Bellator’s P4P number one, Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire faces off against Emmanuel Sanchez in the semi-final of the Featherweight Grand Prix. The two elite 145lber’s previously fought in 2018, with Freire picking up the unanimous decision victory. However, since then, Sanchez has picked up three consecutive victories against high-level competition.
The first fight was electric and both men have only improved since. It promises to be a barn burner once again.
Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire: 31-4
The nickname Pitbull must strike fear into nearly every fighter in the Bellator 155 and 145lb divisions. Both Patricio and his older brother Patricky have been near unstoppable during their runs for the organization. Whilst Patricky may be an exceptional fighter in his own right, it is Patricio that truly looks near unbeatable.
Patricio Pitbull is a lethal striker. The hooks he throws have so much power behind them. And yet, he does not fight like a brawler. His KO finish over Diego Nunes see’s Patricio take 3 steps back as his opponent presses forward. Then as Nunes starts pursuing him, Pitbull changes his trajectory and lands a devastating left hook as Nunes runs on to it.
However, should he drop his opponent, then you really see why he was given the nickname ‘Pitbull’. Patricio will swarm on his opponents, landing savage ground and pound whilst continuously maintaining top position. And to top it off, he has a top-level submission game. He caught both Henry Corrales and Daniel Strauss with wicked near-identical guillotines, both starting from a standing position. There is also his iconic Bellator debut where he transitioned from a stacked guard to an inverted heel hook.
There is a reason why Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire is Bellator’s pound for pound number 1. fighter.
Emmanuel ‘El Matador’ Sanchez: 20-4
Emmanuel Sanchez has proven time and time again that he is one of Bellator’s 145lb elite. While he hasn’t shown the one-punch knockout power his opponent possesses, he more than makes up for it with his volume. Sanchez’s quarter-final bout against Daniel Weichel was a great showcase of the relentless combinations of strikes that Sanchez is capable of throwing. He does not discriminate when it comes to shot placement either, landing body head combinations at will on Weichel.
Another major tool Sanchez employs is his use of kicks. Once again, he is happy to throw a variety of different kicks at different target areas. Brutal low leg kicks will debilitate his opponent’s movement while body roundhouses sap their stamina. He will also throw a roundhouse to the head off the back of a boxing combination, obscuring his foes vision with a jab, straight, before bringing up the left high kick.
Sanchez also possesses an exceptionally good chin. He has never lost a bout via KO and fights like a man who is supremely confident in not getting dropped.
Whilst Sanchez is primarily a striker, the majority of his finishes come by way of submission. However, these are usually only utilized after his opponent has taken him down. It is worth noting that he was able to land a beautiful takedown against Freire in round four.
The first fight was a war, and the rematch will likely follow suit. Sanchez was actually able to drop Freire to a knee in the first round of their original bout. However, after his initial success in the first round, Freire really took over the fight. Even when Sanchez landed the aforementioned trip takedown, Freire used a floating half guard to elevate Sanchez into a high crotch single leg. The fight also came close to being finished in the fifth after Pitbull cracked Sanchez with that devastating left hook.
A war of attrition may be Sanchez’s best route to victory. Chopping up Freire’s legs with low calf kicks could really pay dividends in the later rounds of the fight. The body shots that worked so well against Weichel could also be an effective tool. Although it will be hard for Sanchez to pressure Freire against the cage as he did against Weichel, with the threat of pitbull’s counter shots always looming.
With Pitbull, he now knows Sanchez can be hurt. It came extremely close in the 5th round of their previous fight. Taking his time and looking for those openings that Sanchez leaves could yield devastating results. As mentioned above, ‘El Matador’ sometimes throws combinations without the defensive savvy that a fighter with a KO on their record might. There will definitely be moments for Pitbull to land that devastating right hand.
Bellator 255 will take place on April 2nd. The headline bout will, of course, be between Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire and Emmanuel Sanchez. The co-headline bout will be between Usman Nurmagomedov and Mike Hamel.
Who do you see winning this exciting matchup? Let us know in the comments.