Patricio "Pitbull" Freire dominated Fabricio Guerreiro on Friday night at Bellator 103, seizing a unanimous decision victory at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, KS to move one step closer towards a rematch against Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran.
Freire (20-2) set the tone from the opening bell, powering his Brazilian countryman to the mat, isolating a kimura, then stepping over into full mount. Guerreiro (19-3, 1 NC) defended valiantly enough, but a relentless Freire claimed mount once more later in the round before standing and raining down a flurry of punches.
The second frame played out in a similarly uneven fashion, as Freire spent a majority of the round locking Guerreiro against the fence. Despite a pair of breaks from referee John McCarthy, Guerreiro struggled to escape from Freire's clutches or create any meaningful offense. Freire then cemented the victory with another stifling five minutes, punctuated by a sequence in which Friere hoisted Guerreiro up and slammed him down onto the canvas.
When the dust settled, the judges unanimously scored it 30-27 in favor of Freire.
With the win, Freire adds to his season two and season four résumé to become the first three-time tournament finalist in Bellator history.
"It was hard work made in the gym with my teammates. I'm very happy to be there again," Freire said afterward.
He'll now move on to meet Strikeforce veteran Justin Wilcox (13-5, 1 NC), who shut down the attack of Joe Taimanglo (19-5-1) for three rounds to earn a unanimous decision victory and spot in the season nine featherweight finals in the night's co-main event.
Wilcox secured takedowns throughout each frame and unloaded a steady barrage of short punches and elbows from top position. Taimanglo had his moments, connecting on peppering shots from the outside, but ultimately the former PXC champion was unable to mount any significant offense.
A lone judge scored the bout 29-28, while two scored it 30-27, all in favor of Wilcox.
The 24-year-old lightweight entered the arena riding in a homemade Flintstones-esque "Rickels Mobile," but wasted little time getting to work once the theatrics concluded. Rickels crushed Ambrose with a push kick, right hand combo early in the opening frame, then repeated the favor with a destructive liver kick midway through round two.
As the final round commenced, Rickels caught Ambrose in an inverted triangle along the fence, then unloaded on the ribcage of his trapped opponent until referee John McCarthy mercifully stepped in with 2:37 off the clock.
A Kansas native, Rickels tore into the audience to celebrate before staking his claim in the center of the Bellator cage.
"The is the road to redemption, Caveman style. I want to put beatings just like that on everybody in this division," he declared. "I know I'm capable of it. I really believe I'm a top-10 fighter in the world. I want to see my name right up there on that banner."
Zayats secured a trip takedown into side control early in round one, then cranked on a kimura to coax an immediate tapout. The finish came just 47 seconds into the opening frame.