The culmination of a lengthy 16-man featherweight tournament will finally happen at Bellator 263 on Saturday, as Bellator Featherweight Champion Patricio Pitbull will face undefeated contender AJ McKee Jr. The fight headlines an 11-fight card that is set to take place at The Forum in Los Angeles, California, USA.
Follow along throughout the evening for live updates on the event.
Preliminary Card (7:00PM EDT / 4:00PM PDT) (Youtube)
Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (Showtime)
Bout 11: Patricio Pitbull (32-4) vs. AJ McKee Jr. (17-0) (Bellator Featherweight Championship)
Undefeated McKee Jr. Dethrones Pitbull For Bellator Featherweight Belt, Wins Grand Prix
AJ McKee Jr. became the new Bellator Featherweight Champion in just under two minutes, stopping Patricio Pitbull with a guillotine choke in the first round of their title fight. The main event bout was the conclusion of the promotion’s 16-man Featherweight Grand Prix, which had taken place since 2019.
McKee Jr. first hurt Pitbull with a head kick, knocking him back with the perfectly timed shot. Pitbull was dropped by follow-up punches, although he had a moment to recover as McKee Jr. threw his arms up in celebration, falsely assuming the fight was over.
McKee Jr. applied a guillotine choke as Pitbull returned to his feet, keeping with the choke until Pitbull seemingly went unconscious and caused the referee to stop the fight.
“All my dreams [are] coming true. We’re not done, this is just the beginning,” said McKee Jr. in his post-fight interview. “I’m getting ready to hold this for the rest of my life. This isn’t going anywhere.”
McKee Jr. had the support of his home state California, which was clearly behind him for the fight.
McKee Jr. had stoppage victories in all of his previous fights in the tournament. He earned a submission win in his past two fights, stopping Derek Campos and former bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell.
His quickest win in the tournament was in the first round, where he stopped Georgi Karakhanyan in just eight seconds with punches.
McKee Jr. has spent his entire 18-fight pro career in Bellator. He first made his debut for the promotion in 2015 and has stopped his opponent in over half of his bouts so far.
Pitbull was Bellator’s 145-pound champion since 2017. He defended the belt five times in his reign, including three fights that took place earlier in the Featherweight Grand Prix.
He had scored two first-round wins in his most recent appearances, defeating Pedro Carvalho and Emmanuel Sanchez.
Bout 10: Mads Burnell (15-3) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (20-5) (Featherweight)
Burnell Earns Third Win In Quick-Moving Bellator Campaign
Mads Burnell continued his undefeated Bellator run in the co-main event of Saturday’s card, defeating Emmanuel Sanchez in a unanimous decision performance (29-28, 30-27 & 30-27).
The fight started with a hectic pace, as both fighters had a wild output of strikes in the first round. Both fighters connected frequently, with Sanchez landing more strikes, per Bellator statistics.
Burnell was able to keep Sanchez grounded for most of the third round, scoring a takedown early in the final frame. He had wrapped up the fight with over five minutes of control time.
Burnell, a UFC and Cage Warriors alum, has already scored three wins since joining Bellator in October. He scored a submission in just three months ago, stopping Saul Rogers with a rear naked choke.
Sanchez was looking to return after losing a title fight to Patricio Pitbull in April. He had a three-fight win streak before then.
Bout 9: Usman Nurmagomedov (12-0) vs. Manny Muro (12-6) (Lightweight)
Nurmagomedov Extends Undefeated Run, Earns First Finish Bellator Win
A slick combination of a knee and punches from Usman Nurmagomedov moved his undefeated record to 13 consecutive wins and finished experienced fighter Manny Muro.
Nurmagomedov knocked Muro down to the ground with a knee to the body from a clinch position. Capitalizing on a downed opponent, Nurmagomedov unloaded with ground and pound strikes until the fight came to a close.
Nurmagomedov was returning after winning his Bellator debut earlier this year against Mike Hamel.
After his win, Nurmagomedov mentioned his interest in competing at Bellator’s October 23rd event in Moscow, Russia.
Muro entered the fight with some momentum as well, having won his past three fights including two in the Bellator cage.
Bout 8: Islam Mamedov (19-1-1) vs. Brent Primus (10-1) (Lightweight)
Mamedov Defeats Former Bellator Champ Primus In Promotional Debut
Islam Mamedov used his wrestling to become only the second fighter to defeat Brent Primus, getting the split decision nod over him after three rounds (29-28 Mamedov, 29-28 Primus & 29-28 Mamedov).
Primus spent most of the three-round fight on his back, where he would attempt submissions and periodically land shots.
Mamedov was able to get Primus down in every round, although he often did not do much with the position.
Mamedov was making his Bellator debut shortly after wrapping up a long run in the PFL (formerly known as WSOF). He fought in the promotion’s 2018 and 2019 season, making it into the playoffs both times.
Primus, a former Bellator Lightweight Champion, was returning after over a year outside of the cage. His two previous fights saw him submit people within two minutes each.
Bout 7: Chris Gonzalez (6-0) vs. Goiti Yamauchi (25-5) (Catchweight 160 lbs)
Bellator Veteran Yamauchi Stops Gonzalez Early, Hands Him First Pro Loss
Goiti Yamauchi gave lightweight prospect Chris Gonzalez his first pro MMA loss on Saturday, stopping him within a round with strikes.
Yamauchi was able to drop Gonzalez with a three-punch combination in the fourth minute of the opening round. Gonzalez shelled up on the ground afterward as Yamauchi unloaded with a series of punches that concluded his performance.
Gonzalez entered Saturday with a flawless record of six wins as a pro, with five of those victories having taken place in Bellator from 2019 to 2021.
He defeated an experienced fighter in his previous bout, stopping Roger Huerta in April.
Yamauchi is now back in the win column after losing a split decision to Dan Moret earlier this year. The Bellator veteran of over eight years has now won four of his last five.
Bout 6: Vanessa Porto (22-9) vs. Ilara Joanne (9-5) (Flyweight)
Porto Defeats Joanne For First Bellator Win
Vanessa Porto scored her first Bellator win to finish the prelims, defeating Ilara Joanne in a close split decision (29-28 Porto, 29-28 Joanne & 29-28 Porto).
The majority of the opening round saw the fighters in a stand-up battle.
Joanne spent a few minutes attempting a guillotine choke in the second round. Porto was able to pop out of the position late in the round and land some strikes from full guard.
Porto was able to land two takedowns in the third round. She finished the final round strong, attempting a rear naked choke from the back of Joanne.
Porto, a veteran of Invicta FC, now has her first Bellator victory. She lost her promotional debut earlier in the year, dropping a unanimous decision to Liz Carmouche.
Joanne was making her return after over a year outside of the cage. Her previous fight was in late 2019, where then-undefeated prospect Kana Watanabe stopped her in the third round with strikes.
Bout 5: Gadzhi Rabadanov (15-4-2) vs. Daniel Carey (7-4) (Catchweight 150 lbs)
Rabadanov Drops, Finishes Carey With Explosive Striking
Gadzhi Rabadanov had a brutal win in his Bellator debut, flattening Daniel Carey in the first round with punches.
Rabadanov first floored Carey late in the round with a left hook that was countering a leg kick. Carey shelled up and defended himself on the ground, although follow-up shots from Rabadanov seemingly knocked him out and finished the fight.
Carey was not present for the official decision of the fight being read and was stretchered out of the cage
Rabadanov had sharp striking earlier in the fight before entering the finishing sequence.
Rabadanov, a PFL alum, was joining Bellator after having won four of his last five fights from 2019 to 2021.
Carey was making his return to Bellator, with his previous appearance being a finish loss to Aaron Pico in early 2020. His promotional record is now three wins and four losses.
Bout 4: Khasan Magomedsharipov (5-0) vs. Jonathan Quiroz (3-4) (Featherweight)
Magomesharipov Scores Stoppage Win In Bellator Debut
Khasan Magomedsharipov extended his undefeated record in his Bellator debut, finishing Jonathan Quiroz in the second round with ground and pound punches.
Magomedsharpiov landed roughly a dozen left hands to the head of Quiroz while on his back to force the finish in the 10th minute.
He had controlled the majority of the fight with his wrestling skills prior to the finish.
Magomedsharipov, 20, now has six wins since turning pro in 2019.
Quiroz lost his previous Bellator appearance to AJ Agazarm in September of 2019. His pro record is now a negative three wins and five losses.
Bout 3: Johnny Cisneros (13-7) vs. Joshua Jones (10-5) (Catchweight 180 lbs)
Steady Ground And Pound Earns Jones Bellator Win In Return
Strong ground and pound from Joshua Jones earned him a second-round stoppage over Johnny Cisneros on Saturday night.
Jones was able to close out the fight in the second round with a steady pace of punches while on the back of Cisneros.
Jones got the fight down to the ground in both rounds, using every opportunity possible to score with strikes while down.
Jones was making his return to action after over a year outside of the cage. He won in his previous Bellator win as well, defeating Brandon Bender via decision in early 2020.
Jones asked for a new contract with Bellator after his win, offering to go down to lightweight in the promotion.
Cisneros was coming off an even longer layoff, with his previous fight being in September of 2019.
Bout 2: Georgi Karakhanyan (30-11-1) vs. Kiefer Crosbie (8-2) (Lightweight)
Karakhanyan Reverses Position, Submits Crosbie In First Round
Bellator veteran Georgi Karakhanyan showed his grappling skills on Saturday, escaping a choke and applying one of his own to submit Kiefer Crosbie in the first round.
Karakhanyan was able to take full guard on top after escaping a rear naked choke attempt by Crosbie early on. He then advanced past full guard into side control while attempting an arm triangle choke. Crosbie tapped out to the choke eventually, causing an end to the fight.
“As soon as he took me down I was very confident that I would be able to reverse it and get a position,” said Karakhanyan in his post-fight interview.
The victory is Karakhanyan’s second consecutive win in Bellator, moving his promotional record to nine wins and losses each. His previous fight was in November, where he defeated Bryce Logan via split decision.
Crosbie took a loss in his previous fight as well, taking a doctor stoppage against Charlie Learly.
Bout 1: Brian Moore (13-7) vs. Jordan Winski (11-2) (Bantamweight)
Moore Moves Win Streak To Three Consecutive With Victory Over Winski
Brian Moore moved his win streak to three consecutive to open the prelims, defeating Jordan Winski via unanimous decision after three rounds (30-27, 30-26 & 30-26). Moore showed a wide range of skills in the bout, going to the ground and battling on the feet.
Moore was able to control Winski for most of the second round with control on the ground. The fight went back to the feet for the third round, where Moore pushed the pace and out-landed Moore.
Moore’s previous Bellator wins in his ongoing run came against Son Le Binh and Simone D’Anna.
Winski was stepping in to replace Jared Scoggins due to COVID-19 protocol. He joined the promotion after a two-fight win streak that included a fight in CFFC.