Patricio Freire thought he had done enough 18 months ago to claim the Bellator Featherweight Title from Pat Curran. Two of the three judges sitting ringside thought differently and awarded Curran the split decision victory.
Now, just two days removed from their second encounter, Freire has gained the coveted Bellator title with a unanimous decision win over Curran and has opened up a whole new realm of exciting matchups. But before one begins to think about Freire’s future bouts, it’s important to visit the past to see what made “Pitbull” the fighter he is today. I would argue that the turning point for Freire’s career was the aforementioned split decision loss to Curran. After that bout, Freire became a human buzz-saw that tore through Bellator’s featherweight division.
Freire’s first fight after losing to Curran was against relatively unknown Jared Downing at Bellator 97. This fight is a perfect example of what makes Freire a must watch fighter. In a bout that lasted just below six minutes, Freire dropped his opponent a total of five times with the fifth finishing the fight.
The bout was an excellent re-introduction to the MMA public for Freire. Not only did Friere finish the fight, he won it in an absolutely dominant fashion. The first round was easily a 10-8 round, if not a 10-7 and the finish in the second round was absolutely brutal.
From there, Friere had to find a way to top his performance against Downing. It seemed like an impossible task but Friere had a few tricks up his sleeve during Bellator’s Season 9 Featherweight Tournament.
Friere was matched up with UFC and WEC veteran Diego Nunes in the quarterfinals of the tournament. The bout was thought to be Nunes’ coming out party as many (wrongly) assumed that Nunes would win the bout just based on his UFC experience.
The bout was as short and sweet as Friere probably imagined. Just one minute and 19 seconds after the bell had rung to begin the match, Nunes was already on his back looking up at the lights wondering what happened. The finish was quick, brutal, and established Friere as a dangerous contender in the featherweight division.
Next Friere was matched up against Fabricio Guerreiro in the Bellator Featherweight Tournament semi-finals. Once again, Friere proved to be too much for his foe, soundly outstriking Guerreiro on his way to the season nine finals.
In the finals, Friere was matched up with another stiff test in the form of Strikeforce Veteran Justin Wilcox. The American Kickboxing Academy product had his ups and downs with Strikeforce, but was considered an extremely talented fighter and someone who would have a legitimate chance to claim the Bellator throne.
Unfortunately for Wilcox, it was not meant to be as Friere overwhelmed the San Jose based fighter with a multitude of hooks just two minutes and 23 seconds into their fight. The bout not only pushed Freire back into the number one contender spot, but concluded a turning point in Freire’s career. It signaled that he had become an even more dangerous fighter, a fighter fit to be a champion.
With his five round drubbing of Curran this past weekend, Freire should now set his eyes on the future. Who will be matched up with “Pitbull” for his first title defense? Most likely Freire will face Russian Magomedrasul “Frodo” Khasbulaev, who won Bellator’s Season 13 Featherweight tournament. Also on the docket could be Season 14 Featherweight Tournament winner Daniel Weichel or rematches with former champions Curran and Daniel Straus.
Any of the above mentioned bouts would be home runs for Bellator and would be the perfect way to usher in a new era for the company’s Featherweight division.
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