Bellator 209: “Pitbull vs. Sanchez” airs tomorrow night (Fri., Nov. 16, 2018) from Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Paramount Network via tape delay. The main event will see a multi-time Featherweight champion put his title and respect on the line against a fast rising divisional star.
Let’s break it down:
145 lbs.: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (27-4) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (17-3)
Heavy is the burden for the man who wears the crown, and Patricio Freire has worn it twice now, so the “Pitbull” is used to other dogs nipping at his heels. Having successfully defended his title in a rematch in Italy earlier this year, Freire finally gets his wish of a new opponent instead of a rematch in Emmanuel Sanchez. Has the dog of the division perhaps bitten off more than he can chew?
“El Matador” should not be taken lightly. He’s won four in a row and seven of his last eight dating back to 2015, with his only loss in that time coming via split decision against the same man Freire just beat — Daniel Weichel. The 28 year old stands 5’9” with a 76” reach, which puts him a literal head and shoulders above Freire at 5’5” with a 65” reach. Those seem like mighty tall odds, pun intended.
Fortunately for Freire he has a long history of ignoring the odds and beating bigger divisional opponents. Being compact may make for a disadvantage in the reach, but it makes for an advantage in his muscular physique and his speed in the cage, allowing him to negate a reach advantage in most cases and land powerful blows, knocking out nine of his foes. He’s also submitted 11 opponents which makes him just as dangerous on the ground. Sanchez knows a thing or two about submissions as well, garnering the majority of his finishes that way (seven) versus just one knockout.
Freire has only lost two times since 2013 though with one being a fluke injury. As noted size and reach mean little to “Pitbull” and he’s more than willing to take it on the chin if he can land a harder one in return. Since Sanchez isn’t known for his knockout power, the reach advantage is not nearly as much of a disadvantage as it looks like on paper. The best chance Sanchez has for success is to take Freire down repeatedly, but it’s risky business to let a Brazilian work jiu-jitsu off his back. I expect this to be a hard fought war regardless of the winner but there’s little doubt in my mind as to who it will be.
Final prediction: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire retains via fourth round rear naked choke
170 lbs.: Haim Gozali (8-5) vs. Ryan Couture (11-6)
I’m not sure this would be a marquee fight anywhere other than Israel. With all due respect to the Israeli Defense Forces veteran he’s 45 years old and and has lost two of his last three Bellator bouts. The only reason to give him this fight is a chance to avenge his loss at Bellator NYC against Ryan Couture in front of a very partisan Tel Aviv crowd. The problem for Couture is that it’s hard to turn down the fight given he’s lost three of his last four and looked pretty bad against Saad Awad. That said my prediction is virtually the same as the last time these two fought - Gozali is an old man in a young man’s sport and Couture is the better wrestler of the two. Home turf or not the result should be the same.
Final prediction: Ryan Couture wins a unanimous decision
205 lbs: Phil Davis (19-4, 1 NC) vs. Vadim Nemkov (9-2)
Even though Phil Davis would also like to avenge a Bellator NYC loss, the presence of Ryan Bader in the Heavyweight Grand Prix has prevented that from happening. If he picks up a third straight win here it may be hard to deny him the trilogy fight with Bader for much longer given Nemkov’s impressive record coming in. With eight of his nine wins coming by knockout and a one-sided destruction of former champ Liam McGeary in the books, Nemkov is the man with momentum coming in. Can the six foot Russian outbox the 6’1” wrestler? Possibly. Can he stop the four time NCAA All-American from taking him down? Not likely. In addition Davis’ striking is underrated and as good as Nemkov may be he may not want to go toe to toe with a “Wonderful” striker out of the Alliance MMA camp. The Davis game plan should be to wear Nemkov down and then light him up standing late.
Final prediction: Phil Davis scores another third round knockout
145 lbs.: Olga Rubin (4-0) vs. Cindy Dandois (12-3)
Here we have another local favorite getting the rub on TV as the undefeated Olga Rubin takes on the much more experienced Cindy Dandois. Rubin is a quality striker thus far in her career, earning three of four wins by knockout, but the “Battlecat” from Belgium has four straight wins coming in to face her. With career wins over Marloes Coenen, Megan Anderson and Anjela Pink, Dandois has both faced and beaten higher caliber competition than Rubin and that experience is going to prove to be a detriment to the home state hero.
Final prediction: Cindy Dandois submits Olga Rubin in round two
265 lbs.: Adam Keresh (1-0) vs. Kirill Sidelnikov (11-5)
Between their respective records and the fact this is a Heavyweight bout I don’t think much needs to be said about this fight. Unless Sidelnikov tests positive for Stanozolol again he’s winning this fight — and even if he does that just means it’s being overturned to a no contest.
Final prediction: Kirill Sidelnikov wins with a first round knockout
That’s a wrap!
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