A conquering champion known as “The Spaniard” returned to the cage at Bellator 258, putting his bantamweight title on the line for the first time.
Juan Archuleta, who captured the title against Patchy Mix last time out, was paired up with former UFC standout Sergio Pettis Friday night. Outside of a stumble in the featherweight grand prix, Archuleta had been perfect in his Bellator career. Pettis, just hitting his prime, was entering his first major title fight after winning three straight, including two under the Bellator banner.
Archuleta actually danced and sang along to his walkout track Friday, decked out as always in his Spanish conquistador helmet.
An early, fast exchange in the opening minute of Bellator 258’s main event set the tone Friday. Both men were quick, and explosive. It was Pettis holding center, keeping the champ on the outside and just missing with a high kick. Just moments later, Archuleta changed levels looking for a takedown. Pettis defended well, showing impressive balance. Archuleta tried to sweep a leg, to no avail. While it might not reflect on the scorecards, if needed, Pettis staying upright felt like a victory for his confidence. Not long after, the challenger hit home with a right, and soon, his hands seemed to have found their range.
In the second, Pettis once again held center, with Archuleta on the outside. Archuleta hit home with a right hand off an angle, the final punch in a combo. Archuleta later landed a takedown out in the opening, planting Pettis on his back. That allowed the champ to get into guard, while Pettis scrambled back and wall-walked up. Pettis fired a kick to the body, the pair exchanged, and Pettis continued to hold center. Archuleta, however, would finish the round on a takedown attempt.
Archuleta fanned on a high kick early in the third, while Pettis continued to keep the champ outside. Both men landed right hands; the champ seemed a little more explosive perhaps. He flashed some stance switches, while getting his combinations going. Pettis, however, was finding a home for his right hand. Both men landed frequently throughout the round, in what was becoming a very entertaining standup battle. As the round progressed, Archuleta’s jab became a factor, and overall, he finished up as the more active fighter.
With fifteen minutes in the books, the pair headed for the championship rounds. With Pettis having gone five rounds just once in his career, that development appeared to favor Archuleta.
Pettis hit home with his right hand early in the fourth, but it was Archuleta punching his way in, securing a body lock, then a trip takedown. Pettis, undeterred, was right back to his feet. He hit home with some heavy shots throughout the round — a left/right combo in particular snapped Archuleta’s head back. Pettis likely had the edge in volume as well. He got creative at the end of the frame, firing off a cartwheel kick.
Archuleta started the fifth round a little more aggressive. Thanks to a few close rounds early, plus a solid effort in the fourth, Pettis was arguably ahead, or at worst, the pair were dead even. Within the opening minute in the final frame, Archuleta shot for a takedown. But Pettis’ takedown defense was up to the job. In an exchange, Pettis landed a left. Pettis kicked the leg of the champ; Sergio switched stances, mixing things up a little. The more the round wore on, the more likely it seemed that the title might just change hands.
Archuleta possibly have sensed that, as he landed a huge slam takedown with two minutes remaining. Pettis was a threat off his back, but Archuleta, while trapped, was able to land knees to the body of Pettis. The takedown may have secured the round for the champ, but it certainly didn’t win him the fight. Instead, it was a Pettis once again holding gold — for Sergio Pettis, his first major championship.
Official Result: Sergio Pettis def. Juan Archuleta by unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)