- What: Bellator Lightweight World Grand Prix Quarter-Finals
- Who: A.J. McKee vs. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire
- Date: Saturday, July 29, 2023
- Location: Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan
- Time: 11:00 p.m. ET
- How to Watch: Showtime
One match remains in the quarter-final round of the Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix. That contest takes place on Saturday, July 29, when Bellator heads to Japan for the Bellator MMA vs. Rizin 2 card at Saitama Super Arena. Headlining the card is a bout between former Bellator featherweight champion A.J. McKee and ex-Bellator lightweight titleholder, Patricky “Pitbull” Freire. The winner of the high-profile contest moves on to the semi-final round of the Grand Prix event. Here is some background on the Bellator MMA vs. Rizin 2 main event fighters before we discuss the betting breakdown for McKee vs. Pitbull.
A.J. McKee (20-1) won the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix and the promotion’s 145-pound title in July 2021 when he defeated Patricio “Pitbull” Freire via technical submission. However, McKee surrendered the title and suffered his first career loss in the April 2022 rematch with Pitbull. Since that loss, McKee is 2-0 with decision wins over Spike Carlyle and Robert de Souza.
Patricky “Pitbull” Freire (24-11) is the older brother of Patricio Freire. A former Bellator lightweight world champion, Freire has struggled as of late. In his past four fights, he has gone 1-3. That run included winning the vacant 155-pound title by TKO over Peter Quelly and then losing the belt to Usman Nurmagomedov in his most recent fight.
Bellator MMA vs. Rizin 2 Main Event: A.J. McKee vs. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire betting picks
A.J. McKee vs. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire betting breakdown
It’s not an exaggeration to compare the 28-year-old A.J. McKee to all-time UFC great Jon Jones. McKee, who has been with Bellator since he made his pro-MMA debut in April 2015, is one of the game’s most talented and dynamic fighters. He is excellent at every aspect of MMA. He brings a deep striking arsenal into the cage. McKee can mix up his attacks and targets. This allows him to keep his opponents off balance and guessing as to what is coming their way. McKee also has outstanding wrestling and a deep submission game to go with exceptional cardio and a high fight IQ.
Before his recent rough patch, the 37-year-old Pitbull Freire put together an enviable run between January 2016 and December 2019. During that nearly four-year period, Freire went 9-1, with his only loss being a June 2016 knockout defeat at the hands of Michael Chandler in a Bellator lightweight title fight. Pitbull has a black belt in jiu-jitsu and a strong ground game, but he doesn’t use his grappling all that much. If the bout goes to the ground, Pitbull is defensively sound and will be able to thwart the submission attempts of McKee and stave off a submission. Freire’s best bet in this fight is to come out aggressive and use his striking power to surprise his opponent. That will be a tough task against someone as well-trained as McKee, but Pitbull has 16 knockout wins, several of which have come via his dangerous flying knee.
A.J. McKee vs. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire: Who has the edge?
McKee is the better all-around fighter in this matchup, and he is still in his prime. However, Pitbull will not be a pushover. While his record is not great as of late, and he did get run over by Usman Nurmagomedov in his most recent fight, Freire remains a threat, especially against opponents who might overlook or underestimate him. If he can get inside and launch a power punch or land a flying knee, Pitbull can turn out the lights. I expect McKee to be ready for everything Freire brings to this contest.
McKee has the advantage in height, reach, skills, and cardio in this Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix matchup.
A.J. McKee vs. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire: What’s at stake?
The first three fights of the Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix have taken place. The semi-final bout between Usman Nurmagomedov and Brent Primus is set. The winner of McKee vs. Pitbull moves on to the next round of the tournament to face Alexandr Shabliy, who defeated Tofiq Musayev via TKO to move to the next round of the Grand Prix.
Best Bets for Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix: A.J. McKee vs. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire
While McKee is not as big of a betting favorite over Pitbull as Nurmagomedov was, he is still a substantial favorite to win this matchup. Freire has ways to beat McKee, but to do so, Pitbull will need to catch McKee in a mistake, which is very rare for the nearly perfect former Bellator champion. My betting pick for the final fight in the Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix quarter-final round is McKee to win via decision. There is some betting value in choosing McKee to pick up a submission win in the second half of the fight, but that is a risky bet to make.
For those willing to take a flyer on the ex-lightweight champion, there is some betting value in picking Pitbull to win via knockout, but I don’t encourage a substantial wager on that outcome.
Best A.J. McKee vs. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire betting pick: McKee to beat Pitbull via decision.
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