This weekend, Bellator MMA returns not with a whimper, but with a bang, as it features a rematch nearly three full years in the making. Bellator featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, fresh off of his title win over former champion Pat Curran, will make the first defense of his belt against another former champion in Daniel Straus, who recently came back into the win column by finishing Justin Wilcox last October.

Heading into last year, Straus enjoyed a six-fight winning streak that included a Bellator featherweight title win over then-champion Curran back in November 2013. That streak ended, however, when Curran won the title back in one of the promotion’s most intense title fights to date, though the return to form against Wilcox paid off in Straus’ quest for another crack at the gold.Freire fought Straus back at Bellator 45 before dropping a razor-thin decision to Curran in his first crack at the title. After the loss, Freire posted up a four-fight winning streak, including a win of his own over Wilcox, to earn the rematch against Curran, which the Brazilian featherweight phenom proceeded to win by unanimous-decision.

As Straus makes his final preparations for Freire and vice versa, the first fight immediately comes to mind. Of course, both men are different fighters from the men they were back at Bellator 45, but what factors will come into play when the rematch goes down this Friday night?

Striking

Very seldom will Freire ever find himself against someone who actually bests him in this realm. When the first bout took place as a simple three-rounder, Freire used his striking very well against Straus, making it to where Straus was unable to execute any part of his game plan for more than a round, at best, and unless Straus has worked on a way to get inside effectively for at least three rounds out of five, he will find himself in for some serious pain.

Advantage: Freire
Grappling

At this point, it feels difficult to say whether or not Straus will be only the second wrestling-centric MMA fighter to best Freire on the ground, because on one hand, Straus is one of the few with the wrestling needed to keep Freire down for extended periods of time, but on the other hand, Freire owns a number of submission wins in the earlier part of his career, while Straus has been submitted before. Many will say “one wrong move, and Freire will make Straus pay for it”, but in a five-round bout with the title on the line, Straus stands as good a chance of thwarting the champion’s attempts to submit him as the champion stands to submit him.

Advantage: Even
Cardio

Both men will show a willingness to go the distance, but we knew this before either man ever challenged Curran for the title. Factoring in their respective wins over the former champion, both the reigning champion and the challenger combine for a total of 19 career wins by unanimous decision. In fact, the only known way to defeat Freire is to take a split-decision from him, because “Pitbull” never loses a clear-cut decision. What’s the only issue keeping this from being a push? The champ is the only man to take a decision from Straus, let alone a unanimous decision. If he was able to take a clear-cut decision in a three-round bout, imagine how he has sharpened his game up to ensure that he’ll do it again in a five-round title fight.

Advantage: Freire
Takedowns

When two high-octane fighter compete in a five-round bout, anything involving the ground game becomes as much of an x-factor as the things that no expert can measure. Straus’ takedowns represent one such factor, because if he gets a hold of the champion, Freire will somehow get taken down, no matter how well he defense Straus’ attempts. Mind you, Straus must get inside on “Pitbull” for this to happen, and trying to fight inside with a Freire brother is never an easy task, but that doesn’t mean Straus can’t find a way to get it done at least once in the course of 25 minutes.

Advantage: Straus
Official Prediction

Rematches very, very rarely ever play out anything close to how the first battle played out. As dominant as Freire looked in three rounds against Straus, don’t let anything lead you to believe that he has this fight in the bag, because while it might be a stretch to coin this fight as an early front-runner for “Fight of The Year”, Freire will still have to fight his tail off for five rounds in order to defeat Straus for a second time. Straus undoubtedly will have learned from his mistakes in the first fight, and will look to capitalize on every opportunity that he creates during this contest, but Freire will show that he has also awakened a brand new game since the first fight.

At the end of the day, Freire may struggle at moments, but he will still demonstrate the heart of a champion as he wills his way towards another unanimous-decision win, albeit one that will be much closer than the one he earned in their first fight.

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.