Pat Curran vs. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire could be Bellator’s new big rivalry

Scott Coker

Esther Lin- MMA Fighting

The first installment of the Scott Coker era in Bellator takes place on Friday. After two lackluster events to finish season ten, the eleventh season of Bellator kicks off with a main card of appealing names. While Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Bobby Lashley are considered to be in lopsided fights, two highly competitive fights highlight the card.

Now competitive doesn’t necessarily mean technically sound. Lavar Johnson is mostly known for wanting to brawl, while Cheick Kongo hasn’t looked like himself in recent fights. As long as this fight stays on the feet, it will certainly be entertaining. When it comes to ground skills, you’re looking at two of the worst out of the group of well-known heavyweights in MMA. Things could get sloppy between both fighters, so keep your expectations at a respectable rate.

The expectation bar should be raised highly for the featherweight title bout. Pat Curran vs. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire is the first compelling main event in quite some time. While Lawal vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson had major heat behind it; both fighters have proven to be one-dimensional at this point in their respective careers.

The skill level that both fighters possess is well recognized. This main event is highly anticipated by even the biggest critics of Bellator. It seems fresh, despite this essentially being a rematch. It’s these matchups that captivate MMA fans rather than put two widely popular fighters that are steadily on the decline. For the future of Bellator, Scott Coker seems to make compelling main events for each card as a priority. You couldn’t ask for a better start to the season.

Patricio is 27 years old and looks as dangerous as ever. His lethal one-two combinations have decimated the likes of Jared Downing and Justin Wilcox. While those may be far from household names, Patricio made it look so effortless. He can get wild at times, but his fundamental one-two combinations are so precise. His pure speed overwhelms his opponents as well.

Then you have to take in account that he’s proven to be fearless and is a black belt in BJJ. There aren’t many fighters in Bellator that are more well rounded than him. What has hindered him from being champion is being a bit too predictable. His leg kicks are lethal, but he doesn’t use them enough. He likes to headhunt and that has stagnated his game to an extent.

If Patricio could mix his overall arsenal up more, he could be even more dynamic. It’s a scary proposition that could lead him towards being champion. He did look slightly fatigued in the fifth round in the first fight against Curran. I didn’t see anything significant to fully criticize his cardio, but his lack of activity did cost him in the final round. Curran won that last round purely on throwing and landing more strikes. That isn’t a major adjustment for Patricio to make compared to being more unpredictable.

While Curran is just as well rounded as Patricio, his style is far more different. That’s what makes this an even more intriguing fight, along with the personal animosity. Curran is more technically sound and unorthodox with his striking. The way he throws a high knee without jumping or using the clinch is impressive. It’s a low percentage strike, but it keeps his opponents on notice from shooting in for a wild combination or takedown.

His jab is easily his most lethal attack. There aren’t many fighters in MMA that utilize it as well as he does. Even though Patricio kept swinging for the knockout, you can see in the first fight that he began to shell up from being hit repeatedly by Curran’s jab. The jab is considered to be the most valuable weapon a fighter can have. He uses that to his advantage on a consistent basis. He looks for more volume punches than power hooks, which is another difference between both fighters

Curran still has power and displayed it through detailed timing. His knockout of Mike Ricci proved that by fainting and hitting him with a short left hand to the jaw. While he may get criticized for lacking massive knockout power, Curran usually leaves his opponent severely wounded. That comes from being more calculating rather than pushing forward throwing wild punches.

The animosity between both fighters was an odd swerve to their rivalry. Both fighters are relatively reserved and do their talking in the octagon. Patricio was wrongfully passed up for a rematch between Curran and Daniel Straus at Bellator 112. Then for Curran to have to pull out of Bellator 121 to further postpone Patricio’s well-deserved title fight. That led to Patricio questioning why Curran is always favored and used his disease to get an title shot.

Once you publicly question your opponent like that, the fight will immediately become personal. A man’s pride is being questioned and chaos will ensue. While both fighters have been quiet in recent weeks, a heated stare down will eventually lead to fans being more fired up. That’s all it will take, besides the pre-fight countdown shows on Spike.

After the past two events featured journeymen in main card fights, this will be a major boost for Bellator’s current state. They are clearly in a tough spot going up against the UFC on the same night and same town. It’s an unfortunate situation, but it’s clear that they’ve got their attention.

While this isn’t legitimate competition nor will it likely ever be, it’s promising that Scott Coker has held his ground and didn’t make a dramatic switch to a different town. With Eddie Alvarez gone from the company, there is a potential new rivalry that can take the place of Alvarez-Michael Chandler. Pitbull-Curran II could be the fight that Bellator needs to be remembered in what has been a transitional year for MMA in 2014.

Twitter: @Allen_Strk

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