Bellator MMA vs. Rizin results: AJ McKee beats Roberto de Souza to cement 5-0 shutout for Bellator over Rizin


A.J. McKee capped off a shutout performance for the fighters from Bellator MMA as they went a perfect 5-0 against Rizin in the New Year’s Eve card from Japan.

The former featherweight champion displayed great grappling defense, solid ground and pounds as he repelled attacks from Roberto de Souza, Rizin’s current champion. McKee was smart with his offense both on the feet and on the ground while de Souza just grew frustrated as he was unable to really threaten the American even when he had some advantageous positions during the fight.

When it was over, all three judges scored the fight for McKee, who moves to 2-0 as a lightweight after previously picking up a win at 155 pounds in Bellator.

“Dreams come true” McKee stated about his fight in Japan. “Hopefully, I can come back to put on another show .”

Despite the potential dangers on the ground, McKee stuffed an early takedown and then happily stayed on the canvas after de Souza pulled guard. McKee avoided any problems and continued to pepper de Souza with punches, elbows, and short in-line kicks while he marked up de Souza’s face. He also had him trapped in the corner.

A strong start from McKee saw him gain confidence heading into the second round but de Souza was able to take his back during a scramble as the lightweights hit the floor again. This time, de Souza was searching for a rear-naked choke but McKee was never really threatened and he eventually earned a reversal to get back on top again.

McKee hammered away at de Souza with some stiff punches before returning to his feet where he invited de Souza to join him. As the fighters came out for the third and final round, de Souza was obviously desperate to drag the fight back into his world on the ground but McKee continued to surprise him — he even locked on a D’arce choke as he looked for a submission of his own.

As the clock ticked away McKee began to loosen up with his striking, while still maintaining a world-class submission to defense. De Souza managed to grab the back once more, but McKee was unable to secure the rear-naked choke. McKee just continued to wait until his escape.

As the final bell sounded, McKee was confident in his victory as he moved to 20-1 in his career and helped Bellator complete a dominant showcase over the fighters from Rizin during the final card of 2022.

Patricio Pitbull shuts out Kleber Koike with uninspired performance

Patricio Pitbull did just enough to win his co-main event fight against Rizin champion Kleber Koike but that’s about all that happened over three rounds.

Going up against a submission specialist, Pitbull was methodical with his striking attacks as he constantly backed Koike up against the corner but never really unleashed any combinations with his signature power. Instead, Pitbull was resigned to just popping Koike with selective shots and then backing away to prevent a potential takedown.

Even when Koike did manage a throw or a takedown, he failed to really keep Pitbull underneath him for any significant amount of time. At one point, Koike pulled guard to bring the fight down to the ground but even that tactic failed as Pitbull quickly broke free of his grip to get back to the fight.

Pitbull’s performance showed that he was hesitant to engage Koike in long grappling matches. However, despite his ability to shrug off his opponent whenever they were on the ground, Pitbull chose to take fewer risks and just choose the strikes that would cause him enough damage to win unanimously.

Afterwards, Pitbull credited Koike for his toughness while noting that he would like to meet again one day, this time with both of their titles going up for grabs.

Kyoji Horiguchi dominates Hiromasa Ougikubo in return to flyweight

Former Rizin and Bellator champion KyojiHoriguchi went home to Japan, where he won a convincing victory over Hiromasa Ougikubo at flyweight.

Horiguchi bullied Ougikubo round after round as he ripped away with brutal leg kicks, followed by blistering speed in his hands. Horiguchi took Ougikubo off his feet a couple of times including a shot in the opening round just seconds before the bell sounded.

Horiguchi actually leaned outside the ring to throw some ground and pound in an attempt to put Ougikubo away but he ran out of time. In an additional knockdown, he was able to score another during a foot exchange that saw the fighters sling leather. However, it was Horiguchi’s power and precision which brought Ougikubo to the mat.

To his credit, Ougikubo continued to scramble out of bad positions but he just couldn’t mount any offense of his own with Horiguchi punishing him for the better part of 15 consecutive minutes.

Horiguchi has stated that he feels more at home competing in the flyweight division but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to convince Bellator to potentially promote a 125-pound weight class in the future.

Juan Archuleta edge out Soo Choul Kim for split decision victory

Juan Archuleta had his hands full but he still managed to eke out a split decision victory in a hard fought battle against Soo Chul Kim.

The difference in the fight seemed to come down to Archuleta’s striking in the opening round and then combined with his wrestling and grappling prowess during the second half of the fight. Kim did everything Kim could to help Archuleta as he fought back with some brutal calf kicks and stiff foot combinations.

Late in the fight Archuleta executed a stunning jumping knee strike on Kim, but he was only inches from a possible knockout. As the South Korean fighter tried to finish him off, he managed to evade a last-second ninja choke submission by Kim.

It was a back-and-forth battle throughout but Archuleta did enough in the eyes of two of the judges to claim the split decision victory and also help notch another win for Bellator over Rizin.

Archuleta will now head back home to the United States where he will undoubtedly attempt to jump back in the thick of the bantamweight title race with designs to also compete at featherweight in the future as well.

Gadzhi Rasbadanov wins unanimous decision after almost achieving first-round finish

With teacher and mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov sitting ringside, Gadzhi Rabadanov got Bellator MMA off to a good start with a unanimous decision win over Koji Takeda.

While he ultimately had to go to the scorecards to get the victory, Rabadanov nearly earned a first round finish after the blasted Takeda with a punch that put him down on the canvas. Rabadanov followed up with a flurry of punches as he sought to end the fight but Takeda just kept finding a way to survive.

The exertion during that near finish seemed to wear down Rabadanov as he moved into the second round, which allowed Takeda to mount a comeback. Takeda made a cut above Rabadanov’s eyes and stopped any Russian attempts to take him down.

Still, Rabadanov was relentless with his wrestling and grappling as he kept coming after Takeda and making him work for every position across one side of the ring to the other. Although Takeda made an effort to make amends for his actions after being almost knocked out in the first round, it was not enough to convince the judges.

The win marks Rabadanov’s fifth in a row overall including his fourth win since joining the Bellator MMA roster in 2021.

Full results below:

Bellator MMA vs. Rizin

A.J. McKee def. Roberto de Souza via unanimous decision

Patricio Pitbull def. Kleber Koike via unanimous decision

Kyoji Horiguchi def. Hiromasa Ougikubo via unanimous decision

Juan Archuleta def. Soo Chul Kim via split decision

Gadzhi Rabadanov def. Koji Takeda via unanimous decision

Rizin 40

Seika Izawa def. Si Woo Park via split decision

Naoki Inoue def. Kenta Takizawa via submission (armbar) (R2)

Junior Tafa def. Tsuyoshi Sudario via knockout (R1)

John Dodson def. Hideo Tokoro via knockout (punches) (R1)

Boxing: Ren Hiramoto def. Genji Umeno via knockout (punch) (R2)

Yuki Motoya def. Rogerio Bontorin via knockout (knee) (R2)

Johnny Case def. Nobumitsu Tyson via knockout (punches) (R1)

Chihiro Suzuki def. Yoshiki Nakahara via knockout (punch) (R1)

Sho Patrick Usami def. BeyNoah via knockout (punch) (R1)

Yushi Sakura def. Tatsuya Nakazawa via unanimous decision