Sergio Pettis is a world champion, at last.
The top contender made the most of his first Bellator title fight opportunity, using his speedy striking and grappling defense to win a unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46) over Juan Archuleta (25-3) in the main event Bellator 258 to win the bantamweight championship.
It was a career-best performance for Pettis (21-5), a former UFC flyweight contender and the brother of former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. The younger Pettis shined Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., establishing a pace and rhythm on the feet that Archuleta had to contend with for five rounds. At no point did Archuleta look over-matched, but Pettis consistently beat him to the punch throughout the fight.
Archuleta’s offense was mostly comprised of slipping in and out and throwing punches to work Pettis’ body. However, Pettis was able to successfully counter-punch on multiple occasions, with his right hand proving particularly effective.
Even when Archuleta successfully scored with takedowns, he was rarely able to get any meaningful offense off of them, even after an impressive slam in the fifth round.
The speed and technique of Pettis were the difference as he improved to 3-0 since debuting with Bellator in January of last year.
Though this is just the beginning of Pettis’ reign, the championship win caps off an incredible journey for the younger Pettis brother, who scored notable wins over world title contenders Joseph Benavidez, Brandon Moreno, and John Moraga during his time with the UFC, but was unable to secure a title shot for himself. He can now add a Bellator belt to the family trophy case that also includes Anthony’s UFC and WEC championships.
The co-main event featured the highly anticipated debut of two-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger Anthony Johnson (23-6), making his return to competition after a four-year layoff. “Rumble” looked like his old self, though late replacement Jose Augusto (stepping in for an injured Yoel Romero) proved to be a major challenge as he had Johnson badly rocked in the first round.
After a couple of hard punches to the top of Johnson’s head, Augusto (7-3, 1 NC) visibly winced in his pain and it appeared that he had a right hand injury. Smelling blood, Johnson amped up his aggression, but ended up getting caught by a left hand and then follow-up punches from Augusto that dropped him onto his hands and knees.
Johnson survived the attack, which included a rear-naked choke attempt, and came out strong in the next round. A right hand down the middle and a hammerfist put Augusto down for the count at the 1:30 mark of round two.
The first two fights of the main card both ended due to doctor intervention. Peter Queally (13-5-1) scored a win over Patricky Pitbull (23-10) when a large cut caused blood to flow down the face of Pitbull, leading to the bout being waved off at the start of the third round. The cut was opened up by an elbow thrown by Queally from bottom position.
Pitbull was understandably frustrated by the decision as the fight had been competitive to that point, with two of the judges having it 19-19 on their cards after two rounds.
Bellator light heavyweight and commentator Corey Anderson noted on Twitter that the cut was even worse than it may have looked on the broadcast.
They had to fill the cut with a whole pack of gauze.... it was THAT bad!— Corey 'Overtime' Anderson (@CoreyA_MMA) May 8, 2021
Regardless of Pitbull’s complaint, Queally will go down as the victor officially. Afterwards, the Irishman challenged Pitbull’s brother, two-division champion Patricio Pitbull, for the Bellator lightweight championship.
In the opening main card bout, Michael Page (19-1) added to his highlight reel with a ferocious face kick that broke Derek Anderson’s nose. “Venom” dominated the 175-pound catchweight affair for as long as it lasted, striking and taunting Anderson (17-4, 1 NC). When Anderson zigged with his head instead of zagging, he ducked right into the fateful head kick that led to the stoppage.
Anderson made it to the end of the first round, but a ringside physician waved the bout off shortly after due to Anderson’s nose clearly being broken.
Page improved to 19-1 with the victory afterwards called for a rematch with welterweight champion Douglas Lima, the only man to beat him so far. He added that he would be open to facing top-ranked contender Jason Jackson to earn his shot at the title.
Check out full Bellator 258 results here.