Bellator fighters went 5-0 against their Rizin counterparts in Saitama as the Bellator vs. Rizin event in Japan ended in a shutout victory for the American promotion.
All five Bellator fighters – AJ McKee, Patricio Pitbull, Kyoji Horiguchi, Juan Archuleta and Gadzhi Rabadanov – defeated their opposite number from Rizin on a big night for Bellator in the Land of the Rising Sun.
McKee impresses against Rizin champ Souza
In the main event of the night, AJ McKee fended off a spirited charge from Rizin lightweight champion Roberto “Satoshi” Souza to earn a unanimous decision, but the straightforward appearance of the score
McKee dominated the opening round as he dived into Souza’s world on the mat and defended well while connecting with some heavy ground strikes on the Brazilian. But throughout the round “Satoshi” showed his intent to finish the fight off his back as he threatened with a triangle choke.
McKee and Souza engaged in more of a stand-up battle in the second round, but when the fight went to the mat, it was Souza who took control. “Satoshi” quickly took McKee’s back, and the Bellator champion was forced to defend stoutly as the Brazilian looked to work his way to a rear-naked choke.
But, despite looking trapped, McKee managed to escape before punishing Souza with a soccer kick to the head and a big stomp before walking away and waving the Brazilian back to his feet at the end of the round.
The final round saw both men go for the finish, with McKee briefly locking up a D’Arce choke that Souza managed to escape from. Then Souza turned the tables and locked up what looked like a very tight guillotine choke that McKee escaped in impressive fashion, leading to a respectful high-five between the pair.
With one minute left on the clock, “Satoshi” went for the finish again and, after a failed head-and-arm choke, he took McKee’s back and locked up a rear-naked choke with 15 seconds to go. Once again, McKee showed outstanding submission defense to take the bout to the scorecards.
Despite being on the back foot through the final five minutes, McKee took the unanimous decision win due to the damage he inflicted earlier in the fight
Pitbull claims routine win
The champion versus champion battle between Bellator featherweight king Patricio Pitbull and Rizin champ Kleber Koike served up the cagiest bout of the night as both men showed plenty of respect for each other’s skills throughout the three-round bout.
Despite holding a significant reach advantage, Koike preferred to use his strikes as defensive tools, rather than to score on the Bellator champion, while Pitbull kept out of range and occasionally landed with overhand punches.
Pitbull maintained control through two and a half rounds, before Koike finally decided to abandon his defensive approach and took the fight to his compatriot. But, despite taking Pitbull to the mat and looking to chase a submission on the ground, Koike was unable to make any real impression as Pitbull ran out the easy unanimous decision winner.
Horiguchi dominates Ougikubo… again
Former Bellator and Rizin bantamweight champion showed his class as he dominated familiar foe Hiromasa Ougikubo to claim his third victory over the Rizin fighter in their flyweight clash.
Horiguchi showed his class in the first round when, after a well-contested start, he dropped with a nasty sweeping leg kick, then let fly with a vicious salvo of ground strikes that seemed set to finish the fight, but the bell saved the Rizin star before referee Jason Herzog could intervene.
Horiguchi continued his dominance in Round 2 as again he sent his man to the canvas. This time he followed him down and went to work on the ground. Horiguchi took Ougikubo’s back and looked to work his way toward a submission. Ougikubo looked to escape by forcing a scramble and eventually managed to end up on top of his compatriot, but he was unable to make any inroads.
Horiguchi started the final round spectacularly as he dropped Ougikubo as soon as the pair reached the center of the ring. The two-promotion champion continued to dominate his opposite number through the remainder of the round, and cut Ougikubo with a knee in the final minute of the fight to leave his man bloodied and beaten as the final bell sounded.
The judges had little trouble deciding on the victor, as Horiguchi was crowned the unanimous decision winner to go 3-0 in his trilogy over Ougikubo.
Archuleta shades razor-close split decision
An amped-up Soo Chul Kim took the fight straight to Juan Archuleta in their bantamweight bout as the pair engaged in a fast-paced affair in the second bout of the card. But it was Archuleta whose hand was raised after three breathless rounds of action.
Kim came charging out of his corner as he pushed the pace on Archuleta early, but the American managed to fend off his foe. But a jumping guillotine choke from Kim put Archuleta in danger once again.
The Bellator man stayed calm and composed, and eventually escaped before switching positions and applying some pressure of his own, bloodying the nose of Kim with some solid ground strikes.
The back-and-forth action continued through the second and third rounds, with Kim locking up a ninja choke in the final moments of the fight as the South Korean chased a late finish.
After a super-close contest, nothing was certain as both fighters awaited the judges’ verdict, but Archuleta got his hand raised after the judges returned a split decision, then thanked his opponent for “making my dreams come true.”
“The Spaniard” then addressed the Saitama crowd in an impassioned post-fight speech where he paid tribute to the history of great Japanese MMA events and the big names that paved the way.
Rabadanov edges Takeda
Mid-way through the opening round, the action exploded into life when Rabadanov dropped Takeda with a big punch. The Russian connected with a knee and additional punches as he tried to secure the first-round finish, but the Japanese fighter did well to recover and return to his feet, then Takeda connected with a big left hand briefly appeared to stun Rabadanov as the Saitama crowd applauded in approval at the exchange.
Takeda came storming back in Round 2 and, cheered by the Japanese crowd, busted up Rabadanov as he took the fight to the Bellator contender as the bout went into the third and final round.
Rabadanov looked to switch to his wrestling, but Takeda was able to escape from his clutches after a Rabadanov takedown, using a Kimura to work his way free.
Rabadanov kept the pressure on as he forced the action to the ropes, but once again Takeda looked to reverse position on the Russian as he escaped to the center of the ring again. There was time for Rabadanov to punish a Takeda slip with a big ground strike before the final bell sounded.
After a closely contested three rounds, it was Rabadanov who took the victory, with all three judges declaring the Russian the winner. Rabadanov was congratulated by Khabib Nurmagomedov, while Takeka burst into tears against the ropes.
Bellator vs. Rizin: Official Results
- AJ McKee def. Roberto Souza via unanimous decision
- Patricio Pitbull def. Kleber Koike Erbst via unanimous decision
- Kyoji Horiguchi def. Hiromasa Ougijkubo via unanimous decision
- Juan Archuleta def. Soo Chul Kim via split decision
- Gadzhi Rabadanov def. Koji Takeda via unanimous decision
Photos: Rizin FF