It’s that time once again, fans and friends. Another major MMA event has come and gone, and it’s time for my unofficial “Best Performance of the Night” award. As always, I found it tough to hand this award out. But unfortunately, this is not one of the times where that’s a good thing. Bellator 44 featured some tough fighters, but the only breakthrough performances were marred by controversy. And with a precedent already set, I’m going to give this award to one of Bellator 44’s losers, and not winners. Here’s why Patricky Freire’s gutsy and heartfelt performance took home “Best Performance of the Night”.
Let’s begin as we always do, by putting the situation into context.
Patricky Freire stepped into Bellator with the shadow of his brother Patricio hanging over him. Patricio had gone to the finals of Bellator’s Season Two Featherweight Tournament, suffering the first loss of his career to eventual champion Joe Warren. Freire promptly stepped out of that shadow when he knocked out former WEC Champion Rob McCullough in his Bellator debut. He then proceeded to give us one of the bigger highlights of Bellator’s entire fourth season when he delivered an incredible flying knee to Toby Imada, one of Bellator’s biggest stars.
His opponent, Michael Chandler, had been competing in professional MMA since only 2009. But in that time, Chandler managed to fight twice in Strikeforce and twice in Bellator before fighting in Bellator’s Season Four Lightweight Tournament. Chandler picked apart both Marcin Held and Lloyd Woodard on the way to the finals, and extended his perfect unbeaten streak to seven straight wins.
When the fight began, it appeared that the two were evenly-matched. Chandler’s willingness to stand and engage seemed to have caught Freire off-guard, but Freire was soon able to find his flow and started making the fight competitive.
He was then kicked in the crotch… hard.
After taking some time to recover, Freire continued to try his best to put Chandler away. In the second round, Chandler let loose with his takedowns, but Freire kept getting to his feet and pressing the action.
He was then kicked in the crotch… hard… again.
For a second time, Freire was allowed several minutes to recuperate. For a second time, he would jump right back into action, taking only a few minutes even though MMA rules allow a fighter to have up to a five-minute break after being struck in the groin. Chandler continued to get the better of Freire, and towards the end of the second round it became apparent that Chandler was beginning to pull away and really establish his dominance. Still, this was Patricky Freire, the man who stone-cold KO’d Rob McCullough after three rounds. Heading into the third and final round, all hope was not lost for Patricky Freire.
He was then kicked in the crotch… hard… for a third straight time.
And finally, finally… the referee took a point away from Chandler. One single point for three kicks to the crotch. For the third round, Chandler would fully assert himself, and in the end he would take a Unanimous Decision win.
I’m going to be open and honest about this: Michael Chandler isn’t getting this award because he doesn’t deserve it. I don’t care if those groin strikes were unintentional, and part of me is beginning to seriously doubt that all three were unintentional. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but that’s honestly how I feel. I’m giving my respect and this award to Patricky Freire for battling back from so many illegal blows and trying his hardest to make this bout a fun and entertaining fight. Patricky Freire simply proved more to me in defeat than Michael Chandler did in winning, and that’s why Freire gets “Best Performance of the Night”.
And what about you, fans and friends? Who took home your unofficial end-of-night accolades?