Bellator 99 brings fans one of the greatest featherweight match-ups of the year, as the always-exciting Patricio “Pitbull” Freire faces off against Diego “The Gun” Nunes. This featherweight tournament quarterfinal pits two nine-year veterans against each other at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., this Friday night, live on Spike TV.

Pitbull is coming off a recent Bellator win over late replacement Jared Downing on July 31. His previous match was a disappointing split decision loss to Pat Curran for the Bellator featherweight title. Pitbull felt he won the match, as did many critics of the decision, but Curran’s hand was raised instead. Pitbull used his next match to prove he is a bad man. Nunes’s story is a bit different.

Nunes is coming off a 7-4 Zuffa run, fighting under both the WEC and UFC banners for the last five years. Never really fighting for any titles or even in title eliminators, Nunes was still able to battle some tough competitors and scored notable wins over Raphael Assuncao, Mike Brown and Manny Gamburyan.

Both fighters have trained with the famed Black House in Brazil. They have shared training partners and coaches in the past. The similarities pretty much end there, though. Pitbull is a high-energy, fast and furious fighter with a nothing-to-lose plan of attack in every fight. Nunes is a more relaxed, very elusive fighter who plays it safe almost too often. One thing’s for sure, come Friday night, Pitbull will bring the fight to Nunes and fans may get to see what he’s made of after all.

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 match up against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Pitbull – 10, Nunes – 9

Nunes has never been finished. In fact, in nearly five years and 11 fights under the Zuffa banner, he has gone the distance every fight. Nunes is a decent striker, but he stays to the outside of his opponents quite a bit and uses his feet a lot more than his hands.

Pitbull, on the other hand, is a striking machine. He is known for his amazing stand-up. He uses all of his tools quite effectively and mixes in a lot of leg kicks, flying knees and a relentless punching arsenal. Pitbull absolutely dominated Joe Warren in the striking game of the Bellator season-two featherweight final. The only thing that saved Warren was his wrestling, something for which Nunes isn’t exactly known.

In his three-year, eight-fight Bellator career, Pitbull has knocked out three opponents, including his most recent TKO victory over Jared Downing only a month and a half ago. His attack is consistent, and as soon as he senses blood in the water, his opponent is going to sleep.

Nunes may have more big-stage experience and a Lyoto Machida-like elusiveness, but Pitbull has an aggressiveness that will not let Nunes play the avoidance game all night. Pitbull has a big advantage in the striking game.

Wrestling: Pitbull – 9, Nunes – 10

Pitbull might be the dominant striker in this match-up, but his wrestling is so-so, at best. In this match-up, it may not matter that much, but Nunes is the better wrestler.

Nunes isn’t necessarily known for his wrestling, but his takedown defense is much better than that of his opponent. He also has a great standing sprawl and doesn’t mind being pushed up against the cage. Nunes’ takedowns are pretty good, but once on the ground, he has the better ability to hold his opponents down. He will pose some problems for Pitbull in the takedown department, as he doesn’t go easy.

Pitbull’s “wrestling,” when taken out of context, is almost null and void. He is an amazing striker and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but his clinch work and top control on the ground leave something to be desired.

Nunes holds the upper hand in the wrestling department.

Submission Grappling: Pitbull – 10, Nunes – 9

Normally, a fighter’s BJJ belt rank is not always the best definition of his skill in that fighting modality. However, in the case of Pitbull versus Nunes, it’s pretty much right on.

Pitbull is a black belt and Nunes is a purple belt, and both have spent most of their training around the same group of top Brazilians in the sport at Black House. Pitbull currently trains out of Team Nogueira, and most people know that the Nogueira brothers are considered at the top of the class in BJJ, especially as it translates to MMA. Nunes trains out of X Gym, former home to Black House with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, one of the most highly touted BJJ black belts in the world.

Pedigree aside, the differences become apparent at the moment of takedown. Pitbull’s takedowns are 100 percent BJJ. More often, he uses trips, sweeps and body-lock falls, instead of the classic single- and double-leg takedowns which are more apparent in wrestling. Pitbull’s submission arsenal is also deep, as he has showcased with heel hooks, chokes, armbars and various other joint locks throughout his career. Nunes is not as creative in this department.

Nunes has won all but one of his submissions by guillotine, which is one of the go-to moves for the more wrestling-oriented fighters. His takedowns are not especially technical like Pitbull’s, and he’s just not as prominent of a BJJ practitioner in the cage.

Should this one hit the mat, Pitbull will have a huge advantage over his fellow countryman.

X-factor

Pitbull’s aggressiveness is the game changer in this bout. He defines the term “bringing it.” Through relentless attacks, over and over again, Pitbull pushes his opponents to their limits and makes them fight the fight he wants. This is difficult to mimic in training, which gives him a fierce upper hand over the former UFC fighter.

Total: Pitbull – 29, Nunes – 28

Verdict: Nunes was good enough to fight for many years under the Zuffa umbrella of promotions, but he does not have what it takes to stop Pitbull. Pitbull’s striking is better, with more creative angles and techniques, and he’s more proficient in BJJ, a sport that Nunes has began to pick up throughout his MMA career. Nunes does hold the advantage in wrestling, but that may not make a difference in this match. Look for Pitbull to take this one by TKO on his road to a second Bellator featherweight tournament victory.

Photo: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator