Bellator 228: “Pitbull vs. Archuleta” comes to The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., TONIGHT (Sat., Sept. 28, 2019), featuring a title defense for the “champ-champ,” Patricio Freire, while the featured fight sees two former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) superstars renew their rivalry in a Bellator cage.
Let’s break it down:
185 lbs.: Lyoto Machida (26-8) vs. Gegard Mousasi (45-7-2)
In his last fight, Gegard Mousasi was bested by Rafael Lovato Jr. and lost his Middleweight world title. How does he respond to this setback? Calling for an immediate rematch with Lovato? No. He calls for a rematch with Lyoto Machida instead. He doesn’t want to be handed a second chance to avenge that loss without first proving he deserves it by avenging a UFC loss from 2014. Five years ago it would have been hard to imagine either of these men doing it again anywhere else, but the times have changed greatly since then.
One of the keys to this fight may in fact be that five year span. Despite a record most men could retire on, Mousasi is still relatively young in the sport at 33 years old. Machida is edging up into vulnerable territory at 41, and the natural Light Heavyweight is cutting down to Middleweight in the hopes of earning a title shot at Lovato. That’s the bad news. He’s on a four fight win streak though so confidence is certainly high going into this match regardless of how much he aged, and he’ll have a chip on his shoulder from having beaten Mousasi once before with his unorthodox striking. The burden is on Mousasi to prove that he hasn’t worn too much tread off his tires with so many fights by only 33, and to show that he’s solved the puzzle of Machida’s karate style that he clearly didn’t five years ago.
Final prediction: Lyoto Machida via split decision
145 lbs.: Patricio Freire (29-4) vs. Juan Archuleta (23-1)
Fight fans and historians will debate the stoppage of Michael Chandler at Bellator 221 for years to come, but the result in the record books is undeniable. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire took Chandler’s Lightweight title and became “champ-champ” at both 145 and 155 lbs. Now he seeks to defend his Featherweight crown against “The Spaniard” Juan Archuleta, an impressive specimen of an athlete whose 18-fight win streak dates all the way back to Oct. 2015. Stop and ponder that for a second. “Pitbull” is arguable one of the greatest martial artists of the modern era, but Archuleta is averaging over four fights per year and winning all of them. If this showdown doesn’t already feel epic it should now.
Every time Freire fights the story is the same — he’s a little man (5’5,” 65-inch reach) with big heart. It’s time to throw that story away. So what that Archuleta is on a ridiculously long win streak? So what that he’s the taller and longer fighter inside the cage? Give Archuleta the respect he deserves and the laurels he’s earned, and then give the Featherweight world title back to Freire. What he’s got can’t be bottled and sold, but it can at least be described with one word — HEART. It’s not the cliched “never give up when the chips are down” kind. It’s not the “will to overcome the odds” kind. It’s the kind you get when you grow up fighting for your life in the roughest areas of Natal, Brazil. It’s the kind you get when your older brother is a fighter too and you beat each other up as much as your enemies. It’s the kind you get when you develop a punch you know can put any man down. “Pitbull” doesn’t have to think about any of these things. It’s instinctive and intrinsic. That’s why he’s one of the best.
Final prediction: Patricio Freire via third round knockout
145 lbs.: Darrion Caldwell (13-3) vs. Henry Corrales (17-3)
The main event is not the only Featherweight tournament fight tonight. After back-to-back losses to Kyoji Horiguchi, former Bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell will attempt to return to form at his old competitive weight of 145 pounds. With the kind of finishing power that Henry Corrales has, Caldwell may not enjoy the striking exchanges much, but we all know the one way Caldwell can advance in this tournament — takedowns. Lots and lots of takedowns. When you have the kind of decorated collegiate career and life long amateur experience a wrestler like Caldwell does, you can always go back to your roots when things aren’t working out the way you want them to. I’d expect nothing less here.
Final prediction: Darrion Caldwell via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Daniel Weichel (39-11) vs. Saul Rogers (13-2)
On one hand, “Drake” Daniel Weichel has already had his bite of the apple twice against Patricio Freire, and both times he came up short in his world title quest. On the other hand few Featherweights anywhere in the world can boast his win-loss record and experience. Rogers performed well in his Bellator debut but has had neither the amount of fights nor the high level of competition that Weichel has in his career. Despite being on a two bout losing streak I’ve got Weichel at a sizable advantage in every conceivable category. He’s not even giving up size to Rogers as both men stand 5’10,” and his striking is good enough that he almost finished Freire the first time the two met.
Final prediction: Daniel Weichel via second round technical knockout
145 lbs.: A.J. McKee (14-0) vs. Georgi Karakhanyan (28-9-1, 1 NC)
Sometimes writing about MMA can make you feel like an asshole. Personally, I like Georgi Karakhanyan. I’ve spoken to him many times over the years and don’t have a single bad word to say about him as a human being. Unfortunately he’s only won two of his last six fights (though one was a win that got overturned) and he didn’t deliver against Emmanuel Sanchez in the rematch despite having almost gotten the best of him in their first meeting. I have to read the tea leaves on this one and for “Insane” Karakhanyan they’ve got nothing but bad news. “Mercenary” McKee is younger, faster, bigger, more explosive, and despite a boring fight with Pat Curran he’s still the man to beat in this division and this tournament.
Final prediction: A.J. McKee via first round guillotine choke
That’s a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 228 later this evening with a main card at 9 p.m. ET on DAZN, with “Prelims” undercard bouts starting at 7 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.