Bellator 272 Report: Sergio Pettis knocks out Kyoji Horiguchi to retain the Bellator Bantamweight Championship
By: Eric Marcotte
Bellator 272 took place on Friday night, from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The card was headlined by Bellator’s Bantamweight Champion, Sergio Pettis, as he attempted to defend his title against Kyoji Horiguchi, who vacated that championship in 2019 due to injury, and remains the current RIZIN Bantamweight championship. Both fighters have found a great deal of success since leaving the UFC, and this was very much one of the most interesting fights stylistically that Bellator has featured this year. Additionally, this card featured a notable bout in the featherweight division, as former title challenger Emmanuel Sanchez faced Jeremy Kennedy. Commentary for this card was provided by the team of Mauro Ranallo and John McCarthy, and the analytical team consisted of Josh Thompson and Amanda Guerra.
*Kyle Crutchmer def. Oliver Enkamp by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Spike Carlyle def. Dan Moret by rear-naked choke at 2:58 of Round 3
*Mike Hamel def. Killys Mota by split decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29)
*Justin Montalvo def. Jacob Bohn by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28)
*Levan Chokheli def. Vinicius De Jesus by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
*Kai Kamaka III def. John De Jesus by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Alexandr Shabliy def. Bobby King by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Johnny Eblen def. Collin Huckbody by TKO at 1:11 of Round 1
*Josh Hill def. Jared Scoggins by KO at 0:56 of Round 2
*Jeremy Kennedy def. Emmanuel Sanchez by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
*Sergio Pettis def. Kyoji Horiguchi by KO at 3:24 of Round 4 to retain the Bellator Bantamweight Championship
KYLE CRUTCHMER (7-1, 171) VS OLIVER ENKAMP (10-2, 170) – WELTERWEIGHT
Crutchmer secured an early takedown after an aggressive start on the feet from Enkamp. Enkamp attempted an inverted triangle choke at one point, but it did not lead to much success, and whenever he tried to work his way back to his feet, Crutchmer dragged him right back down. Crutchmer spent the near entirety of this round in top position, and I scored the round in his favor. 10-9 Crutchmer.
Crutchmer landed a pair of heavy right hands before taking Enkamp back down against the cage, just moments into round two. Enkamp was able to grab onto one of Crutchmer’s arms and he threatened a kimura, however, Crutchmer was able to avoid the submission and continued to smother Enkamp on the ground. Once again, I gave Crutchmer the edge in this round. 20-18 Crutchmer.
About a minute into the final round, Crutchmer was able to bring the fight back to the ground. This was another dominant, wrestling-heavy round from Crutchmer, and Enkamp just did not seem to have any answers for his takedowns. The fight went the distance, and I scored it 30-27 for Crutchmer.
WINNER: Kyle Crutchmer by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
Crutchmer finished this three-round fight with thirteen takedowns. Enkamp did some interesting things off of his back at points, but he just couldn’t stop Crutchmer’s takedowns, and he never got the opportunity to mount much offense of his own. It was a strong performance from Crutchmer, who will likely take Enkamp’s place in the rankings. Crutchmer improved to 4-1 in Bellator with this win.
DAN MORET (15-6, 159.6) VS SPIKE CARLYLE (12-3, 159) – CATCHWEIGHT
They wrestled in the clinch against the cage, where Moret was pressing Carlyle into the fence. When they broke apart, Carlyle started swinging wildly, and despite eating some hard shots in return, Carlyle was able to swing the momentum of the round (at least momentarily) by taking Moret down against the cage. Carlyle attempted to climb the back of Moret, looking for a rear-naked choke, but he slipped off, and Moret took top position, where he nearly caught Carlyle in a guillotine. They returned to the feet, where Moret connected with a head kick, before jumping in for another attempt at that guillotine. It looked tight, but there was not much time left in the round, and Carlyle held on.
Moret seemed to be overwhelming Carlyle on the feet early in round two, landing hard kicks to the body, as well as heavy hooks to the head. Carlyle slowed him down by wrapping Moret up in the clinch, but every time they broke apart, Carlyle was taking damage. Despite being beaten up and exhausted, Carlyle was still swinging back with some heavy shots, and that made for some very entertaining sequences in the second half of this round. In the final minute, Moret dragged Carlyle down to the ground and threw down ground and pound until time expired in round two.
Carlyle staggered Moret with a combination of strikes to begin round three. He attempted to swarm Moret with a shot in an attempt to get him out of there, but Carlyle was beyond tired, and Moret recovered quickly. Moret fired back with a heavy right hand and proceeded to take Carlyle back down, with over three minutes to work. Things were not looking good for Carlyle at this point, but in spectacular fashion, he scrambled his way onto Moret’s back, and immediately locked in a rear-naked choke, forcing Moret to submit.
WINNER: Spike Carlyle by rear-naked choke at 2:58 of Round 3
This was a wild fight, and an even wilder comeback victory for Spike Carlyle, who seemed to be on the verge of defeat multiple times throughout this fight. Before the start of round three, a doctor was brought into the cage to check on Carlyle, just to make sure that Carlyle could continue fighting after all of the damage he had taken to that point. Thankfully for Carlyle, the doctor allowed him to continue, and the finish came late, despite taking this fight on short notice. This marked Carlyle’s debut in Bellator MMA.
KILLYS MOTA (12-2, 155.2) VS MIKE HAMEL (8-5, 155.8) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Hamel was mostly throwing calf kicks in this opening round, mixing in some quick hooks as well. Mota’s best offense was coming on the counter, throwing combinations of punches following leg kick attempts from Hamel. Mota connected with a short elbow strike to break from a clinch exchange at one point. A looping right hand from Hamel knocked Mota off balance late, and he swarmed him with strikes against the cage to end the round. 10-9 Hamel.
Mota attempted a jumping kick that caught Hamel low, leading to a momentary pause in the action. In a humorous fashion, the referee thought it was Mota who was hit low for some reason and asked him if was good to continue before the fight resumed. Hamel continued to attack the lead leg of Mota, which prompted Mota to search for a takedown, to no success. I thought this was another round for Hamel. 20-18 Hamel.
Both fighters defended takedown attempts from the other throughout this round. Most of this round took place against the cage, and the fighters were showered with boos from the crowd as this fight neared its conclusion. Mota may have taken this final round based on control time, but there was very little activity here, and this was a tough one to call. 29-28 Hamel.
WINNER: Mike Hamel by split decision (29-28, 30-27, 28-29)
I don’t think anyone who watched this fight was surprised to see it result in a split decision. The last two rounds were extremely close, and neither fighter really had the activity that would sway either round in their favor. Regardless, I agreed with the decision here, thanks largely to Hamel’s leg kicks, as well as his short combinations that Mota was attempting to counter on. Hamel is now 2-2 in Bellator MMA.
JUSTIN MONTALVO (3-0, 154.8) VS JACOB BOHN (10-7, 154.8) – LIGHTWEIGHT
Bohn was the busier fighter throughout the first two minutes, but a strong body shot from Montalvo prompted him to search for a takedown. He was successful; however, Montalvo was able to work his way on top, and the fight quickly returned to the feet. A sharp one-two from Montalvo connected clean, and it felt as though everybody shot he landed was getting a reaction out of Bohn. Montalvo really started pouring it on late in the round, attacking the body in combination, ending the round strongly. 10-9 Montalvo.
A left hook from Montalvo seemed to bother Bohn, who was really telegraphing some of his attacks here, allowing Montalvo to easily dodge them. Montalvo defended Bohn’s attempts to bring the fight to the ground, and dropped him with a jab, with just under two minutes remaining in the round. Bohn picked himself up, but he ate another brutal combination to the body, and he looked to be in rough shape by the end of this second round. 20-18 Montalvo.
Bohn continued to search for a takedown in round three, but Montalvo’s defense continued to hold up. Montalvo’s body shots had done a significant amount of damage by this point, and every time he landed one in this third round, I thought Bohn was going to fold, but he stuck in this fight despite being hurt numerous times, and the fight went the distance. 30-27 Montalvo.
WINNER: Justin Montalvo by unanimous decision (29-27, 29-28, 29-28)
I thought Montalvo fought a beautiful fight here. He attacked Bohn’s body viciously, and I was shocked that Bohn didn’t go down once from one of these combinations to the body throughout this fight. I’m not sure how all three judges saw a round for Bohn here, but perhaps I will have to watch this one back to see whatever it was they saw from Bohn that warranted awarding him a round. This was Montalvo’s first fight in Bellator, as well as his first professional bout to go the distance.
LEVAN CHOKHELI (9-1, 1 NC, 170.8) VS VINICIUS DE JESUS (9-4, 169.6) – WELTERWEIGHT
Both fighters were swinging for the fences early in this fight, clearly in search of a quick finish. It was Chokheli who landed the first big one, a clean head kick, knocking De Jesus back and cutting him open on his forehead. Chokheli took De Jesus down, where he began to work from his guard with just over three minutes to work in the round. Chokheli threw down some brutal ground and pound shots throughout the remainder of this round, securing it easily on the scorecards. 10-9 Chokheli.
Chokheli kept throwing that head kick that landed in round one, and it was catching De Jesus more often than not. De Jesus decided to change levels and attempt a takedown, but it was easily reversed from Chokheli. Chokheli seemed to have slowed by the mid-way point of the second round, but his takedown defense continued to hold up, and the fighters were separated following a lengthy battle in the clinch against the cage. 20-18 Chokheli.
The takedown finally came for De Jesus, two minutes into the final round. He worked his way into side control but was unable to maintain that position, as Chokheli swept his way back to the feet with a minute remaining in the round. There was not much action throughout this last minute, and the fight went to the scorecards. 30-27 Chokheli.
WINNER: Levan Chokheli by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Chokheli started the fight off strongly with that early head kick and rode that momentum for the remainder of the fight. He certainly slowed down significantly each round, but he continued to do good work defensively, keeping De Jesus from getting off much offense of his own, even after Chokheli tired. Chokheli is now 1-1 in Bellator MMA, and interestingly, both of his bouts in the promotion have gone the full fifteen minutes, after all, nine of his professional wins before entering Bellator ended by first-round knockout.
JOHN DE JESUS (14-9, 145.6) VS KAI KAMAKA III (8-4-1, 146) – FEATHERWEIGHT
De Jesus ran across the cage and attempted a flying knee to begin the fight, which Kamaka dodged. Kamaka pressured forwards, throwing the occasional heavy kick to the body of De Jesus. Kamaka was countering strongly whenever De Jesus moved forwards, deterring De Jesus from picking up the aggression. Those body kicks continue to add up for Kamaka, and he ended the round with a takedown. 10-9 Kamaka.
Kamaka’s attack to the body continued in round two, mixing in hooks and kicks that were dictating the pace of this fight. John McCarthy was critical of Kamaka’s activity on commentary, but I could not fault him too much, as to me at least, it felt as though he was pulling ahead in this fight. A low blow to Kamaka paused the action late, and as the action resumed, De Jesus basically dropped him with a left hook. Kamaka recovered quickly, but De Jesus was able to stuff his takedown attempt to end the round. 20-18 Kamaka for me, but De Jesus may have very well stolen this round with that knockdown.
Kamaka switched things up and went for the takedown early in round three. He was not terribly active from on top, but they were not separated, and Kamaka controlled almost the entirety of this final round on the ground. 30-27 Kamaka.
WINNER: Kai Kamaka III by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
Kamaka’s bodywork was key here in slowing De Jesus down and allowing Kamaka to dictate the pace of this one. I gave Kamaka round two despite the knockdown from De Jesus, but understandably, that taste of De Jesus’s power prompted Kamaka to change strategies, and he was able to use his wrestling to smother De Jesus to the floor without much difficulty in round three. This marked Kamaka’s Bellator debut, and he snapped a three-fight winless streak with this victory.
ALEXANDR SHABLIY (20-3, 155.4) VS BOBBY KING (10-3, 156) – LIGHTWEIGHT
After a slow start to the round, Shabliy was able to sweep the leg of King out from under him and take him to the ground, where Shabliy began to work from his guard. He did not do much damage or threaten any submissions, but Shabliy was able to maintain this position for the remainder of this round, securing it on the scorecards. 10-9 Shabliy.
Shabliy brought the fight back to the ground in round two, this time in a much quicker fashion, with four minutes to work in the round. He was working for an arm triangle, but the attempt was defended by King, and Shabliy spend the near entirety of this round in top position, which he easily maintained. 20-18 Shabliy.
King began the third round aggressively on the feet, perhaps with the knowledge that he may have been in need of a finish. That pressure worked in Shabliy’s favor, however, as he was able to use King’s momentum against him, taking King to the ground yet again. This was another one-sided round in favor of Shabliy, who controlled King from top position until time expired. 30-27 Shabliy.
WINNER: Alexandr Shabliy by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
There is not much to say about this particular fight. Shabliy was able to take King down and keep him there throughout every round, and while King did a good job of keeping him from doing any significant damage or advancing position, he was unable to escape from under Shabliy, leading to a rather one-sided, dull fight. Shabliy improved to 2-0 in Bellator with this win.
JOHNNY EBLEN (9-0, 185) VS COLLIN HUCKBODY (10-3, 185) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Eblen began the fight with a pair of calf kicks. Eblen was finding a home for his heavy hooks early, and Huckbody was looking overwhelmed, trying to cover up against the cage. Huckbody eventually turned his back to Eblen as he attempted to shield himself from Eblen’s barrage, and the fight was stopped.
WINNER: Johnny Eblen by TKO at 1:11 of Round 1
Eblen just ran through Huckbody here. He was a massive betting favorite, and he made good on those odds with this performance. I thought this was a very good stoppage from referee Bryan Miner, who stepped in before Huckbody took any unnecessary damage, recognizing that he was done after turning his back to Eblen against the cage. Eblen called out John Salter in his post-fight interview.
Bellator announced an eight-man bantamweight Grand Prix for 2022. The participants will be Magomed Magomedov, James Gallagher, Leandro Higo, Patchy Mix, Raufeon Stots, Juan Archuleta, Kyoji Horiguchi, and Sergio Pettis.
JOSH HILL (20-4, 135.75) VS JARED SCOGGINS (10-1, 140) – BANTAMWEIGHT
Scoggins missed weight by 4lbs and was fined 35% of his purse according to John McCarthy on commentary.
They wrestled in the clinch to begin this fight. It resulted in a bit of a stalemate, and they broke apart with half of the round remaining. Hill was able to take Scoggins down following a kick that left Scoggins off balance, and Hill began to work from his guard with under a minute left on the clock. Hill was able to hold Scoggins there for the remainder of what was a fairly uneventful round.
Just under a minute into round two, Scoggins attempted to close the distance, and Hill just caught him with a perfect right hook, and Scoggins went down hard, unconscious.
WINNER: Josh Hill by KO at 0:56 of Round 2
Wow, this was a spectacular knockout win for Josh Hill. He is not a fighter known for his one-punch knockout power, but this was just a perfectly timed shot from Hill, and this has to be considered one of the top highlights of his run in Bellator thus far. Hill is currently the seventh-ranked bantamweight in Bellator and just missed out on a spot in the upcoming Grand Prix due to that spot in the rankings (the tournament consists of the champion, Horiguchi, and the top six ranked bantamweights). In his post-fight interview, Hill asked to be the go-to alternate for the tournament, and that request was immediately granted by Scott Coker.
EMMANUEL SANCHEZ (20-6, 145.25) VS JEREMY KENNEDY (16-3, 1 NC, 145.75) – FEATHERWEIGHT
Kennedy wasted little time before he began to chase takedowns, and he ultimately found success, lifting Sanchez up in the air before dumping him down hard to the ground. There were some impressive scrambles on the ground that resulted in the fighters returning to the feet, but Sanchez was unable to create any separation, and Kennedy took top position once again after Sanchez rolled for a knee. Sanchez threw up a triangle and threatened an armbar, which kept Kennedy from doing much with his position before time expired. Close round.
Kennedy defended a takedown attempt from Sanchez to start round two, and he used a beautiful sweep to reverse things and take Sanchez down himself. Sanchez was active from his guard, constantly throwing up elbows at Kennedy from bottom position. Kennedy transitioned into side control, before taking the back of Sanchez, where he began to work for a rear-naked choke. Sanchez escaped the position and ended the round back on his feet. Another competitive five minutes.
Kennedy quickly secured another takedown and transitioned to the back of Sanchez with four and half minutes remaining in the fight. After nearly three minutes of back control from Kennedy, Sanchez turned into him and attempted a guillotine choke, but didn’t really have the positioning to finish the submission, and Kennedy popped out with moments remaining in the round. 30-27 Kennedy.
WINNER: Jeremy Kennedy by unanimous decision (30-27 all)
This was a more competitive fight than the scorecards may indicate, but the correct result on the scorecards. Sanchez was a game opponent, who always does some good work from his back, but the control time added up for Kennedy here, and without any significant damage in favor of either fighter, that’s what this one really came down to. Kennedy will likely take Sanchez’s place in the featherweight top five, where there is no shortage of intriguing matchups against fighters like Aaron Pico or Mads Burnell. For Sanchez, this was another tough loss for the former title challenger, and he’s now lost three consecutive bouts. Sanchez is a very talented fighter, but some changes will have to be made if he plans on working his way to another title shot.
SERGIO PETTIS (21-5, 134) VS KYOJI HORIGUCHI (29-3, 134.5) – BELLATOR BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
The fighters touched gloves to begin the main event. Horiguchi was the more aggressive fighter offensively, while Pettis attempted to counter. Horiguchi succeeded on his first takedown attempt of the fight, but was unable to control Pettis for long, and the fight returned to the feet. Horiguchi landed a pair of spinning back kicks to the body. Pettis was having trouble timing Horiguchi, and his output was fairly low throughout this first round. 10-9 Horiguchi.
They exchanged leg kicks early in round two. Horiguchi took Pettis down once more, where Pettis threw up an up-kick, before getting caught with some decent ground and pound shots from Horiguchi. The up-kick from Pettis cut Horiguchi open beneath his right eye, but the cut was not in a position that would impair his vision. Pettis scrambled to his feet with a minute remaining in the round, however, he was unable to do much with the time. 20-18 Horiguchi.
Horiguchi landed a pair of calf kicks in the opening minute of the third round, which prompted Pettis to rush forward with a series of jabs. For the third time in this fight, Horiguchi was able to drag Pettis to the ground, where he began to work from half guard. Horiguchi attempted to take the back of Pettis, but Pettis was able to scramble back to his feet before the round’s conclusion. 30-27 Horiguchi.
It took less than forty seconds for Horiguchi to take Pettis back to the ground in round four. This time, Pettis was able to get back to his feet quickly, where he seemed to pick up the aggression. Pettis threw a head kick, and Horiguchi ducked under it, but the kick hid a spinning back fist, and it caught Horiguchi clean, knocking him out cold.
WINNER: Sergio Pettis by KO at 3:24 of Round 4 to retain the Bellator Bantamweight Championship
Kyoji Horiguchi was winning every minute of this fight, but all it takes is one punch in this sport, and that’s exactly what happened here. This was easily one of the best knockouts of the year, and perhaps the greatest highlight finish of Sergio Pettis’s career to this point. It was certainly concerning to see Pettis’s lack of activity on the feet, as well as his inability to defend Horiguchi’s takedowns, but that likely speaks more to the skill and creativity of Horiguchi than it does Pettis. Despite the brutal knockout loss here, I wouldn’t be surprised if Horiguchi is the favorite to win Bellator’s Bantamweight Grand Prix next year, because he really is that talented, but tonight belonged to Sergio Pettis, who will enter the aforementioned Grand Prix as the Bantamweight Champion.