Bellator 228 will close out the first round of the promotion’s Featherweight Grand Prix with four fights, including a championship bout between 145-pound king Patricio “Pitbull” Freire and challenger Juan Archuleta.
Freire (29-4) is a two-division champ, having scored a TKO over Michael Chandler to capture the lightweight title in his most recent outing. He now moves back down to featherweight where he’s looking to survive a field of 16 competitors while defending his 145-pound title in every fight along the way.
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Archuleta (23-1) is more than capable of ending the reign of “Pitbull.” After suffering a loss in his sixth career fight, he has rattled off 18 consecutive victories. His five most recent bouts have come in the Bellator 228 cage.
In the co-main event, former UFC light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida meets with Gegard Mousasi in a middleweight rematch of their February 2014 Octagon clash. Machida is riding a four-fight winning streak dating back to 2017 with victories over Chael Sonnen, Rafael Carvahlo and Vitor Belfort. Mousasi is 8-1 in his last nine bouts, with the loss coming in his last fight against Rafael Lovato Jr. where he dropped the middleweight title.
Bellator 228 viewing information
Date: Saturday, Sept. 28
Time: 10 p.m. ET
Location: The Forum — Inglewood, California
Bellator 228 fight card, odds, picks
Patricio Freire vs. Juan Archuleta — Featherweight championship and Featherweight Grand Prix: Freire is on his second run with the Bellator featherweight title and first as lightweight champ. The Bellator Grand Prix style of having the champ in the tournament and the belt defended throughout adds extra stakes to the entire thing as well as potentially giving the champion six more rounds than the man he faces in the finals — should he make it that far — with a run of five-round title defenses versus everyone else’s three-round contests.
Archuleta is a skilled and dangerous fighter who has 11 knockout victories in his career. He’s more than capable of holding his own in a striking battle with Pitbull, who also has 11 career knockout wins. And, at 5-foot-8, Archuleta will be the taller, longer fighter in the cage.
Where things could get more difficult for Archuleta is on the ground. Pitbull is a jiu-jitsu black belt who has submitted 11 men in his career. Archuleta is a striking-focused fighter who has only scored one submission and his lone loss — in 2015 against Andres Ponce — was via triangle choke.
The main event comes down to spacing. If Pitbull fights smart — and he usually does — he will look to get inside the longer reach of Archuleta and work to put him on his back. If he can do that, the water gets a little less choppy and he will have an advantage. If not, it will be a long, competitive bout. Prediction: Pitbull SUB2
Gegard Mousasi vs. Lyoto Machida: Machida (26-8) won his first clash with Mousasi (45-7-2) in just his second fight since dropping to 185 pounds. He then went on a rough 1-4 run before winning his four most recent bouts, including two in the Bellator cage. Mousasi had been on an eight-fight winning streak between the UFC and Bellator, winning the Bellator middleweight title before suffering a majority decision loss to Rafael Lovato Jr. in June. Mousasi is a sizable favorite largely on the promise of his being able to outpressure Machida and avoid being countered on the feet. Prediction: Mousasi UD
A.J. McKee vs. Georgi Karakhanyan — Featherweight Grand Prix: The sky still seems to be the limit for the undefeated McKee (14-0). One of Bellator’s top prospects of the past several years, McKee was brought along at a measured pace before beating former champ Pat Curran in May. While Karakhanyan (28-9-1) is a tough, battle-tested veteran, he’s at a skill deficit in this fight. McKee has the wrestling chops to take over a fight that isn’t going his way and has developed a nasty striking game to take out physically overmatched opponents. Prediction: McKee KO2
Darrion Caldwell vs. Henry Corrales — Featherweight Grand Prix: Caldwell (13-3) announced his presence to the MMA world with a March 2016 win over Joe Warren. Three fights later, he captured the Bellator bantamweight championship. He successfully defended the belt once before jumping to featherweight to score a knockout win over Noad Lahat. After losing to Kyoji Horiguchi in a bid to become the first ever Rizin bantamweight champ, he then lost his Bellator belt to Horiguchi in a rematch in June. Corrales (17-3) won his first 12 professional fights before debuting in Bellator and losing three consecutive bouts. He has since righted the ship with a five-fight win streak including big wins over Karakhanyan and blue chip prospect Aaron Pico. Prediction: Caldwell UD
Daniel Weichel vs. Saul Rogers — Featherweight Grand Prix: Rogers (13-2) made a successful Bellator debut with a decision win in Birmingham, England in May. With eight submissions and only one knockout win in his career, it’s obvious where he makes his money. Weichel (39-11) has lost back-to-back split decisions, including a loss to Pitbull in a shot at the featherweight title. Rogers is skilled but lacks Weichel’s experience on the big stage against similarly dangerous opposition. A win here would be a major statement for Rogers. Prediction: Weichel UD