The attention of casual fans may be pointed toward a hard-nosed veteran facing off with a dominant champion on a pay-per-view card this coming weekend, but those fans may be missing out on a much more competitive and entertaining bout on Friday night.
Lightweights Eddie Alvarez and Patricky “Pitbull” Freire lock horns in the main event of Bellator 76, which takes place from the Caesars Windsor Hotel & Casino in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
Alvarez, the former Bellator champion, is on the last fight of his contract and will be looking to impress potential suitors with a signature win over the Brazilian.
For Freire, this fight is a chance to rebound from a shocking submission loss to Lloyd Woodard in his last outing. Like Alvarez, he’s fallen to current champion Michael Chandler and needs a big win to put himself back into the good graces of the Bellator brass.
Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.
This is one of those fights that should be a joy to watch no matter where it takes place. With that said, the most even aspect is on the feet, although each employs a different style of attack.
Alvarez employs a crisp boxing approach that allows him to throw and land with volume. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have power in his hands. Thirteen of his 23 career wins have come by KO or TKO and he’s managed to stop highly-touted lightweights Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Roger Huerta along the way. The concern for Alvarez in this fight is his propensity for getting dragged into firefights. It cost him against the aforementioned Chandler, and could be a factor in this fight.
Pitbull does not employ the same style as Alvarez, instead attacking with an explosive Muay Thai game that includes many flying strikes. Like his foe, he’s scored devastating finishes in most of his wins, with seven out of 10 wins coming by stoppage on the feet. The Brazilian put himself on the map with his wins over Rob McCullough and Toby Imada, but fell short against Chandler. If he can make Alvarez abandon technique and swing wildly, he may have the edge in this department.
On paper, the submission game is very misleading. Alvarez has five wins by tapout on his resume—four more than his current opponent. However, those wins are best attributed to the fact that Alvarez is a very opportunistic fighter, more than a pure submission stylist. When on the ground, Alvarez is quite capable due to his wrestling experience. You won’t see him looking for armbars, but he’ll certainly put people to sleep when he has the chance. What could be a factor is that he has been submitted by both Aoki and Chandler.
The reason that the edge goes to Freire in the submission games is simple: he’s a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under the Nogueira brothers. That doesn’t happen by accident. His willingness to engage on the feet has largely kept his grappling skills at bay, but he does have one submission to his credit. However, his last outing against Woodard is certainly concerning from a submission defense standpoint.
Much in the same way that Freire has the edge in terms of the submission game, Alvarez is more skilled in the wrestling department. Although he never wrestled collegiately, Alvarez was a two-time Prep All-American. With his boxing background, Alvarez rarely uses his wrestling as a primary weapon, but he certainly goes to it when things aren’t going his way on the feet. That may come into play against the explosive Brazilian.
Freire definitely struggled against Chandler in this aspect of the fight game. Although he will be aware of Alvarez’s ability to bring the fight to the mat, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be able to stop it. He’ll need to rely on his BJJ prowess to counter Alvarez’s control if the fight goes to the ground.
One area in which Alvarez has a big advantage is experience. He has twice as many fights as Freire and has certainly faced stiffer competition. Surprisingly, in nearly 40 combined fights, the pair has only gone the distance seven times. As a former champion, Alvarez has been to deeper waters and the longer this fight goes, the more it is likely to favor the American.
Verdict: Both fighters are always looking for finishes, which should make this fight entertaining from the opening bell. With such a huge experience advantage and potentially auditioning for a UFC contract, expect Alvarez to be on top of his game. Alvarez by unanimous decision.
Top Photo: Eddie Alvarez trains in the gym (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)