Patricio Pitbull’s next title defense means a lot for him and Bellator

Patricio Pitbull Freire

Last weekend at Bellator 255, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (32-4) defended his featherweight title against Emmanuel Sanchez (20-5). The fight was a semifinal matchup in Bellator‘s Featherweight Grand Prix, but the title was also on the line.

The two met for the first time back in 2018 and Pitbull walked away with a decision win. Since 2017, Pitbull had been the only man to have defeated Sanchez inside the Bellator cage.

Sanchez made the walk on Friday night having gone 7-1 in his last eight fights. Many, including myself, thought he was going to give Pitbull a run for his money. The first fight was relatively close, but the second fight was anything but.

At Bellator 255, we saw an extremely patient Pitbull. He waited for Sanchez to engage and when he did, Pitbull blasted him with powerful counters. At one point, Sanchez went for a kick and ate a left hook for his troubles.

That left hook sat him down, but he got right back up and engaged. The problem was he went right into the guillotine choke of Bellator‘s two-division champion. Pitbull tightened the choke and put Sanchez to sleep setting up the finale that everyone has been wanting to see.

Bellator’s dream scenario has played out

When Bellator unveiled the Featherweight Grand Prix, fans everywhere wanted to see one matchup in particular. That matchup would feature Patricio Pitbull and the undefeated superstar, AJ McKee (17-0).

Like Patricio Pitbull, McKee dominated his way to the finals of the Grand Prix. McKee has spent his entire career with Bellator and he’s finally getting his shot at the title. The 25 year old is looked at as arguably the best young fighter in the sport.

When these two fighters face off, it’s a massive deal for Bellator. Patricio Pitbull is the greatest fighter to have ever laced up the gloves in Bellator. The two-division champion holds the most wins and he’s the most decorated in terms of championships.

AJ McKee is a homegrown star, but he’s a star that has extremely high aspirations. McKee has been vocal that he’s keeping an eye on the top guys over in the UFC. The Mercenary also said that he only has two fights left on his current Bellator contract.

With that in mind, this fight becomes a big deal for Bellator. If McKee wins, he would be the featherweight champion with only one fight left. McKee has said that if he beats Pitbull, he wants them to rematch at lightweight so he can try to become a two division champion.

While that might be great in theory for Bellator, it’s actually a nightmare scenario. The UFC would likely pry McKee away and he would walk away as an undefeated two-division champion.

Meanwhile, Patricio Pitbull has no desire to leave Bellator. He is the face of the promotion and he just signed a new deal recently. While McKee is the future, it would probably be best for Bellator if Patricio Pitbull walks away victorious when they fight.

Bellator books Patricio Pitbull – Emmanuel Sanchez 2

Patricio Pitbull Freire

Bellator MMA officially announced the date for their final semi-final matchup in their Featherweight Grand Prix. The promotion announced today that Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (31-4) will defend his featherweight championship against Emmanuel Sanchez (20-4) on April 2nd.

This matchup had already been predetermined with the Grand Prix bracket, however, we finally have a date for this matchup. This title fight will headline Bellator‘s first event back in 2021.

The winner of this matchup will carry the featherweight title into the Grand Prix finale to face AJ McKee. These two men have history and they faced off back in 2018 at Bellator 209.

That night, Patricio Pitbull successfully defended his featherweight title by winning a unanimous decision. Pitbull hasn’t lost inside the Bellator cage since 2016 when he lost to Benson Henderson due to a leg injury.

If you want to take out that loss, nobody has defeated Pitbull since Daniel Straus did it in 2015. Pitbull is widely considered to be the best fighter that Bellator has ever had and his two world championships show off his greatness. However, he’s in for a tough matchup on April 2nd.

Bellator Featherweight Title Fight

There are so many things that Emmanuel Sanchez has going for him heading into Bellator 255. First and foremost, he’s incredible tough and durable. He’s not going to back away and be intimidated by the challenge of facing Patricio Pitbull.

Another thing that he has going for him is that he already has experience facing Pitbull. Yes, he lost the first fight by decision. However, it’s usually easier for the loser of the first fight to prepare for the rematch than the winner.

Nobody is going to be expecting Sanchez to walk out of Bellator 255 the featherweight champion. That’s another big advantage for the challenger. All of the pressure in this fight is on Patricio Pitbull.

Pitbull is the defending champion and he’s expected to win to setup the superfight with AJ McKee. McKee already did his part and now Pitbull has to take care of business. There is zero pressure on the shoulders of Sanchez. This should be a fantastic matchup on April 2nd.

Bellator’s AJ McKee has his eyes on top UFC contenders with two fights left on his contract

AJ McKee

In my opinion, there’s no one on the Bellator roster that has superstar potential quite like AJ McKee (17-0). From his style inside the cage to his confidence when he speaks, McKee has all the makings of a superstar.

Bellator‘s Scott Coker has raved about their homegrown star. McKee has said that he wants to become the Floyd Mayweather of MMA. So far, he’s ran through everyone who has stood in his way.

McKee made his professional debut with Bellator back in 2015. The 25 year old has fought his entire career under the Bellator banner and the promotion has done a very good job of bringing him along slowly.

They never rushed him seeing the potential that he has. McKee is on the verge of finally reaching the Bellator mountain top as he’s currently in their featherweight Grand Prix finals awaiting the winner of Patricio Pitbull and Emmanuel Sanchez.

While it’s going to be a massive year for McKee inside the Bellator cage, there is a budding storyline outside the cage. McKee recently revealed to MMA Junkie that he only has two fights left on his contract.

That being said, McKee is already looking across the pond at contenders in the UFC. McKee told MMA Junkie, “I’m looking across at the UFC and I’d love to have a field day with some of these guys…I’ve said I’m the Floyd Mayweather of MMA. I’m looking to make that Floyd Mayweather money.”

Will Bellator lose their star in 2021?

The face of Bellator over the last decade was Michael Chandler. Chandler left the promotion in 2020 to sign with the UFC. McKee has arguably the most star potential of anyone that the promotion has ever had and he might walk as well.

If McKee goes 2-0 this year, Bellator is going to have to do everything they can to retain McKee. McKee did allude to the fact that there might be some clauses in his contract that make it difficult to leave should he be the champion, but he didn’t elaborate.

For the sake of argument, if McKee is free to explore free agency after going 2-0 this year, Bellator could be in a lot of trouble. In reality, there is the possibility that McKee could earn more right away with Bellator than the UFC.

Michael Chandler told Brendan Schaub that the UFC wasn’t his highest offer on a per fight basis. However, his desire to compete against the best is why he ultimately signed with the UFC over returning to Bellator.

There is certainly the possibility that Bellator offers more up front in guaranteed money than the UFC for McKee. However, there is no comparison when it comes to the earning potential between the two.

There is no chance that McKee could get to a Conor McGregor level in Bellator. However, he can definitely do that in the UFC. If McKee is free to walk after his contract is up this year, the house favorite would have to be the biggest show in town, the UFC.

Bellator: Is 2021 finally the year of Aaron Pico?

Bellator‘s Aaron Pico (7-3) might have been the most credentialed prospect to ever make his professional debut with a major organization. Pico was an Olympic caliber wrestler and he had incredible boxing talent.

With the striking and grappling credentials he had, many believed he would instantly become a star for Bellator. However, the road has been a lot more challenging than anyone would have anticipated.

Pico was dealt a harsh dose of reality when he lost his professional debut in just 24 seconds. However, he showed very good poise in his ability to bounce back after that first professional loss at Bellator 180.

Pico would go on to win four-straight fights before running into Henry Corrales (18-5) at Bellator 214. Pico hurt Corrales bad in the opening exchanges, but he was drawn into a firefight. Corrales ended up landing a monster shot that put Pico out.

Aaron Pico would then go on to lose to Adam Borics (16-1) in his next fight. After two-straight losses, Pico made the move to Jackson-Wink for his training. That is where the career has really turned around for Pico.

Pico fought three times for Bellator in 2020 and he went a perfect 3-0. However, it was the way that he won that impressed me. He fought composed and he used all of his weapons to get the job done. Greg Jackson appears to be getting the best out of Pico.

Pico’s 2021 for Bellator

Aaron Pico recently spoke to My MMA News where he talked about his urgency to compete in 2021. He said that he wants to compete at least three or four times inside the Bellator cage this year.

When asked about potential opponents, Pico said he’s most interested in fighting the two men who’ve most recently beat him. Of course that being Borics and Corrales. In reality, those rematches do make sense for Bellator.

Pico has all of the potential to be a star for the promotion. It would be a great thing for Bellator if he was able to get those fights back and avenge those losses that he had before he made the move to Jackson-Wink.

I could see Bellator pairing Pico up against those two in 2021. One thing to keep in mind is that I don’t think 2021 will be a title year for Pico. It’s going to take a little more time and he’s been vocal about not fighting his long-time friend, AJ McKee (17-0).

McKee is in the finals of the featherweight Grand Prix and looks poised to potentially become the featherweight champion. If that was to happen, Pico already said that he wouldn’t fight McKee unless it was for life-changing money.

That being said, I don’t think 2021 needs to be a title year for Pico to do something special. In my opinion, I just want to see him continue to progress under Greg Jackson. Pico can still be a superstar for Bellator and 2021 has the potential to show that.

Fights Bellator needs to make in 2021

2021 is officially here and it’s expected to be a big year for Bellator MMA. Despite having a lengthy shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the promotion had some really high points in 2020.

Not only did Bellator put on some tremendous fights, but they made some big signings. With a string of signings in the second half of the year, Bellator has a light heavyweight division that can compete with anyone’s.

We just entered 2021, but it’s looking good for Bellator. They have a lot of talent on the roster and they can be taken more seriously now. Gone are the days where Bellator cards are being headlined by the likes of Kimbo Slice and Dada 5000.

In 2021, there are a couple of fights that stick out as “Must-Makes” for Bellator. One of those fights comes from their most stacked division and the other comes from the division that holds the greatest fighter in the promotions history.

Bellator matchups that need to happen in 2021

Yoel Romero – Anthony “Rumble” Johnson

The first matchup that Bellator needs to make is Yoel Romero (13-5) against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6). Both of these men were signed by Bellator in the last couple of months of 2020.

The two former UFC title challengers are two of the more terrifying fighters in the sport. Romero just fought for the UFC middleweight title back in February of 2020 before being released at the end of the year.

Rumble has been out since 2017, however, outside of Daniel Cormier, nobody has been able to stop him since 2012. Both of these men are terrifying and extremely talented. Neither are likely to get a Bellator title shot right away considering the title picture.

With that in mind, Bellator needs to book the two men against each other. A matchup between Rumble and Romero is bigger than the light heavyweight title. It’s a massive fight that would draw in a ton of fans. I fully expect Bellator to book this fight early in 2021.

Patricio Pitbull – AJ McKee

This potential Bellator matchup is one that will likely be booked by default. The potential featherweight matchup between Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (31-4) and AJ McKee (17-0) is one that Bellator absolutely needs in 2021.

Both men are currently in the featherweight Grand Prix. McKee has already punched his ticket to the finals while Pitbull still has to defeat Emmanuel Sanchez. Pitbull has already defeated Sanchez once before.

You can imagine that the promotion is praying that Pitbull makes it through that fight victorious. No disrespect to Sanchez, but the fight that everyone wants to see is Pitbull against AJ McKee.

McKee has fought all 17 of his pro fights with Bellator. He looks like he can become the homegrown superstar that Bellator needs. He definitely has mainstream appeal and he’s only 25 years old.

Pitbull is arguably the greatest fighter Bellator has ever had. He continues to get better and better and he’s currently a two-division world champion. The fight between these two could be massive.

The best thing for Bellator in 2021 is for McKee to get his shot against Pitbull and win. AJ McKee has what it takes to become a superstar in MMA. If he can come in and win the title from someone like Pitbull in 2021, look out.

Bold 2021 predictions for Bellator MMA

Patricio Pitbull Freire

2021 is already promising to be a massive year for Bellator MMA. The promotion made some major progress in 2020 despite having to shut down for a few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bellator put on some tremendous fights in 2020. However, it was their string of signings in the second half of the year that had the MMA world buzzing. Bellator really stacked their light heavyweight division.

Bellator added Yoel Romero (13-5), Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6), and Corey Anderson (14-5) to their light heavyweight division. All of the former top UFC contenders parted ways with the UFC this year.

As soon as they hit the open market, Bellator scooped them up. In doing so, the promotion has put together a light heavyweight division that is certainly capable of competing with the UFC’s light heavyweight division.

There are so many things to watch for with Bellator in 2021. I wanted to do some bold predictions for the promotion for what will happen in 2021. If these predictions come true, there are going to be some shocked MMA fans.

2021 Bellator Bold Predictions

Patricio Pitbull leaves 2021 without a title

For my first bold prediction I’m looking at Bellator’s two-division champion, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (31-4). Pitbull is widely considered to be the best fighter that Bellator has on the roster. He’s arguably the best fighter in the promotion’s history.

He currently is the Bellator lightweight and featherweight champion. However, there has been whispers of him vacating the lightweight championship. Pitbull became the lightweight champion when he defeated Michael Chandler (21-5) in 2019.

However, Pitbull is small for the weight class. He mainly moved up to lightweight to challenge Chandler to avenge his brother’s (Patricky Pitbull) knockout loss to Chandler. He has yet to defend the lightweight championship.

I’m going to say that Patricio Pitbull vacates the Bellator lightweight championship to focus on featherweight. However, I think that this is going to be the year that Pitbull is dethroned at featherweight.

The most exciting prospect in Bellator is AJ McKee (17-0). The Mercenary has fought all seventeen of his professional fights under the Bellator banner. They’ve brought him along the right way and he’s on the verge of superstardom.

McKee has already earned a spot in the finals of Bellator’s featherweight Grand Prix. The other spot will go to the winner of the fight between Patricio Pitbull and Emmanuel Sanchez (20-4).

I believe that Pitbull is going to defeat Sanchez when they fight setting up a fight between him and McKee. I’m going to say that McKee not only wins the Bellator featherweight title, but finishes Patricio Pitbull. With that, cementing himself as the superstar that Bellator needs.

Vadim Nemkov remains the light heavyweight champion

As mentioned above, the Bellator light heavyweight division is completely stacked at the moment. All of those signings are incredibly exciting and I didn’t even mention the promotion’s light heavyweight champion, Vadim Nemkov (12-2).

Nemkov knocked out Ryan Bader (27-6, 1 NC) to capture the Bellator light heavyweight championship back in August. Nobody has been able to stop Nemkov since he made his debut with the promotion in 2017.

With the additions made to the light heavyweight division, many are saying Nemkov will not leave 2021 as the champion. However, my bold prediction is that the belt stays with the Russian as we enter 2022.

As things currently stand, there are three front runners to face Nemkov whenever he defends his title. Those contenders being Corey Anderson, Phil Davis (22-5, 1 NC), and a rematch with Bader.

Something tells me that Nemkov is just going to fight twice in 2021 with both of his fights coming from that group of three. Nemkov has already defeated Davis and Bader on his way to the title.

Corey Anderson is definitely a tough challenge, however, I think Nemkov can beat him. While everyone will want to see Anthony Johnson or Yoel Romero challenge for the Bellator title next year, I’m not convinced it happens.

Something tells me that Nemkov is going to have a rematch with Ryan Bader next. Scott Coker said that they are looking into this. I believe that Nemkov will beat Bader again to retain the Bellator title.

Perhaps on the same card, I believe we will see a matchup between Davis and Anderson as a title eliminator. I also see Nemkov defeating the winner of that fight. So my prediction is when all is said and done, Vadim Nemkov is still the light heavyweight champion after 2021.

Is AJ McKee the best featherweight in Bellator?

AJ McKee

Last week at Bellator 253, AJ “Mercenary” McKee (17-0) made a massive statement. In the semi-finals of the Featherweight Grand Prix, McKee took on former bantamweight world champion, Darron Caldwell.

This was expected to be the toughest test yet for McKee inside a Bellator cage. The former bantamweight champion was a national champion wrestler, and he could hold his own on the feet as well. The fight was expected to be a war.

In reality, the fight was not very close. In the opening round at Bellator 253, Caldwell did a good job of using a low shot to take McKee down. Caldwell seemed content with staying in McKee’s guard while trying to land elbows.

McKee said all week that if he was taken down, Caldwell would have to constantly be working to keep him there. The Mercenary started throwing elbows off his back, but you could see the wheels turning in his head about something else.

After Caldwell landed a big elbow, he placed his head on the right side of McKee. Seemingly, he was going to try to setup another big elbow. However, McKee slid his arm through and locked in a neck crank that even most BJJ experts hadn’t seen before.

McKee locked his legs in a figure four and lifted his hips for maximum pressure. You could tell the squeeze had the former Bellator champion in all kinds of pain. He was forced to tap just one minute and eleven seconds into the first round.

Bellator’s Best?

AJ McKee is truly something special. He made his professional debut with Bellator back in 2015 just three days after he turned 20 years old. His entire career has been spent inside the Bellator cage. McKee is truly evolving into something special.

I truly don’t see a weakness in his game. He’s got great skills on the feet with decent pop. His accuracy is something that’s extremely impressive and I love his kicks. He also possesses very good wrestling, and he’s incredible on the ground.

McKee is going to be a nightmare for anyone that he faces. His next challenge will likely be the Bellator two-division world champion, Patricio Pitbull (31-4). Pitbull is also coming off of an incredible performance back at Bellator 252.

These two men just seem like they are on a collision course. Pitbull will have to face Emmanuel Sanchez (20-4) first in his semi-final matchup. However, Pitbull will be a massive favorite seeing as he has already defeated Sanchez.

The biggest fight that Bellator can make right now is the matchup between McKee and Pitbull. If this fight happens in 2021, it will be a huge spectacle for fans. McKee is on his way to superstardom and if he can dethrone Pitbull, he might have a claim as the best featherweight in the world.

AJ McKee remains perfect at Bellator 253

AJ McKee

Tonight, Bellator MMA returned with the continuation of their Featherweight Grand Prix. In the main event of the evening, AJ McKee (16-0) was looking to stay undefeated as he fought former bantamweight champion, Darrion Caldwell (15-3).

Caldwell was coming into tonight off back to back wins since moving up to featherweight. After Caldwell lost his bantamweight crown at Bellator 222, he decided he needed a little change of scenery so he decided to chase on million dollars in the Grand Prix.

McKee on the other hand is one of the hottest prospects in MMA. He’s not just the talk of Bellator, but the entire MMA community is buzzing about AJ McKee. The son of a former fighter, McKee was looking to punch his ticket to the Bellator Grand Prix finals tonight.

For the first time in his Bellator career, McKee would be taking on a fighter who on paper was a better wrestler. Caldwell was a national champion wrestler and we saw those wrestling skills right away in the main event.

Caldwell was able to land a takedown early on in the first round. However, McKee was extremely active from his back. Then out of no where, McKee locks up a neck crank from the bottom and Caldwell is forced to tap very early into the first round. Incredible performance by McKee.

AJ McKee defeats Darrion Caldwell by Submission (Neck Crank) – Round 1

What’s next after Bellator 253?

If you were not impressed with AJ McKee before Bellator 253, you have to be now. The undefeated phenom continued his dominance but this time he did it over a former world champion.

McKee is the total package and he’s going to be a nightmare for anyone in Bellator. He’s got incredibly slick striking and he is insanely creative in all aspects. That submission tonight truly came out of no where.

After tonight, McKee advances to the finals of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix. He will wait for the champion, Patricio Pitbull, to face Emmanuel Sanchez which is likely going to take place early next year.

Bellator 253 Preview: AJ McKee – Darrion Caldwell

AJ McKee

Bellator returns tomorrow night with the continuation of their featherweight grand prix. Tomorrow night’s headliner is the first semi-final matchup where the undefeated phenom, AJ McKee (16-0), will take on former champion, Darrion Caldwell (15-3).

Caldwell is the former Bellator bantamweight champion of the world. When he was crowned the champion at 135 pounds, Caldwell had only lost one fight in his career to Joe Taimanglo. However, he immediately avenged that one loss in his next fight.

Caldwell looked poised to have a long reign in the Bellator bantamweight division until he ran into Kyoji Horiguchi. Caldwell fought Horiguchi over in Rizin and lost by submission. Bellator then brought Horiguchi over to Bellator to face Caldwell in a rematch.

That fight went the distance, but the result was the same. After suffering back to back losses, Caldwell decided to move up to featherweight. He’s looked dominant at 145 winning both of his first two matchups.

AJ McKee is such a dynamic talent for Bellator. The undefeated McKee is dangerous wherever the fight goes. He’s got slick submissions on the ground and he has tremendous kickboxing skills on the feet.

Out of his 16 professional wins, only five have gone the distance. However, only one fight in his last five has gone to the judges scorecards. In his last four finishes, McKee has two first round knockouts and two third round submissions. Showing off his diverse skillset.

Bellator 253 Prediction

The odds have been drastically shifting for the Bellator 253 main event. When the odds first opened, they were extremely even. However, there are some lines that are showing McKee upwards towards a -300 favorite.

I think McKee should be the betting favorite, but those odds are off in my opinion. I think this fight is going to be very close. Both of these men have such well rounded games that it will look like a chess match at times.

I think we will learn a lot from the striking in the first round. To me it’s going to come down to who is more efficient and quick with their shots in this one. I think Caldwell is so good, but I think McKee is just a little better wherever the fight goes. It’s close, but I think McKee stays perfect.

Prediction: AJ McKee by Unanimous Decision