Rizin bantamweight champion Kyoji Horiguchi adds Bellator belt

Kyoji Horiguchi defeated Darrion Caldwell on Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York to become a champion in both Bellator and Rizin. Lucas Noonan/Bellator

NEW YORK -- Bellator's bantamweight championship officially belongs to Japan.

Kyoji Horiguchi (28-2) claimed Bellator's 135-pound title in a unanimous decision win over Darrion Caldwell (12-3) in a cross-promotion bout during Bellator 222 on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

It was Horiguchi's second victory over Caldwell in seven months, as part of a cross-promotion between Bellator and Japan-based promotion Rizin.

Horiguchi, 28, had already defended Rizin's bantamweight title against Caldwell, in a submission victory in December. Caldwell's belt was not up for grabs that night. But Friday's result means Horiguchi is now the champion of both promotions, even though he is under contract with only Rizin. As part of the deal between promotions, Rizin will send Horiguchi to Bellator once a year to defend the promotion's title.

The five-round rematch was slow and drew plenty of boos from the Garden crowd. Caldwell looked to take Horiguchi down throughout, and had some success doing so. Once he pulled him to the ground, however, he did very little damage. At times, it didn't even appear as if he was interested in doing damage, as he simply held on to Horiguchi's waist.

Horiguchi scored with elbows and punches from the bottom. He also caught Caldwell with a stiff left hand in the fourth round.

The judges scored it for Horiguchi 49-46, 49-46 and 48-47.

A former NCAA Division III wrestler, Caldwell surrendered the title he won in 2017. He recorded one defense of the belt, in 2018 against Leandro Higo.

Archuleta obliterates Dantas with walkoff knockout

Juan Archuleta (23-1) has laid his claim to title shots at 135 pounds and 145 pounds following a spectacular knockout of Eduardo Dantas.

Archuleta, of Hesperia, California, knocked out Dantas (21-7) with 1 second remaining in the second round, with a haymaker right hand to the chin. Dantas, a former bantamweight champion, remained on the ground for several minutes but eventually managed to walk out of the cage on his own. It is Archuleta's fifth consecutive win in Bellator, at both bantamweight and featherweight.

Immediately after the victory, Archuleta called for newly crowned bantamweight champion Horiguchi.

"I'm on an 18-fight win streak. I'm the No. 1 contender at 135 and 145,'" Archuleta screamed. "Horiguchi, where you at? You're not leaving the States with that belt!"

A teammate of former UFC bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw, Archuleta looked to wrestle a little in the opening round, but also looked very comfortable on his feet. He utilized plenty of movement and appeared to have Dantas out of his rhythm. The knockout blow came as Dantas threw a naked front kick, which Archuleta countered beautifully.

It was a third loss in the past four bouts for Brazil native Dantas.

Undefeated Borics spoils Pico's return to the Garden

Highly touted featherweight prospect Aaron Pico suffered heartbreak (again) in the Garden, this time at the hands of undefeated prospect Adam Borics.

Pico (4-3) looked good early in the bout, which was his first since joining renowned MMA coach Greg Jackson. He took down Borics (13-0) almost at will in the opening two rounds, although he did have trouble keeping him there. Borics, 25, turned the tide in an instant late in the second, however, as he knocked Pico out with a flying knee.

The finish came at the 3-minute, 55-second mark of the round. Pico, 22, never went unconscious but was badly dazed and did not protest the TKO stoppage.

The result was reminiscent of Pico's nightmarish MMA debut in June 2017, when he suffered a 24-second submission defeat to Zach Freeman. That bout also took place in the Garden.

Borics, of Hungary, is now 4-0 in the Bellator cage, with four finishes. This was his first appearance of 2019.


Aaron Pico KO'd with flying knee

Adam Borics knocks out Aaron Pico with a flying knee in the second round of the Bellator 222 prelims.

Submission ace Danis cruises to second win

So far, so good for the polarizing MMA career of one Dillon Danis.

Danis (2-0) cruised to an armbar finish of Max Humphrey (3-3) at 4:28 of the first round. The finish came to the surprise of no one and seemed inevitable from the start. Danis tripped Humphrey along the fence in the opening moments of the 175-pound catchweight fight and quickly took his back.

Humphrey, who hadn't fought in nearly one year, did well surviving the position for several minutes, but it was only a matter of time before Danis transitioned to the armbar and produced a tap. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu standout and teammate of UFC star Conor McGregor has finished both of his MMA fights via first-round submission.

"I've said this before: I'm the f---ing best in the world," Danis said. "We'll see who gets in here and stops me."

A native of the New York area, Danis hadn't fought for Bellator since April 2018. He was suspended for seven months for his role in a brawl at UFC 229 in October, following a UFC title fight between McGregor and lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Mix chokes out Bandejas in short order

It was an easy night's work for 25-year-old bantamweight prospect Patrick Mix (11-0), as he tapped Ricky Bandejas (11-3) with a rear-naked choke just 66 seconds in.

Mix wasted no time putting Bandejas in a terrible position. He leapt onto his opponent's back in an early scramble and secured a body triangle as Bandejas was still standing in the center of the cage. Mix's right arm slipped under Bandejas' chin moments later, and the 27-year-old quickly tapped after the two fell to the canvas.

Mix, of Buffalo, has made a habit of getting in and out of the cage quickly in his career. Six of his 11 wins have been finishes in the first round.

Afterward, he called out Ireland's James Gallagher.

Bandejas, whose Bellator career got off to a great start with a knockout victory over Gallagher in 2018, has now dropped his past two.

Other results:

Middleweight: Phil Hawes (5-2) def. Michael Wilcox (6-4) by first-round TKO (doctor stoppage, 5:00)

Lightweight: Marcus Surin (6-1) def. Nekruz Mirkhojaev (4-3) by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-27, 29-27)

Welterweight: Robson Gracie Jr. (2-0) def. Oscar Vera (0-1) by first-round submission (armbar, 3:15)

Bantamweight: Mike Kimbel (3-1) def. Sebastian Ruiz (2-3) by split decision (28-29, 30-27, 30-27) 3 5:00

Men's 180-pound catchweight: Haim Gozali (11-6) def. Gustavo Wurlitzer (22-23, 1 NC) by first-round submission (triangle choke, 4:02)

Women's 112-pound catchweight: Lindsey VanZandt (6-1) def. Rena Kubota (8-3) by first-round technical submission (rear-naked choke, 4:04)

Women's flyweight: Valerie Loureda (2-0) def. Larkyn Dasch (0-2) by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)

Women's flyweight: Taylor Turner (4-5) def. Heather Hardy (2-2) by first-round TKO (3:53)

Featherweight: John Beneduce (3-2) def. Kenny Rivera (2-2) by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)

Men's 165-pound catchweight: Kastriot Xhema (3-3) def. Whitney Jean Francois (2-7-1) by third-round TKO (punches, 3:17)

Men's flyweight: Brandon Medina (1-0) def. Brandon Polcare (1-3) by first-round submission (guillotine choke, 4:33)