Inadvertent fouls, slips, cuts — Juan Archuleta couldn’t catch a break, and Patricio Pitbull was just too much for him at Bellator 228, in the final opening-round fight of the featherweight grand prix.
It should have been the crown jewel of Bellator 228 in Los Angeles on Saturday night. However, to accommodate for the Bellator featherweight grand prix second round selection process, Patricio Pitbull vs. Juan Archuleta was moved to co-main event Status.
Still, it was a five-round title fight, with perhaps the most deserving title challenger possible in Juan Archuleta, outside of the phenomenal A.J. McKee. And Archuleta’s 18-fight win streak trumped McKee’s 15, although the bulk of ‘The Spaniard’s’ fights had come outside the promotion.
Pitbull, meanwhile, entered Saturday night a double-champion, with featherweight and lightweight gold. He was the favorite heading into the grand prix, as the champ should be.
Unlike the bulk of the opening round fights, as a title bout, Pitbull vs. Archuleta was a five-round affair. Pitbull started the first at center, Archuleta on the outside, light on his feet. It was a waiting game for Pitbull, who looked to be conserving energy. The challenger continued his quick, in-and-out movement, but landed low coming in for a leg kick, which led to a break due to the foul. A quick warning, a brief pause, and they got back underway.
Archuleta would slip on his next attack, and fire an upkick as the champ moved in. Pitbull looked for a guillotine, but didn’t have it initially. He adjusted, while Archuleta remained grounded, still in the choke, but safe for the time being.
Archuleta would eventually come free, but Pitbull remained on top. He’d end up warned for a borderline knee as they entered the final minute. A final flurry from Pitbull took them to the buzzer.
The slip greatly changed the complexion of round one, and as a result, Pitbull took the frame. How Archuleta recovered in the second would be key.
Pitbull’s right hand hit home in the second, but the action was stopped for a foul by Archuleta once again. This time, it was an eye poke. When the fight continued, they went right back at it. After a quick exchange, Archuleta pressed for the takedown against the fence. Pitbull would reverse, however, only for Archuleta to reverse again.
The pair would grapple, jockeying for position, for the remainder of the round, to the displeasure of the crowd. The takeaway, however, was that the challenger was possibly down two rounds, though the second was close, and Pitbull was actually warned for inactivity between frames.
Another slip, off a kick, saw Archuleta go down to open the third, but this time, he made it back up instantly. A minute later, the champ tagged Archuleta with a right hand, sending him stumbling back. As he went down, Pitbull moved in, possibly looking for a guillotine. He couldn’t get that, but added some elbows, leaving the challenger gushing blood. However, Pitbull wound up at a standstill, and Archuleta used his opponent as leverage to power back up.
River of blood not withstanding, Archuleta seemed okay to continue on, but he desperately needed to turn things around. Instead, he ate a glancing right hand. Another right connected. Archuleta fired back, but couldn’t close the gap. Pitbull would finish the frame with another guillotine attempt, but they’d head to the championship rounds.
Round four, at best, had Archuleta down 2-1 to start. It was Pitbull striking first, however, with a left. Archuleta landed on his back, then gave up his back. He’d make it to the fence, but eat knee after knee to the thigh and backside. Archuleta then turned the tables, grabbed on with a guillotine, but gave it up for a jump knee attempt! The risk, however, did not come with a reward, and they faced off back at center.
Archuleta would later look for a takedown, only to give control over to Pitbull. Heading into the fifth, the challenger almost certainly needed a stoppage. But it was the champ looking to finish, firing off a jumping knee. Archuleta changed levels thinking takedown, but Patricio easily shrugged it off. Not that going to the ground would help Archuleta much, short of a submission that would be difficult to secure with blood and sweat coating him.
The pair would continue to engage as the round progressed, and an accidental headbutt opened up a cut on the champ. With less than two minutes remaining, it wasn’t enough to alter the outcome of the fight. There was no question as to who the winner was — Patricio Pitbull retained, and moved forward in the grand prix.
— Scott Coker (@ScottCoker) September 29, 2019
Result: Patricio Pitbull def. Juan Archuleta by unanimous decision (49-46, 50-45, 49-46)