Bellator 241: “Pitbull vs. Carvalho” comes to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., tomorrow night (Fri., March 13, 2020) streaming live online via DAZN. The “champ-champ,” Patricio Freire, puts his 145-pound title on the line in the main event against Pedro Carvalho in one of two Featherweight Grand Prix match ups for the “Elite 8.”
This card had been postponed until further notice due to the coronavirus pandemic.
145 lbs.: Patricio Freire (30-4) vs. Pedro Carvalho (11-3)
Patricio “Pitbull” Freire allegedly chose Pedro Carvalho for this fight because he’s a loud mouth. Frankly, when I think of mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters who sell wolf tickets, Carvalho’s not even Top 10, but I guess associating with SBG Ireland can get you a reputation. Let’s be real, though, Maniacs, there’s a completely different reason Freire chose Carvalho and it’s one he couldn’t admit to even knowing it’s the truth — a first class ticket to the Featherweight Grand Prix “Final 4.”
Look, on paper, Carvalho is “not bad.” He’s won six straight fights. He’s dispatched several tough, durable opponents in Derek Campos and Sam Sicilia in back-to-back bouts. He’s got two wins by knockout and six by submission. If Carvalho was fighting for any smaller organization anywhere in the country, he’d have already had a “world title” for that promotion by now. At only 24 years old, it would even be fair to argue that he’s the future of the division and “Pitbull” is the past.
Now, put that all on a piece of paper, crumple it up, and throw it backward over your shoulder into the trash bin. That’s because Freire has always had the odds against him. He’s small for a Featherweight (5’6”). He has to travel a long distance from Brazil to the United States for all of his fights. Everybody in two weight divisions wants a piece of him. None of that matters. In 30 wins he has 10 knockouts, 11 submissions and nine decisions. Where can you find an advantage in those numbers? The truth is you can’t. Stand in front of “Pitbull” and you’ll lose. Even if you have height and reach, he hits harder and faster. Go to the ground and you’re in big trouble. Try to out last him to the final bell and his cardio will win out.
It’s not that Carvalho isn’t a future champion, it’s just that you can’t give up the kind of world class experience Patricio Freire has by comparison and expect to be victorious.
Final prediction: Patricio Freire via second round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Daniel Weichel (40-11) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (19-4)
If this card wasn’t already stacked with one tournament bout, take a cue from the late Ernie Banks: “Let’s play two!” This one is a rematch of a fight from Bellator 159, which Weichel took by split decision, leading Sanchez to vow to erase that blemish from his record. Considering he also wants a second chance at the world title after losing a unanimous decision to “Pitbull” two years ago, he needs to stay focused on the task at hand just to get to that fight later on.
Weichel is underrated going into this bout. He lost tough back-to-back fights to the champ and to master submission artist Goiti Yamauchi by split decision, and going the distance with either is a feat in itself. With more than 50 professional bouts under his belt, “Drake” Weichel not only boasts the most experience of any competitor in this tournament, he may be the only one who can say he came close to beating the champ TWICE. It took Daniel Straus three tries to get it done, so Weichel may be betting he’s got it all figured out.
In size and stature Weichel has always been an interesting match up for Sanchez, standing an inch taller at 5”10,” but giving up five inches in reach at 71 inches. That forces Weichel to cut angles and get in and out quickly, and the younger Sanchez (29 to 35) will undoubtedly be focused on his footwork and precision striking. With an addition two rounds to work with Sanchez could each choose to dump the gas tank and finish early, or be patient and grind Weichel down in the closing rounds. After their first bout I favor the latter.
Final prediction: Emmanuel Sanchez via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Paul Daley (42-17-2) vs. Sabah Homasi (13-8)
Paul “Semtex” Daley has had a return to form in his last two fights, taking a decision win over the resilient Erick Silva and scoring a technical knockout over Saad Awad at Bellator 232. The question that will always been on your mind with Daley though is how long he can continue at this pace as he nears 40 (currently 37) with almost 100 combined fights between boxing and kickboxing in his career. Even though Sabah Homasi is six years younger he seems to be a tailor made opponent for Daley. He’s a tall skinny Middleweight at 6’0” with a 72-inch reach, while Daley is a squat muscular 5’9” with a 76-inch reach. Given Daley’s prodigious punching power (31 of 42 MMA wins by knockout) and Homasi’s own tendencies (nine of 13 via knockout) they will stand and bang and in those cases Daley almost always wins the exchange.
Final prediction: Paul Daley via first round knockout
185 lbs.: Anatoly Tokov (29-2) vs. Fabio Aguiar (17-1)
Despite being unbeaten in his Bellator tenure over five fights, Anatoly Tokov may still be a mystery to all but the most hardcore MMA followers. Fighting on a DAZN only card may not help matters but it’s another chance to exert dominance in a Middleweight division that’s suddenly wide open thanks to Rafael Lovato Jr. relinquishing the title. Tokov is a Russian version of the aforementioned Daley — a thick muscular 185 lb. fighter standing 5’10” with knockout power (16 of 29) and a submission game too (seven of 29). In a case of deja vu his opponent Fabio Aguiar is also taller (6’0”) and skinnier with an equal penchant for striking (nine of 17 wins). Will the result ultimately be similar as well? Most likely.
Final prediction: Anatoly Tokov via second round technical knockout
265 lbs.: Matt Mitrione (13-7, 1 NC) vs. Ronny Markes (19-7)
After an undisclosed medical issue bounced Josh Barnett from this card, Bellator MMA was forced to find a last minute replacement for his fight with Ronny Markes. Thankfully Matt Mitrione was able to step up with about a week to go, but that’s certainly easier for a Heavyweight to do than most fighters who worry about their weight cut. The last few years have not been kind to him though — he lost a tournament bout to Ryan Bader, had a fight end in a no contest, then suffered a technical knockout loss in the rematch in part because he forgot his mouthpiece. Hopefully he remembered to pack it this time. Markes is only 1-2 in his last three bouts as well, but did score a technical knockout win at his last fight for PFL in 2019. Being 10 years the younger of the two at 31, I think Father Time will be on Markes’ side.
Final prediction: Ronny Markes wins via first round knockout
155 lbs.: Nick Newell (16-3) vs. Zach Zane (14-9)
I was a believer in Nick Newell during his World Series of Fighting days. He ran up a perfect 11-0 record right until he ran into Justin Gaethje, and then he was on the wrong side of a one-sided ass whooping. He’s got advantages in areas that you wouldn’t expect until you examine the details. Not having a full left arm makes it harder for opponents to grapple with him standing, and not having the heft of that arm allows him to be more muscular in all other areas and still meet the Lightweight division pound limit. If you’ve ever been bashed by his shoulder or stump on that side you know just how strong he is. The flip side is what we saw in his last fight — take him down and you can make him miserable trying to get back up. He has one less hand to push off the canvas with, to punch an opponent in the face with, to grab a limb for a submission or a sweep with. Zane has only lost two of his last twelve fights, so while Newell’s record looks better on paper, it did against Manny Muro going into that fight as well.
Final prediction: Zach Zane by unanimous decision
That’s a wrap!
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