Bellator 45 on Saturday, May 21st will feature tournament finals in two different weight classes. Patricio "Pitbull" Freire, the twin brother of Bellator lightweight Patricky Freire, will face Daniel Straus in the featherweight finale, and Bellator will coronate the winner of the Richard Hale vs. Christian M'Pumbu match as their first light-heavyweight champion. A middleweight qualifier between Karl Amoussou and Sam Alvey is also scheduled for the main.
The fairly anticipated Bellator and stateside debut for Thiago Santos -- an 8-1 Brazilian prospect and former Rio Heroes fighter -- against Derrick Lewis was nixed yesterday when "Big Monster" suffered an injury. This leaves a small hole in the televised lineup, but the thrilling performance at Bellator 44 last weekend when the Sam Oropeza vs. Giedrius Karavackas fight was upgraded to the main leaves hope for another exciting addition.
Bellator 45 is being held at the L'Auberge Du Lac Casino and Resort in Lake Charles, LA., and will be broadcast on MTV2 at 9 PM EST.
Christian M'Pumbu (16-3-1) vs. Richard Hale (16-3-1)
Christian M'Pumbu lives in France and boasts the unique style combination of Judo and Savate, a French kickboxing art. Savateurs wear a reinforced boot and are known for contact with the foot rather than the more popular use of the shin with Muay Thai.
M'Pumbu has toured in M-1, KSW, and DEEP, and made his North American debut in the first round of the 205-pound tournament at Bellator 38 in March of 2011. His most noteworthy win is a submission over UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve in a 2007 event in Ukraine. With sixteen career victories, his grappling acumen shines in his nicely balanced win-ratio of six by strikes and eight by submission.
Holding an identical record, Richard Hale introduced himself to Bellator with style by executing the promotion's second win by inverted triangle against Nik Fekete in the opening tournament bracket. After a steep weight-cut, Hale snuck past D.J. Linderman by split-decision in the tournament semifinals.
In his last fifteen fights, Hale has only one loss and one draw, and -- no matter how bizarre it is -- he's also won six via strikes and eight via sub, exactly like M'Pumbu. The only difference on paper between these similar fighters is Hale's height and reach advantage, which may be his only edge in this closely contested battle for Bellator's first 205-pound belt.
We'll preview the rest of the card in the full entry
Daniel Straus (16-3) vs. Patricio "Pitbull" Freire (16-1)
After his win over former WEC fighter Karen Darebedyan at Shark Fights 13, featherweight Daniel Straus continued to impress in Bellator with two-straight wins over Nazareno Malegarie and Kenny Foster. Straus is a strong southpaw with good boxing and phenomenal wrestling. Since his loss to Pat Curran in his seventh pro-fight, the Ohio native is flawless with twelve consecutive wins.
Featherweight champion Joe Warren handed Patricio "Pitbull" Freire his first and only loss last June in a controversial split-decision, and getting another crack at the champ may serve as extra motivation for the Brazilian on Saturday night.
Training out of Team Nogueira and wielding a black belt in BJJ, Freire and his brother have added a distinctive flair to the Bellator promotion with their aggressive mentality and highlight-reel stoppages. With crisp boxing, good counter-punching, and a slick guard game, both of the Pitbull brothers have proven to be a force for any opponent on the roster.
While this will be Straus's biggest fight and stiffest test to date, his formidable strength and wrestling could present the same type of match-up problems for Pitbull that Warren did. Freire will need to soundly out-strike him on the feet to avoid fighting his way out from underneath Straus on the ground unless he can latch a submission or sweep.
Sam Alvey (14-2) vs. Karl Amoussou (12-3-2)
Karl Amoussou is a very promising middleweight who has fought under the DREAM, Strikeforce, M-1, and Pancrase banners who will be making his Bellator debut. This is another admirable acquisition for Bellator, as Amoussou's frenetic pace and crushing stand-up should make him a fan-favorite.
Amoussou has been victorious in seven of his last ten, with a draw to Trevor Prangley and former UFC fighters Kazuhiro Nakamura and Lucio Linhares besting him.
I admittedly know very little about Amoussou's opponent, Sam Alvey, but find it interesting that he's fighting at 185-pounds and beat heavyweight Jason Guida in his last outing. Alvey shows eight TKOs and two submission wins on a record against heavier but unflattering competition, so unless he pulls out some major surprises, this should be a nice showcase fight for Amoussou.
Join us on BloodyElbow.com for the Bellator 45 live blog and play by play tomorrow night starting at 9 PM EST.