The featherweight title match between champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire and A.J. McKee is probably the most significant in Bellator history.
Freire has been a staple in the organization since 2010, when he debuted at Bellator 15 with a submission victory by heel hook over William Romero. He’s gone 20-4 since and captured both the featherweight and lightweight titles.
McKee is one of Bellator’s few purely homegrown stars. He’s only fought in Bellator, going 17-0, including a neck crank submission of Darrion Caldwell in November that put him into the finals of Saturday’s $1 million featherweight grand prix at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
McKee doesn’t have the track record that Freire does — few do — but he’s dominated whomever Bellator has put in front of him. He’s got 12 finishes in his 17 fights and has finished all three of his bouts in the tournament.
Freire is a slight favorite at BetMGM because he’s more of a known commodity. Freire is -125 while McKee is +105.
I like McKee’s versatility in this fight. He’s bigger and quicker than Freire, and he’s got the kind of well-rounded game that means he will be comfortable no matter where the fight goes.
McKee’s edge in this fight might be his stand-up. Freire has incredible power, as he proved in knocking out Michael Chandler to win the Bellator lightweight bout, but McKee’s probably a better pure boxer.
His key will be to avoid getting into a toe-to-toe shootout where he fights in tight and gets caught by one of Freire’s big hooks.
There are no props available at BetMGM on the fight yet, so I’ll take the plus money and bet $100 on McKee to win, hoping to win $105.
Best bets for UFC Vegas 33
In the main event of UFC Vegas 33, Uriah Hall takes on Sean Strickland in a fascinating match of styles. I’ve liked what I’ve seen of Strickland and feel he is maturing into an upper-division fighter.
The odds, though, surprise me. Strickland is -215 at BetMGM, while Hall is +175. That seems very wide for a fighter of Hall’s caliber.
Strickland’s got great hands, but so does Hall. Hall can be inconsistent, but he’s won five of his last six and looked good doing it.
I’ll take the plus money on Hall and bet that he wins the fight. I’ll lay $100 to hopefully win $175.
• Mounir Lazzez at -190 to win over Niklas Stolze.
• Zarukh Adashev at +110 to win over Ryan Benoit.
• Orion Cosce -170 to win over Phil Rowe.
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