The champion versus champion aspect of Patricio Pitbull vs. Kleber Koike at Bellator MMA vs. RIZIN made it arguably the most intriguing fight of the entire card.
While other bouts on the cross-promotional New Year’s Eve battle featured current and former champs, no other fight had the two reigning kings of their respective promotions. So while no belts were on the line, bragging rights certainly were, and perhaps a linear title of sorts, should you care about such things.
With Koike boasting 29 submission wins, Pitbull was likely to want to keep this one standing. Things certainly started out that way, with Pitbull patiently walking his opponent down. Koike soon dropped for a takedown attempt, grabbing a leg — but Pitbull pulled free, wanting no part of being on the mat with Kleber Koike, especially early in the fight.
Several exchanges on the feet then followed, with Koike firing kicks low and high. Pitbull was getting the better of those, but again backed up when Koike tried to lure him down to the mat. When Pitbull later threw Koike to the canvas, he again wisely backed off. Koike, meanwhile, connected with a kick to the body, though many of his standup attacks were blocked.
Pitbull was throwing the more accurate, powerful shots, though Koike managed to hold his own, mainly with his kicks. Late in the round, Koike would land a throw, but he flew wide, unable to stick the landing, and couldn’t get on top.
Round two opened with a bit of a chess match. Strikes were few and far between through the opening two minutes, especially for Pitbull, who landed a couple of solid keg kicks about a minute or more apart. Koike created space with front kicks, but couldn’t get close enough to Pitbull to take the fight down. The Bellator champ appeared willing to bide his time, meanwhile, waiting for an opening — which would come in the final minute. With things opening up, Pitbull landed a right hand that seemed to hurt Koike. The RIZIN champ was soon leaking blood by one eye.
The third saw Pitbull rip the body then finish the combo upstairs. And while Koike would take Patricio down moments later, he could not keep the Bellator champ there. Pitbull then chopped the legs as Koike sat back, hoping beyond hope that Pitbull might wade into his guard. The leg kicks kept coming, until the ref opted to stand Koike up. That afforded Koike the opportunity to get the fight down, giving him just over two minutes to work. Just when it seemed like Koike finally had a chance to shift momentum, Pitbull escaped up and out, Koike chasing him. In a later clinch, Koike pulled guard, firing from bottom. Patricio Pitbull then freed himself, and fired a soccer kick, but didn’t land it.
The fight would finish up with Koike being stood up one last time, not that it mattered. Pitbull had the clear win, improving Bellator to 4-0 against RIZIN with one fight remaining on the card.
Official Result: Patricio Pitbull def. Kleber Koike by unanimous decision