For his first fight of 2019, featherweight Juan Archuleta found himself with more difficult opposition than that for which he had planned when face Ricky Bandejas at Bellator 214 this past January. But he was able to overcome that and pick up a unanimous-decision win.
Looking back on the fight, Archuleta feels an early injury altered his game plan and limited what he could do in ways, but still he was able to find a way to come out with a victory.
“I kind of blew out my knee a little bit in the first round and having to switch my game plan from staying on him and being explosive to switching it up and coming up with different strategies to win the fight,” Archuleta told MMAWeekly.com. “I thought I did what I needed to do to win the fight.
“I wish I would have gotten the finish, but Ricky was a lot tougher than we had scouted him for. Props to him for bringing it that night. It was a fun and exciting fight.”
Currently, Archuleta finds himself on a 17-fight winning streak. He feels like the team he’s assembled around him is very much responsible for continuing his evolution as a fighter and keeping him on the winning path.
“When I look at myself today and comparing it to my first fight (I‘ve grown) leaps and bounds,” said Archuleta. “The team that I’ve created and the training partners I have had have had a huge impact on my style of fighting.
“I take little bits and pieces of everyone I train with and the coaches that I work with. Being able to implement it and go into my fights what I’m practicing, I’m leaps and bounds from where I’ve been even from 2018 to now.”
On Friday in New York City, Archuleta (22-1) looks to keep his winning streak going when he faces former bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas (21-6) in a 145-pound main card bout at Bellator 222.
“I’ve never really faced anyone like Eduardo,” Archuleta said. “He brings a lot to the table; just the type of fighter he is, his athleticism, his Jiu-Jitsu, his unpredictable striking ability. It brings a different dynamic into this fight. Everything about him is world class.
“I’ve got to keep the pressure on him. I know he’s fought pressure fighters before and has lost and won against them. I don’t bring anything new to the table from his standpoint, but I am bringing something new from me in that it’s going to bring out the best of me, and I’m excited to go out and showcase it.”
For Archuleta, finding his future in either the bantamweight or featherweight division will depend on what direction Bellator takes him. With a proposed 145-pound grand prix on the horizon, Archuleta could find himself lined up with the top of the weight class in the very near future.
“For me, I’m going to take it fight by fight,” said Archuleta. “From the promotion’s standpoint, they’ve got to play (upcoming match-ups like Darrion Caldwell versus Kyoji Horiguchi) out to see what’s going to happen.
“Do they give me an invitation to the tournament? Do they give me the match-up with Caldwell? Do they take me out to RIZIN for the Bellator versus RIZIN battle at the end of the year? There’s a lot of fun stuff coming up, and I’m willing to do whatever that’s going to add to my credibility as a martial artist.”