Fighters who don't compete in UFC rarely get recognition among the best in the sport. But one in particular has his own claim to being one of, if not the best, at 145 and 155 pounds as a part of Bellator MMA. One glance at Patricio Pitbull's resume should be all it takes to understand why the current two-division champion has earned such high regard. He gets a chance to add another name to that list of opponents defeated on Saturday night at Bellator 263 when he takes on AJ McKee in the final matchup of the Featherweight World Grand Prix inside The Forum in Inglewood, California.
Pitbull (32-4) has only suffered a single convincing defeat in his career, with two losses by split decision and one coming via a leg injury suffered against Benson Henderson. Along the way, he has won the featherweight championship twice and also currently holds the promotion's lightweight title.
That already impressive resume will be strengthened even more with a win over McKee, a top prospect who has impressively run through the competition while putting together a perfect 17-0 record.
This week, Brian Campbell and Luke Thomas took a look back through Pitbull's career with an in-depth Resume Review on "Morning Kombat."
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Let's take a look at three fights from Pitbull's career the CBS Sports experts believe to be his top career-defining moments.
vs. Pat Curran (Sept. 5, 2014): One thing Patricio Freire has done such a great job of throughout his career is responding to defeats by improving whatever aspect of his game wasn't up to par at that point. Throughout his first four years in Bellator, Freire had already proven to be a devastating finisher yet was far from a complete fighter. His first title shot -- a split-decision loss to Pat Curran at Bellator 85 in 2013 -- showcased just that as Freire rallied to make it close but couldn't get over the hump. Freire had shown Curran too much respect and his defense was far from elite. But it made the improvements he was forced to show over the next year all the more impressive as Freire won four straight, including three by knockout, to set up a featherweight title rematch with Curran at Bellator 123.
A full 18 months removed from losing to Curran in their first fight, Freire showed up to their second meeting as a completely different animal. Freire walked through Curran with ease and established himself early as the bigger striker en route to a wide decision win to capture his first title. Freire owned the center of the cage and had an answer for every adjustment Curran attempted to make. This was the night when Freire cemented himself as one of the best 145-pound fighters in the world by employing a savvy and command he would use to eventually become a two-division champion. -- Brian Campbell
vs. Daniel Straus (April 21, 2019): In the four Pitbull-Straus wars, the least competitive bout and perhaps the least interesting in terms of competitive action is the fourth. Where the first three are punctuated with momentum swings, scrambles, thunderous strikes and everything else that comes with being truly blood and guts, the fourth mostly, if not exclusively, featured one-way action. Of the four bouts, however, the fourth is by far the most telling. While Pitbull and Straus were largely peers never separated much from one another in either skill or will through their trilogy, the quadrilogy is where the distance between them became apparent. Worse, the gap also featured directionality: their careers were no longer on similar paths. For a rivalry based on the idea the two were of similar levels and a good match for one another, the fourth fight ended all of this.
Pitbull stuffed all of Straus' takedown attempts while using lateral footwork to counter Straus' forward pressure in the first round. That's as far as Straus would take it. Just 30 seconds into the second, Pitbull used that aforementioned pressure against his opponent, sitting for a guillotine and almost instantly earning the tap. Straus had been submitted before, but not this early in previous Pitbull bouts and not this easily. Pitbull looked like he was barely breaking a sweat, to say nothing of never being in danger. There are times in a fighter's career when you watch them level up in unmistakable ways. When Pitbull stood up after Straus tapped, there wasn't a 'Straus and Pitbull' anymore. It was just Pitbull now. -- Luke Thomas
vs. Michael Chandler (May 11, 2019): There was a line of thinking that Pitbull, often the smaller man in his featherweight bouts, would simply be too small for then-lightweight champion Chandler. There were a variety of storylines running through the fight, with Pitbull looking to become a two-division champion and avenge his brother's two losses to Chandler -- in addition to the two men having built up years of animosity. Talk of Chandler's size and power advantages disappeared quickly, melted away by Pitbull's right hand. Sixty-one seconds after the fight started, Pitbull brought it to a close, becoming "champ-champ."
As far as legacy-defining fights go, it's hard to imagine something that could top Pitbull's trip up in weight to score a shocking knockout of a -275 favorite in barely more than a minute. The win only looks better after Chandler's jump to the UFC where he was inches from winning the lightweight championship before a come-from-behind knockout by Charles Oliveira. Chandler has never been a perfect fighter, but he's a dangerous enough threat to any man on any given night that his name stands out as one of the most impressive on Pitbull's resume. -- Brent Brookhouse