Bellator 258 breakdown: Will Juan Archuleta pressure pave way for a Sergio Pettis championship upset?

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MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the Bellator’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for Bellator 258.

Bellator 258 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The main card airs on Showtime following prelims on MMA Junkie.

Juan Archuleta (25-2 MMA, 7-1 BMMA)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5'7" Age: 33 Weight: 135 lbs. Reach: 69"

  • Last fight: Decision win over Patchy Mix (Sept. 2, 2021)

  • Camp: The Treigning Lab (California)

  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing

  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info: + Bellator bantamweight champion + Regional MMA accolades ^ Titles at lightweight, featherweight and bantamweight + Wrestling base + 11 knockout victories + 1 submission win + 5 first-round finishes + Knockout power + Consistence pace and pressure + Improved striking flow ^ Combos, bodywork, stance shifts + Good wrestling ability + Good transitional grappler ^ Solid scrambles and ground striking

Sergio Pettis (20-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5'6" Age: 27 Weight: 135 lbs. Reach: 69"

  • Last fight: Decision win over Ricky Bandejas (July 24, 2020)

  • Camp: Roufusport (Milwaukee, Wisc.)

  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai

  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info: + RFA flyweight title + Taekwondo black belt (2nd degree) + Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt + 3 knockout victories + 4 submission wins + 6 first-round finishes + Solid footwork + Accurate jab and cross ^ Pulls and returns well + Dangerous head kicks ^ Strikes well off of the breaks + Improved wrestling ability ^ Good hips and wrist controls + Aggressive and attacking guard

Point of interest: Low kicks and counters

Juan Archuleta and Patchy Mix

The main event for Bellator 258 features a bantamweight title fight between two men who are familiar with low kicks and their associated counters. The current champion, [autotag]Juan Archuleta[/autotag], was familiarized with counters coming his way early on as he naturally floated toward the mold of a pressure fighter at the beginning of his career. Storming through space with overhands and hooks that carry palpable power, the native of Hesperia, Calif., always has looked far more seasoned than his resume leads on. However, since his time spent working with Duane Ludwig and other pros associated with The Treigning Lab, we have seen an uptick in Archuleta’s kicks, counters and overall striking technique. The 33-year-old now attaches kicks to his combinations much cleaner than before, shifting his stance accordingly in the process. In fact, Archuleta seems to be a sponge in the most complimentary of ways, almost mimicking stablemates like T.J. Dillashaw, at times. That said, Archuleta’s recent trends of conservatively playing on the outside could make this fight much closer than it needs to be. But if the champ gets too aggressive on his entries, then he could play into the hands of the challenger's countering savvy. Coming from a traditional martial arts base, [autotag]Sergio Pettis[/autotag] has arguably done a better job than his brother, Anthony Pettis, in regards to translating a striking process into the cage. Although Pettis is not as flashy as his brother (nor does he have the highlight reel to compare), there is an economical flow to the way in which he mixes his punches and kicks, and he also works at a much more consistent pace. Not only does Pettis work in his kicking attacks seamlessly, but his point-fighting style of footwork has complemented his boxing nicely, utilizing his heightened sense of range to fuel his pulls and returns. Nevertheless, despite having accurate jab-cross continuums and packing solid counters, Pettis will still need to respect both the level-changing threats coming his way (especially when he elects to throw low kicks). Next point of interest: Winning the wrestling

Point of interest: Winning the wrestling

Sergio Pettis and Alfred Khashakyan

Considering that the champion will have the wrestling edge on paper, I will be curious to see how early he looks for takedowns given Pettis' wicked guillotine and guard game. Resembling more of a honey badger on the regional scene, Archuleta has a knack for attaching himself to an opponent’s limb and exercising chain wrestling to make hay. In fact, Archuleta’s propensity to either shoot low or execute takedowns from the clinch may lower the chances of his neck getting snatched up by "young Serge." Archuleta was also trained by UFC veteran Joe Stevenson, who knows a thing or two about the guillotine choke. Still, even though Archuleta appears well-prepared and has shown the ability to grapple hard for five rounds prior, I believe that the former junior college wrestling champ will still need to be on his best if he means to control the ultra-slick Pettis. Demonstrating good posture to go along with a consistent hand-fighting and underhook awareness, Pettis has gotten a lot better at holding his own inside of clinching and grappling scenarios over the years. Working with Izzy Martinez in past camps, we have seen steady improvements to Pettis’ wrestling, especially in the transitional phases of his grappling. Already possessing crafty leg dexterity and wrist controls, Pettis now shows more process and understanding to his actions, as he was able to successfully navigate out of some tight spots in his last couple of UFC outings, as well as score a submission win in his promotional debut. Nevertheless, I doubt that Pettis wants to spend much time on his back or playing defense, which means he'll likely need to find the balance between getups that don't give way to riding positions. Next point of interest: Odds, opinion and prediction

Point of interest: Odds and opinions

The oddsmakers and public are currently siding with the sitting champ, listing Archuleta -175 and Pettis +155 as of this writing. To be honest, this is exactly how I would've lined this fight. Pettis has quietly been coming into his own for years under his brother's shadow, and he absolutely deserves respect as a live dog in this spot. Not only does Pettis possess cross counters and guillotine chokes that'll help keep Archuleta honest, but the Roufusport product has also appeared to add calf kicks into his arsenal. However, despite those kicks remaining a potential game-changer for any contest, I still suspect that the proven takedown counters of Archuleta could assist in shelving those techniques. Add in the fact that Archuleta has yet to be knocked out across three weight classes, and it's hard not to back a durable champion with cardio for days. I suspect Pettis will have his moments throughout, but I'm not sure he'll be able to match the offense of Archuleta, who I see edging out a win on the judge's scorecards should he avoid being upset by submission.

Prediction: Archuleta by decision

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