- Date & Location: Saturday, July 31 @ The Forum, Los Angeles, CA
- Odds: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (-125) vs. AJ McKee (+105) via BetOnline
- Prediction: Freire via knockout
On Saturday, the Bellator featherweight grand prix comes to a close when current champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire faces AJ McKee.
Freire has been with Bellator since the early days of the organization. The 34-year-old Brazilian made his debut with the promotion at Bellator 15. His record with Bellator is 20-4. He is in his second run as the 145-pound champion. He also holds the lightweight title with the organization. Freire is on a seven-fight winning streak. All of those wins have come in title fights.
McKee has literally spent his entire career with Bellator. His professional debut came with the organization in 2015. He is now 17-0. The 26-year-old is coming off a submission win over former Bellator bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell.
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FREIRE VS. McKEE PREDICTION & PICK
This matchup has got to be one of the most anticipated fights in the history of the Bellator promotion. It would not be out of line to call Freire the best fighter Bellator has ever seen. It would also not be crazy to say that McKee could be the future of the promotion.
No fighter in Bellator history has more wins, fights, or knockouts than Freire. No current fighter has a longer winning streak than McKee.
McKee is young and confident. Freire is older and battle-tested. McKee has worked his way up the rankings to get to this spot. He’s proven he belongs here. Freire has had a target on his back since he won the featherweight title seven years ago. McKee is unbeaten. Freire has had two losses since July 2013. He has fought nothing but the best Bellator has had to offer over the past eight years.
I 100 percent agree McKee is a future Bellator champion, but I think that time is in the future. I think Freire’s experience and veteran savvy allow him to hold on to the title on Saturday, but I expect to see these two face off again.
Prediction: Freire -125 via Bovada.
BETTING VALUE WITH FREIRE
McKee is a live underdog, but if he wins, I don’t see him becoming the first fighter to finish Freire. Yes, the champion has a TKO loss on his record, but that came via a leg injury. If you feel strongly that McKee will get upset, you might want to lean toward a decision.
As for Freire, his fight outcomes are pretty even. He has 11 knockouts, 12 submissions and nine decision wins. Of his seven most recent fights, Freire has two knockouts, two submissions, and three decisions.
I think McKee is going to have a lot of nervous energy in this fight and that will put him in a bad position. When that happens, I think the champ finishes the fight early with strikes.
Pick: Freire via knockout at -125 via Sportsbetting.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
My feeling is that McKee is not quite ready for this step up in competition. Yes, he has some good wins on his record, but the fighters he has beaten, have mostly been on the downside of their careers. That’s not a knock on McKee, it’s just that he’s faced those fighters at that time. I believe Freire is still in or near the prime of his career and that he is just more prepared for the pressure of the spotlight than McKee.
An example of Freire’s confidence. He could have waited for this tournament to play out and then stepped in to face the winner. Instead, Freire entered the tournament and put his title on the line in each round. That’s the sign of a confident champion, someone who believes he cannot be beaten.
FIGHT STATS: FREIRE vs. McKEE
|Patricio Freire||Category||AJ McKee|
WHAT’S AT STAKE
As I said above, this fight is an important one for both men. It will determine the featherweight champion as well as who will be the face of the promotion heading into the second half of 2021 and beyond.
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