Bellator 258 Report: Sergio Pettis wins Bellator Bantamweight Championship, Anthony Johnson picks up KO in MMA return
By: Eric Marcotte
Bellator MMA returned on Friday night, with Bellator 258 from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The headlining bout was for the Bellator Bantamweight Championship, as Juan Archuleta looked to defend his title against Sergio Pettis, who had won both of his fights since arriving in Bellator. In the co-main event, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson was scheduled to face Yoel Romero in the first round of Bellator’s Light Heavyweight Grand Prix, but Romero was forced to withdraw from the fight after failing his pre-fight medicals. Romero was replaced by Jose Augusto on a week’s notice. This marked Anthony Johnson’s first fight since his loss to Daniel Cormier in April of 2017.
Mauro Ranallo provided commentary for this card alongside John McCarthy, and the analytical team consisted of Josh Thompson, Jenn Brown, and Corey Anderson.
PRELIMINARY CARD RESULTS:
*Erik Perez def. Blaine Shutt by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
*Johnny Soto def. Weber Almeida by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Johnny Campbell def. Henry Corrales by rear-naked choke at 4:12 of Round 2
*Johnny Eblen def. Daniel Madrid by KO at 2:44 of Round 1
*Patchy Mix def. Albert Morales by arm triangle at 2:40 of Round 3
*Lorenz Larkin def. Rafael Carvalho by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Raufeon Stots def. Josh Hill by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Michael Page def. Derek Anderson by TKO at 5:00 of Round 1
*Peter Queally def. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire by TKO at 5:00 of Round 2
*Anthony Johnson def. Jose Augusto by KO at 1:30 of Round 2
*Sergio Pettis def. Juan Archuleta by unanimous decision (50-45, 49-47, 49-46) to win the Bellator Bantamweight Championship
ERIK PEREZ (19-8, 135.5) VS BLAINE SHUTT (8-4, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Shutt’s left leg was compromised early after kicking Perez in the knee, and he began to retreat, hopping backward before he ultimately shot for a takedown. Shutt was ultimately successful in bringing the fight to the ground, but he gave up top position. Perez was able to land some strong elbows and avoided a few submission attempts from Shutt. Perez ended the round in dominant position, but Shutt’s leg seemed to be in better condition as he walked to his corner. 10-9 Perez.
Shutt began the second round with an Imanari roll attempt, to no success. Perez landed a nice counter right hand, and he reassumed top position on the ground not long after. Much like the first round, Perez controlled the vast majority of the round on the ground and rained down numerous heavy ground and pound shots. Shutt had a brief moment of hope late in the round, in which he momentarily took Perez’s back, but it didn’t last long. 20-17 Perez.
They exchanged head kicks in the opening minute of the third round. Perez landed a strong leg kick, as well as a body shot, and the fight soon returned to the ground. Shutt tried to pick himself up against the cage, and ate a ton of knees to the head for his troubles. They separated with less then ninety seconds remaining, and Perez walked Shutt down, landing a number of strikes. Shutt was taunting, but he was down pretty big. The fight went the distance. 30-26 Perez.
WINNER: Erik Perez by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Perez won every minute of this fight, and he dominated the action wherever the fight went. This was Perez’s first win in Bellator after dropping his first two fights in the promotion. For Shutt, this was his Bellator MMA debut.
WEBER ALMEIDA (5-0, 145) VS JOHNNY SOTO (3-1, 148.5) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Soto missed weight by 2.5lbs.
Soto began the fight aggressively but soon found himself with his back pressed against the cage. They broke apart, and Almeida began to pile on a series of very smooth counter punches as Soto attempted to press forward. Soto landed a trio of kicks to the lead leg of Almeida in the rounds final minute. Almeida ended the round with a strong flurry. 10-9 Almeida.
Almeida continued to control the fight on the feet in the second round. After eating a number of kicks to the legs and body, Soto shot for a takedown and quickly maneuvered his way onto Almeida’s back. Soto was landing powerful hooks from Soto’s back, and he constantly threatened a rear-naked choke whenever Soto attempted to improve his position. He eventually got the choke under the neck of Almeida but lost the position. The fight felt as though it was close to being stopped once or twice, but Almeida managed to survive, and he escaped to his feet before the round ended. I thought this was a 10-8 round for Soto.
Almeida avoided Soto’s first takedown attempt of the final round, and he landed another hard body kick. Soto was successful with his next takedown attempt, and he took Almeida’s back yet again. He passed Almeida’s guard and moved into full mount. Soto landed strong ground and pound, and began to look for the rear-naked choke once again. He didn’t get the finish, but he certainly won this final round. 29-27 Soto.
WINNER: Johnny Soto by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28)
While there was a clear discrepancy in skill on the feet in favor of Almeida, there was a similar discrepancy in skill on the ground in favor of Soto. Once Soto was able to get a better ready on Almeida’s movement, he brought the fight into his comfort zone and dominated the majority of the final two rounds. This was Soto’s first fight in Bellator, and he is now on a four-fight win streak.
HENRY CORRALES (18-5, 135) VS JOHNNY CAMPBELL (20-13, 1 NC, 135.75) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Campbell was swinging wildly in the opening round but was managing to avoid the majority of Corrales’s offense with his unique style of head movement. Corrales defended a number of takedown attempts from Campbell. Corrales began to work his jab and ended the round with a big takedown of his own. Tough round to score, but I thought Campbell landed the better shots throughout the opening five minutes. 10-9 Campbell.
Campbell connected with a leg kick that momentarily knocked Corrales off of his feet. Corrales began to piece together some combinations that were just missing Campbell in the first round. Campbell continued to attack the lead leg of Corrales, but his defense was beginning to fail him, and Campbell was eating a ton of shots from Corrales. Just as it looked as though Corrales was beginning to take over the fight, Campbell dropped Corrales hard with an uppercut, took his back, and forced him to tap out from a rear-naked choke.
WINNER: Johnny Campbell by rear-naked choke at 4:12 of Round 2
This was a pretty wild fight. Campbell has a very unique style, and just as it seemed as though he was getting tired, he dropped Corrales and picked up the rear-naked choke finish. Campbell called out James Gallagher in his post-fight interview. This marked his Bellator MMA debut. Despite the loss, I thought Corrales looked fine at bantamweight here, and I don’t think it would be a bad idea for him to stick with the division.
JOHNNY EBLEN (7-0, 185) VS DANIEL MADRID (18-6, 185.5) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Halfway through the opening round, Eblen blitzed forward and dropped Madrid with a wild left hook, and he swarmed Madrid with ground and pound shots, eventually knocking him out cold with a hammerfist.
WINNER: Johnny Eblen by KO at 2:44 of Round 1
Eblen has largely utilized his wrestling in Bellator, but tonight he didn’t even attempt a takedown. After beating up Madrid’s lead leg, he pushed forward and picked up a highlight knockout. He is now 4-0 in Bellator, and this was perhaps his most memorable performance yet.
PATCHY MIX (13-1, 136) VS ALBERT MORALES (10-6-1, 135) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Morales began the fight with a pair of body kicks and was quickly taken down. Mix began to work from the guard of Morales, but when he attempted to move onto Morales’s back, Morales was able to shake Mix off of him and took side control. With just over a minute remaining in the round, Mix was able to get back to his feet, and Morales flurried forward with a wild combination. Morales went for a flying knee, which gave Mix the opportunity to bring the fight back to the ground. Morales escaped and flurried forward one more time to end the round. 10-9 Morales.
Mixed picked Morales up a minute into the second round, carried him across the cage, and dumped him down in the middle of the canvas. Mix transitioned to Morales’s back and locked in a body triangle. Morales did a good job of avoiding positions where he’d be in danger of getting finished, but he was unable to escape the body triangle, and he spent the near entirety of the round with Mix on his back. This round was all Mix, and I thought that was enough to earn him a 10-8 round.
Mix wasted no time in bringing the fight back to the ground. Mix pursued an arm triangle, but he wasn’t in the best position to finish it. He created some space and was able to readjust the choke, as he tightened the submission, and Morales was forced to tap out.
WINNER: Patchy Mix by arm triangle at 2:40 of Round 3
The first round was close, but Mix began to take over as the fight progressed. This was an important win for Mix after losing his last bout against Juan Archuleta for the vacant bantamweight title. This was the type of win that will keep Mix’s name amidst the list of top contenders in the division, and if he can string a couple more wins together, I can see him getting another shot at the title soon. Mix called out his originally scheduled opponent, James Gallagher, in his post-fight interview.
LORENZ LARKIN (22-7, 1 NC, 185.5) VS RAFAEL CARVALHO (16-5, 185) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
They largely exchanged kicks to the legs and body throughout the opening half of the round. Larkin connected with a hard right hand while breaking out of a clinch exchange. Carvalho was not deterred from engaging Larkin in the clinch however and pressed him against the cage. Larkin began to throw elbow after elbow, and Carvalho was clearly damaged from Larkins’s attack, buy was able to retreat and buy himself enough time to recover. Larkin continued to press forward with elbows, and he ended the round strongly. 10-9 Larkin.
Carvalho flurried forward following an attempted head kick, and Larkin relived the pressure by wrapping him up against the cage. Carvalho defended his takedown attempts but ate another elbow on the break. They continued to battle against the cage, and they were eventually separated. Carvalho landed a number of kicks to the body and avoided the majority of Larkin`s offense late in the round. 19-19.
Larkin changed levels quickly into the third, in pursuit of a takedown. Carvalho defended the attempt and continued his second-round strategy of advancing. Larkin did a better job this round of predicting Carvalho’s offense, countering, and continuously bringing the fight back to the fence. They brawled in the middle of the cage to end the fight, and I thought Larkin got the better of their final exchanges. 29-28 Larkin.
WINNER: Lorenz Larkin by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
This was a close fight, but I think the right man ultimately got his hand raised here. This fight came down to the final round, and while Carvalho was the one advancing, it was Larkin who was getting the better of their exchanges in round three. After starting his run in Bellator 0-2, Larkin has won his last five fights, and this win marked his first fight at light heavyweight in nearly a decade.
RAUFEON STOTS (15-1, 135.5) VS JOSH HILL (20-3, 136) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Stots applied a ton of pressure early, which caused Hill to lose his balance near the cage. Stots followed him to the ground and attempted to transition to his back. Hill did a good job of avoiding damage and ensuring he stayed away from any submission attempts, but he had trouble creating the separation he needed to make up ground in this round. Stots almost locked in the rear-naked choke at the very end of the round, but there just wasn’t enough time left in the round for him to pick up the submission. 10-9 Stots.
Much like the first round, Stots was the fighter moving forward. They exchanged right hands against the cage, but Hill was having difficulties generating offense while being backed up by Stots. Stots controlled the action on the feet, and while this wasn’t as dominant a round as the first, I thought Stots took this round as well. 20-18 Stots.
Hill landed a right hand in the first minute of the final round, arguably his best strike of the fight thus far. Stots partially landed a front kick, and he continued to pressure forward. Neither fighter was particularly active throughout this round. Stots defended a takedown, landed a knee to the head, and ended the round with a takedown. 30-27 Stots.
WINNER: Raufeon Stots by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
This was far from the most exciting fight, but a solid performance from Raufeon Stots nonetheless. He’s probably not going to get a title shot after this, but I’d say he’s probably only a win away at this point. Stots is now 4-0 in Bellator and is on an eight-fight win streak. For Hill, this loss broke the four-fight win streak he was riding and marked his first loss since debuting in Bellator.
MICHAEL PAGE (18-1, 174.75) VS DEREK ANDERSON (17-3, 1 NC, 175) – CATCHWEIGHT
No walkout music for Page. Anderson came out to the Rocky theme.
Page landed a right hand and taunted Anderson for his reaction to the blow. MVP connected with a right uppercut as Anderson attempted to close the distance. Anderson chased after a single leg, but Page was able to defend the attempt. MVP dropped Anderson with a lightning-quick kick to the face that broke Anderson’s nose, and he dropped him again with a right hand not long after. Anderson made it out of the round, but his nose was smashed, and the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Michael Page by TKO at 5:00 of Round 1
With this win, Page moved into sole possession of the record for most knockouts in Bellator MMA history. I cannot overstate how destroyed Anderson’s nose was from that kick. It’s up there with Mike Perry and Andrei Arlovski for the worst nose breaks in MMA history. This was another highlight-reel performance from MVP, and now that he’s on a five-fight win streak, I think he’s generated enough momentum for another shot at the title. Page called out Douglas Lima and Jason Jackson in his post-fight interview.
PATRICKY “PITBULL” FREIRE (23-9, 155.5) VS PETER QUEALLY (12-5-1, 155) – LIGHTWEIGHT
The fight began with an accidental kick to the groin from Pitbull. He landed a combination of punches and a counter left as the fight resumed. Queally’s skin was beginning to redden from Pitbull’s landed blows. Pitbull landed a number of kicks to the lead leg of Queally, and they were clearly having an effect by the latter half of the round. Pitbull ended the opening five minutes with a takedown. 10-9 Pitbull.
Pitbull landed a number of leg kicks and body shots early in the second round. Queally switched stances, and cut Pitbull open beneath his right eye, but received another hard punch to the torso. Pitbull seemed to have abandoned the leg kick, and Queally was doing a much better job of pressing forward and getting off offense of his own. They exchanged body shots, and Pitbull secured another takedown. Pitbull was cut open on the top of his head from an elbow, and he started leaking blood. 20-18 Pitbull for me, but this was a very close round.
They could not close the cut on the top of Pitbull’s head, and the fight was stopped in between rounds.
WINNER: Peter Queally by TKO at 5:00 of Round 2
It was an unfortunate stoppage, but a legitimate one. I had Freire up 20-18 going into the third, but that cut was nasty. The broadcast team called for a rematch, and while that’s possible, I wouldn’t be shocked if Bellator went with the Queally versus Patricio Pitbull fight at 155lbs down the road either, as Queally called out Patricio in his post-fight interview. Queally is now 2-1 in Bellator.
ANTHONY JOHNSON (22-6, 205) VS JOSE AUGUSTO (7-2, 1 NC, 204.75) – LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT
Johnson last fought in April of 2017.
Rumble threw a number of low kicks and proceeded to back Augusto up with a push kick to the body. Augusto injured his right hand punching Johnson in the head, and further hurt it as he attempted to throw it again. Johnson recognized the injury and began to swarm Augusto, but he got dropped by a huge left hook. Augusto looked to follow it up with ground and pound, but Rumble survived and took Augusto down. 10-9 Augusto.
Early in the second round, Rumble landed a looping right hand that knocked Augusto out cold.
WINNER: Anthony Johnson by KO at 1:30 of Round 2
Rumble showed up in fantastic shape, and to the surprise of no one, he hits as hard as ever. Johnson has been criticized for crumbling under adversity in the past, but he came back from perhaps the most trouble he’s ever been in here to finish the fight in the second round. With this win, Anthony Johnson will move on to the second round of Bellator’s Light Heavyweight Grand Prix, and will face Vadim Nemkov for the Light Heavyweight Championship in the next round.
Jose Augusto gave a great account of himself here despite the loss. Despite injuring his hand early in the opening round, he kept fighting, and almost finished Rumble on a week’s notice. This loss broke a five-fight win streak for Augusto, but I think this is one of those times in which he gained something here tonight, despite the loss.
JUAN ARCHULETA (25-2, 135) VS SERGIO PETTIS (20-5, 134.75) – BELLATOR BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
Archuleta sang his way out to the cage.
They traded in the pocket, both men landing strong shots. Archuleta changed levels for a takedown, but Pettis defended the attempt well. They wrestled against the cage for a couple of minutes, until Pettis was able to create some separation. Pettis landed a strong counter right hand, and a lead left hook. Pettis was getting the better of their exchanges on the feet late in the round and ended the round on top after reversing a takedown attempt. 10-9 Pettis.
They exchanged right hands to begin the second round. Archuleta was successful on his next takedown attempt and began to work from the guard of Sergio Pettis. Pettis picked himself up against the cage and quickly created separation. Archuleta connected with a backhand, and a strong body shot moments later. Pettis landed a number of counter right hands, and he busted Archuleta open late in the round. Archuleta continued to attack the body but often ate that right hand on his way in. Close round, but I gave the edge to Pettis. 20-18 Pettis.
Both men landed hard right hands to kick off the third. There were a number of quick, heavy exchanges in the pocket. They showed the striking accuracy numbers for both fighters on the broadcast, and both men were connecting with under 25% of their strikes. Archuleta had been mixing in body shots all fight but was often eating heavy counters in the process. Pettis ended the round with a spinning nothing. Another close round, and I gave the edge to Pettis yet again. 30-27 Pettis.
Pettis defended a takedown and landed a right hand on the break. Archuleta took Pettis down with a body lock, but Pettis popped right back up and tagged Archuleta with a pair of right hands. Pettis got the better of another brief exchange in the pocket. I sound like a broken record at this point, but the counter right hand from Pettis continued to land at will. 40-36 Pettis.
Pettis defended another takedown to begin the final round. They exchanged heavy right hands. Pettis continued to counter Archuleta whenever Archuleta blitzed forward. Archuleta lifted Pettis up and slammed him to the ground. He had ninety seconds to work from side control. Pettis did a good job of wrapping Archuleta up and preventing him from doing any significant work and made it back to his feet before the round ended. 49-46 Pettis.
WINNER: Sergio Pettis by unanimous decision (50-45, 49-47, 49-46) to win the Bellator Bantamweight Championship
This was the best performance in the career of Sergio Pettis. His timing on the feet was fantastic, he was throwing heavy strikes, and he could not be held down. Archuleta brought the fight, but Pettis had his timing down and made him pay for every engagement on the feet. Pettis is now 3-0 in Bellator, and it would be fair to say this was the biggest moment of his career thus far. Pettis called out RIZIN Bantamweight Champion (and former Bellator Bantamweight Champion) Kyoji Horiguchi in his post-fight interview.