Anderson finally wins Bellator title in 3rd attempt

At long last, Corey Anderson can officially call himself a champion.

Anderson (18-6) claimed the vacant Bellator MMA light heavyweight title on Friday, defeating Irish challenger Karl Moore (12-3) via unanimous decision. The 205-pound fight headlined a new era in Bellator, as it was the first event of its rebranded Bellator Champions Series, following last year’s merger with PFL. The event took place at SSE Arena in Belfast.

For Anderson, it was his third attempt to win the Bellator title. He was beating former champion Vadim Nemkov in a title fight in 2022, before it ended in a no contest due to an accidental headbutt. He went on to lose to Nemkov by decision in an immediate rematch later that year. He never fought for a UFC title, despite a 10-5 mark there from 2014 to 2020.

“We finally did it,” Anderson said immediately after the win. “Momma, we made it. We didn’t quit. We got here.”

All three judges scored it a decisive victory for Anderson, awarding him scores of 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46. The 34-year-old relied almost exclusively on his wrestling advantage, taking Moore down at least once in each of the five rounds and scoring points from top position. He landed several good shots here and there, but his obvious focus was to wrestle.

Moore did well working back to his feet at times, and he neutralized Anderson’s wrestling during several long stalemates along the fence. He stunned Anderson with a left hand and left head kick in the opening round, and threatened more with the left hand in later rounds. But Anderson always found a way to slow things down when he needed with his grappling.

While a new champion was crowned in the main event, a very familiar one defended his throne in the co-main event. Two-time featherweight champion Patricio Pitbull (36-7) turned away Canadian title challenger Jeremy Kennedy (19-4) in a third-round TKO victory.

After a measured start, Pitbull fought through adversity in the third round when he got dropped by a Kennedy left hook to the chin. Kennedy tried to put him away, but Pitbull recovered well and hurt Kennedy later in the round with a right hand. Kennedy didn’t go down but he backed up against the fence, where Pitbull unloaded a barrage of strikes to the body and head to close the show.

It marked Pitbull’s first win since December 2022. He lost to bantamweight champion Sergio Pettis last year in a bid to move down in weight and capture another championship. He then lost to Chihiro Suzuki in a short notice fight in a cross promotional event in Japan in July. After the win, Pitbull called for 27-year-old contender Aaron Pico.

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