Bellator 228: “Pitbull vs. Archuleta” aired last night (Sat., Sept. 28, 2019) on DAZN from The Forum in Inglewood, California. In a featured bout two former champions who both have UFC credentials had a rematch five years in the making as Lyoto Machida (26-8) sought to beat Gegard Mousasi (45-7-2) a second time.
Both fighters seemed wary of the power and striking advantages the other had, which isn’t surprising given they had spent five rounds in the cage with each other before. Despite that Mousasi was able to land more frequently and effectively in the first two rounds, including a shot in round one that sent Machida flying backward and forced him to reset his game.
Anyone who wants to argue Machida won the second though would’ve been pleased with his performance in the third round, because he out struck Mousasi until one knockdown that put Mousasi on top in guard, and Machida was the one to score from that position by going for a guillotine choke that Mousasi was in until the bell. That left the real possibility of a split decision if the judges disagreed about who won round two.
A split decision is indeed what the judges rendered, but it did not go Machida’s way. One judge saw him the winner 29-28, while two others saw it 29-28 and 30-27 for Mousasi. The victorious Mousasi spoke to John McCarthy after the fight.
“He’s crafty. I had to fight this way. I couldn’t take a lot of risk. I had to neutralize him. I had to fight like this. He didn’t hurt me with the kick. The guillotine was tight but nothing I would have tapped from. It’s going to be Lovato (in my) next fight. One hundred percent.”
“Champ-champ” Patricio Freire (29-4) put his Featherweight belt on the line against the 18 fight win streak of “The Spaniard” Juan Archuleta (23-1). Early in the fight Archuleta seemed like he’d rather circle than engage, but when he tried to throw a head kick Freire he fell and “Pitbull” got on top for a guillotine attempt. He didn’t secure it but was still on top throwing rights and hammers then a full mount to end R1 with a sure 10-9.
The second round featured so little offense either way I’d consider it a draw. The third round saw “Pitbull” drop Archuleta with a right hand and split his head open with an elbow on the ground. Archuleta continually missed every head kick, uppercut and strike he threw which secured another 10-9 for the “champ-champ” going into the penultimate rounds.
Freire knocked Archuleta down with a left hook while he was off balance in round four, not necessarily rocking him but still a strike the judges would have noticed. Meanwhile Archuleta seemed to be wildly swinging and missing. He even gave up a potential guillotine attempt to throw a flying knee and couldn’t get that. It was “mission control” in round five for Pitbull as he outworked and out struck Archuleta at every opportunity.
We are in the fifth and final round of this Featherweight World Grand Prix Title Bout between @JArchMMA and @PatricioPitbull.— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) September 29, 2019
Watch these men fight for the strap LIVE on @DAZN_USA. pic.twitter.com/JTnq9ZqjrD
The judges scored it 49-46, 50-45 and 49-46 all in Freire’s favor. He spoke to “Big” John McCarthy after the fight.
“This dude is a warrior. I want you to thank him for this fight. He’s very dynamic, but me and my corner, we were ready for his game. That’s it. Next stop let’s take this Grand Prix.”
The undefeated “Mercenary” A.J. McKee (14-0) took on a former world champion in “Insane” Georgi Karakhanyan (28-9-1, 1 NC).
.@AJMckee101 and @GeorgiMMA are up next as the #FeatherweightWGP continues tonight at #Bellator228.— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) September 29, 2019
Don't miss a moment of the action when you download @DAZN_USA!
McKee only needed eight seconds to drop Karakhanyan and finish him with strikes on the canvas, speaking to “Big” John McCarthy afterward.
“I told him I was coming out here for Bellator’s fastest knock out, you feel me? I want my motherfucking belt! WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER BABY LET’S GO! I want my belt but I don’t think he (Pitbull) is going for that. Duck and dodge. It’s going to come sooner or later. Old faithful (left hand) man. Shit come in handy. I knew he was uncomfortable so that just told me to get after it. Man I’m just happy to be here. Thanks to God, none of this would be possible without him. Thank alla y’all for coming out here tonight.”
After the fight Cris “Cyborg” Justino came out for Bellator’s announcement that they were returning to The Forum in January 25th for a fight where she would challenge Julia Budd for the Featherweight title. McCarthy interviewed her as well.
“I’m real excited to step inside the cage and fight her. I respect Julia she’s a challenge for me and I’m challenging her to have the best fight.”
Julia “The Jewel” Budd came out to offer her response to the challenger.
“I think it’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait to step in the cage here January 25th. I’m excited to get in the cage with her. The fights tonight have been incredible and yeah this is a dream come true to fight on the West coast.”
In the night’s second tournament bout, former 135 lb. champion Darrion Caldwell (13-3) and Henry Corrales (17-3) faced off at The Forum.
Unfortunately this fight was a somewhat lackluster affair. Caldwell did occasionally score with his hands and feet, but he spent the majority of the fight looking for takedowns or holding Corrales against the fence looking for them.
It takes two to tango though and for as little as Caldwell did (even drawing a warning for timidity in round three) Corrales did even less when it comes to landing effective strikes, resulting in a unanimous decision win for Caldwell of 29-27 and 30-27 X2. No post-fight interview followed.
The opening tournament contest featured two time No. 1 contender Daniel Weichel (39-11) and English prospect Saul Rogers (13-2).
Featherweights are in the building!@Saul_Rogers and @DanielWeichel will open up our second round of the #FeatherweightWGP elimination round tonight at @TheForum.— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) September 29, 2019
Watch them fight LIVE on @DAZN_USA. https://t.co/p5qPK0owQF pic.twitter.com/mWFSqB2QB2
Weichel was able to secure the second and third round with superior striking technique, stifling all takedown attempts by Rogers late in the fight to wind up taking a unanimous decision of 29-28 X2 and 30-27. He spoke to “Big” John McCarthy afterward.
“It took me a little time to get into the fight but then my timing and distance got better and I was able to connect. I think I hurt him. I didn’t want to rush and wanted to pick my shots. I have to sit back with my team and think about it. I have no favorite fighter I want to fight. My goal is to be the best Featherweight on the planet and that means I have to beat anybody in this division.”
With all of those fights in the books Bellator had a “selection show” during the broadcast for fighters to make their second round match-ups.
Later on this evening, our Featherweight World Grand Prix Selection Show will take place.@MauroRanallo breaks down how this event will play out and introduces a twist known as the “Champ’s Choice”!#FeatherweightWGP #Bellator228 pic.twitter.com/sFdatTv7s1— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) September 29, 2019
A.J. McKee drew the first selection and chose to fight in December 2019. Adam Borics drew second and chose to fight in January because he had a “small injury in his foot” and wanted to be 100% ready when he fights. Darrion Caldwell drew third and chose to fight in March 2020. Caldwell dared Patricio Freire to choose March as well and make the match. Daniel Weichel drew fourth and he chose February, meaning none of the first four fighters chose to face each other.
Since all the months were already chosen, that forced Emmanuel Sanchez as the fifth draw to choose an opponent. He picked Weichel because he wanted to avenge a split decision loss to him at Bellator 159. Derek Campos drew number six and chose to bring his “West Texas brawl” to A.J. McKee in December. Pedro Carvalho drew number seven and was left with either Adam Borics or Darrion Caldwell. He chose Caldwell because he said the best way to prove his worth is to defeat a former champion. With those selections out of the way that meant Patricio Freire would either face Adam Borics in January or use “champion’s privilege” to replace anybody else and force them to face Borics instead. He used that privilege to chose Pedro Carvalho, so Borics would face Darrion Caldwell instead.
Carvalho: “In March next year I will prove that I’m the best in the world.”
Freire: “He’s from SBG, he talks too much like everyone from there, and I’m gonna stop him.”
Here’s how the brackets looked once it was all said and done.
For complete Bellator 228 results and coverage click here.