Bellator: Standouts from Bellator 242

Bellator MMA made it’s return last night after being off since February due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The night was filled with some solid performances, but there were a few fighters who really stood out last night.

Sergio Pettis

The main event of the evening featured a bantamweight contest between Sergio Pettis (20-5) and Ricky Bandejas (13-4). The winner was promised the next shot at the Bellator bantamweight title.

The fight was contested for the most part on the feet, and Pettis put on a clinic. It was not a one-sided beating, but Pettis was clearly the superior striker.

From the opening bell, Pettis put pressure on Bandejas. Pettis did a fantastic job of throwing stinging calf kicks which really seemed to hinder the movement of Bandejas throughout the fight.

SP was taken down once in the fight which was really his only moment of weakness. From the opening bell to the closing bell, Pettis was ahead of every move Bandejas would make.

Pettis now moves to get a shot at the Bellator bantamweight title. The younger brother of former UFC champion, Anthony Pettis, is trying to become the first Pettis to become a champion inside of Bellator. He made a big step towards that goal last night.

Aaron Pico

If there is a fighter in the MMA world that literally has all of the potential in the world, it’s Bellator’s Aaron Pico (6-3).

Pico came into MMA with elite boxing and world-class wrestling credentials. However, he’s gotten himself into trouble very early on in his career. He’s been easily drawn into brawls where he’s been caught.

Coming into Bellator 242, Pico was scheduled to face Solo Hatley Jr. (8-3). Hatley has really good power which could make you nervous as a Pico fan. I really wanted to see Pico utilize his wrestling in this fight.

Very early in the first round, Pico used his best tool in the toolbox. After a brief exchange, Pico landed a massive takedown. Pico looked dominant on the ground.

Just before the halfway mark of the first round, Pico was able to lock up a rear-naked choke and finish the fight. Pico’s performance really stands out because he finally put together a mature performance.

Moving forward, I really want to see Pico use both his boxing as well as his wrestling skills. He’s been too one dimensional early on in his Bellator career utilizing his boxing. This fight should make everyone remember just how good his wrestling is.

Jay-Jay Wilson

The fight wasn’t the most exciting contest, but I came away very impressed with Jay-Jay Wilson (6-0) after he defeated Tywan Claxton (7-2) at Bellator 242.

Wilson came into the contest with a ton of hype behind him. He had finished all five of his professional fights. The 22-year old Jiu Jitsu expert made his debut in Bellator back in 2018.

Claxton also made his professional debut in Bellator and started out by winning his first five contest before losing to Emmanuel Sanchez at Bellator 226.

Jay-Jay came out extremely aggressive in the first round, but Claxton remained incredibly patient throughout the fight. Wilson was able to get Claxton’s back at one point in the first round, but Claxton defended well and didn’t panic.

Wilson was faced with an opponent who would not bend under the pressure. Jay-Jay had never gone beyond the second round prior to this contest. I had the fight 1-1 going into the third and final round.

Claxton did a really good job at putting pressure on Wilson and winning most of the final round. However, late in the round, Wilson secured a triangle position and landed some massive elbows.

This sequence was enough to steal him the round on the deciding judges scorecards. It was a very tough and gritty fight, but the top prospect keeps his 0 in an important victory.

Next Up for Bellator

Bellator will be returning to action in a couple of weeks for Bellator 243. That fight card will be headlined by Benson Henderson and Michael Chandler. This was a good first step for Bellator as they begin to try to make up for lost time due to the pandemic.

Bellator 242: Three fights to watch

Bellator MMA makes it’s long anticipated return tomorrow night from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conneticut.

Bellator is dipping it’s toe back in the pool with a card that features seven fights, four of which are on the main card on the Paramount Network. Let’s dive into three of the key matchups for Bellator 242.

Sergio Pettis vs Ricky Bandejas

In the main event of the evening we have a bantamweight contest between Sergio Pettis (19-5) and Ricky Bandejas (13-3).

Pettis comes into this fight coming off of a win in his Bellator debut back in January. Pettis has been on the biggest stage in the sport now for about seven years. Incredibly impressive from someone who’s just about to turn 27.

Pettis has beaten guys like Joseph Benavidez in the past and he’s also been in the cage with the likes of Henry Cejudo.

Pettis has a very solid overall game. Good distance striking, and he’s very good off of his back. He’s got very good submission skills which he showed off back in January.

In the other corner you have Ricky Bandejas. Bandejas is a pretty good striker who has knockouts in all of his last four wins.

Back at Bellator 204, Bandejas became famous after he knocked out James Gallagher in impressive fashion. However, Bandejas would go on to lose two consecutive fights.

He has bounced back nicely since with back-to-back knockout victories. Bandejas does better when he’s countering aggressive fighters. He’s able to catch guys coming in with his quick counters and good power.

I expect this fight to take place on the feet. While Bandejas has good striking, I don’t favor him at all in a technical striking match with Pettis. Could Bandejas catch Pettis with something? Absolutely he could.

However, I think the fight will take place from range where I expect Pettis to do very well with kicks. Expect Bandejas to have moments, but the output and accuracy of Pettis’ shots will give him the nod here.

Prediction: Sergio Pettis by Unanimous Decision

Jordan Mein vs Jason Jackson

The co-main event of the evening features a contest between UFC veteran, Jordan Mein (31-12), and Jason “The Ass-Kicking Machine” Jackson (11-4).

Mein hasn’t fought in about two years, but he was coming off back-to-back wins in the UFC before making the jump to Bellator.

Mein has fought some of the best guys in the world from guys like Tyron Woodley to the rising Belal Muhammad. Mein has a solid overall game with good striking from a distance. He does struggle with his cardio at times.

You could make the argument that Jason Jackson belongs in the UFC. Jackson fought on Dana White’s Contender Series, but lost due to an ankle injury. Since then, Jackson has gone 4-1 with his lone loss being a split decision loss to Ed Ruth at Bellator 231.

Jackson has really good power and uses a good amount of explosion with his advances. I think that Mein’s patient style could really help out a guy like Jackson over the course of a three round fight.

I think this fight is going to go the distance. While Mein comes in with high expectations in his Bellator debut, I like Jackson to defeat him in a back and forth fight.

Prediction: Jason Jackson by Unanimous Decision

Aaron Pico vs Chris Hatley Jr.

Kicking off the main card of Bellator 242 is a featherweight contest between Aaron Pico (5-3) and Chris “Solo” Hatley Jr (8-2).

Just a few years ago, Pico was regarded as the top prospect in all of MMA. However, his career has not gone as planned so far. Being stopped three times was not part of the original plan.

Outside of his three defeats, Pico has finished all five of his wins within the first two rounds. Pico possesses great boxing with really good power. Pico has elite wrestling that he rarely uses.

Standing across from Pico will be Solo Hatley. Hatley comes into this contest coming off of a win in his Bellator debut. Hatley has pretty decent overall skills and showed a good ground game in his last outing.

Hatley has decent hands due to his athleticism, but there doesn’t appear to be a ton of polish in his striking. He also doesn’t posses incredible striking defense.

Given the skills of both fighters, I’m expecting this one to be contested on the feet. Hatley doesn’t do well with being pressured and he doesn’t have great defense.

For these reasons, I don’t think he’s going to do well with Pico. I expect Pico to fight patiently, but when the opening is there, I expect him to do what it takes to finish this one.

Prediction: Aaron Pico by TKO – Round 1

Bellator 242 Outlook

Bellator is not going all out with their first card back. They have some really good fights, but they are not trying to blow the roof off the place. Seems like a very conservative effort on their part to get back in the game. However, fans should be happy because a returning Bellator just means more MMA fights for fans everywhere.

Bellator: The Curious Case of Aaron Pico

Bellator MMA makes it’s anticipated return tomorrow night after not hosting any events since February due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the fighters that will be making the walk tomorrow night is Aaron Pico (5-3). Just a few years ago, Pico was being built up as the future of MMA. Elite wrestling, combined with elite boxing and good ground skills.

Combine that with the fact that he was just 20-years old when he made his pro debut in Bellator, and you had a superstar in the making. He was looked at as a true prodigy. However, his career has not been smooth sailing.

Up and Down Bellator Career

It was massive news when Pico signed with Bellator. He didn’t start his pro career on the regional scene like most, he went right up to the second biggest promotion in MMA.

Pico made his debut at Bellator 180. With thousands of fans watching as Pico made his debut, Zach Freeman was there to spoil the party. Freeman defeated Pico in just 24 seconds of the first round.

Many were left wondering if Pico was rushed at that point. He has all the talent in the world, but he got defeated in seconds by a guy who wasn’t an elite talent.

Pico silenced the doubters by winning four consecutive fights by first round knockout. Bellator was bringing him along and giving him guys he could fine-tune his skills against.

After winning four straight, it appeared that Pico was only a fight or two away from getting a crack at the Bellator title. However, Pico was knocked out by Henry Corrales in 67 seconds after badly hurting Corrales early.

At Bellator 222, Pico returned and was handling Adam Borics before being caught with a flying knee which finished him in the second round. Pico then went on to knock out Daniel Carey at Bellator 238 back in January.

Where to go?

Pico will now make the walk tomorrow to face Chris Hatley Jr (8-2) at Bellator 242. All of the tools are there for Pico to become a massive star, but I have yet to see him really fight smart.

Again, Pico has elite wrestling, but in his fights, he seems to want to use his boxing. While his boxing is fantastic, he’s easily drawn into brawls where he gets caught.

Tomorrow night, I want to see a complete performance from Pico. I want to see him use his wrestling. I want to see him patient, and I want to see him stay calm. The moment he gets anxious, the moment the fight can turn.

I do believe that Aaron Pico can become a world champion. He’s too good and he’s just 23-years old. He definitely has some growing to do in the sport, and I hope tomorrow night is another step in the right direction for him.

Bellator announces full July 24th card; Sergio Pettis – Ricky Bandejas Headline

Bellator MMA is officially back and today they announced their full card for their return. The promotion is returning July 24th for Bellator 242.

Bellator 242 Notable Fights

Obviously the main event between Ricky Bandejas (13-3) and Sergio Pettis (19-5) is a fight that stands out. Banedjas has looked incredibly impressive in his last two outings.

Bandejas blew up in popularity back in 2018 after his highlight reel knockout over James Gallagher. After that fight, Bandejas lost two consecutive fights. He’s since knocked out two consecutive opponents, most recently Frans Miambo at Bellator 240.

Pettis comes into this fight after winning his Bellator debut back in January. The younger brother of former UFC champ, Anthony Pettis, S.P. is incredibly seasoned for someone who’s just about to turn 27.

Another fight that stands out is Aaron Pico (5-3) taking on Chris Hatley Jr (8-2). Hatley Jr comes into the contest after winning his Bellator debut by split decision in February.

Pico was once talked about as the future of MMA. Elite wrestling pedigree with elite boxing and speed. However, it has not been smooth sailing so far in his MMA career.

He lost his pro debut in 24 seconds then has since been knocked out two more times in seven fights. Pico possesses all the skills to be a world champion and he’s still very young at 23-years old.

Pico did win his last fight by knockout, but the standout from California has to show more poise when he’s inside the cage. As he matures, he can be a world beater, but it’s not ideal to see such a young prospect get starched a few times like he has been.

Bellator is coming out of the gates with a decent card. I was expecting the card to be a little stronger given it’s their first show back while the UFC has dominated the industry.