Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Best of Bellator MMA in 2021: Sergio Pettis wins Knockout of the Year with shocking finish of Kyoji Horiguchi

Every fight fan loves a knockout. That ultimate moment of finality in a fight that can come out of nowhere, finishing a dominant performance or snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. This year saw plenty of great knockouts take place in the Bellator cage, ranging from championship fights to shocking results on the undercard.

There were 62 knockouts over 18 Bellator events in 2021, including the very first and last fights of the year in the cage.

A panel of CBS Sports experts sat down to sort through all the knockouts that took place in the Bellator cage to determine our choices for Bellator’s Knockout of the Year.

First place: Sergio Pettis def. Kyoji Horiguchi, Bellator 272

The unanimous selection by our panel, Pettis’ knockout of Horiguchi checks off all the marks one could want out of a Knockout of the Year. The knockout took place in a title defense for Pettis, in a fight he was losing badly, and with a flashy strike. There was little debate that Bellator’s final fight of the year was also the year’s best finish inside the Bellator cage.

Horiguchi had dominated Pettis both on the feet and on the ground for the first three rounds of the fight. That domination continued into the fourth round as Horiguchi seemed to be cruising to a decision win that would make him a two-time bantamweight champion. Out of nowhere, Pettis threw a head kick that missed the mark, but continued the momentum of the kick to throw a spinning backfist that landed flush, knocking Horiguchi out cold. WIth one strike, Pettis retained his championship and now will take that momentum into the start of the Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix tournament in 2022.

Second place: Michael Page def. Derek Anderson, Bellator 258

Sometimes, a top-tier knockout doesn’t actually see a fighter put to sleep, nor does it require a referee saving a fighter as they’re absorbing big shots. That was the case in the Bellator 258 clash between Michael “Venom” Page and Derek Anderson when a single kick from Page rearranged Anderson’s face.

Page utilized his trademark flashy striking through the first round before landing a kick that crushed Anderson’s nose. Page dropped Anderson with a punch after the kick, but Anderson was able to survive to the end of the round. At that point, the doctor stepped in to halt the bout, a result of obvious broken bones in Anderson’s now-crushed nose.

Third place: Ben Parrish def. Christian Edwards, Bellator 266

Rounding out the top three Bellator knockouts of the year is a fight that didn’t feature a world champion or flashy superstar. Parrish entered Bellator 266 as a huge underdog, sitting as high as +800 at some sportsbooks. It took “Big Tuna” Parrish less than 40 seconds to remind everyone of a lesson men like Royce Gracie have been dolling out since the early days of MMA in America: Never judge a book by its cover.

Others receiving votes: Roman Faraldo def. Robert Turnquest (Bellator 271); Anthony Johnson def. Jose Augusto (Bellator 258); Mandel Nallo def. Ricardo Seixas (Bellator 255); Diana Avsaragova def. Tara Graff (Bellator 256)

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