Daniel Straus seemed to be on top of the world following Bellator 145. In his third match with Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, Straus used his size (5’8” vs. 5’5”) and reach (67” vs. 65.5”) to dominate the striking exchanges through four rounds, and survived a fifth round takedown where Freire was unable to secure a submission, to earn the unanimous decision.
Straus paid a heavy price for his victory, though. By the latter rounds he was noticeably wincing every time he threw a left hook or jab, to the point he switched to largely using his right and avoiding his left as much as possible. In the aftermath, Straus needed a titanium plate and six screws to repair multiple broken bones in his injured hand, some of which were described as “shattered” altogether.
As a result, the champ wouldn’t be back for a long time.
Despite an optimistic prognosis that Straus could return in late 2016, it would be almost 1.5 years before the Featherweight title was defended again. He was not the only one who would be sidelined by injuries. After stepping up to Lightweight for a “super” fight against “Smooth” Benson Henderson at Bellator 160, “Pitbull” was forced to take a medical technical knockout when Freire broke his shin after Henderson checked a kick during the bout.
By the time both men were ready to return to action, it seemed only natural for Bellator MMA to have them run it back once more. The date was April 21, 2017, the venue was Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., and the event was titled Bellator 178. For the first time in the promotion’s history, a trilogy would become a quadrilogy as long-time rivals each sought to prove they were the promotion’s true dominant Featherweight. Two of their previous three fights had gone the distance. One ended at 4:49 of the fourth round. Would this be another epic war?
In a word, no. The size advantage Straus had used so forcefully in their third bout seemed almost non-existent in the first round. Freire worked at range with speed and power and did effortless damage while avoiding any counter shots. It wasn’t a one-sided massacre by any stretch of the imagination, but the champion clearly lost the opening round and would need to regroup and reset going forward.
But, Freire never gave him that chance.
Straus once again committed one of those “mental mistakes” that has seemed to strike him at the worst possible times. He shot hard for a takedown with his head in position for a guillotine choke, and Freire didn’t just take it — he grabbed it like the “Pitbull” that he is and didn’t let go. Freire used his entire body weight to apply painful leverage that forced Straus to tap out at just 37 seconds of round two. He was all smiles in a post-fight interview with Jimmy Smith.
“It’s a dream — It’s a dream come true. This belt is for my son. It’s my gift for him. I want him to be proud of his dad, and know that I overcame a lot to bring this belt back home to Brazil and my family.”
Since the fourth fight, the trajectory of their careers has changed entirely. Freire has made three successful Featherweight title defenses and captured the Lightweight title to become a “champ-champ” for the promotion. Straus would lose his next bout by submission to rising contender Emmanuel Sanchez, then suffered a horrible motorcycle accident that nearly ended his career. While he made a successful return in his first fight back in 2019, Derek Campos eliminated him in the opening round of the Featherweight Grand Prix at Bellator 226 in Sept. 2019.
Could Straus rise like a phoenix from the ashes and return to form in such a dramatic fashion that a fifth fight between these two takes place? He’s 35 and Freire is 32, so both are certainly young enough to believe it’s possible, but first “Pitbull” has a date with Pedro Carvalho when Bellator 241 is finally rescheduled and another tournament to complete.
To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.