Patricio Pitbull is now a three-time Bellator featherweight champion after avenging his loss to AJ McKee in the headliner of Bellator 277.
Pitbull took home a unanimous decision with scores of 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47. McKee was visibly shocked by the decision after five rounds of a chess-match with the multi-time champ, whose first two featherweight titles came in rematches.
“In [our first fight], I came in peace,” Pitbull said afterward. “Today, I came for war, and I bring the belt home.”
Unlike the first fight, McKee and Pitbull did not get off to explosive start. Other than a side kick out of the gate, McKee wasn’t eager to give up his marked height and reach advantage. When Freire exploded in with combinations, he circled away and continued to snipe from the outside. The audience at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., was not thrilled by that approach.
When McKee was unable to change levels on Pitbull, however, he became more impatient in the second round. That allowed Pitbull to pick off kicks, using one to deposit the champ to the mat. Eager to get one back, McKee lunged with a knee and nearly caught a concussive right hand, prompting him to move back to kicks.
The third round produced Pitbull’s best work as McKee played offense and allowed him the countering game he’s mastered over the years. A right hand visibly stunned McKee and forced a shot. Pitbull leaped on a guillotine choke, another signature move, and had the American for a few tense moments before an escape.
McKee went back to basics in the fourth and did his best work, out-landing Pitbull on the feet in exchanges. In the fifth round, Pitbull appeared to let his foot off the gas in a round that produced few meaningful attacks. The guillotine choke clearly robbed Pitbull of his speed and power, and McKee managed to finish takedowns in the beginning and end of the round.
But ultimately, judges saw Pitbull’s work to be more significant and put him back in the win column after his first meeting with McKee ended in a first-round blowout.
“He’s a tough guy,” said Freire of McKee, who suffers his first loss in 19 pro outings. “He’s a great opponent. It was a hard fight to me, but I come to put my strategy [on].”
McKee joins Pat Curran and Daniel Straus as opponents who’ve fallen short against Pitbull in featherweight title rematches.
Unfortunate end for Bellator light-heavy grand prix
Vadim Nemkov remains the light heavyweight champion despite a shift of momentum that had Corey Anderson in control by the third round of their meeting in the finale of the light heavyweight grand prix.
An accidental head-butt from Anderson opened a huge gash on Nemkov’s brow and forced the cageside doctor to call off the bout. Because the cut occurred before the end of the third round, officials were forced to declare the fight a no-contest, bringing an unsatisfying ending to the co-main event.
Pico pounds out tough Edwards
Aaron Pico repeatedly punished short-notice replacement Adli Edwards before one of his trademark body shots set the end in motion.
The referee stepped in to save Edwards just 55 seconds into the third and final round, an accomplishment in and of itself for the tough fighter after taking a half-dozen or so bullwhips to his liver area and more than double that to the head. When Pico wasn’t landing body shots, he was taking easy takedowns as his opponent moved to counter. Then it was on to ground and pound, and elbows slammed into Edwards’ head. By the end of the second frame, his face was a map of welts.
Pico is now on a six-fight winning streak after a pair of losses deflated his sails as one of Bellator’s most heavily-hyped up-and-comers. Originally scheduled to face Jeremy Kennedy, he has finished five of six opponents and may be due for another ranked opponent.
Vassell pulls off crazy comeback
Linton Vassell was on the brink of defeat after taking a short left hook from slugger Tim Johnson, and after being on the receiving end of ground and pound, his heavyweight dreams seemed to hit a brick wall. Johnson initially was able to resist his wrestling, and when he got back to his feet, he teetered back to the canvas, still woozy from taking so many shots.
Johnson bull-rushed the former light heavyweight Brit, and in doing so, ended up opening a cut on his forehead that may have given Vassell time to clear his head and reverse position. Once he managed to get on top, Vassell was brutal with elbows (at least one of which appeared to land illegally to the back of the head) and punches until the referee called off the fight at the 4:21 mark of the opening frame. It was a chaotic, come-from-behind win for Vassell, who’s now won his past four. Johnson has now dropped three straight.
Full Bellator 277 results:
Patricio Freire def. AJ McKee via unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47)
Corey Anderson vs. Vadim Nemkov is declared a no-contest (accidental headbutt) – Round 3
Aaron Pico def. Adli Edwards via TKO (strikes) – Round 3, 0:55
Linton Vasell def. Timothy Johnson via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 4:21
Tyson Miller def. Rhalan Gracie via TKO (doctor’s stoppage) – Round 1, 5:00
Tyrell Fortune def. Rakim Cleveland via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 1:38
Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov def. Rafael Carvalho via TKO (strikes) – Round 2, 4:04
Bobby Seronio III def. Calob Ramirez via KO (punches) – Round 2, 2:14
Gaston Bolanos def. Daniel Carey via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 4:59
Kyle Crutchmer def. Michael Lombardo via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Edwin DeLos Santos def. Alberto Mendez via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Rogelio Luna def. Socrates Hernandez via TKO (strikes) – Round 3, 4:48
Laird Anderson def. JT Donaldson via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 2:44
Theo Haig def. Alan Benson via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 2:08