A year and a bit on from winning Bellator’s lightweight championship, Patricky Pitbull returned to the cage at Bellator 288 for his first title defense.
Opposite the Brazilian champ, whose brother Patricio currently holds featherweight gold, was the undefeated Usman Nurmagomedov — part of another MMA dynasty, with cousin Khabib a former UFC lightweight champion and Hall of Famer.
While both fighters had accused the other of cashing their ticket to the big time care of name value, come Friday night at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL, things would be settled in the cage.
Plenty of feeling out opened the lightweight co-main event, with Pitbull and Nurmagomedov trading kicks and single strikes. Nurmagomedov’s kicks were more varied, going low and high; he also checked a kick smartly, giving the champ something to think about. Pitbull, meanwhile, was left on the outside, unable to close the distance with Nurmagomedov’s kicks keeping him at bay.
At the end of five minutes, Nurmagomedov was in control, forcing champ Pitbull to fight from behind. In the second, the smaller shorter Brazilian still found himself on the outside, as Nurmagomedov fired a side kick early. Pitbull exploded forward moments later but couldn’t make much happen, backing off and later blocking a head kick.
Nurmagomedov then mixed things up, timing a Pitbull punch well, changing levels and blasting into a takedown off a left hand. Nurmagomedov sat in half-guard, with roughly half the round still on the clock. He dropped elbows, as Pitbull tried to shrimp back to the fence. Patricky would get his back to the cage, but risked Nurmagomedov taking it. Pitbull would wound up back on the ground eating elbows as the buzzer sounded — bringing about a merciful end to a dominant round for Usman Nurmagomedov.
Round three saw Nurmagomedov look for an early takedown, but Pitbull escaped the attempt. From there, they settled in at center, the Dagestani on the outside, Pitbull’s right hand at the ready. Nurmagomedov again focused on creating space with kicks; a side kick landed to the mid-section about two minutes in. What unfolded from there was a better round for Pitbull, in that he wasn’t taken down and battered with elbows. But Usman Nurmagomedov was able to keep him at bay, neutralizing his striking and leaving the Brazilian in a deep hole heading into the championship rounds. To underscore that, it was Nurmagomedov pressing late in the third, connecting with a punch in the final minute, sending Pitbull to his corner bloodied.
Nurmagomedov shot early in the fourth, but as he had in the third, Pitbull was able to pull free. Usman followed that up with an inside leg kick, which Pitbull returned in kind. Nurmagomedov flashed a front kick as they continued to stand and trade, then doubled up on his jab as Pitbull pressed forward. Even as the champ pressed forward, however, he was unable to hit home with anything of note.
That finally changed care of a body kick with just over two minutes remaining in round four. But moments later, Pitbull was retreating. The longer the fight wore on, the bigger Pitbull’s swings, and more noticeable, as a result, were the misses. A left hand finally glanced off Nurmagomedov, but didn’t appear to do any significant damage.
Pitbull finally turned up the pressure in the fifth, closing the distance, throwing hands, and keeping right on Nurmagomedov, who was outright retreating for the first time in the fight. But a pair of jabs led to a key takedown for Nurmagomedov, with just over four minutes left in the contest. Pitbull closed his guard as Nurmagomedov went body-head from the top. Pitbull then tried to tie things up, but he was busted open and couldn’t hold Nurmagomedov in place.
Time was quickly becoming a factor, with Pitbull unable to get off his back. He finally scrambled up and out with just under two minutes remaining, but a mat return followed and Nurmagomedov landed in full mount. While he’d end up back in Pitbull’s half-guard, the writing was on the wall as the final minute arrived. But Pitbull managed to reverse and get back up! That said, he couldn’t land the necessary knockout blow, and Usman Nurmagomedov had a decisive win in the biggest fight of his career — and a shiny new championship belt!
Official Result: Usman Nurmagomedov def. Patricky Pitbull by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-44, 50-44)