UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Like the past two Decembers on the Bellator event calendar, the final month of 2020 is Ilima-Lei Macfarlane fight month.

Unlike past year-end cards, however, Thursday’s Bellator 254 won’t be in Macfarlane’s native state of Hawaii. The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted Bellator’s options, and its home base has become Mohegan Sun Arena.

“Of course, it’s a bummer (not fighting in Hawaii),” Macfarlane, the reigning women’s flyweight champion, told MMA Junkie on Tuesday. “Of course, I love going to Hawaii and fighting in front of my friends and family, but I also think this is a nice little change-up. It just seems very all business now. From the minute that we got on the plane to right now, it’s like we’re in and out. It’s interesting.”

Nearly identical records aside, Macfarlane (11-0 MMA, 10-0 BMMA) sees some similarities between herself and Bellator 254 opponent Juliana Velasquez. However, the likeness stops when she compares skill sets.

“I would say that we have more similarities than any other fighters in the division,” Macfarlane said. “Our records are pretty much the same. Stylistically, we couldn’t be any more opposite. But as far as our experience goes and everything, we’re pretty much the same.”

Velasquez (10-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) has earned three finishes in her five Bellator bouts. A high-level black belt in judo, Velasquez started her MMA career later than most but has thrived despite the lost time.

Thus far unbeatable, Velasquez has defeated every challenge presented to her. However, Macfarlane thinks she’s a whole different beast – and it’ll show Thursday.

“One huge monkey wrench is that I’m actually well rounded and a good wrestler,” Macfarlane said. “None of her other opponents have really been well rounded. They were all predominantly strikers who chose to stand and strike with her when that’s her strongest tool. I think that’s going to throw a big monkey wrench in her plans. Here’s somebody that’s a top-level grappler and has the best grappling in the division. I think that’s not to say she doesn’t have any ground game. She’s a black belt judoka, but we just haven’t seen that because she never needed to show it in any of her other fights.”

If Velasquez decides to use her judo to drag Macfarlane to the ground, the champion thinks the challenger will be in trouble.

“Even if she ends up tossing me to the ground, we’re going to be on the ground, which is my domain,” Macfarlane said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m on my back. It doesn’t matter if she’s inside control on top. I’m going to get the finish. I think she’s going to do everything in her power to avoid taking it to the ground.”

Since 2018, Bellator has held grand prix tournaments each year. First, it was heavyweight then welterweight. In 2019, the Bellator featherweight grand prix launched.

With the 145-pound tournament in the semifinals stage, Bellator president Scott Coker has hinted the promotion is planning its next grand prix – likely featuring either the women’s 125-pound division or the men’s 135-pound division. Macfarlane was not shy to share her choice.

“I would love the tournament,” Macfarlane said. “I would love the chance to win $1 million. We’ve been talking about this for a very long time. I think that had 2020 not have happened, then we would’ve been in a tournament right now, honestly. That’s what would have happened. I think definitely a female flyweight tournament is the next best thing. Who wants to watch a men’s bantamweight tournament? Come on. It’s time for the ladies, OK? Come on, Uncle Scott.”

Bellator 254 takes place Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The main card airs on CBS Sports Network after prelims on MMA Junkie.