- Date & Location: Friday, April 2 @ Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT
- Odds: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (-265) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (+260) via BetOnline
- Prediction: Freire via decision
On Friday, two-division Bellator champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire puts his featherweight title on the line in the semifinal round of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix when he meets former title challenger Emmanuel Sanchez. The two first faced off in November 2018. Freire successfully defended his title in that matchup with a unanimous decision win. The scores in that scrap were 48-46, 48-47, and 48-47 in favor of the champ.
Freire is in his second stint as Bellator 145-pound champion. His first title run began in September 2014 and lasted until November 2015. He defended the title twice during that run. Freire got the title back in April 2017. He has defended the belt four times since then, including wins in the first two rounds of the current grand Prix. Freire captured the lightweight crown in 2019. He has not defended that title.
Sanchez is 7-1 since January 2017. His only loss during that stretch was his decision setback to Freire. He is coming off a decision victory over Daniel Weichel, who has two losses to Freire in featherweight title fights.
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FREIRE vs. SANCHEZ PREDICTION & PICK
If you ask people in the know, they will not be afraid to tell you just how special a fighter Freire is. His only loss in the past five years came in 2016 to former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. That fight came a few months after Henderson went five rounds at welterweight for the Bellator 170-pound title.
Three years after that loss, Freire scored a first-round TKO win to grab the Bellator 155-pound crown from Michael Chandler, yes, the same Michael Chandler who will be fighting for the UFC lightweight title. Freire is criminally overlooked because of the attention fans pay to the UFC. According to MMA Junkie, Freire is the fourth-best featherweight in MMA behind UFC champion Alexander Volkanovski, former UFC champion Max Holloway and UFC title challenger Brian Ortega. Some would rank him higher.
Sanchez is no slouch. He might not appear in the MMA Junkie rankings, but he is the third-ranked 145-pounder in the Bellator rankings and he has not lost since he went five rounds with Freire in 2018. Outside of A.J. McKee, Sanchez has the best chance to defeat Freire. The problem with that is that McKee doesn’t have a good chance to top Freire and Sanchez has an even smaller chance.
Sanchez is good, but Freire is the best featherweight to ever compete for Bellator. He’s just better everywhere than every other fighter in his weight class. Freire has no glaring weaknesses. It’ll make perfect performance to beat him and even then, there’s no guarantee his opponent will get his hand raised.
Prediction: Freire -270 via GTBets
BETTING VALUE WITH FREIRE
I’m very comfortable picking Freire to win and win by decision, but at -280, there’s not a lot of value in that bet. I feel it’s a safe bet, but one will have to decide if it’s worth it to put down that kind of money for a win. Freire has 22 stoppage wins (11 knockout and 11 submissions) and nine decision victories, so if you feel like he can get a stoppage, a prop bet might be a better value. The problem with that is that three of those decisions came in his last five outings. Freire is better than his competition, but he’s been at the top for long enough that his opponents have been training specifically for him and the gap between Freire and other Bellator featherweights is closing and that’s why I’m going with Freire by decision.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
Freire has the edge everywhere in this fight, except in the jiu-jitsu. The problem with that is for Sanchez to employ his ground game, he has to get through the striking of his opponent and I don’t think he can get Freire to the mat and I don’t think Freire will put go to the ground with Sanchez outside of following him thereafter a knockdown.
Freire has been too dominant and too consistent for too long and he’s already seen what Sanchez can do. Outside of Freire walking into the cage with a lingering injury, I just can’t bet against him here.
FIGHT STATS: FREIRE vs. SANCHEZ
|Patricio Freire||Category||Emmanuel Sanchez|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
For Freire, his title is on the line as well as a trip to the Grand Prix final. Freire is already considered the featherweight and maybe the best fighter in Bellator history, to fall short of winning the Grand Prix would be a terrible blow to his ego, career, and legacy.
If Sanchez can defeat Freire, he will take control of the Grand Prix and he’ll have the momentum and confidence that could make him the favorite in the Grand Prix final.
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