The Bellator 272 main event bantamweight title fight between Sergio Pettis and Kyoji Horiguchi might as well have been a champ versus champ fight.
Pettis started the night undisputed 135lb champ, having defeated Juan Archuleta earlier in the year. But RIZIN title holder and former Bellator champ Kyoji Horiguchi had never lost his title — instead relinquishing it due to injury.
Even Pettis himself acknowledged that he was “babysitting” the belt until the pair could prove who the better martial artist was.
Early on, Horiguchi darted in-and-out, Pettis playing the counter game. Just under 90 seconds in, and Horiguchi landed his first takedown — but Pettis was able to climb back up, albeit with Horiguchi still on him for a moment.
Back in the open, Horiguchi fired a big right hand, and was the aggressor more often than not. The Japanese fighter landed several spinning back kicks in the round. Pettis kept his guard high, and was relatively stationary, moving methodically when he did move in on the challenger. Horiguchi fired a 1-2 that was blocked, Pettis answered. Things opened up just ever so slightly at round’s end, both men landing some dazzling kicks.
Round two found the challenger in a southpaw stance early. Before long, he switched back to orthodox, fired a kick, and took Pettis’ feet out from under him momentarily. Horiguchi changed levels a moment later and simply powered through a takedown, planting Pettis on his back. The RIZIN champ had to dodge an upkick or two, but landed a couple of punches as Pettis scrambled. Things would slow down for a spell, Pettis on one knee, Horiguchi with one hook in, the position leading to a stalemate. Pettis would briefly give up his back, eating a few blows before escaping out, and the pair finished the round on the feet.
The third found Pettis needing to pick up the pace, as he was already trailing on the scorecards most likely. Instead, Horiguchi was able to get him to the ground, controlling the fight in pretty much every area. Late in the round, the ex-champ took the back and looked to get hooks in. Pettis was fighting more to stave him off than anything; his offense through three rounds was virtually non-existent.
Pettis move forward to open round four, and seemed to know he needed a finish in the championship rounds. He fought off the first takedown attempt, but Horiguchi would make good on his second. With over four minutes to work, Horiguchi was in Pettis’ guard, and the champ opted to close it rather than attack submissions or look for a way out. Luckily for Pettis, Horiguchi gave him a little space, backing off and allowing the champ to regain his feet. Horiguchi fired a right; the champ returned fire with his jab. Pettis then fired a combo, noteworthy more as a sign of offensive live than anything actually landing.
Horiguchi, however, was leaking blood from under one eye care of that earlier upkick. Pettis landed to the body. And then, in a fight he was clearly losing, Pettis pulled off the Hail Mary. Missing a high kick, he fired a spinning back fist that caught Kyoji Horiguchi clean. The former champ went down, the current one scaled the cage in celebration.
.@sergiopettis OUTTA NOWHERE! 😱 😱 😱 😱
What a way to end the 2021 Bellator MMA season LIVE on @SHOsports. #Bellator272 pic.twitter.com/g8Kstu4E3v
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) December 4, 2021
An incredible comeback, and the second of the night after Spike Carlyle’s third-round submission during the Bellator 272 prelims.
Friday’s outcome was made even more intriguing with the announcement of Bellator’s bantamweight grand prix, which will commence next year. With eight fighters in the field of competitors including Sergio Pettis and Kyoji Horiguchi, there’s a chance the pair could face off in a rematch as part of the tournament.
Official Result: Sergio Pettis def. Kyoji Horiguchi by KO (spinning back fist), Round 4, 3:24