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Sergio Pettis apparently knew what he was doing when he jumped to a promotion with no men’s flyweight division.
In the main event of Bellator 242 Friday night, his second outing as a Bellator MMA bantamweight, the former Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight contender left Ricky Bandejas in the dust. Speed, footwork and timing were the order of the day, as Pettis walked down the much taller Bandejas to land the heavier, more frequent strikes throughout. Pettis’ low kicks in particular took a toll on Bandejas’ lead left leg, causing the New Jersey native to favor that leg visibly by the middle of the second round and buckling it badly at least once. Bandejas made a few attempts to bring the fight to the floor, but aside from a takedown late in the first round, was largely unsuccessful.
Going into the final round, Bandejas must have known he was down two rounds to none. While he was more aggressive, however, he only truly started swinging for the finish in the final minute; too late to win the round, much less the fight. The judges awarded the fight to Pettis, turning in unanimous—and well-deserved—30-27 scorecards for the Milwaukee native, who is now 20-5 overall, 2-0 in his new promotion and very much a part of the Bellator bantamweight title picture. The loss ends a modest two-fight win streak for Bandejas, who is now 13-4.
Jackson Spoils Mein’s Comeback
In the co-main event, Jason Jackson made Jordan Mein’s Bellator debut an unpleasant one, as he outclassed “Young Gun” in all phases en route to a unanimous decision. Mein, who was fighting for the first time since his departure from the UFC two years ago, never really got untracked, looking out of rhythm in the early going and tired late. Jackson’s advantage in hand and foot speed was a telling factor throughout, and he denied Mein’s takedown attempts emphatically. By the final bell, Mein was still game, but wearing damage to his legs and arm, and the unanimous 30-27 scorecards did not indicate how one-sided the action was. The win sends “The Ass-Kicking Machine” to 12-4, while putting his close decision loss to Ed Ruth in his own Bellator debut further in the rearview. Mein—who left the UFC on a two-fight win streak—falls to 31-13.
Wilson Slips by Claxton
Jay-Jay Wilson passed the biggest test of his career, edging out fellow featherweight up-and-comer Tywan Claxton by split decision (30-27, 29-28. 27-30). After a frenetic first round that appeared to go the way of Wilson, the second and third rounds were largely dominated by Claxton’s suffocating pressure against the fence. Late in the third round, Wilson jumped guard with a flying triangle choke that, while it didn’t appear to be seriously threatening, had Claxton very much on the defensive until the horn. The split verdict might not have been surprising in light of the hard-to-score second and third rounds, but the pair of dueling 30-27 scorecards for each fighter were curious, to say the least. Regardless of the head-scratching particulars, Wilson’s win—his first fight to go the distance—propels the New Zealander to 6-0, five of those wins coming inside the Bellator cage. Claxton (6-2) has now lost two of three after starting his career 5-0.
Pico Throttles Hatley
In the main card opener, Aaron Pico delivered the most complete performance of his career to date as well as one of the most dominant, crushing Chris Hatley, Jr. just 2 minutes and 10 seconds into their featherweight matchup. Onetime uber-prospect Pico hoisted “Solo” with a single-leg 30 seconds in, bringing him back to the canvas with a resounding slam. From there, he never gave Hatley a moment to breathe, working to pass his guard while landing vicious short punches. After a final salvo of ground-and-pound caused Hatley to turn away, Pico moved to Hatley’s back, sunk in both hooks and applied a rear-naked choke. Pico squeezed as he flattened Hatley with his hips, and the tap came in seconds. The dominant win brings the 23-year-old Pico to 6-3 and gets his relationship with new gym Jackson-Wink MMA off to a great start. Hatley falls to 8-3 and sees his two-fight win streak come to an end.
Lemminger Mauls Smith
In the featured preliminary bout, Mark Lemminger made the best of a tough situation, steamrolling late replacement Jake Smith on the way to a second-round TKO. Smith, whose previous fights in Bellator were both contested at 155 pounds, stepped up to welterweight on a week’s notice when Logan Storley withdrew due to injury. Lemminger grounded Smith early and often, advancing position and landing punishing ground-and-pound. Lemminger ended the first round in full mount, pummeling Smith to punctuate an arguably 10-8 beating. He picked up right where he left off in the second, but turned it up in the final minute, landing a stream on unanswered right hands from half guard at the base of the fence until referee Kevin MacDonald was forced to intervene. The one-sided beating by Lemminger ended officially at 4:46 of Round 2, sending the debuting 27-year-old to 11-1. The valiant but outsized and overmatched Smith falls to 7-4 (1-2 Bellator).
Stots Strangles Bell
Red-hot bantamweight Raufeon Stots extended his win streak to six, outgrappling Cass Bell for two rounds before putting him away early in the third. The first two frames were deliberate affairs, characterized by Stots’ takedowns and clinch pressure against the fence, while Bell did a credible job of denying Stots dominant positions. In the final round, however, Stots flipped the switch, ducking under a punch for a lightning-quick takedown and an even faster back take. From there, he cinched up a rear-naked choke, getting the tap at 1:24 of the third round. The dominant win moves Stots to 16-1, 2-0 since stepping up to Bellator from Legacy Fighting Alliance, while Bell’s first career setback leaves him at 5-1.
Hylton Edges Schaffroth
In the opening bout of the evening, Ras Hylton, who made his Bellator debut on three days’ notice when Steve Mowry tested positive for COVID-19, turned back fellow heavyweight Rudy Schaffroth. Schaffroth dropped Hylton with a short one-two in the first, passed to mount, but was unable to do much with the position from there. The second round was Hylton’s best, as he stayed on the outside and tagged a tiring Schaffroth with a steady stream of kicks to the legs and body. The final round started out offering more of the same, until Schaffroth grounded Hylton with a double-leg halfway through the round. However, once there, Schaffroth seemed content to hold Hylton down, neither doing damage nor advancing position, as Hylton smacked him with punches and elbows from the bottom. In the end, the judges gave the fight to “Jamaican Shamrock” by unanimous 29-28 scorecards. Hylton moves to 6-4, while Schaffroth falls to 6-2.