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Bellator 209: Pitbull vs. Sanchez fight card preview

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Here’s the rundown for this Thursday’s Bellator 209 card, where featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire takes on Emmanuel Sanchez in the Tel Aviv main event.

Bellator 209 takes place this Thursday night from Tel Aviv, Israel with the marquee matchup seeing featherweight champ Patricio “Pitbull” Freire take on the 17-3 Emmanuel Sanchez. The co-main event slot will see a rematch from last year’s Bellator NYC cards, as Ryan Couture squares off with Israel’s own Haim Gozali once again. Before that, former Bellator 205-pound champ Phil Davis is slated against the 9-2 Fedor Emelianenko protege, Vadim Nemkov. Also on the card, MMA veteran Cindy Dandois makes her promotional debut against the 4-0 local talent Olga Rubin. Opening up the main card, we have the 11-5 “Baby Fedor,” Kirill Sidelnikov making his Bellator debut with a crazy experience advantage over his 2-0 opponent, Adam Keresh.

**Bellator 209 can be seen on the Paramount Network and DAZN at 9:00 P.M. ET (Tape Delay)

Main Card:

Patricio Freire (27-4 MMA; 15-4 Bellator) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (17-3 MMA; 9-2 Bellator): Featherweight Title

After dropping the featherweight title to Daniel Straus back in 2015, Patricio Pitbull submitted Henry Corrales, before suffering a weird TKO injury loss to Benson Henderson at Bellator 160. Pitbull went on to rebound with authority, winning back his title from Straus with a second round guillotine at Bellator 178 back in April of 2017. Since then, Pitbull has successfully defended his crown against Daniel Weichel in their rematch, picking up a split decision at Bellator 203 this past July.

It’s no big secret as to what Pitbull is coming to do. He likes to counter punch and throw power hooks, and is actually low-key legit at submitting cats. As we’ve seen time and time again, all it takes is one shot from Pitbull to seal the deal. The last time Pitbull beat Straus and Weichel in succession, he dropped his following match. Can Pitbull prevent history from repeating itself?

Emmanuel Sanchez dropped a split decision to Daniel Weichel at Bellator 159 back July of 2016, that a lot of people say he won. Had that tilt been scored in his favor, Sanchez would currently be on an eight-fight winning streak. Instead, Sanchez is riding a wave of four in a row, including two former Bellator champs in Marcos Galvao and Daniel Straus.

Sanchez is a Roufusport product and has shown off a thirst for coming forward behind his fundamental striking. This type of style will actually give Pitbull the fight he wants, but the sheer volume that Sanchez throws should make things interesting. The knock on Sanchez has been his knack for going to the scorecards, but he has gotten away from that label as of late as he’s now picked up back-to-back submissions, first on Straus and then on UFC veteran Sam Sicilia. Sanchez is insanely well-rounded and has shown off quite a sturdy chin. If he can avoid the big knockout punch, could this be a changing of the guard?

  • Check out Bloody Elbow’s interview with Emmanuel Sanchez:

Ryan Couture (11-6 MMA; 3-3 Bellator) vs. Haim Gozali (8-5 MMA; 2-2 Bellator): Welterweight

We saw this fight at Bellator NYC in June of 2017, but for some reason we are going to see it ran back in the co-main event of Bellator 209. Perhaps this is a gift to Israel’s own Haim Gozali? Their initial matchup wasn’t particularly compelling, with Couture grinding his way to an uneventful unanimous decision. Will this time around be any different for the now 45-year-old Gozali?

Phil Davis (19-4 MMA; 6-1 Bellator) vs. Vadim Nemkov (9-2 MMA; 2-0 Bellator): Light Heavyweight

Phil Davis took Bellator by storm upon his arrival in 2015, picking up some finishes and capturing the 205 pound strap. After losing his belt in his rematch with current king Ryan Bader, Davis returned to his winning ways by securing back-to-back victories at Bellator 186 and Bellator 200. It should also be noted that Davis’ last two losses have been to Bader, who is a terrible stylistic matchup for “Mr. Wonderful.”

In his last outing, Davis proved once again that he’s capable of a spectacular finish, when he thumped Linton Vassell with a gorgeous head kick to achieve the third round knockout at Bellator 200. Davis is elite and has never been finished in his professional MMA career, which is an honor that has only really been seen at light heavyweight from the likes of Jon Jones. It really does takes a special, championship-level talent to beat Phil Davis.

Vadim Nemkov, pupil of Fedor Emelianenko, is off to a fantastic start under the Bellator banner, finishing his first-two opponents in very different ways. Nemkov dropped Philipe Lins in his promotional debut before putting him out with brutal ground strikes. His followup performance was just as impressive, and even more meaningful, as he stopped Bellator’s former 205 pound champion, Liam McGeary, with leg kicks in the third round.

Nemkov is only 26 years old, has good power in his hands as well as legs, and has a solid camp surrounding him, including his 25-7 brother Viktor Nemkov. Having already bested one Bellator champ and now taking on another, could we be witnessing Nemkov’s march towards the title?

Cindy Dandois (12-3 MMA; Bellator Debut) vs. Olga Rubin (4-0 MMA; 1-0 Bellator): (W) Featherweight

Having already fought in promotions such as M1, RIZIN FF, and the UFC Cindy Dandois is set to make her promotional debut with Bellator. Dandois made her pro debut back in 2009 by winning a unanimous decision over MMA pioneer Marloes Coenen. On her resume, you’ll find a lot of other high-profile names such as Shelia Graff, Yana Kunitskaya, Tonya Evinger, Megan Anderson, King Reina, and Alexis Davis. To say Dandois has an experience edge here would be a gross understatement.

Olga Rubin has a big opportunity to score a win over an established veteran in front of a home crowd. Rubin likes to throw her strikes with a ton of volume, and has been seen letting her knees go from the clinch. You can expect to see a lot of fundamental technique in the strikes of Rubin, which she could very well use to exploit the richly porous mechanics of Dandois’ standup. We watched Rubin win her Bellator debut with ground and pound, but don’t be surprised to see her wanting to keep this one on its feet.

Kirill Sidelnikov (11-5 MMA; Bellator Debit) vs. Adam Keresh (2-0 MMA; 1-0 Bellator): Heavyweight

It seems like just yesterday that Kirill Sidelnikov, better known as “Baby Fedor,” was fighting on the Affliction 2 card, but that was back in January of 2009. That’s so long ago, that Fraser Coffeen and Eddie Mercado of Bloody Elbow have done a 6th Round Retro for that card. Many moons later, and with a record of 11-5, Baby Fedor is making his Bellator debut, and it’s against the 2-0 Adam Keresh. Why or how this fight was even made will remain a mystery, but nonetheless, Keresh has been fighting since December of 2016, and has finished both of his 0-0 opponents before the third round.