Sergio Pettis’ time has come.
Crisp jabs and clean counters carried the Roufusport standout to a unanimous decision over Juan Archuleta, as he captured the undisputed Bellator MMA bantamweight championship in the Bellator 258 headliner on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. All three cageside judges scored it for Pettis (21-5, 3-0 Bellator): 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46.
Archuleta (25-3, 7-2 Bellator) spent much of the fight playing into the challenger’s strengths. Pettis’ used the Californian’s aggression against him, snapping back his head with stinging jabs and sharp counterpunches from both hands. Even when Archuleta turned to takedowns, he failed to consolidate them with positional control or ground-and-pound.
Pettis will carry a four-fight winning streak into his first title defense.
Meanwhile, Anthony Johnson leveled Jose Augusto Azevedo Barros with a devastating right hand and sealed the deal with a follow-up hammerfist in the second round of their co-main event. In his first appearance in more than four years, Johnson (23-6, 1-0 Bellator) brought it to a close 90 seconds into Round 2 and punched his ticket to the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix semifinals.
A short-notice substitution for Yoel Romero, Barros (7-3, 1-1 Bellator) did not go quietly despite injuring his right hand inside the first five minutes. He staggered Johnson with a left hook in the first round, pounced for a potential finish and threatened with a rear-naked choke before squandering his position. Barros’ failure to close out the Dublin, Georgia, native, proved costly. Johnson uncorked a concussive right hand early in Round 2, as the impact sent the Brazilian careening backward before he bounced off the canvas in a semi-conscious state. “Rumble” mopped up what was left with one final hammerfist.
Johnson, 37, will face reigning Bellator champion Vadim Nemkov in the semifinals of the light heavyweight grand prix.
Elsewhere, SBG Ireland’s Peter Queally hacked open a gnarly gash with a slashing elbow strike from the bottom and prompted a doctor stoppage against Patricky Freire in between the second and third rounds of their lightweight showcase. The cageside physician advised referee Kerry Hatley to wave it off prior to the start of Round 3.
Freire (23-10, 14-8 Bellator) beat up the Irishman’s lead leg with ferocious kicks, pieced together multi-punch combinations and targeted the head and body with equal aplomb. Late in the second round, the Pitbull Brothers rep looked to extend his lead and executed a takedown in the center of the cage. Queally (13-5-1, 2-1 Bellator) answered with a series of elbows to the head, one of which resulted in the fight-ending cut.
Queally, 32, has rattled off three victories across his last four outings.
Finally, London Shootfighters star Michael Page rearranged Derek Anderson’s face with a head kick and forced a doctor stoppage in between the first and second rounds of their catchweight feature at 175 pounds. The defeat snapped a three-fight winning streak for Anderson (17-4, 8-4 Bellator).
Page (19-1, 15-1 Bellator) picked his shots, lured the Team Xplode MMA export into his trap and let his skills do the rest. A lead-leg head kick staggered Anderson in the middle of the cage and left him with a badly disfigured nose late in the first round. He survived to see the end of the period, but once the cageside physician examined the damage, he was declared unfit to continue.
The 34-year-old Page has won five fights in a row, four of them by knockout.
In other action, Raufeon Stots (16-1, 4-0 Bellator) took a unanimous decision from Josh Hill (20-4, 2-1 Bellator) in a three-round bantamweight scrap, drawing 30-27 scores from all three judges; Lorenz Larkin (23-7, 5-2 Bellator) eked out a split decision—29-28, 28-29, 29-28—over Rafael Carvalho (16-6, 7-5 Bellator) in a three-round middleweight battle; Patrick Mix (14-1, 3-1 Bellator) submitted Albert Morales (10-7-1, 2-1 Bellator) with an arm-triangle choke 2:40 into the third round of their bantamweight tilt; Johnny Eblen (8-0, 4-0 Bellator) chopped down Daniel Madrid (18-7, 1-1 Bellator) with punches 2:44 into the first round of their middleweight affair; Johnny Campbell (21-13, 1-0 Bellator) submitted Henry Corrales (18-6, 6-6 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 4:12 into the second round of their bantamweight pairing; Johnny Soto (4-1, 1-0 Bellator) laid claim to a unanimous decision over Weber Almeida (5-1, 3-1 Bellator) in a three-round featherweight clash, sweeping the scorecards with 29-27, 29-28 and 29-28 nods across the board; and Erik Perez (20-8, 1-2 Bellator) was awarded a unanimous verdict over Blaine Shutt (8-5, 0-1 Bellator) in a three-round bantamweight encounter, earning 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27 scores from the cageside judges.