After calling the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut the sole home of Bellator for almost two months, Bellator 246, featuring a bantamweight title up for grabs for Juan Archuleta and Patchy Mix, will serve as the final curtain call before the organization heads to Ireland in October for Bellator Dublin 3.
The title, in addition to a Rizin belt, was vacated by Kyoji Horiguchi in November after it was announced that he had suffered a knee injury. Horiguchi originally acquired the Bellator title when he defeated Darrion Caldwell in a five-round unanimous decision five months prior.
After falling short of securing a featherweight strap against Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, Archuleta has been handed a golden opportunity for the 135-pound accessory in a fight that could tie his career-high in wins for a promotion with the seven victories he had while with King of the Cage. A constantly busy fighter who has not fought less than three bouts a year since his professional debut in 2014 for BAMMA USA, Archuleta at one point fought at a catchweight of 160 for King of the Cage in 2017, but he has found a majority of his success at 135 and 145.
On the other end of the seesaw, the New York native Mix fittingly lived up to his “No Love” persona by quietly compiling an undefeated record in 13 bouts, with nine ending in submission finishes.
Archuleta and Mix top a bill that includes a co-headliner between welterweights Jon Fitch and Neiman Gracie, as well as the promotional debut of former UFC fighter Liz Carmouche.
Bellator 246 takes place on Saturday evening, one night after Bellator 245. The prelims air live on DAZN at 8:15 p.m. ET, followed by the main card on both DAZN and the Paramount Network at 10 p.m. ET.
Juan Archuleta battles Patchy Mix in the headlining bantamweight championship showdown. Who wins the vacant title?
Archuleta finds himself in rare space as a fighter who wants to compete as much as possible anytime and anywhere. He even expressed his frustration in early January with his lack of reps in the cage, saying his goal is to fight six times a year. A lot of people in the industry are on the record saying they love fighting, but very few back up those statements. Archuleta is a kindred spirit of Donald Cerrone in that way, embracing the stand-up-and-bang aspect of the sport.
Archuleta’s triumph in his earlier days as a contracted professional with King of the Cage provided a smooth transition into Bellator, where his winning streak hit a crescendo. He notched his 18th consecutive win in June 2019 when he sent Eduardo Dantas into Bellator 222’s sunken place with an overhand right that perhaps inspired Cody Garbrandt to come up with his own rendition against Raphael Assunção. The dominance of Archuleta was overshadowed when he suffered his first loss in four years against the slightly favored Pitbull by unanimous decision to end the streak on Sept. 28, 2019.
The expected fireworks show between the 32-year-old Archuleta and Henry Corrales to kick off 2020 proved to be underwhelming. There is no better way to test his wits than against the grappling savant Mix. In accordance with his amateur fixtures, referees were forced to call a stoppage in 11 of his 24 fights. The biggest test to land on Mix’s lap before Archuleta entered the picture came in his most recent sanctioned brouhaha versus then 23-7-0 Yuki Motoya, against whom he secured a guillotine choke in less than two minutes.
There aren’t too many unchecked boxes on Mix’s resume, which makes it difficult for people to bet against him. A polar opposite in fighting style to Archuleta, he carries a Demian Maia-like effectiveness and efficiency by getting the better of his opponents and making them into human pretzels. The most prominent figure of the WNY MMA camp has developed a liking for the rear-naked choke and could very well seize the bantamweight title sooner rather than later once the bell rings.
Welterweight co-headliner Jon Fitch is now 42 years old, but he hasn’t suffered a loss since 2014 while maintaining a high level of competition. Can he keep this unbeaten streak alive when he meets Neiman Gracie?
Long gone are the “boring” tags that UFC President Dana White infamously put on Fitch. Once he aborted ship to the Professional Fighters League (formerly known as World Series of Fighting), he embedded himself as a mainstay in the promotion’s welterweight division. He couldn’t escape the grip of Rousimar Palhares, but he did become the champion two decisions later.
Fitch doesn’t fight to please fans. He’ll draw out and execute a game plan that always favors him on the judges’ scorecard. It is not pretty, but he always puts himself in a situation to win, as evident by his 20 decision nods. Isn’t that what competition is all about? This is why he got a tough opponent in Paul Daley in his Bellator debut and picked up the second stalemate of his career when he faced Rory MacDonald as the headliner for Bellator 220.
The rich history of the Gracie family’s excellence in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu finds itself coursing well into the bloodstream of Neiman. He is hoping to right his wrongs after being dealt his first defeat by the aforementioned MacDonald. Had he not been dealt a bad hand with a major injury, Neiman was supposed to fight one more time in 2019 against Kiichi Kunimoto. The 31-year-old’s talent has warranted the respect of matchmakers, who have put him across the cage from significantly more experienced fighters after he started his campaign with eight wins.
Liz Carmouche is yet another new arrival from the UFC. She takes on fellow Bellator newcomer and UFC veteran DeAnna Bennett in a flyweight contest. Both ladies are looking for a rebound win, but only one of them can get it. Who will it be?
Bennett hit a groove when she first arrived in Invicta FC following her disappointing performance during The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, leading to a departure from the UFC in 2017. Her consecutive losses against Karina Rodriguez and Miranda Maverick didn’t boost her stock in the all-women MMA organization. Bennett’s failure to make weight caused the scheduled bout between Victoria Leonardo in July 2020 to be canceled.
Carmouche has a lot going for her heading into this match-up. Her rank as a black belt in BJJ is superior to Bennett’s still-developing grappling game. She isn’t far removed from her victory against former Invicta champion Jennifer Maia either. If Carmouche takes a page out of her own book of executing takedowns and being the one to dictate the pace from that fight to this one on Saturday, she will overcome her current mini-slump.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Davion Franklin and Ras Hylton take part in the first fight of the night. It’s an easy contest to overlook when you see that they have a combined 11 bouts of fight experience, the second lowest on this card after the 10 compiled by Ty Gwerder and George Tokkos.
While the most recognizable names on a show may be the reason people tune in, finding a fight that has the potential to showcase a future superstar in a guy like Franklin should be must-watch television. It’s tough to pass up the opportunity to track the evolution of fighters throughout their journey.
Hylton’s martial-arts foundation stemming from Shotokan is a unique style for a heavyweight, even though it has only culminated into two wins above .500 for him. Two months removed from a unanimous-decision win against a good wrestler in Rudy Schaffroth, Hylton seems poised to capitalize on the moment he built against a man who trains with Chael Sonnen. Once consistently tipping the scales at around 220 pounds during his New England Fights days, it has to be asked whether or not Hylton has chosen the route to bulk up in muscle considering Franklin’s 263-pound frame.
Franklin couldn’t have chosen a better time to opt for fighting as a career than now. He made his professional debut just before the shutdown of all major sports due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We’ve seen head coach Mike Winkeljohn refine the mitts of Jon Jones, Carlos Condit and Cub Swanson, and it would not be a shock if he is able to create a well-oiled fighting machine in the 26-year-old newcomer.
Main Card (DAZN and Paramount Network, 10 p.m. ET)
BW Championship: Juan Archuleta vs. Patchy Mix
WW: Jon Fitch vs. Neiman Gracie
Women’s FlyW: Liz Carmouche vs. DeAnna Bennett
LW: Derek Campos vs. Keoni Diggs
Preliminary Card (DAZN, 8:15 p.m. ET)
MW: Ty Gwerder vs. George Tokkos
HW: Davion Franklin vs. Ras Hylton
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