbow over the top and knees that prompted Noland to give up her back. Noland fell to her knees and Gurgel swarmed with strikes on the ground. An elbow opened a cut on Noland’s forehead. Gurgel stood and kicked at her opponent’s legs until Noland rose to her feet and threw knees until the end of the fight.
Gurgel’s ground control in rounds two and three was enough to take a close but Unanimous Decision victory. She has now won seven straight fights since suffering her lone career defeat.
Winner: Zoila Gurgel by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) after three rounds. She improves to 12-1-0.