It would be hard to argue that Daniel Straus wasn’t among the most dominant Featherweights in Bellator MMA from his debut in 2011 until the trilogy fight with Patricio “Pitbull” Freire in 2015. In the most competitive and volatile weight class of the promotion, Straus amassed an impressive 10-3 record, won the season six Featherweight tournament, and capped off that tournament by defeating Pat Curran for the world title.
Unfortunately for Straus, the three losses on his record would blemish what was otherwise an incredible impressive run. One defeat came with just 14 seconds left in his defense against the former aforementioned champion, Curran, taking the gold from around his waist just as quickly as he had attained it. The other two losses came to Freire in the finals of the season four tournament, then again at Bellator 132. In an incredible case of irony, Straus was once again caught in a rear-naked choke late in the championship rounds and forced to submit.
During his run from 2010 through Bellator 145, Freire amassed his own impressive divisional record of 12-2. Each win streak he went on was longer than the previous — two fights, three fights, then an outstanding seven fights in a row, including avenging a previous loss to Curran to take the Featherweight title. His title defenses against Straus and Daniel Weichel at Bellator 138 suggested fight fans could be in for a long reign on top.
A frustrated and determined Straus had other ideas. Haunted by his two losses to “Pitbull” and dogged by the media for “mental failures” leading to losses late in championship fights, Straus vowed to prove himself on Nov. 6, 2015, at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The event was subtitled “With a Vengeance” and built around a title defense for Lightweight champ “Ill” Will Brooks and the trilogy fight between Pitbull and Straus.
Straus’ moment of redemption had finally come. This was his chance to not only prove he could finally best “Pitbull” but silence the critics who said he didn’t have the mental fortitude of a world champion. He fought like a man possessed, injuring his left hand in the process by cracking Freire’s skull multiple times. Freire was battered and bruised and down on every card heading into the fifth and final round.
It almost went South for Straus again. Despite a commanding lead and a dominant performance to that point, Freire completed a single-leg takedown and immediately took Straus’ back looking for his Kryptonite — the rear-naked choke. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted a better story than this. This was the moment Straus needed to prove he had the mental fortitude, the cojones if you will, to finally overcome adversity late in a championship fight and prove himself in front of a live crowd and global MMA audience.
“This would be an epic collapse for Daniel Straus if he lost this fight.”
Those words from commentator Jimmy Smith summed up the feelings of everyone watching perfectly. Straus got back to his feet with just over 90 seconds left and the war resumed on the feet, with both men dumping their respective gas tanks before the bell. Via a unanimous decision of 49-46 and 48-47 (twice), Straus finally exorcised his demons and defeated Freire. The world title and the trilogy fight win were both his.
Indeed, the third time was the charm.
This would not be the end of their epic saga, though. Stay tuned tomorrow for the fourth and final chapter in the historic rivalry between two of Bellator’s best Featherweights.
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