Bantamweight action at Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN saw two of the respective promotion’s best 135lb’ers go head-to-head on New Year’s Eve.
The second fight in at the Saitama Super Arena just outside Tokyo had former Bellator MMA champ Juan Archuleta paired up with South Korean Soo Chul Kim.
Kim appeared to be trying to set the tone before the fight even began, outright racing to the ring with the riffs of Welcome to the Jungle blaring in the arena. The opening seconds of the fight were just as quick, with the pair coming together and going to the ground care of an Archuleta takedown, after which the American was happy to fire a few knees on the grounded Kim — completely legal under the RIZIN rule set.
Moments later, they were back to the feet, with Kim jumping into a guillotine with Archuleta still standing. Archuleta gutted it out, then went to the ground; moments later, he was free of the choke and on top, while Kim fired elbows and punches off his back. Archuleta went body-head, and worked Kim over as he worked his way up against the ring post. Kim did make it up, but was bloodied, and had to eat a couple of foot stomps.
When Kim finally created some space, he attacked the legs of Archuleta, pressing forward and staying light on his feet. The pair both landed in an exchange, followed by Archuleta clamping on with a body lock as the final minute of the opening round arrived. Kim would go down to a knee, but was able to extricate himself with about 15 seconds left in the round. Kim would close out round one landing a leg kick.
Inside of a minute into round two, Archuleta landed a blast double, staying on the attempt and turning to put Kim on his back. As he did in the first, Kim fired elbows off his back, while Archuleta worked the body. After a moment, Kim scrambled free, but Archuleta had him back down moments later. This time as Kim got up, he was forced to eat a couple of forearm strikes from Archuleta. And while Kim was up, he could land just a couple of blows before “The Spaniard” took him right back down.
Round three saw an early scramble go south for Juan Archuleta. Apparently off-balance, Archuleta wound up on his back, with Kim working from a dominant position basically for the first time in the fight. As he hit the body, however, the ref stood the fight up — almost certainly a quick stand-up. Kim then engaged in some mental warfare, raising his hands, trying to goad Archuleta into something. It was Archuleta landing a jump knee with just under 90 seconds left, however — though it didn’t land flush. Archuleta then tied the action up, pinning Kim on a single-leg attempt against the ring post.
Then came the Hail Mary attempt from Soo Chul Kim. He locked on a ninja choke, dragging Archuleta to the canvas. The choke was tight, and Archuleta appeared to be in some real discomfort. But he grabbed a leg and later freed himself, snatching away Kim’s last chance to salvage the fight. While one judge would award the fight to Kim, Archuleta took the win on the remaining two scorecards.
Official Result: Juan Archuleta def. Soo Chul Kim by split decision