Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (Jeff Vulgamore/Combat Press)

Bellator 209: Pitbull vs. Sanchez Preview and Predictions

Bellator MMA heads to Tel Aviv, Israel, for Bellator 209, where featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire defends his belt against Emmanuel Sanchez. The event takes place on Nov. 15, but it will air on Friday, Nov. 16, in the United States.

Freire has won his last two fights. He defended his featherweight title against Daniel Weichel in his last fight. Sanchez has fought under the Bellator banner for the last four years. Now on a four-fight winning streak, Sanchez finally gets a shot at Bellator gold.

The co-headliner heads to the welterweight division, where Ryan Couture takes on Haim Gozali. Couture looks to get back on the right track after going 1-3 over his last four fights. Couture is out to bounce back from a loss to Saad Awad in June.


At light heavyweight, former Bellator champion Phil Davis looks to extend his winning streak against Vadim Nemkov. At women’s featherweight, Cindy Dandois fights Olga Rubin. The heavyweight clash between Kirill Sidelnikov and Adam Keresh rounds out the main card.

The preliminary card for Bellator 209 airs on at 7 p.m. ET on Nov. 16. The main card follows via tape delay on the Paramount Network at 9 p.m. ET.

Emmanuel Sanchez finally gets a crack at Bellator featherweight gold. Can he dethrone Patricio “Pitbull” Freire?

It has been a long time coming, but Sanchez has finally made it to a featherweight title fight. He has been nothing short of great in his Bellator tenure and holds a 9-2 promotional mark. The two losses came against Daniel Weichel and former featherweight champ Pat Curran. Those men are among the best fighters in the lower weight classes for Bellator.

Sanchez is in an uphill battle against another of those top names in Freire. Sanchez has been in some close fights. Over the course of two years, he took part in four straight split decisions against some tough talent. Sanchez won three of those fights against opponents Justin Lawrence, Henry Corrales and Daniel Pineda. He was challenged by all three men, but still found a way to victory. Sanchez has shown more dominance in his last two fights. Instead of going the distance, he finished both UFC veteran Sam Sicilia and former featherweight champion Daniel Straus by submission.

Freire is going to be an entirely different beast. Straus, Sanchez’s former opponent, developed solid striking backed by a great wrestling skill set, whereas Freire excels in every category. We’re talking about one of the most successful fighters Bellator has ever produced. Freire has submitted 11 opponents with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills as a black belt, and he has knocked out nine other opponents. The Brazilian has picked up 20 of his 27 victories before the final bell.

Freire barely escaped Weichel in his last fight en route to a title defense via split decision. This will be a similarly close fight. Sanchez will push Freire not only on the ground, but on the feet. When we talk about well-rounded fighters, Sanchez comes to mind. However, an overwhelming majority of Sanchez’s early stoppages come by way of submission. That’s going to be difficult against someone of Freire’s caliber. It’s a tough fight, but Sanchez won’t dethrone Freire. Instead, the champ gets the nod in a toss-up.

While Haim Gozali and Ryan Couture are slated for the co-headlining slot, the light heavyweight bout between Phil Davis and Vadim Nemkov is arguably the second biggest fight on this card. Both Davis and Nemkov are on two-fight winning streaks inside the Bellator cage. Who keeps their streak alive, and will that man earn a title shot in the 205-pound division with the win?

Davis is easily one of the top fighters not only in the light heavyweight division, but on the entire Bellator roster. If current champion Ryan Bader hadn’t made the jump over to Bellator, Davis would undoubtedly still hold the belt. Davis may also have jumped into the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.

Instead, Davis is now set to meet Nemkov on a card in Israel to keep a streak alive and earn another crack at Bellator gold. Davis will emerge victorious for one primary reason: his wrestling. A former NCAA Division I collegiate wrestler at Penn State, he has been almost unstoppable with his tenacious wrestling. His style isn’t fan-friendly, but it has been dominant. He goes for the takedown, gets his opponent to the mat and then grinds them out for a unanimous-decision victory.

This fight won’t be won on the feet, but on the ground. Nemkov’s two victories in Bellator have come against Philipe Lins and former light heavyweight kingpin Liam McGeary. The experience is there, but neither of those fighters are at the same level as Davis. Neither of those fighters could claim to be within the top five in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.

Expect the same as you would in any other Davis fight. It will be a brutal unanimous decision ground out over three rounds.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

Kirill Medvedovsky and Denis Palancica.

Medvedovsky has already had one stint in Bellator, but he failed to register a victory through two fights with the promotion. He faced tough opponents in James Gallagher and Georgi Karakhanyan. Overall, Medvedovsky has secured nine victories by either submission or knockout.

Palancica, on the other hand, has so far remained undefeated through six fights. Only one of these contests went to the scorecards.

With both guys securing a majority of their wins by either knockout or submission, plus the undefeated record of Palancica, this fight has the potential to be one worth watching.

Fight Picks

Fight Pick
Main Card (Paramount Network, 9 p.m. ET)
FW Championship: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire vs. Emmanuel Sanchez Freire
WW: Haim Gozali vs. Ryan Couture Couture
LHW: Phil Davis vs. Vadim Nemkov Davis
Women’s FW: Olga Rubin vs. Cindy Dandois Dandois
HW: Kirill Sidelnikov vs. Adam Keresh Sidelnikov
Preliminary Card (, 7 p.m. ET)
LW: Ido Halfon vs. Itay Tratner Tratner
LHW: Nisim Rozalis vs. Nika Ben Tuashy Rozalis
FW: Ion Pop vs. Itsik Rubinov Pop
WW: Shimon Smotritsky vs. Matan Levi Smotritsky
WW: Fadi Haiyadre vs. Christos Nicolaou Nicolaou
FW: Honor Kelesh vs. Andrei Barbarosa Kelesh
Women’s StrawW: Yulia Sachkov vs. Viktoria Makarova Sachkov
WW: Khonry Gracie vs. Ron Becker Gracie
LW: Aviv Gozali vs. Anton Lazebnov Gozali
FW: Kirill Medvedovsky vs. Denis Palancica Palancica
BW: Ejargew Tariku vs. Sidemar Honorio Tariku
WW: Jackie Gosh vs. Jamil Ibragimov Gosh