The second batch of this week’s Bellator doubleheader has a bit more meet on the bone than the Friday card. Saturday’s Bellator 228 event will involve the second half of their featherweight World Grand Prix opening round. Within this side of the bracket, the promotion’s 145-pound strap will be up for grabs when champ champ Patricio “Pitbull” Freire defends against surging contender Juan Archuleta in the main event.
The 29-4 Pitbull has been one of Bellator’s elites for some time now, nearly a decade, and has recently climbed two mountain tops to claim two titles in two divisions. He recaptured his featherweight belt by besting Daniel Straus once again, and then defended twice before moving up in weight to stop Michael Chandler and take his strap. There really isn’t anything that he doesn’t do well, and Father Time may actually be his real opponent.
The 23-1 Archuleta captured four titles in four different divisions within the KOTC promotion before making the leap onto the big stage. He continued to add to his resume in Bellator, extending his winning streak to a highly impressive 18-straight. Most recently, he scored a brilliant knockout of former bantamweight king Eduardo Dantas with one second remaining in the second round. With an aged Dantas being his biggest test to date, it’s time to see if Archuleta is truly one of Bellator’s elites. The winner will walk away with the world title and a ticket into the next round of the tournament.
The card’s co-main event will stray away from the tourney for a 185-pound rematch between two legends of the sport, Gegard Mousasi and Lyoto Machida. The first time they met was was about five years ago in the UFC, with Machida picking up a decision. This could very well be a case of who has slowed down more between the two, but still a top-tier showcase of elite middleweight talents.
Going back to the GP, former bantamweight champ Darrion Caldwell will be hopping up to 145-pounds to meet the ever-dangerous Henry Corrales. The wrestling of Caldwell is phenomenal to say the least, but the rest of his game hasn’t exactly caught up. As for Corrales, he had a rough start to his Bellator career, being fed to the proverbial wolves, but has since showcased his true talents winning five-straight. He also starched Aaron Pico in 67-seconds in his last outing. This should be an interesting clash of styles.
Also in the tourney, former title challenger Daniel Weichel gets back to work after dropping close split decisions in his previous two bouts to meet submission ace Saul Rogers. Weichel is fundamentally sound everywhere, and was actually seconds away from becoming champion when he fought Patricio Pitbull the first time back in 2015. His opponent Rogers was on track to competing in the TUF 22 Finale, but visa issues prevented that from happening, resulting in him getting shunned from the organization altogether. If you check his record, you will find that Rogers loves to strangle his victims, but he will be facing someone that hasn’t tapped in a pro fight since 2012.
The remaining World Grand Prix matchup will be matchup of the old guard versus the new, when 14-0 young gun AJ McKee takes on the 28-9-1 Georgi Karakhanyan. McKee is an excellent example of how a promotion should properly home grow a prospect. He’s been gradually taking legit steps up in competition and has blossomed into a serious contender right before our very eyes. It also doesn’t hurt to have a father in Antonio McKee who also was an accomplished fighter — who by the way is actually competing on the undercard at the age of 49. As for Karakhanyan, he was once one of Bellator’s most lethal standouts, capable of manifesting a finish in just seconds on the the feet as well as on the ground. As he has aged, injuries have set him back and quite frankly the sport seemed to have caught up to him. Karakhanyan is still quite skilled, and will likely need every bit of that veteran savvy to avoid passing the torch.
Main card (10 PM ET, DAZN)
Lyoto Machida vs. Gegard Mousasi
Patricio Freire vs. Juan Archuleta
A.J. McKee vs. Georgi Karakhanyan
Darrion Caldwell vs. Henry Corrales
Daniel Weichel vs. Saul Rogers
Preliminary card (7:30 PM ET, DAZN)
Jason Edwards vs. Adrian Najera
Jonathan Santa Maria vs. Benji Gomez
Osman Diaz vs. Andre Walker
Ian Butler vs. Emilio Williams
A.J. Agazarm vs. Jonathan Quiroz
Shannon Goughary vs. Ava Knight
Antonio McKee vs. William Sriyapai
Johnny Cisneros vs. Mike Jasper
Shawn Bunch vs. Leandro Higo
Weber Almeida vs. Castle Williams
Dominic Clark vs. Joshua Jones
James Barnes vs. David Duran