Anyone who tells you that refined boxing doesn’t exist in the sport of mixed martial arts missed last night's thrilling five-round affair between Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran and fearless challenger Patricio Freire.
As a whole, Bellator 85 was a successful Spike debut.
The fights were engaging, a few personalities shined, and we were treated to plenty of stoppages. It was an enjoyable event that may prove to be one of Bellator’s most-viewed.
But what stood out the most was the highly polished boxing match between Curran and Freire.
This was a boxing match through and through with very few take-down attempts or kicks thrown, and I’m thrilled the fight unfolded in such fashion.
The fight was fast-paced, technical and thrilling from the jump. The challenger, Freire, arrived to do more than just earn a little television time.
He showed up to take the belt.
Patricio Freire is traditionally referred to as "Pitbull" and with good reason. He combines fast combinations with strong offensive wrestling. Freire, knowing he would find little success in the wrestling department, abandoned his grappling, opting instead for a toe-to-toe exchange of fists.
Curran, a champion who has showcased a penchant for boxing, welcomed the fist fight—although he wasn’t always on the delivering end of the violent exchanges. Freire landed numerous solid shots.
Still, Curran managed to capitalize on his agility, using fantastic footwork, keeping his lead leg outside of Patricio’s and incorporating smooth lateral movement to bypass any potential fight-ending shots.
But that doesn’t mean the champ didn’t feel a few stinging punches throughout the 25-minute collision. On more than one occasion, Pitbull hit the champ and he hit him hard .
But with his composure maintained, Curran never strayed from his game plan.
While Freire leaned on a hook-heavy offensive attack, Curran stuck to his straight shots, often beating his challenger to the punch with head-snapping jabs and crosses.
In addition to the fluidity of Curran’s movement, his improved defense shined last night.
He threw and was prepared to parry, counter and was able to have his hands back up to his cranium in time to avoid any devastating damage. Defensively, he looked better than he’s ever looked. The same can also be said of Freire.
While Freire appeared slightly wilier in the cage, that can be attributed to his punching arsenal. He throws hooks—and although they’re looking tighter with each outing, hooks must cover more distance than straight punches. Down-the-pipe punches would create openings for those hooks to land. It can appear fairly ugly—but in truth, it’s still effective from an offensive standpoint.
Despite the aesthetic differentials between these two, Freire's defense looked significantly improved.
This is a guy who often finds himself getting overzealous in his attack, but not last night.
Pat Curran did not afford him such an opportunity. Freire held a tighter defensive posture that likely saved him from eating a devastating shot or two.
Pitbull did eat a big two-punch combo midway through the fight and completely froze. Had he not rediscovered his wits and implemented the proper defensive maneuvering, it could have been lights out for the Brazilian.
In the end, these two would tangle until the final bell.
Freire becoming a seemingly desperate aggressor in the final round, which worked at times, but opened him up for precision counters. Either way, he left everything he had inside the cage last night, and proved that he’s one hell of a boxer.
Curran did just the same, and while Pat retained his title, it would have been difficult to dispute a Freire win.
It was an insanely close fight between two of MMA’s best boxers.
These two may not be prepared to enter the squared circle and challenge the world’s best boxers, but I’d bet both could hold their own against solid competition.
MMA boxing is rapidly evolving, and these two proved it last night.
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