Age: 26 Height: 5'9" Reach: 73"
Fight Camp: Team Curran
Record: 20-5 (5 knockouts, 7 submissions)
Last Three Fights
Def. Daniel Straus (Sub) Bellator 112
Lost to Daniel Straus (Dec) Bellator 106
Def. Shahbulat Shamhalaev (Sub) Bellator 95
You'd think a drop in weight classes would have improved Curran's already solid wrestling game. At 155 pounds, he repeatedly stuffed Eddie Alvarez's shots and bounced right back to his feet when Alvarez did manage to dump him on the mat. Offensively, Curran even took Alvarez down once in Round 5.
After surviving that onslaught, surely men 10 pounds lighter would be a piece of cake?
And, yet, like many before him, Curran hasn't been quite the same fighter against smaller men. Daniel Straus overwhelmed him in their last two fights. First, Straus defeated Curran at Bellator 106 with takedowns and top control. Curran had no answers.
In the rematch, Curran's takedown defense was better, but it took a fight-saving rear-
naked choke in the bout's dying seconds to regain the Bellator title. While Curran is not "bad" here by any means, Straus showed that if you want to beat the Bellator featherweight champion, you can start by planting him on his back.
Although not quite one of the Gracies, there's perhaps a genetic component to Curran's submission success. His cousin and trainer, journeyman Jeff Curran, was a mainstay on the international scene in the days before the little guys were a big deal.
He was a master on the mat, and Pat is no different. Sure, there are some Brazilian jiu-jitsu standouts who might be too much for him once things go to the ground—but he's rarely outmatched once the fight hits the mat.
The Bellator featherweight champ boasts seven victories via submission on his resume, all via some form of choke (and one via the ultra-rare Peruvian necktie, which he hit on an actual Peruvian, Luis Palomino). He's ruthless in attacking his opponent's neck, and the finish is oftentimes born from a scramble rather than from an elaborate setup.
You rarely see Curran work from his guard, but Straus did a nice job of pinning him to the mat and nullifying his offense when he snatched the strap at Bellator 106, which was Curran's lone slip-up in his last eight fights.
Because of this, you have to knock Curran a bit in the grappling department. He's great when he's on the offensive, but with a powerful grappler on top, he sometimes struggles to get back to his feet or to work a sweep or submission attempt.
Despite owning more submissions than knockouts, Curran's greatest threat to opponents is his technical striking game and brutal knockout power.
Early in fights, he uses leg kicks and feints to get a feel for his opponent's movement and timing, and when the opportunity to pounce presents itself, he does not delay. This game plan causes him to get picked apart early in fights on occasion, but losing the first round doesn't matter when you finish your opponent later, and Curran goes big with an assortment of head kicks, flying knees and punches.
On the flip side, if he doesn't secure the big knockout, he sometimes fails to find his rhythm for the bout's duration, and he lost his featherweight strap to Straus at Bellator 106 because of this. Straus used a smart, calculated approach on the feet, and Curran was never able to find his range and mount any significant attack.
Against the likes of Jose Aldo, this could present a major problem. But Curran's stand-up game is generally superior inside the Bellator cage, and he's never been finished via strikes. For a perfect summary of his game-changing power, check out his fight with Mike Ricci from Bellator 14 or his disgusting, Tekken-like combo to put away Joe Warren at Bellator 60.
At 26 years old, Curran is now entering his athletic prime, and he's already accomplished more than most will in a lifetime. His 25-fight career is still young, and he has plenty of time to grow and evolve as a mixed martial artist.
As he continues to develop, we will probably see him rule the Bellator roost, knocking down contenders after they emerge victorious from the Bellator tournament finals or Bjorn Rebney decree.
There are no holes in Curran's mental game. He doesn't overpursue the finish or become easily shaken or rattled when his opponent finds success. His killer instinct leads him to find the finish even when the odds are stacked against him (see the fifth round of his latest fight against Straus). His calculated brand of violence has led him to the top of the Bellator featherweight mountain.