Ten Participants From The Open Tryout in Honolulu Added to Bellator’s Back-to-Back Events in Hawaii

LOS ANGELES: Ahead of Bellator’s return to Hawaii on December 20 and 21 at Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, the world’s leading global mixed martial arts promotion held open tryouts in Honolulu in an effort to further Bellator’s continued commitment to the local MMA scene in Hawaii.

After an overwhelming turnout, 10 athletes from the tryout have been selected to compete inside the Bellator cage next month – and if victorious, will have a chance to earn an exclusive multi-fight Bellator contract. The fighters selected include Braydon Akeo (3-0), Cheyden Leialoha (7-1), Pierre Daguzan (5-3, 1 NC), Jamie Thorton (6-5), Hunter Ewald (pro debut), Keoni Diggs (7-0), Scotty Hao (4-2), Swayne Lunasco (7-0), Kaylan Gorospe (pro debut) and Ben Wilhelm (3-0).

At Bellator and the USO Present: Salute the Troops on Friday, Dec. 20, Maili, Hawaii’s Braydon Akeo (3-0) earns a spot on the main card at 145-pounds against Tywan Claxton (5-1), who will make his first appearance since competing in the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix. This bout joins the previously announced heavyweight main event between Josh Barnett (35-8) and Ronny Markes (19-7), a bantamweight scrap featuring newly signed Erik Perez (19-6) against Hawaii’s Toby Misech (11-7) and a flyweight contest pitting former title challengers against each other, as Alejandra Lara (8-3) squares off against Veta Artega (5-3).

On Friday’s prelims, Kauai’s Hunter Ewald, who was also selected from the tryouts, will make his professional debut against fellow Hawaiian Jonathan Pico (1-1) at 170-pounds. Also, recently signed to an exclusive deal of his own, Northern California’s Cass Bell (4-0) will face Max Holloway’s training partner Pierre Daguzan (5-3) at bantamweight and 82nd Airborne Army Veteran Jamie Thorton (6-5) takes on Tiani Valle (3-2) of Maui at flyweight.

Bellator and the USO Present: Salute the Troops will air on Paramount Network on Friday, December 20 at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT. The entire event will also stream on DAZN, while preliminary bouts will stream on Bellator.comDAZN and globally on the Bellator Mobile App.

Saturday, Dec. 21’s Bellator Hawaii: Macfarlane vs. Jackson will feature another tryout participant deserving of a main card bout, as Cheyden Leialoha (7-1) meets another top prospect in Nebraska’s Raufeon Stots (12-1) at bantamweight. This fight joins a card topped by undefeated Bellator women’s flyweight champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (10-0) defending her title against Kate Jackson (11-3-1), A.J. McKee (15-0) taking on Derek Campos (20-9) in a quarterfinal matchup of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix, Neiman Gracie (9-1) returning to action for the first time since his welterweight title shot in a welterweight bout against Kiichi Kunimoto (20-8-2, 1 NC) and women’s flyweight title hopefuls Julianna Velasquez (9-0) and Bruna Ellen (5-2) going to battle.

On the Bellator 236 preliminary card, undefeated tryout prospect Ben Wilhelm (3-0) will take on two-time Bellator veteran Kona Oliveira (1-2) in a welterweight contest, while Wahiawa-born Keoni Diggs (7-0) and Hilo’s Scotty Hao (4-2) were also selected and will fight each other at 155 pounds. Lastly, Hawaii’s Swayne Lunasco, who went 7-0 as an amateur, and Kaylan Gorospe, who were both selected from the tryouts, will make their pro debuts against each other at bantamweight.

Bellator Hawaii: Macfarlane vs. Jackson – one of the star-powered, year-end highlights of fight season on DAZN – will stream Saturday, December 21 live exclusively on DAZN at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT, while preliminary action will stream on Bellator.comDAZN and globally on the Bellator Mobile App.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased through Bellator.com, as well as Ticketmaster.com or the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena box office.

Updated Bellator and the USO Present: Salute the Troops Main Card:

Paramount Network & DAZN

10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT/5 p.m. HST

  • Heavyweight Main Event: Josh Barnett (35-8) vs. Ronny Markes (19-7)
  • Bantamweight Main Card Bout: Toby Misech (11-7) vs. Erik Perez (19-6)
  • Flyweight Main Card Bout: Alejandra Lara (8-3) vs. Veta Artega (5-3)
  • Featherweight Main Card Bout: Tywan Claxton (5-1) vs. Braydon Akeo (3-0)

Updated Preliminary Card:

DAZN, Bellator.com & the Bellator Mobile App

8:45 p.m. ET/7:45 p.m. CT/3:45 p.m. HST

  • Bantamweight Preliminary Bout: Cass Bell (4-0) vs. Pierre Daguzan (5-3, 1 NC)
  • Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Hunter Ewald (Pro Debut) vs. Jonathan Pico (1-1)
  • Flyweight Preliminary Bout: Tiani Valle (3-2) vs. Jamie Thorton (6-5)

Updated Bellator Hawaii: Macfarlane vs. Jackson Main Card:


10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT/5 p.m. HST

  • Flyweight World Title Bout: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (10-0) vs. Kate Jackson (11-3-1)
  • Featherweight World Grand Prix Quarterfinal Bout: A.J. McKee (15-0) vs. Derek Campos (20-9) 
  • Welterweight Main Card Bout: Neiman Gracie (9-1) vs. Kiichi Kunimoto (20-8-2, 1 NC)
  • Flyweight Main Card Bout: Julianna Velasquez (9-0) vs. Bruna Ellen (5-2)
  • Bantamweight Main Card Bout: Raufeon Stots (12-1) vs. Cheyden Leialoha (7-1)

Updated Preliminary Card:

DAZN, Bellator.com & the Bellator Mobile App

8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. CT/3:30 p.m. HST

  • Bantamweight Preliminary Bout: Swayne Lunasco (Pro Debut) vs. Kaylan Gorospe (Pro Debut)
  • Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Keoni Diggs (7-0) vs. Scotty Hao (4-2)
  • Flyweight Preliminary Bout: Nate Yoshimura (Pro Debut) vs. Chas Dunhour (0-1)
  • Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Kai Kamaka III (5-2) vs. Spencer Higa (7-10)
  • Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Kona Oliveira (1-2) vs. Ben Wilhelm (3-0)
  • Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Dustin Barca (3-0) vs. Brandon Pieper (11-13)
  • Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Nainoa Dung (3-0) vs. Zach Zane (13-9)

*Cards subject to change.

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