Bellator 263 results, highlights: AJ McKee stuns Patricio Pitbull to claim featherweight title by submission

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AJ McKee's ascent to the top of the Bellator food chain was completed on Saturday night when the 26-year-old scored a submission victory over Patricio Pitbull in the main event of Bellator 263 to win the featherweight championship. McKee not only claimed the featherweight title but also won the $1 million prize for winning the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix.

The fight opened slowly, with both fighters standing at range and throwing kicks. The distance favored the much longer reach of McKee, which proved to be key less than two minutes into the opening round.

McKee threw a head kick just as Pitbull ducked down, moving his head directly into the path of McKee's leg. A few punches later, Pitbull was on the canvas and McKee began celebrating. The fight wasn't over yet, however, and McKee rushed back in to lock up a guillotine choke to force the stoppage with the technical submission coming at the 1:57 mark of Round 1.

Pitbull and his corner seemed confused by the end of the fight. Pitbull had not tapped to the choke and it was McKee who told the referee the champion had gone out to the standing guillotine, which prompted the stoppage. The result held, however, and Pitbull shared a moment with McKee in the center of the cage with the men bowing to each other and exchanging some signs of respect.

McKee, who won the title in front of a hometown crowd at The Forum in Inglewood, California, was Bellator's top prospect after debuting in 2015 and rattling off 17 straight wins coming into the Grand Prix finals.

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After adjusting to the professional fight game against lower-tier opposition, McKee took a big step up when he entered the tournament but proved to be up to the task at every turn, scoring four stoppage victories in the Grand Prix to take home the $1 million and the first championship of his career.

"Man, all my dreams are coming true," McKee said after the fight. "It's amazing. We're not done, we're just beginning. It's just getting started."

Pitbull is arguably the greatest fighter in Bellator history, having held the featherweight title on two occasions. He still holds the championship at lightweight, leaving questions as to if he'll seek a rematch with McKee in an attempt to regain the 145-pound belt or move to defending his title at 155 pounds.  

Elsewhere on the card, it was a big night for Russia as Usman Nurmagomedov, Islam Mamedov and Gadzhi Rabadanov all scored big victories. Led by coach and former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, these three took big steps forward in their development. Usman Nurmagomedov may have been the most impressive in scoring a first-round TKO over Manny Muro when he crushed his opponent with a knee and followed up with punches. The younger cousin of the former pound for pound great remains undefeated at 13-0 with 11 TKOs/submissions.

CBS Sports was with you throughout the evening for the latest updates, highlights and results from The Forum in Inglewood, California, with our live blog below. Stay tuned for updates all night long.

Bellator 263 card, results

  • AJ McKee (c) def. Patricio Pitbull via first-round submission (guillotine choke)
  • Mads Burnell def. Emmanuel Sanchez via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Usman Nurmagomedov def. Manny Muro via first-round TKO (knee and punches)
  • Islam Mamedov def. Brent Primus via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Goiti Yamauchi def. Chris Gonzalez via first-round TKO (punches)
  • Vanessa Porto def. Ilara Joanne via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
  • Gadzhi Rabadanov def. Daniel Carey via first-round TKO (punches)
  • Khasan Magomedsharipov def. Jonathan Quiroz via second-round TKO (punches)
  • Joshua Jones def. Johnny Cisneros via second-round TKO (punches)
  • Georgi Karakhanyan def. Kiefer Crosbie via first-round submission (arm-triangle choke)
  • Brian Moore def. Jordan Winski via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)
Live updates
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McKee landed a huge head kick and dropped Pitbull! McKee walked away thinking he had the fight won but the fight hadn't been stopped. McKee rushed back in and threw a knee before locking in a guillotine choke, squeezing until turning to the ref to say Pitbull was out. And he was! AJ McKee ran through Pitbull! New featherweight champion and McKee takes home the $1 million grand prix prize.

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Official result: AJ McKee def. Patricio Pitbull via submission (guillotine choke), Round 1 to win the Bellator featherweight championship.

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Patricio Pitbull (c) vs. AJ McKee -- Round 1: McKee opened with a long side kick to Pitbull's lead leg, going back to the kick a second time before throwing a standard leg kick to the thigh. McKee tried to fire a body kick and ate a big leg kick in return from Pitbull.

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McKee and Pitbull are in the cage and we're moments from getting this huge fight underway. This should be a great one between two of the best featherweights in the world. Both men are finishers and both have true well-rounded skills. This is the kind of fight MMA exists to produce.

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It's been said ad nauseam this week, but it cannot be overstated what a moment this could be for Bellator and McKee if he is able to secure the title. A win for the California native helps prove the model works where Bellator can produce its own homegrown talent. And he could do it by taking out the promotion's best fighter of all time. Big Fight Feels on deck!

August 1, 2021, 4:14 AM
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We're moving along to the main event, one of the biggest fights in Bellator history as Patricio Pitbull defends his featherweight title against AJ McKee in the finals of the World Grand Prix tournament.

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Official result: Mads Burnell def. Emmanuel Sanchez via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)

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Burnell scored another takedown while Sanchez continued landing short punches. Burnell threw a few short punches as he tried to hold Sanchez down. Sanchez tried to sweep but Burnell maintained top position, landing a few more strikes before the round -- and fight -- came to a close.

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Mads Burnell vs. Emmanuel Sanchez -- Round 3: Burnell scored with a takedown less than 30 seconds into the round and took Sanchez right back down after Sanchez nearly stood up. Burnell took Sanchez's back but Sanchez landed back elbows and punches while getting back to standing and then rolling through to end up on top in side control. Burnell managed to sweep to end back on top position before Sanchez stood again.

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Burnell tried to pass to mount but Sanchez maintained a half guard. Burnell landed a few punches on the ground before the round came to a close. Tremendous fight through two rounds.

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Sanchez got back to his feet easily and landed another crushing punch to the body. Burnell again tried to score a takedown but Sanchez managed to keep the fight standing and go back to elbows and punches to the body. Sanchez just missed with a spinning head kick. Burnell kept digging to the body with punches and scored with another takedown, this time ending up in Sanchez's full guard.

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Mads Burnell vs. Emmanuel Sanchez -- Round 2: Sanchez went right back to big flurries of punches, tagging Burnell as Burnell was happy to stand and trade while looking for more opportunities for takedowns. Sanchez landed a heavy standing elbow and Burnell threw a good body shot moments later. Burnell got inside and managed to get another takedown along the cage.

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Sanchez continued pouring on extended flurries of strikes, including more heavy punches to the body. Burnell finally drove through a takedown, getting top position and trying to advance on the ground but Sanchez managed to get back to his feet and land a big uppercut. Burnell scored with another takedown late in the round but not with enough time to do anything before time expired.

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Mads Burnell vs. Emmanuel Sanchez -- Round 1: Sanchez came out throwing a steady diet of punches and a few head kicks but ate a Burnell leg kick early. Sanchez was the higher-volume striker while Burnell continued to throw low calf kicks. Sanchez dug to the body hard with a left hand. Burnell landed a good overhand right of his own and Sanchez fired back with a good flurry.

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Mads Burnell vs. Emmanuel Sanchez is up next. The featherweight bout is the night's co-main event.  

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Nurmagomedov moved to mount before Muro gave up his back again. Muro managed to spin out and get back to standing. Nurmagomedov landed a huge knee to the body and Muro collapsed in a heap. Nurmagomedov followed up with big hammerfists on the fight to close the show. Impressive stuff from Nurmagomedov. Official result: Usman Nurmagomedov def. Luis Muro via TKO, Round 1

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Usman Nurmagomedov vs. Luis Muro -- Round 1: Nurmagomedov threw a body kick to open the fight and Muro caught it before eating a follow-up kick moments later. Nurmagomedov just missed with a head kick but landed the next one, thrown just seconds later. Another head kick landed and Nurmagomedov took Muro down as Muro tried to charge forward. Nurmagomedov immediately moved to take the back as Muro stood up. Nurmagomedov worked for more takedowns before putting Muro on his back with the third effort.

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We now move along to Usman Nurmagomedov vs. Luis Muro. Nurmagomedov is the cousin of UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov and is considered a serious prospect in the sport, though his Bellator debut was a bit flat and he'll be looking to show a bit more this time out.

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Official result: Islam Mamedov def. Brent Primus via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

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Islam Mamedov vs. Brent Primus -- Round 3: Primus slipped on the first kick of the round and Mamedov jumped on top. Mamedov then picked up Primus and carried him to the cage. Primus, as he'd done all fight, continued going for a variety of submissions. Mamedov threw some short punches while Primus landed an elbow off his back. Primus tried for another omoplata and an armbar but Mamedov continued to defend well enough, even if he didn't do much of anything effective with his offense. These will be some interesting scorecards.

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Primus continued to threaten with submissions, trying to lock in a gogoplata before switching to an omoplata. Primus switched to a kimura attempt, completely nullifying the top game of Mamedov with the constant submission attempts as the second round ended.

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