Bellator 302 Co-Main Event Breakdown

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It’s been four months since Bellator MMA held its last numbered event. A week prior to Thanksgiving, Wintrust Arena in Chicago played host to Bellator 301, what would prove to be the last numbered event on Showtime as the Paramount Global-owned premium cabler announced earlier last fall that it would be leaving combat sports behind after 2023 in order to focus on scripted offerings.

Just a few days later, the sale of Bellator to the Professional Fighters League would be finalized, with Paramount Global retaining a minority stake in the promotion as part of the acquisition. Four weeks ago, the much-anticipated PFL vs. Bellator: Champs card was held in Saudi Arabia. This Friday, not everybody in the world will be watching the second full day of March Madness.

While most US-based sports fans will have their eyes peeled on how their brackets are holding up as they pretend to be sick, combat sports fans the world over will be focused on Belfast, Northern Ireland for an MMA matinee.Β  Bellator is back!

Bellator Champions Series Starts Friday with Bellator 302 Co-Main Event

Bellator’s first numbered card post-sale takes place on Friday afternoon (US time) with Bellator 302, the start of the promotion’s new Champions Series. Live coverage of Bellator 302 begins Friday at 1 pm ET/ 10 am PT and will feature a slate of 11 fights.

Bellator 302 will be available in a number of international markets on DAZN. As of this writing, there’s still no word on an American media designation for the show, though news on that front will drop later this week.

Two championship fights will top the bill, beginning with the Bellator 302 co-main event for the featherweight title. Incumbent Bellator MMA Featherweight Champion Patricio Pitbull (35-7 MMA, 23-6 Bellator) returns to defend his strap against No. 3 contender Jeremy Kennedy (19-3, 1 NC MMA, 4-1 Bellator).

As with all championship fights in Bellator, this one is an advertised maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round.

Bellator 302 Co-Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds

Heading into the Bellator 302 co-main event this Friday, challenger Jeremy Kennedy stands as the taller contestant at 5-foot-11, compared to the 5-foot-6 frame of Patricio Pitbull. Kennedy owns a 5 1/2-inch reach advantage (71Β  inches even to 65 1/2 inches) over Pitbull. No leg reach advantage information was accessible at press time.

Currently, the oddsmakers have Patricio Pitbull installed as a -150 favorite on the money line, while Jeremy Kennedy counters as a +120 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.

Pitbull Making Return After Surgery

Patricio Pitbull, also known as Patricio Freire, has posted a record of 3-2 over his last five fights. At present, he’s on a two-fight losing streak.

Last time out, he sustained a first-round knockout against Chihiro Suzuki (12-3, 1 NC MMA) during Super Rizin 2 on July 30, 2023. Pitbull was supposed to have made his return last month during the PFL vs. Bellator event but his originally-scheduled opponent, Jesus Pinedo, was forced out due to a back injury. Subsequently, he was rebooked to face Gabriel Alves Braga, only for that pairing to come undone at the weigh-ins on Feb. 23 after the latter was declared unfit to fight.

When Pitbull does return on Friday, it’ll be his first fight since he underwent a procedure to repair slipped discs in the spine. He explained the aftereffects of the surgery with Shakiel Mahjouri before the postponed fight last month.

“Once you have surgery, nothing gets back to the way it was before,” Pitbull began. “So I’ll never be like I used to be before I had the injury and surgery. But I still have KO power. I’m almost 100 percent ready and I’m ready and able to fight.”

He’s seen two opponents bow out due to circumstances beyond his control. Will Pitbull defend the belt in Belfast?

Jeremy Kennedy Returns after 13 Months Out

In the other corner, Jeremy Kennedy has gone 4-1 in his last five bouts. Currently, he’s on a three-fight winning streak, one that was extended in February of last year with a unanimous decision over Pedro Carvalho (13-8 MMA, 6-5 Bellator).

Recently, Kennedy talked with Kevin Iole about the co-main event.

“It got to a point where waiting longer was going to be detrimental,” Kennedy mentioned. If I was going to wait for Pitbull to fight and then have to wait until the summer, that’s a year and a half of sitting while healthy, while hungry, so I was like, ‘You know what? I’ll earn it again.’ Just give me another No. 1 contender fight. That’s where (James) Gallagher in Belfast, it was billed as No. 1 contender. I was just not even taking a step backwards, it was just a lateral step. It was a fight for me to go earn again, to compete again, stay active. Of course, anything can happen, but I know I had to win that fight to get the opportunity again, and then the timing hopefully would have worked out better, but it all came full circle.”

He’s been away for over a year. Can Kennedy shake off the ring rust and become the new champ at 145?

Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction

Stylistically, the Bellator 302 co-main event looks to favor Patricio Pitbull, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, compared to Jeremy Kennedy’s brown belt in BJJ. Expect a ground war here.

Watch Pitbull’s Submissions

Given that Patricio Pitbull owns a BJJ black belt, it stands to reason that he’s going to try to go to the mat and get Jeremy Kennedy to tap out. A textbook example of a slick submission happened in Pitbull’s win over Daniel Straus in April of 2017.

During the second round of a scheduled five, Pitbull put Straus in a clinch and dumped him. While Straus tried his best to avoid getting submitted, Pitbull dropped him a second time and quickly locked up the guillotine choke in 37 seconds.

If Pitbull gets Kennedy down, look out. The Bellator 302 co-main event could be over in a hurry.

Look for Kennedy to Land Punches in Bunches

In the other corner, should Jeremy Kennedy find himself on the mat, he can improve his cause by scoring with copious punches, as he did vs. Luis Rafael Laurentino in the PFL playoffs in 2019. Round two saw Kennedy back Laurentino up to the cage fence and secure a takedown, as well as top mount.

From there, he unleashed a flurry of ground and pound shots from the back mount, knocking Laurentino out and getting revenge for a first-round TKO loss earlier that year. If Kennedy lands the first takedown, momentum will be his.

Final Thoughts

This is going to be an amazing fight in the co-main attraction. Who will win the day?

Prediction: Jeremy Kennedy by Third-Round Knockout.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018, coming to MMASucka after stints at Overtime Heroics and Armchair All-Americans. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew is a charter member of the Youngstown Press Club. Prior to beginning his professional career, Drew was a sportswriter for YSU's student-run newspaper, The Jambar, where he supplied Press Box Perspective columns every week.

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