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Rizin's Kyoji Horiguchi beats Darrion Caldwell to win Bellator bantamweight title

Japan's Kyoji Horiguchi, top, grapples with Darrion Caldwell

Japan's Kyoji Horiguchi, top, grapples with Darrion Caldwell during the second round of a bantamweight championship mixed martial arts bout at Bellator 222 on Friday, June 14, 2019, at Madison Square Garden. Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

The Darrion Caldwell-Kyoji Horiguchi rematch at Bellator 222 has its significance. It's Caldwell, the Bellator bantamweight champion, defending that title against Horiguchi, the Rizin bantamweight champion in Japan, in a cross-promotional bout.

Two champions, two promotions, zero prominence on the marquee and marketing materials. Those spots went to the welterweight championship main-eventers Rory MacDonald and Neiman Gracie and co-main eventers Lyoto Machida and Chael Sonnen.

“It’s a little disrespectful, but it is what it is,” Caldwell said earlier this week. “I think it makes for a better fight when the best fighter on the card is opening up.”

Caldwell opened up the first round with some excitement as he used his length to land several solid kicks. But for the majority of the fight, Caldwell would get Horiguchi to the ground and then stay there on his knees without advancing much. While Horiguchi was seated against the cage for most of the fight, he was able to land strikes. And he was able to win a unanimous decision and take the Bellator bantamweight title from Caldwell (13-3). The judges scored the bout, 48-47, 49-46, in favor of Horiguchi.

All three judges scored the first round for Caldwell. One judge gave him the second round as well. All other rounds were scored for Horiguchi (28-2).

During fight week, Horiguchi, Bellator president Scott Coker and Rizin CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara each said that should Horiguchi take the Bellator title, the plan would be to defend both belts. Horiguchi had defended his Rizin title last December by beating Caldwell via third-round submission.

"Now that I’m champion of both promotions," Horiguchi said after the fight. "I’d like to continue to represent Bellator and Rizing and continue to fight the best in the world."

New York Sports