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Bellator 241: Pitbull vs. Carvalho – Preview

The bad blood that has been building up between Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire and Pedro Carvalho ever since their first face to face encounter on Sept. 28 in Inglewood, Calif. has reached boiling point.

It has become more than a SBG vs. Pitbull Brothers rivalry. It feels personal now. Pride is on the line.

There will be no love lost once the two enter the Bellator 241 cage in Chicago on Friday for their Featherweight Grand Prix quarter-final title fight. And what once felt like ‘Pitbull’ perhaps opting for an “easy” fight in the bracket is no more. The defending champ looks all business. Carvalho’s skillset, determination and confidence forced that.

The gulf in experience is glaring on paper. ‘Pitbull’ (30-4) is a double champion. He reigns over the Featherweight and Lightweight divisions. The 32-year-old’s championship experience is exponentially bigger than his opponents.

‘Pitbull’ first tasted gold in 2014 when he won the 145-pound belt for the first time on his second attempt. He then lost it a year later to Daniel Straus and regained the featherweight throne again back in 2017. Those kind of experiences make an all time great. That’s a fighter who knows the lowest of the lows and the highest of the highs of this game.

Over a gold plaited decade in Bellator thus far, ‘Pitbull’ has accumulated 10 title fights in which he is 8-2. He has defended his featherweight strap six times (5-1), most recently in a five round masterclass against Juan Archuleta last year. The Brazilian added the 155-pound belt to his collection last May.

‘Pitbull’ is undeniably in the prime of his career right now, both physically and in terms of his ability. To those looking on from the stands, he may seem in a way invincible — he has been at the highest level for that long. But Carvalho is convinced he has the answers. The SBG Ireland fighter is convinced he knows where lies ‘Pitbull’s’ Achilles heel.

Carvalho (11-3) is 24. He epitomizes the new breed of fighters. The Guimaraes native is a very complete fighter. As is the style at coach John Kavanagh’s gym, he thrives off putting pressure on his opponents and picking them off, but he is also very comfortable on the canvas. Six of his career wins have come by way of submission. Most recently Carvalho put away Sam Sicilia with a beautiful neck crank in the Grand Prix opening round.

Stylistically, Carvalho is quite a good matchup for ‘Pitbull’ and he has acknowledged that himself. ‘Pitbull’ looks at his best when fighting on the back foot and Carvalho, from what we’ve seen of him so far, looks to have tools aplenty to cause the reigning 145-pound king problems. But the biggest question heading into Friday night is how will Carvalho fare in a fight of this magnitude against a man who resides at the summit?

This fight will undoubtedly be the toughest test of Carvalho’s career. But the initial signs are encouraging for the Portuguese contender and his camp. He’s been oozing confidence in all of his media obligations. He looks locked in — not phased by anything. He also has a massive chip on his shoulder. Carvalho wants to prove that he is one of SBG’s finest. He wants to prove that he belongs on the biggest stage.

Well, there is no better way to prove yourself than against the best of them all. ‘Pitbull’s’ greatness is not to be questioned. His longevity and recent domination has cemented him as one of the all time greats at 145-pounds already. And he’s not done yet. Winning this Grand Prix and moving on to defend his 155-pound belt is in his plans. ‘Pitbull’ is the ultimate championship prize fighter.

This fight has all the credentials to be one of the best this year.

The one downside to the show is going to be the atmosphere — or the lack of it. Due to the rapid and continuous spread of the Coronavirus, the Bellator 241 card will take place behind closed doors. It’s unfortunate and deflating because a fight of this magnitude deserves a crowd. Whoever comes out the victor deserves to bathe in their glory. But it’s also a necessary step to take in order to protect the fighters and fans.

How is a main event going to look without oh’s and ah’s? Does the silence help ‘Pitbull’ or Carvalho more? The matchup certainly got a whole lot more intriguing with that development, that’s for sure. But once the cage is locked, the silence will be no more. The beautiful sounds of fists and legs connecting with every limb will be even more magnified.

It will be two men locked in a cage fighting for the gold. No distractions, no outside noises. All eyes on the champ and the contender. Just pure combat.


Sports journalist based in CA, USA. Twitter: @ArionArmeniakos

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