Patricio Pitbull is still Bellator’s best.
The reigning featherweight champion authored his eighth successful title defense and the first of his third run with the belt with a lopsided decision win over Adam Borics in the main event of Bellator 286 on Saturday in Long Beach, Calif. All three judges had Pitbull as the victor via scores of 48-47, 49-46 and 50-45.
Pitbull (34-5) was simply too skilled and too experienced for the younger Borics (18-2), who failed to muster much significant offense before a late rally in Round 5. Outside of that, Pitbull won the majority of the striking exchanges with precise and powerful punches while also mixing in takedowns to neutralize Borics.
The dominant win didn’t please everyone in the crowd at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, so Pitbull used the first part of his post-fight interview to address the jeers.
“Why are you booing me?” Pitbull asked. “I’m the f****** champion. I’m the f****** GOAT. F*** you, everyone.”
Pitbull was then asked who he would fight next, and the former 155-pound champion suggested that a recently discussed move to bantamweight makes sense with top featherweight contender Aaron Pico suffering an upset loss earlier in the night after injuring his shoulder.
“I was thinking about Aaron Pico, but he dislocated his shoulder, and now I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Pitbull said. “Maybe I will go down to the bantamweight division and take that belt too.”
The taller Borics struggled to get his striking going throughout the fight, with Pitbull countering the Hungarian’s signature flying knee strike on multiple occasions, either with a counter punch or a well-timed takedown.
When Borics wasn’t going for broke, Pitbull was content to pick him apart from distance and control him with his grappling. It was a sharp, methodical performance by the Brazilian great, who was rarely in danger during the five-round contest. Pitbull cruised to his second straight win and his eighth in his past nine bouts.
In the co-main event, A.J. McKee (19-1) made a successful lightweight debut against a wild and scrappy Spike Carlyle (14-4), earning a unanimous decision (29-26, 30-26, 30-27). The tone of the bout was set in the opening seconds as Carlyle came out of his corner with a flying kick and started winging haymakers.
Carlyle stayed on the offensive as he attacked McKee from inside his guard, but McKee showed superior grappling and worked off of his back to initiate offense and end the round on Carlyle’s back.
More heated striking exchanges take place throughout the fight, but McKee’s wrestling and jiu-jitsu proved to be the difference as he put Carlyle on the mat and attacked with ground strikes and submissions from multiple positions. A bloodied Carlyle showed extraordinary toughness, but McKee did more than enough to take the win on the scorecards in the end.
Post-fight, McKee was asked if he was still interested in returning to the 145-pound division, and he answered he’ll only drop back down for a title fight. Otherwise, he plans to participate in the recently announced Bellator Lightweight World Grand Prix that will take place in 2023. McKee previously won a Bellator featherweight tournament that ended in him capturing a championship belt and a $1 million prize.
Also on the main card, Jeremy Kennedy (18-3, 1 NC) scored a huge upset win over Aaron Pico (10-4), though probably not in the way he wanted. During an opening flurry, Pico dislocated his shoulder, and despite his team seemingly popping it back into place between rounds, the referee and ringside physician agreed that Pico’s injury was severe enough that the he could not continue.
Former Bellator bantamweight champion Juan Archuleta (26-4) opened the show by stopping a two-fight skid with a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) win over Enrique Barzola (18-7-2). “The Spaniard” came out firing in Round 1 and out-struck Barzola over the course of a fast-paced 15-minute fight, though the bout was not without its hairy moments.
Archuleta nearly hit Barzola with an illegal head kick to a grounded opponent in the first round (Barzola deflected it with his arm), and Barzola also had success throwing sharp elbows as Archuleta went for takedowns against the fence. However, Archuleta continued to find success on the feet and mixed in timely takedowns to secure the win.