Bellator MMA returns for its second event in two weeks as Bellator 286 is ready to take place tomorrow night (Sat., Oct. 1, 2022) in Long Beach, Calif., featuring a Featherweight title fight between division kingpin, Patricio Pitbull, defending his title against the No. 2-ranked contender in the stacked division, Adam Borics. Co-headlining the event will be A.J. Mckee jumping up to Lightweight for the first time to face off against Spike Carlyle, while Aaron Pico returns to face Jeremy Kennedy in a 145-pound affair.
Patricio Pitbull vs. Adam Borics
Pitbull reclaimed his 145-pound title by defeating A.J. McKee (the man who defeated him months earlier) at Bellator 277 to once again gain his spot as the leader of the 145-pound pack. While most expected a trilogy fight against “Mercenary” to be next on the docket, it was not to be. Instead, Adam Borics gets the nod and now has the chance to earn gold in MMA for the first under the Bellator banner. Borics has been on an absolute tear, winning four straight including a dominant win over Mads Burnell, which helped catapult him into the championship fight. Overall, Borics is 9-1 with the promotion with the lone loss of his career coming against Darrion Caldwell. Other than that hiccup, Borics has been spectacular. Borics has proven to have a well-rounded arsenal, winning seven by decision, four by knockout, and six by way of submission. And Pitbull is the same way, he can take the fight anywhere, can knock you out, twist you like a pretzel or grind your out for 15 or 25 minutes to get the win. Borics has big wins over Aaron Pico and Pat Curran, but Pitbull is an entirely different animal, and now that he has the belt back over his shoulder he will fight like hell to not lose it again. If this fight stays on the feet, I give the power advantage to Pitbull, but Borics is well-versed in the striking department and has great technique. But if he gets into an all-out slugfest, it won’t work well for him. If it goes to the ground, Pitbull has a slight advantage there. All that said, while Borics is great in every area Pitbull is just a bit better, and while he won’t get a finish he will do enough to earn a clear-cut unanimous decision here.
Final prediction: Pitbull via unanimous decision
A.J. McKee vs. Spike Carlyle
McKee didn’t get either of the two fights he was hoping for, a trilogy fight against Patricio Pitbull, or a title fight against Patricky Pitbull at Lightweight. What he did get is his first fight at 155 pounds which could earn him a title shot if he wins. Granted, this will be his first fight in the division and he hasn’t done much work in this particular weight class to get the nod, but given his resume and his rivalry with the Pitbull brothers, he has a good case. But first, he has to get an impressive win over a grizzled veteran who isn’t ready to be anyone’s stepping stone. Carlyle is currently on a five-fight win streak but only one of those has come under the Bellator banner. He does have UFC experience, though he only went 1-2 in his three outings inside the Octagon. Unfortunately for “The Alpha Ginger” he will be facing one of the best fighters in the promotion that is coming off his first-ever loss and hungry for redemption. McKee is one of the most talented individuals in all of MMA and he does just about everything right. Carlyle will have to be on his “A” game to get the job done, but even then McKee will simply be better. He’s quicker, and his technique is tighter in every aspect of the fight game, and out to prove he deserves a crack at the 155-pound belt.
Final prediction: McKee vis second-round TKO
Aaron Pico vs. Jeremy Kennedy
If there was a poster boy for “How To Improve After Every Fight,” Pico would be the man for the job. Just when you think he can’t get any better, he does. And he’s done that time after time, fight after fight. His wrestling is already top notch and he can take pretty much anyone at 145 pounds whenever he wants. But his striking attack has improved leaps and bounds in every fight. The thing that makes Pico so fun to watch is that he is so crisp and so tight with his technique. He sort of reminds me of a prime Cain Velaquez in that there is no wasted movement and everything is done with a purpose. Currently on a six-fight win streak, Pico is ranked No. 3 at 145 pounds and a win here could seal the deal for a shot at the title to face the winner of Pitbull vs Borics. Ranked No. 7 at the moment, Kennedy is out to stop Pico’s momentum by adding to his own. Kennedy was last seen defeating Emmanuel Sanchez in a dominant effort at Bellator 272 and is 2-1 so far with the Viacom-owned MMA promotion. Kennedy has UFC experience on his resume, going 3-1 before unexpectedly parting ways with the promotion following his loss to current 145-pound champion, Alexander Volkanovski. That said, while Kennedy brings a lot of experience to the table, there is simply no accounting for Pico’s wrestling unless you can match it...and very few can. Pico can (and will) soften Kennedy up on the feet and have his way with him when they clinch. Expect another dominant win for Pico on his way to earning a shot at the title.
Final Prediction: Pico via unanimous decision
Juan Archuleta vs. Enrique Barzola
After getting bounced from the World Bantamweight Grand Prix, Barzola and Archuleta will now face off against each other in what should be an intriguing and competitive battle. Archuleta was knocked out by Raufeon Stots in the opening round in an interim title fight, giving him his second straight loss, with the other coming against division king, Sergio Pettis. Barzola, meanwhile, was choked out by Magomed Magomedv, dashing his dreams of a million-dollar payday and a world title fight. While he won’t get any of those prizes with a win over Archuleta, it will still be a nice notch on his belt if he can get the win. In order to accomplish that feat, he will have to make it an up-close and personal dog fight, meaning he will have to smother Archuleta with relentless pressure to avoid letting him pop off his offense. An 11-fight UFC veteran, Barzola knows just how to do that and is capable of hanging with the best in the 145- and 135-pound divisions. But, Archuleta is no slouch. He has been battle-tested during his time with Bellator, taking on the best such as the aforementioned Patricio Pitbull and Sergio Pettis. For “The Spaniard,” however, that big staple win over a huge name has eluded him during his time with the promotion, though he was able to claim the vacant 135-pound title by taking out Patchy Mix. But when he faces Pitbull, Pettis, and most recently, Stots, in the big fights, he came up just short. This is a tough one to call because both men are so talented well-rounded and are absolute dogs when the action gets started. It’s a tossup for me, but I see Archuleta doing just enough to convince the judges.
Final prediction: Archuleta via split decision
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