Bellator 272: Only One Can Reign Supreme Between Pettis and Horiguchi

Sergio Pettis and Kyoji Horiguchi, Bellator 272
Sergio Pettis and Kyoji Horiguchi, Bellator 272 face-off Credit: Bellator MMA

Sergio Pettis has been impressive in his Bellator run so far, but to defend his title he must defeat a foe who never lost the belt in the cage in current RIZIN champion Kyoji Horiguchi at Bellator 272.

While fighters are often asked about why they would leave the industry leading UFC, few can question that the move was a great one for Sergio Pettis.  He left the Octagon with victories over current flyweight champion Brandon Moreno, and former title challengers Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga.  While he experienced hiccups against the likes of Henry Cejudo and Rob Font, he was widely expected to remain with the company in free agency going into 2019.

Instead, he entered Bellator as the breath of fresh air desperately needed in their bantamweight division and immediately made an impact.  After notching victories over Alfred Kashakyan and Ricky Bandejas, Pettis routed veteran Juan Archuleta to win the championship and join his brother as one of the select fighters to have held a title in a major promotion.  While his flyweight run experienced setbacks, the 28 year old appears to have finally developed into the bantamweight force that is poised to have a long reign should he get the victory on Friday.

If there has been one beneficiary of Bellator’s cross-promotion endeavor with RIZIN, it is Kyoji Horiguchi and it is not even close.  A professional since 2010, “The Typhoon” has been one of the preeminent talents of the last decade after accumulating an impressive 29-3 record that has seen him win titles in Shooto and RIZIN.  For those detractors who would say he wasn’t tested in the west, he also posted a respectable 4-1 run in the UFC where his only loss came in a title fight to all-time great Demetrious Johnson.  His six month stretch beginning in December of 2018 was a seminal run, with Horiguchi defending his title in RIZIN against then Bellator champion Darrion Caldwell before repeating the feat months later to take the Bellator title in a cross-promotional deal, all with another title defense sandwiched in-between.

But while becoming a two-promotion world champion was an incredible feat, he was shocked just two months later by Kai Asakura in a non-title bout and suffered an injury that took him out of action for nearly a year and forced him to vacate both of his titles.  Though he avenged the loss last December to reclaim the RIZIN title, travel restrictions in the time of COVID-19 have made it difficult for him to stay active which led to him signing on to become a full-time part of the Bellator roster.  Due to the great relationship between Bellator and RIZIN, Horiguchi remains the RIZIN champion and his title is not on the line until he returns defend it in the promotion.

Both men enter the bout with multi-faceted skillsets and an impressive offensive arsenal between the two of them.  For Pettis, the key will be to dictate the tempo with counter-striking and avoiding exchanges with the RIZIN champion.  Horiguchi is among the more powerful athletes at 135 pounds and will be looking to deliver heavy damage early with kicks and body shots.  While both men are experienced grapplers, the one to win the exchanges on the mat is expected to be the one who can get top position.

The Bellator bantamweight division is now experiencing an impressive resurgence with several contenders making their way up the ranks.  Friday’s winner is expected to face Raufeon Stots who is on a nine fight win-streak.  Another option would be Patchy Mix who bounced back from his own title loss in 2020 with back-to-back wins to return to title contention.