Bellator had an impressive offseason signing some of MMA’s most coveted free agents as well as little known up-and-comers ready to break out on a bigger stage.  Many of those acquisitions have panned out, especially in the middleweight and welterweight tournaments.  The finals of both divisions pretty much featured the matchups many thought would happen when the initial pairings were announced.  Last week Olympic wrestler Ben Askren grounded and pounded his way past Total Fight Challenge & Sengoku veteran Dan Hornbuckle.  On Thursday another Olympic caliber wrestler, Joe Warren, takes on undefeated Patricio “Pitbull” Freire.

Just like Askren, Warren boasts outstanding amateur wrestling background.  Coming in Askren had a brief fighting resume, while Warren had already locked up wins over former champions in ex-Hero’s champion Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto and former WEC champion Chase Beebe.  Askren’s opponent, American Top Teamer Dan Hornbuckle, who trained under downstate based Jack McVicker(long considered one of the top Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitors and coaches in the Midwest), went back to his grappling and produced two impressive submission wins en route to the title match.  Warren’s opponent will be Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, a former Chute Boxe fighter who’s known for a dynamic guard and solid BJJ skills in a addition to the trademark Muay Thai.

Joe Warren advances to the Featherweight title as expected.

Askren put a takedown clinic on Hornbuckle and was able to keep top position for most of the fight and reign down punishment.  Although Hornbuckle was able to work some submission attempts from his back, Askren was able to defend the sub attempts and pound away to a unanimous decision.

The match between Freire and Warren could very well play out in similar fashion.  Warren has made a living in his short career at putting opponents on their backs and staying busy enough from the top to earn some decision victories, and those wins have come against some big names.  However Warren has had problems with getting caught in near-tap situations and that plays right into Pitbull’s world.  Although Warren hasn’t succumbed to a finishing move in Bellator, Bibiano Fernandes caught him in an armbar last year during the Dream Featherweight Grand Prix.

Patricio "Pitbull" Freire faces Joe Warren for the Featherweight Title

The Featherweight championship is Thursday at Bellator 23 in Louisville, KY.  It will be an outdoor fight just like the Askren/Hornbuckle match was in Kansas City.  Louisville’s popular Fourth Street Live entertainment district will serve as the venue, the first time it’s hosted a live sporting event.  It’s a breakthrough for MMA in the Bluegrass State as this will be the first time a major national mixed martial arts promotion has staged an event in Kentucky.  Bellator 23 will also feature the Middleweight championship which pits Alexander Schlemenko against Bryan Baker.  You can watch all the action on Comcast Sportsnet at 11 pm.

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