- Leah McCourt stops Sara McMann to set up Cris Cyborg title fight.
Northern Ireland’s Leah McCourt stopped Sara McMann in the first round at Bellator 300 to set up a featherweight title bout against Cris Cyborg.
McCourt, 31, reversed a takedown attempt from America’s McMann, 43, before raining down punches and elbows which led the referee to step in.
“I’m relieved, it’s been a tough year after my last fight,” McCourt said.
McCourt and Cyborg faced off later in the night after the latter’s win over Cat Zingano in San Diego, California.
The Northern Ireland fighter now has seven wins in her nine-fight Bellator career, but has not fought for a title before.
She came into the contest with McMann following a unanimous decision loss to Zingano in March, adding the narrow defeat felt like a “kick in the teeth”.
Former UFC star McMann, meanwhile, defeated Arlene Blencowe in April on her Bellator debut to set up the bout with McCourt.
McMann, who was a silver medallist in freestyle wrestling at the 2004 Athens Olympics, went for a takedown early in the contest and spent the majority of the round trying to get McCourt to the ground from the back position.
But McCourt showed impressive takedown defence throughout, before reversing the manoeuvre to secure top position on the ground.
From there McCourt rained down continuous punches and elbows, opening up a cut above McMann’s eye and causing the referee to halt the contest.
Following victory, McCourt celebrated with team-mate and close friend Molly McCann, before sharing a moment with McMann, who sat dejectedly on her stool.
“I’m so relieved, it’s been a tough year after my last fight. I know I needed a big win and to make a statement and I was able to do that,” said McCourt.
“A lot of people thought I won that last fight, and with the featherweight title fight tonight it felt like it should have been me fighting so I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder.
“I did have pressure, I think I finally believed in myself and my team, and I was able to show that in my performance.”