The inaugural Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship 135-pound titleholder Dat Nguyen and the current lightweight kingpin Luis Palomino have unfinished business that they need to sort out as soon as possible.
In the co-main event of BKFC 22, Nguyen (3-1 BKFC) went inches away from making history and becoming the first fighter to win the title in two different weight classes in BKFC. While “Dat Be Dat” wouldn’t have been a double champion like Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Conor McGregor, Amanda Nunes, Daniel Cormier, or Henry Cejudo, he would have joined the short-listed club of two-division titleholders in combat sports — think about the likes of Randy Couture, B.J. Penn, or Georges St. Pierre. However, he dropped a unanimous decision to one-time Xtreme Fighting Championships 145-pound number one Palomino (4-0 BKFC) that night, postponing his glory dreams.
The only certainty that emerged from the BKFC 22 co-headliner is that nobody can question Nguyen’s heart. The inaugural 135-pound champion moved up two weight classes to face Palomino. His championship run started after outpointing Johnny Bedford at Bare Knuckle FC KnuckleMania in a barnburner that will go down as one of the best showdowns in organizational history. Truth to be said, he never lost his title in-ring, but he had to vacate it after failing to reach a deal on a new contract. Long-time combat-sport fans will recall something very similar happened when UFC champion B.J. Penn relinquished his welterweight title immediately after capturing it in 2004 due to a contractual dispute with the Nevada-based promotion.
The situation escalated quickly, and it led to the point where the promotion stripped him in June. A new kingpin was crowned at BKFC 6 on June 22, where UFC alum and former lightweight championship tournament winner Johnny Bedford upended Reggie Barnett, Jr. via unanimous decision to capture the vacant belt. In the meantime, the organization and Nguyen reached a new deal for another three fights and offered him a shot at Palomino’s championship immediately after. While the judges’ scorecards looked pretty one-sided with 49-46, 48-47, and 50-45 in favor of Palomino, the clash looked way more close than that. In fact, someone might even argue that the 39-year-old Nguyen won that contest.
First, the National Golden Gloves medalist brought more volume on the table than “Baboon.” Palomino, in his turn, had his moments — especially a well-timed uppercut in the fourth frame — but never looked to put in real danger the challenger with his brawling style, not even during the last foray he attempted right before the end of the official time. Secondly, “Dat Be Dat” put the defending champion on the back foot most of the time, even though Palomino had a considerable reach and size advantage. As much as the fight might have looked close to fans, ultimately the judges rewarded Palomino with his third title defense — a pretty remarkable accomplishment by BKFC standards —, while Nguyen felt the sour taste of defeat for the first time in a bare-knuckle clash. In defeat, the Vietnam-born fighter looked good even though aging seems to be increasingly taking its toll on his movement and footwork.
The shape of his glory days when the Miracle Boxing Academy standout stopped up-and-coming prospect Miguel Flores by TKO in the sixth stanza in his most significant boxing victory might be behind him, but he can still put on a show to entertain the fans. The pair looked willing to go for it even after the final bell, and the fans deserve to see a rematch between these two right now. Neither Nguyen nor Palomino had ever hidden the distaste for each other, the best thing for everyone is to have a clear winner once and for all. Nguyen already plans to call out Conor McGregor in case of victory, hoping that the “Notorious” would embark on a new adventure and join him inside the Squared Circle. While it's hard to see it happening any time soon, “Dat Be Dat” might be on his way to becoming the first BKFC two-division champion ever.