While much of the attention was set on the UFC bouts in Nashville, there was indeed another fight card that had some pretty interesting clashes. It’s fascinating to me that a fourth fight between two closely matched opponents can somehow still generate interest, but when you consider the fact that the two fighters in question are Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire and Daniel Straus, you have to make a bit of an exception.
While we can go on and on about where these two men fit in the grand scheme of things in terms of ranking the best featherweights in the world, what can’t be denied is that when these two enter the cage to face off, you can expect fireworks. Or that’s at least what I thought heading into Bellator 178. Instead, what I received was far more gratifying while at the same time conflicting.
I’ve always appreciated the blood and guts style of Daniel Straus, the wrestler with good fundamental kickboxing. But Patricio Freire peaked my interest most in this bout. From the moment he took the center of the cage and stood in a long karate stance reminiscent of Shotokan practioner I knew two things; firstly, Pitbull has gone out of his way to evolve his style and second, Daniel Straus was in for a long night.
Freire has always been a very explosive and powerful featherweight with some good boxing and Muay Thai skills. By implementing karate into his game we were able to see where he can truly shine.
Being in an opposite stance from Straus, Freire utilizing a longer, lower karate stance ensured a few things. One, that the takedown wouldn’t be readily available for Straus when he did choose to shoot in, simply because it would be hard to get below the hips of Freire to elevate the scrappy Brazilian. Another thing the karate stance ensured is that Freire would be using his front hand and footwork for distance control. This means that while Straus could be successful with inside low kicks from time to time, landing strikes to the head would be far more difficult.
Closing the distance for Straus meant that he would have to throw long Combo strings before being able to shoot in for the takedown, but this also meant potentially running into the long range straight right hand or gyaku zuki of Freire.
The fight would eventually be decided by the crushing guillotine choke by Freire, but it’s the lead up to the finish that was truly eye opening. Straus was forced to strike from too far out which allowed Freire the time and opportunity to keep a clear head and lock up the fight ending submission once he was comfortable.
Now, karate isn’t going to solve every problem, I know that well enough. But the benefits are growing more and more obvious as fighters who control distance are always going to conquer the game. Whether that means smothering offense or fighting from the outside, the distancing game that karate provides fighters makes winning all that much closer in reach.
What do you think of Patricio Freire beating Reclaiming the featherweight belt and karate in MMA?
Jonathan Salmon is a writer, martial arts instructor, and geek culture enthusiast. Check out his Twitter and Facebook to keep up with his antics.
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