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The second time was the charm for Juan Archuleta, birthday boy and newest Bellator MMA champion.
In the main event of Bellator 246 on Saturday, almost exactly a year after his unsuccessful shot at the Bellator featherweight title held by Patricio Freire, “The Spaniard” outworked and outlasted Patrick Mix down the stretch to pick up a well-deserved unanimous decision. In the early going, however, all the momentum seemed to be with Mix, who secured takedowns with relative ease in the first round, took Archuleta’s back and then threatened with a variety of submissions for most of the round. The second round began in similar fashion, as "Patchy" landed a quick takedown, then looked to lock up an inverted triangle and then a rear-naked choke. With about a minute left, however, Archuleta reversed Mix and unleashed a furious volley of ground strikes, arguably stealing the round.
That rally set the tone for the remainder of the fight. Mix never completely faded, but failed to land a takedown in the final three rounds and was punished by Archuleta’s increasingly confident boxing, especially his diligent body work. After five rounds, the cageside judges awarded the fight to Archuleta by 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 scores, and with it the bantamweight belt vacated by Kyoji Horiguchi last November. The former four-division King of the Cage titleholder—who turned 33 as midnight ticked over at the Mohegan Sun—is now 25-2 overall and an impressive 7-1 in Bellator. Mix’s first professional setback leaves the 27-year-old with some positive takeaways as well as lessons, and a 13-1 record (2-1 Bellator).
Gracie Taps Out Fitch; Fitch Retires
Against one of the toughest and wiliest ground fighters in welterweight history, Neiman Gracie made quite a statement, completely dominating Jon Fitch on the way to a second-round submission. Gracie was in control throughout, scoring takedowns early in the first as well as second round, then keeping Fitch on the defensive. The first round featured an extended chess match as Gracie tried to secure an armbar while Fitch countered calmly, but essentially all of the offense in the round came from the younger man. The second round offered more of the same, as Gracie chose to attack the leg, eventually securing a slightly modified kneebar for the tap with 13 seconds left on the clock. The dominant win puts Gracie (10-1) back on track after his unsuccessful title shot against Rory MacDonald last year. The 42-year-old Fitch, who chagrined, “I’m an old man” as he congratulated his foe with a smile, announced his retirement, leaving his red gloves in the center of the Bellator cage. Assuming the announcement sticks, Fitch leaves behind a 32-8-2 record with one no-contest and a legacy as one of the greatest welterweights of his generation.
Carmouche Throttles Bennett
In her delayed and hotly anticipated Bellator debut, Liz Carmouche tapped out DeAnna Bennett—who came in over five pounds heavy for the flyweight match—with a very slick third-round rear-naked choke. The fight was a grappler’s delight: Carmouche struck for a takedown within the first 30 seconds with a nifty go-behind, moving straight into back control. “Girl-Rilla” got the better of the grappling for the balance of the first round, but Bennett turned things around in the second, bringing the action to the ground, applying some ground-and-pound and making Carmouche pay for a leglock attempt. In the final round, Carmouche countered a takedown with a textbook inside switch, ending up behind Bennett. Moments later, Carmouche hopped on Bennett’s back, sinking the hooks and applying a rear-naked choke so quickly that Bennett was tapping by the time they hit the canvas. The end came officially at 3:17 of Round 3. With the emphatic win in her first appearance since her unsuccessful bid for Valentina Shevchenko’s Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight title last summer, Carmouche (14-7) positions herself instantly as a top contender for Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s Bellator strap. Fellow Invicta FC veteran Bennett drops her third straight fight and falls to 10-7 overall.
Undefeated Diggs Steamrolls, Sleeps Campos
Keoni Diggs moved to 9-0 and lodged the biggest win of his career, dominating Derek Campos for three rounds before choking him all the way unconscious as time expired. Diggs, who missed the lightweight limit by a pound, was largely dominant throughout, especially on the ground, where he took Campos’ back several times and threatened with chokes. Not satisfied with the likely 30-27 win coming his way, Diggs applied a read-naked choke with 15 seconds left. Referee Kevin McDonald looked on closely as the final seconds expired, but while a tap never came, at the final bell Campos turned out to be unconscious. On replay, Campos’ arm appeared to go limp with just two or three seconds left on the clock. The official result, a technical submission at 4:59 of Round 3, sends Diggs to 2-0 in Bellator and certifies the 33-year-old Hawaiian as one to watch in the lightweight division. Meanwhile, former contender Campos is mired in a 1-5 skid that accounts for half of his career losses.
Madrid Edges Short-Notice Foe Casey
Stepping up on three days’ notice against a much more experienced opponent in Daniel Madrid, Pat Casey acquitted himself well, but not quite well enough to secure the upset. The first round was clearly Madrid’s, as he backed up the shorter man and got the better of the majority of the striking exchanges. Round 2 was much closer, as Casey began to navigate Madrid’s reach and land his own shots. Madrid appeared to pull ahead in the final frame, but scores were all over the map, as the judges turned in a split verdict (28-29, 30-27, 29-28) in Madrid’s favor. With the win, his first to reach the scorecards, “Demigod” is now 18-6. Casey, who replaced Austin Vanderford after a positive COVID-19 test last week, is now 6-3.
Gwerder Blasts Tokkos in Final Round
Ty Gwerder and George Tokkos put on a lively and fairly evenly matched scrap for a little over two rounds in their middleweight prelim, until Gwerder put an abrupt end to things early in the third. Gwerder (5-1, 1-1 Bellator) walked Tokkos to the face, where he tagged him with a looping left hook to the jaw followed by a quick clinch knee. The dazed Tokkos tried to recover, but seeing him still severely rocked, referee Todd Anderson stepped in for the TKO stoppage at 1:05 of Round 3. Tokkos, who was making his first in-cage appearance since his Bellator debut last November, goes to 4-2 (0-2 Bellator).
Franklin Wins Technical Decision over Franklin
In the heavyweight opener, Jackson-Wink MMA prospect Davion Franklin used strength, size and superior wrestling to manhandle Ras Hylton for several long stretches. Despite appearing to tire quickly, Franklin was able to secure takedowns in all three rounds, while “The Jamaican Shamrock” had increasing difficulty escaping. However, what was shaping up to be a routine three-round sweep was marred by an illegal ground strike to the back of Hylton’s head with 90 seconds left in the final frame. Despite having given Franklin at least one previous warning for the same infraction, referee Dan Miragliotta determined the fight-ending blow to be inadvertent, thus sending the outcome to the judges. All three scored the fight 30-27 for Franklin, who moves to 2-0 in his young career with the technical unanimous decision. Hylton, who won his short-notice Bellator debut against Rudy Schaffroth in July, falls to 6-5 (1-1 Bellator).