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Bellator 99 Preview: The Featherweight Tangle

Bellator 99 Preview: The Featherweight Tangle

Some MMA fans are unhappy with Bellator coming back to a Friday time slot tomorrow. It’s a tough time for some fans to get excited about MMA on a Friday night, it seems.

Maybe they’ve got a point. Friday nights typically don’t enjoy the highest TV ratings in general, and unlike old boxing fans (like me) who grew up on Friday Night Fights, some MMA fans aren’t so used to the time slot. But maybe they can make an exception here. And, maybe Bellator 99, in Temecula, CA, and to be aired on Spike TV at 9pm PST/EST tomorrow night, is the benefit of some unexpectedly great timing, too.

With yesterday’s news that BJ Penn will campaign at featherweight in 2014, maybe there’s a renewed interest in the division. Maybe tomorrow’s opening round of Bellator’s Featherweight Tournament will be greeted with a little more excitement.

Maybe. What’s for certain? We’ve got some interesting bouts on tap, particularly the main event which features two of Brazil’s top featherweights, on free TV. (Sure, Cable TV isn’t free where I live either, but you get the idea.)

The main event will be Diego Nunes’ bout with Patricio “Pitbull” Freire in Nunes’ Bellator debut.

Known as “The Gun” for his sharpshooting kickboxing style, Nunes most recently campaigned in the UFC where he notched a 3-3 record. He’s better than that might indicate, as his loss to Kenny Florian was very close and his most recent loss was against one of the division’s rising stars in Nik Lentz.

Another misleading statistic is that each of Nunes’ last eleven fights have gone the distance. So while it might seem reasonable to expect a tepid fight from him, but this isn’t the case either: the X-Gym representative (who was also associated with Nova União earlier in his career) generally keeps the pace up with his quick kicks and fast footwork. Watch the leg kick and spinning back kick from this athlete as he keeps distance to avoid the clinch.

His opponent, Patricio “Pit Bull” Freire is a Bellator staple and there’s nothing misleading about him: simply put, he’s a beast — a knockout artist who also holds a black belt in jiu-jitsu from the Noguiera brothers. He’s 6-2 in Bellator, his only losses coming via close split decisions to Joe Warren and Pat Curran. Wind him up and watch him go: power shots standing, and an active ground game with an emphasis on top pressure.

So who has the advantage? My money’s on Patricio “Pitbull.” I recently re-watched Nunes’ bout with Manny Gamburyan from December 2011; Freire is roughly the same compact size as Gamburyan, and similarly likes to wing his overhand and left hook and dominate from top position. Nunes was mostly able to keep his distance and use his fluttering kicks effectively en route to a victory, successfully switching leads in the decisive third round. But Freire is just a bit better than Gamburyan at finding his range and mixing up his strikes. I also think he’ll have an advantage should the match hit the mat.

Whoever wins will advance in the tournament, and the rankings – both are at or near the top ten in the world. It’s a fight that’s worth a look; even on a Friday night. But we’ll have play-by-play coverage here as well.

As always, enjoy the fights!

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