Northern Ireland’s Leah McCourt is known as “The Curse” due to a host of crazy happenings in the lead-up to her fights.
But on Friday night at Bellator 259, the craziness took place in the middle of the cage as she overcame adversity to claim a dramatic comeback win.
McCourt started well, using her black belt judo skills to repeatedly throw New Zealand-born Harding to the canvas during the first round.
But in Round 2 Harding was able to avoid McCourt’s judo grappling and scored well with sharp, powerful punches.
With Harding clearly the superior striker, the Kiwi pushed forward throwing leather and appeared to have McCourt in big trouble before she took the action to the canvas in search of a ground-and-pound TKO finish.
It all seemed to be going Harding’s way as she connected with a host of solid strikes, but McCourt hung tough and struck back in dramatic fashion to stun Harding and secure the win.
As Harding stood up and looked to launch into another attack, McCourt exploded with an up-kick that landed flush to her opponent’s chin.
With Harding clearly stunned, McCourt then locked up a triangle choke and, after a little adjustment to secure the hold, applied the pressure to force the tap and secure a superb come-from-behind submission victory.
After the win, McCourt said that her fighting spirit was crucial to securing the win in a fight that she appeared to be losing.
“Janay’s a very technical striker,” she told Bellator commentator and former referee “Big” John McCarthy.
“She’s been deep waters with a lot of people, so I knew it was going to be a tough fight.
“I have the heart … so I’m glad.”
McCarthy then asked McCourt to talk him through her finishing sequence, where she locked up the triangle choke, then adjusted her position to increase the pressure of the hold before forcing the tap.
“I didn’t think it was on, the triangle choke, so I thought, ‘Alright, let’s put it on properly,'” she said.
McCourt went into the bout ranked seventh in the Bellator women’s featherweight division, and her victory over number six-ranked Harding means McCourt is likely to move up the rankings and could face top five opposition in her next matchup.
But McCourt said she isn’t worried about calling out specific opponents as she placed her faith in Bellator’s matchmaking team to book her an appropriate test for her next assignment.
“Anybody! I don’t care!” she said.
“I just love fighting and I love improving.
“All the girls in this division are top girls, so every fight’s a great challenge.”