Bellator 277: Patricio Pitbull regains Bellator Featherweight Championship, defeats A.J. McKee by decision

Photo Courtesy: Bellator MMA

Bellator 277 Report: Patricio Pitbull regains Bellator Featherweight Championship, defeats A.J. McKee by decision

By: Eric Marcotte

Bellator 277 took place on Friday night, from the SAP Center in San Jose, California. This was a fairly big event for Bellator, featuring two title fights at the top of the card. In the main event, Bellator Featherweight Champion, A.J. McKee, looked to defend his title against Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, in a rematch of their bout from July of last year. That fight saw McKee take Pitbull’s title, after stopping him just two minutes into the first round. Given Pitbull’s previous dominance of the division, it was not surprising that Bellator decided to put together this rematch, especially considering that there was intrigue in potentially seeing a lengthier version of this particular matchup. The other featured bout saw the current Light Heavyweight Grand Prix finally reach its conclusion, as Vadim Nemkov attempted to defend his title against Corey Anderson, with the winner taking home a million-dollar prize, as well as the title. Both fighters have largely dominated their opponents throughout this tournament, and Anderson would mark the greatest test of Nemkov’s reign thus far. Commentary for this card was provided by the team of Mauro Ranallo and John McCarthy, and the analytical team consisted of Josh Thomson and Amanda Guerra.



*Theo Haig def. Alan Benson by rear-naked choke a 2:08 of Round 1

*Laird Anderson def. JT Donaldson by rear-naked choke at 2:44 of Round 1

*Rogelio Luna def. Socrates Hernandez TKO at 4:48 of Round 3    

*Edwin De Los Santos def. Alberto Mendez by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

*Kyle Crutchmer def. Michael Lombardo unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)

*Gaston Bolanos def. Daniel Carey by TKO at 4:59 of Round 1

*Bobby Seronio III def. Calob Ramirez by KO at 2:14 of Round 2   

*Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov def. Rafael Carvalho by TKO at 4:04 of Round 2

*Tyrell Fortune def. Rakim Cleveland by TKO at 1:38 of Round 1

* Tyson Miller def. Rhalan Gracie by TKO at 5:00 of Round 1          


*Linton Vassell def. Timothy Johnson by TKO at 4:21 of Round 1

*Aaron Pico def. Aldi Edwards by TKO at 0:55 of Round 3

*Vadim Nemkov vs. Corey Anderson resulted in a No Contest, due to an accidental headbutt at 4:57 of Round 3. Vadim Nemkov retains Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship.

*Patricio “Pitbull” Freire def. A.J. McKee by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47) to win the Bellator Featherweight Championship


Johnson was fighting very aggressively from the opening bell, engaging Vassell in the clinch, where the fighters traded heavy hands. Vassell stood his ground and was countering well whenever Johnson looked to close the distance. It was Johnson, however, who found a home for a big hook that rocked Vassell badly. Johnson gave Vassell no room to recover and landed numerous strikes that grounded his opponent, as Vassell attempted to defend himself. Vassell got back to his feet, but stumbled back down, clearly in very rough shape, and it looked as though Johnson was moments away from finishing the fight, but Vassell managed to work his way into top position, and once he took top position, the entire fight changed. Johnson was unable to escape from under Vassell, and Vassell just threw down shot after shot, until the referee was forced to step in and stop the bout.

WINNER: Linton Vassell by TKO at 4:21 of Round 1

Johnson was on the verge of securing the first-round finish, but it looked as though a clash of heads cut him open, and from there Vassell was able to grab a single leg and take over with his grappling, landing numerous unanswered strikes from top position. Vassell has looked good at heavyweight, not appearing to be undersized in any way despite making the move up from light heavyweight, and this may have been his most notable win yet, picking up a first-round stoppage against one of the top-ranked fighters in the division. In his post-fight interview, Vassell called for a shot at the title, or a bout against Valentin Moldavsky.

AARON PICO (9-3, 149.4) VS ADLI EDWARDS (9-1, 149.6) – CATCHWEIGHT

Edwards looked for an early takedown, but it was Pico who secured the first takedown of the fight, dragging Edwards down in the center of the cage, where he began to work from the guard of his opponent. Pico landed some heavy elbows, before opting to return to his feet. Pico connected with a hard right hand that seemed to stun Edwards, and Pico took him right back to the ground. Once again, Pico allowed Edwards to his feet, but a head kick stunned his opponent once more, and he proceeded to swarm him with brutal strikes against the cage, before recording yet another takedown. This was a fairly uncompetitive round, and in my opinion, Pico did enough to earn a 10-8 round here.

A hard kick from Pico knocked Edwards off-balance early in the second round. Edwards did not have much to offer Pico on the feet, and he was eating some hard shots to the body, as well as the damaging hooks up top. Pico was taking him down at will as well, although these takedowns were somewhat beneficial to Edwards, in the sense that they were giving him a reprieve from all of the damage that he was absorbing on the feet. Another left hook from Pico rocked Edwards, and he took Edwards down yet again near the cage, where he kept the fight for the remaining two minutes of the round. This was another very one-sided round in favor of Pico.

Early in round three, Pico landed a right hand that sent Edwards to the ground, and this time, Pico was able to finish the fight, throwing down a number of hard ground and pound strikes before the fight was stopped.

WINNER: Aaron Pico by TKO at 0:55 of Round 3

This fight was completely uncompetitive, and while Edwards deserves praise for his heart and durability while taking this fight on short notice, I would not have been upset if the fight was waved off a few minutes earlier. Regardless, this was an excellent performance from Aaron Pico, who has really worked his way up the featherweight ladder, after facing a lot of adversity early in his career. As it stands, he is the fourth-ranked featherweight, and I think rescheduling his original fight for this card against Jeremy Kennedy would be the right move.


The fighters touched gloves to begin this championship bout. Nemkov attacked the lead leg of Anderson early, while working his jab as well. Anderson swung wide as he attempted to close the distance, and Nemkov was able to use his momentum to press him against the cage, avoiding a potential takedown. Anderson was unsuccessful on his next attempt as well, and ate a hard hook on the break from the clinch. Anderson was able to defend Nemkov’s takedown attempts as well, so the round concluded on the feet. 10-9 Nemkov.

Anderson immediately shot for a takedown at the start of the second round, and this time he was able to take Nemkov to the ground, where he began to work from Nemkov’s guard. An elbow from Anderson drew some blood from the nose of Nemkov, and he did a great job of smothering him from top position. Anderson eventually passed into half guard, but Nemkov was able to roll out from under Anderson and escaped to his feet with a minute remaining in the round. 19-19.

The fighters traded jabs in the opening minute of round three, before Anderson connected with a straight right hand that backed Nemkov up. Anderson was able to capitalize on the moment, dragging Nemkov back to the ground near the cage. Nemkov attempted a guillotine choke at one point, but he was unsuccessful, and Anderson maintained top position, where he was able to land some very strong ground and pound shots before the conclusion of the round. Just before the end of the round, an accidental clash of heads opened up a cut above the left eye of Nemkov, and the cut was severe enough that the fight was stopped.

Result: No Contest due to an unintentional headbutt at 4:57 of Round 3. Vadim Nemkov retains the Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship.

As the fight did not reach the championship rounds, we did not go to the scorecards following the headbutt, and instead, the fight was ruled a no contest. This was obviously a very disappointing result, that left both the fighters as well as the audience unsatisfied. The Light Heavyweight Grand Prix remains unconcluded, and neither fighter would go home with the million-dollar prize following this result. Nemkov retained his title, but there was no denying that Corey Anderson was winning this fight prior to the finish, so Anderson in particular was very upset with the outcome here. This fight will of course be rescheduled, and it will be intriguing to see who is favored going into the rematch, taking into consideration how this fight was playing out prior to the finish. 


McKee rushed across the cage and caught Pitbull with a push kick to the body to begin the fight. Pitbull threw a right hand down the middle, catching McKee as he went in for another one. A left hook from Pitbull caught McKee off-balance, but the champion was able to recover instantaneously. McKee tagged Pitbull with a short hook that prompted Pitbull to press forward. Both fighters attacked the body, but it was Pitbull who was doing a better job of beating up the legs. Very close round. 10-9 Pitbull.

Pitbull defended a takedown to begin the second round. The pace of the fight was a bit on the slow side, and the crowd was voicing their displeasure. McKee attempted a spinning kick, and Pitbull took him down in the process but did not engage the champion on the ground. McKee returned to his feet, and landed a few more body kicks, before the fighters traded left hands. Pitbull defended another takedown late in the round and connected with a few more shots to the body before time expired. 20-18 Pitbull.

McKee was doing a lot of taunting, but was not considerably more active than his opponent, despite his frustrations. Pitbull continued to attack the legs of McKee with kicks, and an overhand right caught McKee clean not long after. Despite the big shot, McKee was able to capitalize on the carnage by taking Pitbull down near the cage, where he was able to land a pair of hard lefts as Pitbull picked himself up. McKee decided to shoot for another takedown, but this time Pitbull was able to attempt a guillotine, and it looked as though Pitbull had a tight squeeze. McKee stayed calm, and escaped the attempt before the end of the round. 30-27 Pitbull.

There was not a ton of activity from either fighter early in the fourth round. McKee began to go on the attack a couple of minutes into the round though, catching Pitbull with a number of quick combinations. Pitbull fired back, but I thought McKee was landing the stronger shots throughout these exchanges, and Pitbull seemed to have largely abandoned the leg kicks and body shots that he had found success with earlier in the bout. Pitbull began to march forward late in the round, made up a lot of ground by initiating offense and defended another takedown from McKee in the final seconds of the round. 39-27 Pitbull.

McKee took Pitbull down in the opening minute of the final round, but Pitbull was able to pick himself up after a short period of control time from the champion. Both fighters were tired by this point in the fight, and neither man had any period of sustained offense following the return to the feet. Pitbull did sneak in a nice uppercut as we reached the twenty-four-minute mark of this fight, which he followed up with a strong left hand. McKee responded with a pair of sharp one-two’s, which prompted Pitbull to pressure forward in combination. McKee changed levels and brought the fight back to the ground, but Pitbull returned to his feet before the fight reached its end. I scored the bout 48-47 for Patricio Pitbull.

WINNER: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47) to win the Bellator Featherweight Championship

This was a very competitive fight, and I think anything from 48-47 McKee, to 49-46 Pitbull would be fair, but I ultimately think that the right fighter had his arm raised in the end here. Pitbull fought a smart fight, never over-extending himself, but doing just enough to keep McKee from getting in his rhythm. His takedown defense was impressive, and his bursts of forward pressure did a great deal to help Pitbull score points when needed. Still, it was a very close fight, and there were a lot of positives to take away for A.J. McKee as well, who fought the full five rounds for the first time in his career here. If Bellator has their way, a trilogy fight will certainly be in the works for these two fighters, and I don’t imagine there will be very many complaints. Pitbull is now a (remarkable) three-time Bellator Featherweight Champion.

About Eric Marcotte 189 Articles
A graduate of Laurentian University, Eric reports on Mixed Martial Arts at POST Wrestling.