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Rivalries: Patricky Freire


It may be lonely at the top, but Patricky Freire undoubtedly welcomes the solitude after enduring a 10-year odyssey to get there.

The 35-year-old Brazilian will enter his 2022 campaign as the undisputed Bellator MMA lightweight champion and with wins in eight of his last 10 appearances. Freire figures to have no shortage of would-be successors knocking at his door, with worthy contenders like Sydney Outlaw, Brent Primus, Usman Nurmagomedov and Goiti Yamauchi having formed a line behind him. For now, he can bask in the glory that comes with being just the sixth man to hold Bellator gold at 155 pounds.

As Freire awaits word on his first title defense, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped shape his career to this point:

Eddie Alvarez


Alvarez knocked out “Pitbull” with a head kick in the first round of their Bellator 76 main event on Oct. 12, 2012 at Caesars Windsor Hotel and Casino in Windsor, Ontario. An unconscious Freire came to rest at the base of the cage 4:54 into Round 1, as his American counterpart scaled the cage, embraced his wife and ran into the stands in spontaneous celebration. The headliners authored one of the year’s most memorable rounds, from start to finish. Alvarez floored the Brazilian with a savage left hook early on and followed him to the mat with a right hand. “Pitbull” was quick to answer, as he returned to his feet and put Alvarez on his heels with crisp right hand behind the ear. The Philadelphia native clinched to recover, and the two men eventually separated and floated into open space. With time ticking down, Alvarez backed the Team Nogueira product to the cage, caught him leaning to his right and uncorked a Louisville Slugger head kick that sent him crashing to the canvas. A volley of right hands served as the cherries on top before referee John McCarthy could arrive on the scene.

Derek Anderson


A vigorous jab, well-timed punching combinations and an unshakable resolve carried the then-undefeated Team Xplode MMA prospect to a unanimous verdict over Freire in a Bellator 98 lightweight showcase on Sept. 7, 2013 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Anderson. Freire nearly finished it in the first round. He staggered Anderson with a pair of left hooks, delivered a takedown, moved to full mount and transitioned from an armbar to a tight triangle choke. The Californian slammed himself out of danger and escaped from Freire on the ground. From there, “Pitbull” faded. Anderson turned the corner in Round 2, where he survived a clubbing right hand to the temple, kept Freire’s back to the cage and attacked from distance. The punches piled up for the Gladiator Challenge alum, his offense all set up by the jab. “Pitbull” wore a discouraged look over the last half of the fight, the resignation of an opportunity missed settling in on him. They met for a second time a little more than two years later at Bellator 147, where Anderson improved to 2-0 in their head-to-head series with a contentious split decision.

Michael Chandler


“Iron Mike” reclaimed the undisputed Bellator MMA lightweight championship with a violent knockout of Freire in first round of their Bellator 157 co-feature on June 24, 2016 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Chandler brought it to an emphatic close 2:14 into Round 1, capturing the title that was left vacant when Will Brooks departed for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. It did not last long, as Chandler bailed on a few takedown attempts before settling in on his feet. The onetime NCAA All-American wrestler feinted a left jab and fired a right cross behind it, connecting square on the chin. The crushing blow sent an unconscious “Pitbull” crashing to the canvas, where no follow-up strikes were necessary. The loss halted a modest two-fight winning streak for the Brazilian and gave Chandler a 2-0 edge in their head-to-head series. Their first meeting resulted in a three-round unanimous decision defeat for Freire at Bellator 44 in May 2011.

Benson Henderson


The former UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder’s commitment to the grind appeared to come back to bite him, as he wound up on the short side of a split decision against Freire in the Bellator 183 headliner on Sept. 23, 2017 at the SAP Center in San Jose, California. All three judges struck 29-28 scorecards: Marcos Rosales and Wade Vierra for “Pitbull,” Derek Cleary for Henderson. Neither man did much to warrant the judges’ favor. Freire advanced behind single strikes, connecting with a few right hands upstairs and a handful of knees to the body. Henderson remained active with his kicks, particularly to the body, and integrated overhand lefts when the mood arose. However, his bid for takedowns resulted in the lightweights stalling against the fence for much of the final 10 minutes. Once there, little happened, though Freire answered with either elbows to the side of the head or close-quarters knee strikes. When the smoke cleared and the boos died down, it was the Brazilian’s hand that was raised.

Peter Queally


Freire brought home the vacant Bellator MMA lightweight championship after a decade-long climb, as he wiped out the SBG Ireland export with punches in the second round of their Bellator 270 main event on Nov. 5, 2021 at 3Arena in Dublin. Unable to ride a wave of emotion that saw a ravenous crowd serenade him with The Cranberries’ “Zombie,” Queally succumbed to blows 65 seconds into Round 2. Freire—who debuted with the organization in March 2011—made his intentions known from the start, attacking the Irishman with stinging leg kicks and hooks to the body from both hands. After an eye poke briefly delayed the Brazilian’s march to the title early in Round 2, he decked Queally with a devastating right hand. The John Kavanagh protege tried to return to an upright position, only to stumble across the cage on rubbery legs. Queally eventually stood along the fence but turtled in a defensive shell, offering nothing in terms of meaningful resistance. Freire unleashed a series of thudding right hands in response, as he forced referee Kevin MacDonald to intervene and avenged his cut-stoppage defeat to “The Showstopper” six months earlier.
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