Eddie Alvarez has won eight of his nine fights in Bellator. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Bellator Fighting Championships is back again this week, offering up arguably the stoutest card of the season thus far.
Bellator 76 takes place Friday at the Caesars Windsor Hotel and Casino in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and airs live on MTV2. Before I get to exactly why you all should tune in for the tasty lightweight headliner, as well as the Season 7 featherweight tournament quarterfinals, I think we all need to observe a moment of silence in memory of Thiago Santos’ clearly destroyed private parts. When I said that Eric Prindle needed to get even at Bellator 75, I was in no way endorsing the retaliatory testicle hate crime we all witnessed. Remember kids, two wrongs do not make a right.
Here is what to watch for at Bellator 76:
Eddie’s Bellator Bookend
For a long time, everyone was thinking it. Now, even Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney is pretty much saying it: Eddie Alvarez is more than likely about to make his final appearance in the Bellator cage.
Alvarez was long known as the face of the Bellator franchise, one of the promotion’s only truly elite fighters in its nascent years. During his time as Bellator’s first lightweight champion, it was generally assumed that the 28-year-old would remain the organization’s 155-pound king until he got tired of wearing that crown and answered the call of the UFC.
Then came Michael Chandler, a hard-punching, well-rounded wrestler who took Alvarez’s best shots and then put him away in a 2011 “Fight of the Year” nominee at Bellator 58. To his credit, Alvarez rebounded from the defeat by avenging his 2008 loss to Shinya Aoki in April, knocking out the ground specialist with a controlled blitz of punches. Now, Alvarez must contend with the heavy-handed Patricky Freire in the Bellator 76 headliner.
Much is on the line for Alvarez in this fight, as his performance should directly influence the UFC’s asking price. That means fans should see one fired-up Pennsylvanian come fight night.
‘Pitbull’ or Pretender?
What does the future hold for Freire?
I know he is a huge lightweight. I know he is fast, strong and explosive. He holds one-punch knockout power in both hands. People use words like monster, animal and beast to describe him, and much of that appreciation is deserved. On paper, he should be as good or better than any lightweight Bellator can throw at him.
In spite of all that, I am not sure Freire possesses the mental toughness to beat somebody who acknowledges all that and still keeps moving forward. I have my doubts as to whether or not he has the endurance to win a tournament or whether or not he can keep it together emotionally and recover if and when things go pear-shaped in the cage. While still a respected member of Bellator’s lightweight division, it is undeniable that Freire has seen his stock fall following losses to Chandler and, most recently, Lloyd Woodard.
This is why we watch fights, though. Is it not stirring to watch gifted individuals give all they have? Do we not vicariously feel the emotions of a man who tastes either the thrill of victory or the sting of defeat? Regardless of what Freire accomplishes with the rest of his career, he should always rate highly in this regard simply because he should be the monster everyone expects him to be. Whether he fulfills those expectations or crashes and burns, fans will care. Nevertheless, just as this is a huge fight for Alvarez, so to must it be for Freire. One would be hard-pressed to find a better chance for “Pitbull” to regain some swagger and gather some legitimate momentum heading into the next lightweight tournament.
Man Named Rad
Is it time for Rad Martinez to shine?
Little needs to be said about the character of this young man that was not shown in abundance in the ESPN “E:60” piece that made him famous. For those who missed it, Martinez balances taking care of his disabled father with training and fighting. Bellator brass took notice of the story last year and signed Martinez shortly after his vignette ran on the sports cable network.
Martinez made a successful Bellator debut in September 2011 and then notched another promotional win in March, showing a host of solid skills en route to earning a first-round technical knockout over Douglas Frey. Two-time tournament veteran Nazareno Malegarie will serve as the first roadblock between Martinez and the $100,000 payday that would likely serve as a life-changing reward.
Can he seize this opportunity and take his first step toward a title shot?
Wagnney Fabiano will enter the cage for the first time since November 2010.
For those who do not remember the Brazilian’s exploits, he was the first and only featherweight champion of the defunct International Fight League before joining the World Extreme Cagefighting roster. Though Fabiano was considered by many at the time as a serious WEC title contender, the Nova Uniao representative saw those aspirations dashed by Mackens Semerzier in the 2009 “Upset of the Year.” Though Fabiano rebounded with a pair of bantamweight victories, he was submitted by Joseph Benavidez with a guillotine choke at WEC 52 in what would serve as his final fight to date.
Does the 37-year-old jiu-jitsu specialist have what it takes to shake off the ring rust and make one more run at a title or will surging Armenian prospect Akop Stepanyan derail that comeback train before it gathers any steam?