Bellator 277: Patricio Pitbull Reclaims Featherweight Title in Decision Win Over A.J. McKee

A.J. McKee and Patricio Pitbull, Bellator 277
A.J. McKee and Patricio Pitbull, Bellator 277 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Bellator MMA

A.J. McKee entered last year’s featherweight grand prix final the surging upstart, an unlikely star in the making looking to topple reigning champ Patricio Pitbull.

That might sound as if it’s selling McKee short, but few could have predicted that he would start his professional fighting career at 18-0, going all the way to the final and soundly defeating Pitbull inside of a round.

McKee claimed a million dollars and a world title that night in July. Nearly ten months later, no such windfall awaited in the rematch. Rather, on Friday at Bellator 277, it was bragging rights and legacy on the line in McKee vs. Pitbull 2.

Champ McKee charged across the cage to open the Bellator 277 main event, landing a side kick that put Pitbull on his heels. McKee followed up with a body kick, Pitbull came over the top with a right hand in response. McKee then fired an oblique kick. The pair would then square up, with McKee pointing to center, perhaps trying to get into the head of the Brazilian. He fired a body kick; Pitbull charged forward, closing the distance and capping it off with a punch. He’d fire a left hook, McKee slipped but nothing came of it.

In the early going, McKee used his reach well. Pitbull would eventually catch a kick, but couldn’t dump McKee. McKee flashed some stance switches, and fanned on a spinning back kick. Pitbull fired a low kick, and nearly caught another McKee kick to the body. Another low kick landed for Pitbull. Moments later, a third landed. McKee would land a jab in the final minute, Pitbull would hack at the champ’s leg yet again.

The game plan for Patricio Pitbull was clear — work over the lead leg. In round two, that continued. Early in the round, McKee changed things up, shooting for a takedown. Pitbull sprawled, stuffing the attempt, but McKee fired a knee on the way up. An inside leg kick by Pitbull connected; he caught what was probably his third McKee kick after that. Pitbull then pressed forward, firing a combo; McKee backed up to the cage, then moved ahead with a counter. A spinning kick led to McKee on his back next, and he tried to lure Pitbull in to no avail.

Back on the feet, McKee would try a flying knee, and connect with a left. Pitbull landed another calf kick. Pitbull scored with a few lefts on yet another caught kick. Pitbull ripped to the body; McKee then shot in, but Pitbull defended and went back to the body again.

Round three saw what had become a chess match continue. Pitbull’s approach was still to chop at McKee’s lead leg. McKee relied on his reach, but Pitbull simply would not engage, until he rocked McKee with a right! That led to a takedown attempt from McKee, and this time, he landed it! With over half the round still remaining, McKee had Pitbull up against the fence. He dropped an elbow, then another. His right hand worked the body; Pitbull got to a knee, but had his legs pulled out from under him.

Pitbull made it back up moments later, eating some right hands, and McKee moved in for a takedown. Pitbull locked in a guillotine, and jumped into it! It was tight, but McKee held on, and finally popped free with just under a minute to go. McKee would finish the frame in control hunting a choke, but didn’t have nearly enough time to finish.

Patricio Pitbull opened the fourth round for with a leg kick. Surprise, surprise. McKee fired a right-left combo, then a spinning back kick that sailed wide. Pitbull fired another leg kick. Thus far, McKee’s movement hadn’t been effected all that much by them however. McKee, meanwhile, landed a left, and fired an elbow. McKee went to the body, then flashed a front kick. Pitbull came in with a right hand, which had McKee circling out of the way, and complaining about an eye poke. A late takedown attempt from McKee wasn’t close, and they’d head to the final frame.

McKee opened round five with a kick, followed by a takedown. Pitbull sprawled, but McKee stayed on it and completed the attempt. Pitbull used the fence to wall walk up, but McKee took him down again. This time, McKee got a hook in, and was looking to take the back. But Pitbull exploded up, and moved back to center with three minutes left in the fight. A minute ticked away with little action, both men tiring. McKee changed levels for a takedown, but Pitbull turned that back. McKee went high with a kick but was in too close to connect clean. Pitbull walked the champ down, but it was McKee putting together a combination. With a minute to go, Pitbull fired an uppcut, and a 1-2. None had McKee hurt. McKee fired a combo. McKee fired a knee in the clinch. Pitbull moved in, but McKee scored a big takedown in the final seconds of the round! Pitbull popped back up, but the buzzer sounded, and both men raised their hands in victory.

A.J. McKee’s face was stunned once the scores were read, but Patricio Pitbull picking up the win was far from a robbery. It may, however, set up a trilogy fight, depending on whether McKee wants to stick around featherweight for a little while longer.

Almost more impressive than winning his belt back, Patricio Pitbull becomes the first man to defeat A.J. McKee, dropping him to 18-1 as a pro.

Official Result: Patrício Pitbull def. A. J. McKee (c) by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47)