Featherweight gold will sway in the balance at Bellator 178, as the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT will witness the 4th installment of the Daniel Straus vs. Patricio Freire saga. Patricio Pitbull leads the trilogy 2-1, but it is Straus who will be defending the 145 title in the tetralogy, after he took the belt from Freire back in November of 2015.
Bellator flyweights will be on display in the co-main event, as the 5-0 Ilima-Lei Macfarlane takes on fellow undefeated fighter Jessica Middleton, to see who will rise to the top of the division. Tune in to the Bellator 178 main card on Spike TV, tonight at 9:00 P.M. ET with the prelims streaming online at 8:00 P.M. ET.
Main Card: Spike TV at 9:00 P.M. EDT
Daniel Straus (24-6 MMA; 11-3 Bellator) vs. Patricio Freire (25-4; 13-4 Bellator): Lightweight
Patricio Pitbull leads the series 2-1:
05/21/11- Pitbull takes unanimous decision to win tournament final at Bellator 45
1/16/15- Pitbull defends belt with round 4 submission (RNC) at Bellator 132
11/6/15- Straus takes unanimous decision to win belt at Bellator 145
Down 0-2, Daniel Straus would not be denied a victory over Patricio Pitbull at Bellator 145, as he bested the Brazilian in a 5-round title affair back in November of 2015. Straus was committed to using his southpaw jab, utilizing his 6.5 inch reach advantage over his shorter opponent, and followed up with well-measured left hands that peppered Patricio Pitbull.
Not only did Straus floor Pitbull in the second stanza with a glorious 1-2 combo, but he was also able to fend off the same sort of championship round back-take that resulted in his demise in the 2nd fight. Straus managed to hang tough and make it back to his feet, and both men slugged it out until the final bell. Straus would go on to earn the judge’s nod on all 3 scorecards (49-46, 48-47 x2), as he captured Bellator’s 145 title for the second time.
The winning of Bellator gold would come at a cost for Straus, as he suffered a severe fracture in his left hand, that has sidelined the champ for 17 consecutive months. To get an idea of just how bad the break actually was, check out these bad boys:
Patricio Pitbull responded to the loss of his featherweight title with a second-round guillotine submission of Henry Corrales, at Bellator 153 in April of 2016. Four months removed from his Corrales fight, lightweight opportunity would come knocking in the form of the former UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson, with the winner earning a shot at Bellator’s lightweight king Michael Chandler.
Pitbull looked sharp and patient as he took on the larger Henderson at Bellator 160, but a freak leg injury caused the bout to come to an unexpected halt at 2:26 of the second round. As it turns out, Pitbull managed to fracture his fibula and has been sidelined since that August night in 2016. Peep this pic of Pitbull’s fractured fibula:
Unfortunelly I injured my leg in the first round. I was still able to fight for half of the second but I felt the bone move. I was doing really well, confident and winning the fight. I'll be back soon. - Infelizmente lesionei minha perna no primeiro round da luta. Ainda consegui lutar metade do segundo, mas senti o osso sair do lugar. Estava muito bem, confiante e vencendo a luta. Voltarei em breve. #Bellator160 @bellatormma
With such lengthy injury-related layoffs, it’s next to impossible to postulate what sort of performance to expect from both Straus and Pitbull. Broken hands and legs aside, if the first 3 fights are any indication, then you can expect yet another all out war between these top featherweights.
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (5-0 MMA; 4-0 Bellator) vs. Jessica Middleton (2-0 MMA; 2-0 Bellator): (W) Flyweight
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane has been perfect thus far in her young 5-0 career, with 4 of those victories taking place inside of the Bellator cage. Macfarlane has shown off her grappling prowess as she successfully submitted both Amber Tackett and Rebecca Ruth, before the third frame of their respective bouts.
In her last outing at Bellator 167, Macfarlane overcame early adversity as an Emily Ducote uppercut rocked her in the opening moments of their fight. Macfarlane would lean on her grappling control as she rallied back in rounds 2 and 3 to earn the unanimous decision victory. With a win over the undefeated Jessica Middleton, Macfarlane will move to 6-0 inside of the promotion, and place herself at the very top of Bellator’s flyweight division.
Jessica Middleton has been perfect thus far as a professional MMA fighter, as she reps a 2-0 record, each taking place for the Bellator promotion. Middleton has shown a proficiency at throwing long range strikes, especially when it comes to her straight punches. You can expect Middleton to want to make the most of her 3.5 inch reach advantage by staying to the outside, trying to use her jab to keep Macfarlane at bay. With a win over a hyped-up Macfarlane, Middleton can fast-track herself to the top of Bellator’s 125 division.
AJ McKee Jr. (7-0 MMA; 7-0 Bellator) vs. Dominic Mazzotta (11-1MMA; Bellator Debut): Featherweight
Dominic Mazzotta will be making his Bellator debut with an impressive 11-1 record, as he was Pinnacle FC’s bantamweight and featherweight champion. The lone loss on Mazzotta’s record came at the hands of the current UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt back in March of 2014. Can Mazzotta use his well-rounded game to steal the spotlight from top prospect AJ McKee?
AJ McKee is cranking on all cylinders as he puts his 7-0 professional record on the line against Bellator newcomer Dom Mazzotta. To his credit, McKee owns 3 KO finishes and 2 submission victories, but also showed that he can endure the distance, as his past 2 bouts went the full 15. He has shown solid skills in all facets of MMA, but it is in the scrambles where McKee thrives the most. As a product of his fighting father Antonio McKee, AJ McKee has such natural reactions when it comes to transitions, that he has been able to surf atop his opponents in the Bellator cage. Will McKee keep his momentum kicking to topple the king of a small pond, and show Bellator’s featherweight division that he is honing his craft?
Saad Awad (19-9 MMA; 7-6 Bellator) vs. Ryan Quinn (13-6-1 MMA; 7-0 Bellator): Lightweight
Ryan Quinn has amassed the quietest 7-0 Bellator run that you will probably ever see. Dating back to April of 2010 and stretching to July of 2015, Quinn has been in and out of the organization, each time picking up a win at the Mohegan Sun. Can Quinn win again in the promotion, and show Bellator’s lightweight division that his undefeated Bellator record is to be respected?
Saad Awad returns to action following a brutal 1:26 knockout at the hands of Brennan Ward at Bellator 163 back in November of 2016. With the loss, Awad has dropped 3 of his last 4 fights, including decision losses to Patricky Freire and Derek Anderson, respectively. Awad’s last win came in the form of a first-round TKO of Cyborg Santos at Bellator 154 in May of 2016, so you can expect the savvy veteran to fight like his back up against the wall. With wins over top talent like Will Brooks, Joe Duarte, and Cyborg Santos, will Awad pull from his experience with fighting higher caliber opponents, and hand Quinn his first promotional loss?
Blair Tugman vs. Thomas English: Featherweight
Billy Giovanella vs. Joshua Ricci: Flyweight
Don Shainis vs. Max Kelleher: Featherweight
Regivaldo Carvalho vs. Jason Perrin: Bantamweight
John Lopez vs. Remo Cardarelli: Flyweight
Chris Foster vs. Shane Manley: Featherweight
Watch Bellator 178, live on Spike TV this Friday at 9:00 P.M. ET with the prelims streaming online at 8:00 P.M. ET. Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for all of your event coverage including The MMA Vivisection, results, highlights, and more!