Patricio Pitbull avenged his loss to AJ McKee Jr. on Friday night, defeating him via unanimous decision to begin his third reign as Bellator Featherweight Champion.
Pitbull’s win headlined Bellator 277 from the SAP Center in San Jose, California, USA.
Pitbull’s victory came through a competitive five-round fight that was mostly contested on the feet. Pitbull was the more aggressive fighter throughout, frequently advancing on McKee Jr. with strikes during stand-up exchanges.
However, McKee Jr. was able to match Pitbull’s output at times and land with his own strikes to make these encounters close and hard to score.
The fight briefly hit the ground as well. Pitbull notably threatened a guillotine choke in the third round, although he couldn’t get McKee Jr. to tap.
McKee Jr. became the Bellator Featherweight Champion last year, scoring a first-round finish win against Pitbull. That fight was the final of a 16-man featherweight tournament that was first launched in 2019.
Before losing the belt in 2021, Pitbull had held the championship for numerous years and defended it five times in total during his second reign.
Friday marked the first time that McKee Jr. lost since turning pro in 2015. He entered the bout with a flawless record of 18 wins in Bellator, with most coming via finish.
The main event was also the first time that McKee Jr. went five rounds in a pro fight.
Light Heavyweight Grand Prix Final Ends Without Winner Crowned
The Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix concluded without a winner on Friday night, as the fight between Corey Anderson and current 205-pound champion Vadim Nemkov ended in a no contest.
Nemkov was taken out of the fight in the third round due to a cut above his left eyebrow. This cut seemingly came due to an unintentional headbutt that came while Anderson was throwing ground and pound from half guard.
Due to the fact that the strike was unintentional, it was ruled a no-contest in the end.
The title fight was close before the finish.
The fight started with a close first round on the feet that looked to favor Nemkov. Anderson then succeeded in the second round when focusing on wrestling, taking Nemkov down and notching control time.
Anderson continued to succeed in the third round with takedowns before the finishing sequence.
The result of the no-contest outcome keeps Nemkov as the current light heavyweight champion. It also presumably means that the $1 million prize for the winner on Friday was not handed out to a fighter.
Anderson was upset at the no-contest ruling, throwing a water bottle across the cage. In a conversation with referee Frank Trigg, Anderson asked why they didn’t head to scorecards to decide the outcome.
Anderson, a former UFC fighter, earned his way to the grand prix finals with finish wins over Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov and Ryan Bader in 2021.
Nemkov defended his belt twice earlier in the bracket, defeating Phil Davis via decision and submitting short-notice opponent Julis Anglickas.
Pico Dominates Short Notice Opponent
Aaron Pico closed out a one-sided performance against short-notice opponent Adli Edwards in the third round with strikes.
Pico finished the fight with an overhand right to the head and a left hook to the body early in the third round. He then followed up with ground and pound before the referee stepped in to end the fight.
The fight was one-way traffic prior to the finish, as Pico connected with accurate combinations on the feet, then would follow up with takedowns.
Pico has now secured six consecutive wins since early 2020. His previous fight came against then-undefeated prospect Justin Gonzales in November 2021.
Edwards was stepping in on short notice to replace Jeremy Kennedy. He entered the bout on a seven-fight winning streak, including a fight he won at XMMA just earlier this month.
Vassell Makes Comeback To Keep Streak Going
Linton Vassell made a one-round comeback against Tim Johnson to open the main card, finishing him late in the first frame with ground and pound strikes.
Vassell found himself in trouble early in the fight, as strikes from Johnson stunned him on the feet. The fight went to the ground after hard punches from Johnson did visible damage to Vassell.
Vassell was able to turn things around, moving into top position against Johnson on the ground. From this position, he was able to take the back of Johnson and unload with ground and pound to end the fight.
Vassell is now on a four-fight winning streak. The veteran called for a heavyweight title fight or a bout against Valentin Moldavsky in his post-fight interview.
Johnson has lost three consecutive fights. His previous showing was a stoppage loss to Fedor Emelianenko.
The Rest of the Card
Rhalan Gracie’s pro career remained winless after four pro fights, as a doctor stoppage put an end to his fight against Tyson Miller. The doctor decided to end the fight after Miller had a damage-heavy opening round with strikes.
A flurry of punches from Tyrell Fortune caused Rakim Cleveland to shell up early into their heavyweight contest, making the referee step in and end the fight.
Hard ground and pound from Dovletzdhan Yagshimuradov scored him his first Bellator victory on Friday night, stopping Rafael Carvalho in the second round. Carvalho has now lost four consecutive fights.
Bobby Seronio III scored a brutal knockout for his second pro win, freezing Calob Ramirez with a right cross to the head during the second round.
Gaston Bolanos avenged a loss to Daniel Carey on the prelims, dropping him with an overhand right and then finishing the fight with ground and pound.
Kyle Crutchmer earned his third consecutive Bellator win on Friday night, using his wrestling to control PFL alum Michael Lombard throughout a fight. Crutchmer walked away with a unanimous decision win in the end.
Edwin De Los Santos scored a decision win in his return to Bellator, out-landing Alberto Mendez on the feet throughout all three rounds.
Rogelio Luna picked up a win against Socrates Hernandez, going three rounds in a fast-past brawl for a finish in the final moments of the bout. In a fight that earned Luna his first pro win, both featherweights took a high amount of damage due to strikes.
Returning to Bellator for the first time since his pro debut in 2018, Laird Anderson submitted JT Donaldson with a rear naked choke in the first round.
Theo Haig had a quick win in his pro debut, submitting Alan Benson in the opening round with a rear naked choke.
Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 7:00PM PDT) (Showtime)
Bout 14: Patricio Pitbull def. AJ McKee Jr via Decision, Unanimous (Bellator Featherweight Championship)
Bout 13: Vadim Nemkov vs. Corey Anderson via No Contest, Accidental Head Collision (RD 3) (Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix Final)
Bout 12: Aaron Pico def. Adli Edwards via TKO, Strikes (RD 3, 0:55)
Bout 11: Linton Vassell def. Tim Johnson via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 4:21)
Preliminary Card (7:00PM EDT / 4:00PM PDT) (Youtube)
Bout 10: Tyson Miller def. Rhalan Gracie via TKO, Doctor Stoppage (RD 1, 5:00)
Bout 9: Tyrell Fortune def. Rakim Cleveland via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 1:38)
Bout 8: Dovletzdhan Yagshimuradov def. Rafael Carvalho via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 4:04)
Bout 7: Bobby Seronio III def. Calob Ramirez via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 2:14)
Bout 6: Gaston Bolanos def. Daniel Carey via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 4:59)
Bout 5: Kyle Crutchmer def. Michael Lombardo via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 4: Edwin De Los Santos def. Alberto Mendez via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 3: Rogelio Luna def. Socrates Hernandez via TKO, Strikes (RD 3, 4:48)
Bout 2: Laird Anderson def. JT Donaldson via Submission, Rear Naked Choke (RD 1, 2:44)
Bout 1: Theo Haig def. Alan Benson via Submission, Rear Naked Choke (RD 1, 2:08)