Bellator 272: Pettis vs. Horiguchi Main Event Preview

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On December 3, Bellator MMA will return to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn for Bellator 272. In the main event of the evening, Sergio Pettis defends his bantamweight championship against former UFC title contender and Bellator champion, Kyoji Horiguchi. 

Styles Make Fights

Sergio Pettis (21-5) has found new life in Bellator after going 9-5 in the UFC. Since debuting for Bellator in September 2019, Pettis has gone on a four-fight winning streak. His most recent victory earned him bantamweight gold, besting Juan Archuleta via unanimous decision in May. Three of his last four wins are by way of decision, all unanimous. While historically not a finisher, Pettis uses his speed and solid footwork matched with counter striking to piece together dominant performances on a consistent basis. 

To prepare for a fighter as unique as Horiguchi, Pettis’ coach Duke Roufus has enlisted the help of Ren Hiramoto, a former K-1 lightweight tournament runner up. “I have one of the K-1 Japan’s best kickboxers training with me right now,” said Roufus while speaking to MMA Junkie Radio. He is helping Sergio mentally. He’s only 23 years old and he is one bad mofo. He actually knocked out Kaew Fairtex, the K-1 champion in kickboxing already, but legitimately wants to be a great MMA athlete.” 

Roufus also believes that Pettis’ traditional martial arts training will help him against the unique offense of Horiguchi. “Luckily he has somewhat of a traditional martial arts style and that’s my jam,” said Roufus. “I grew up in martial arts. He’s a karate-style fighter and that’s the nice thing about Sergio having grown up in Taekwondo, he’s very versatile fighting different styles of fighters.” 

Dominance on Every Platform

Kyoji Horiguchi (29-3) is a former UFC title contender who has been successful in multiple organizations since making his pro debut in 2010. After starting his career with an impressive winning streak in SHOOTO, Horiguchi signed with the UFC in 2013. He made his debut with the promotion at UFC 165: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos 3. After four straight victories, he earned a shot against then flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. He lost via submission with just one second left in the bout. 

Coming up short against “Mighty Mouse,” Horiguchi rattled off three more victories in the UFC before parting ways with the organization despite an impressive 7-1 run. After completing his contract, Horiguchi opted to sign with Rizin, the biggest reason being money. Rizin offered Horiguchi better pay, more freedom to pursue sponsorships and an opportunity to fight more often. 

Horiguchi went on a 7-0 run with Rizin in just over a year including victories against Manel Kape and a 9-second knockout against former UFC contender Ian McCall. Less than two months removed from a knockout victory over Ben Nguyen at Rizin 15, Horiguchi made his Bellator debut against bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell, a rematch from their New Year’s Eve bout the year before in Rizin. 

Caldwell and Horiguchi met on December 31, 2018, for the vacant Rizin bantamweight championship. Caldwell was submitted in round three via guillotine choke. Looking to avenge the submission loss, Caldwell once again came up short. Horiguchi won the rematch via unanimous decision and became the new Bellator bantamweight champion.

A Devastating Injury

That following November, Horiguchi was forced to relinquish the Bellator title due to a torn ACL and damaged meniscus. The injury required surgery and forced Horiguchi to stay on the shelf for just over a year. On New Year’s Eve 2020, he returned to Rizin with a first-round victory over Kai Asakura at Rizin 26. Now he sets his sights on regaining the Bellator title that he never lost.

While respectful of his opponent, Horiguchi recognizes himself as the real Bellator bantamweight champion. “No, the real champion is me, so I will show up to fight,” said Horiguchi. “I’m really happy. It’s been a year since my last fight, and I will get the belt back. I’m really excited right now, and Sergio Pettis is a good opponent.” 

With eight finishes in his last 10 bouts, Horiguchi will be looking to add another one, but that is no easy task against Pettis. “It’s hard because he’s a tough guy,” Horiguchi said. “I always want to finish, so I don’t know if it’s first round or five rounds. I don’t know, but I want a submission or KO.” 

Something To Prove

Proud to wear Bellator gold, Pettis realizes that Horiguchi never lost the title and looks at their Bellator 272 clash as a way to settle the debate. “He was the champion and he hurt his knee unfortunately and had to vacate the belt and Juan won it by beating Patchy Mix, and I beat Juan,” said Pettis. “But at the end of the day, that’s Horiguchi’s belt. I’m kind of just babysitting it. This fight will really signify who the real champion is of this division.” 

There is no better time for Pettis and Horiguchi to square off. Pettis coming off of a 14 fight run with the UFC has had four impressive victories under the Bellator banner. Everything appears to be firing on all cylinders for the champ and Horiguchi will be the most decorated competitor he has ever faced to this point. Pettis recognizes the danger of fighting Horiguchi, but a win would catapult him to the next level of MMA greatness. 

“He’s not just a stand-up fighter. He can submit you, he can take you down,” Pettis said. “He knows how to place the game really well. It’s hard to deny that. I’m excited to test my skills, test my style. I’m at a good point in my life where this is going to be my breakout fight, honestly.” 

On December 3, Kyoji Horiguchi will be looking to reclaim what he never lost while Sergio Pettis intends to silence any remaining skeptics by defeating his most challenging opponent and becoming the undisputed bantamweight champion. “I’m taking it fight-by-fight and I feel like this is going to be the one.”

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Featured Image Credits to Bellator MMA

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