image via Bellator.com
Bellator Fighting Championships today announced two feature bouts for it’s January 17th debut on Spike TV. The event will be headlined by two world title fights as Patricio “Pitbull” Freire returns after almost two years away from the Bellator cage to challenge featherweight titleholder Pat Curran; and Michael Chandler defends his lightweight crown for the first time when he battles 2004 U.S. Olympian, Rick Hawn. All that plus a few tournament bouts to kick off the promotion’s eighth season of MMA action.
“Our Thursday, January 17th premiere on Spike will be an incredible night for MMA fans; two epic world title fights and an amazing collection of tournament fights” said Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney. “Spike TV is the home for MMA and this event will be a great way to kick off that homecoming.”
Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (17-1 MMA, 5-1 BFC) entered the promotion with an unbeaten 12-0 record as a professional. The Team Nogueira representitive made it to the finals of the season two featherweight tournament where he was outpointed by eventual champion Joe Warren. Freire then entered and won the season four featherweight series by defeating Daniel Straus in the series finale.
Pat Curran (17-4 MMA, 7-1 BFC) popped up on most fans radars back in season two where he knocked out Mike Ricci and took decision victories over former UFC lightweight Roger Heurta and Bellator veteran Toby Imada. Those wins earned him a shot at Eddie Alvarez who held the division’s crown at that point.
After the decision loss to Alvarez, Curran returned to the featherweight division and rolled through the tournament by submitting Luiz Palomino, outpointing Ronnie Mann and knocking out former Sengoku featherweight champion, Marlon Sandro. Pat then got his shot at the 145 belt earlier this year and took full advantage of the opportunity, knocking out Joe Warren in the third.
Freire hasn’t seen action since early 2011. The 25-year-old Brazilian standout expected to challenge then champion Joe Warren at Bellator 47, but had to pull out of the contest due to a broken hand. Curran and Freire were originally scheduled to square off in August of this year, but the champ was unable to defend his title after sustaining an orbital bone fracture a little over a week before the fight.
Michael Chandler (10-0 MMA, 7-0 BFC) took the 155 pound weight class by storm in 2011. After a scare in the quarterfinal round of the promotion’s lightweight tournament which saw Chandler defending leglocks in the early going of his fight with Marcin Held. Michael used his strong wrestling base and heavy hands to roll in all three of his tournament bouts. Chandler capped off the year by stopping Eddie Alvarez in the fourth round of a back-and-forth bout that is considered to be one of the top fights in the sport’s short history.
Rick Hawn (14-1 MMA, 5-1 BFC) may be best known for his participation in the 2004 Olympic games where he represented the U.S. in Judo. Hawn has had an equally impressive career in Mixed Martial arts. Since debuting in 2009, Hawn has only tasted defeat once in his fifteen appearances, a closely contested split decision loss to Jay Hieron. Now down at 155, Rick looks to make the most out of his first shot at lightweight gold.
More information on the Bellator 85 fight card will be posted as it becomes available.