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‘Pitbull’ Freire: Daniel Straus evolved since our first fight, but I will knock him out

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Patricio Freire and Daniel Straus will once again meet inside the Bellator cage Friday night, and many things have changed since their first clash at the Bellator featherweight season four tournament final in 2011.

"Pitbull", who won the first bout and earned a shot at the 145-pound championship, lost the title bout to Pat Curran via split decision. Straus bounced back, and eventually won the tournament and beat Curran, to become the featherweight champion.

Curran defeated Straus in an immediate rematch, but then lost the championship to "Pitbull". In his first title defense, set for Jan. 16 in Temecula, the Brazilian champion faces Straus for the second time, and sees him as a better competitor almost four years later at Bellator 132.

"I watch Straus’ fights way before we fought for the first time. He’s in constant evolution," Freire told "He had great fights with (Nazareno) Malegarie and Pat Curran, knocked out Justin Wilcox quick in his last fight, so that proves he’s more complete now. It’s going to be a great fight."

Despite his recent evolution, Freire says the American Top Team fighter still has the same holes in his game.

"It was more of a brawl than a fight. It looked like they had personal issues, so they both made a lot of mistakes during the fight," "Pitbull" said of the last couple Straus vs. Curran fights in Bellator. "When the title is on the line, you have to be smart and keep emotions out of it. As a fan, I enjoyed the fight. As a strategist, I didn’t like it. I saw many mistakes, the same mistakes Straus did against me in 2011."

Entering the championship fight with five wins in a row, including three knockouts, "Pitbull" says he added more weapons to his game.

"I also evolved in all areas since our fight," he said. "I have judo throws, punches, kicks, knees. When the fight goes to the ground, it doesn’t take long until I finish it or come back up. Straus does that typical American game plan, that boring strategy with wrestling, taking you down and keeping you there, but this strategy won’t work with me.

"I bring Eric Albarracin to my training camp and work on my wrestling game. When I fought Straus for the first time, I never had a real wrestling training before, and I was still able to stop his takedowns. Now, I have a solid wrestling game, and I’m ready to defend this title."

"Pitbull" entered his past fight with a bad knee injury, but guarantees he’s 100 percent this time.

"I had two physical therapists and one doctor helping throughout this camp," Freire said. "Everything is perfect. I’m more than healthy for this fight. I underwent hyperbaric oxygen therapy for this fight, and I feel better than ever. I didn’t get tired during my whole camp. I’m in constant evolution, adding more weapons to my game."

In "constant evolution" and "with more weapons" in his game, the Brazilian featherweight predicts a stoppage victory at Bellator 132.

"He’s a wrestler, so every time he goes for a takedown he exposes his neck," "Pitbull" said. "Curran took advantage of that and finished him with a rear-naked choke. But he’s from a good team, there are a lot of Brazilians at ATT, so I believe he worked on that because he knows I don’t waste opportunities. If he goes to the ground with me and makes a mistake, I will submit him. But I believe he’ll try to fight me standing, and I will knock him out."