Patricio Freire vs. A.J. McKee Bellator 263 Odds, Pick & Prediction: How to Bet Grand Prix Final (July 31)
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images. Pictured: Bellator fighter Patricio Pitbull.
- Two of the world's top featherweights will square off at The Forum in Los Angeles with $1 million on the line.
- Bellator 145-pound champion Patricio "Pitbull" Freire takes on the undefeated A.J. McKee in the promotion's Featherweight Grand Prix final.
- Sean Zerillo breaks down the matchup and where he sees betting value on Saturday night.
Patricio Freire vs. A.J. McKee Odds
The biggest fight in Bellator history will take place on Saturday night at The Forum in Inglewood, California, as two-division champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire takes on A.J. McKee in the finals of Bellator’s $1 Million Featherweight Grand Prix.
Freire is a two-time champion in Bellator’s Featherweight division, and he has defended his belt five times on his current run, including three defenses since his 2019 victory over Michael Chandler, where he also secured Lightweight gold.
McKee, a second-generation Mixed Martial Artist, has fought his entire career in Bellator, amassing an undefeated record that includes nine first-round finishes.
Per Ranking MMA, Pitbull (No. 3) and McKee (No. 6) are two of the top 10 Featherweights globally — the only men’s weight class aside from Light Heavyweight where Bellator features two fighters in the top 10. Moreover, Freire also checks in at No. 10 in their pound-for-pound rankings.
McKee has all the potential in the world, but does he have the skills to compete with Bellator’s most decorated talent in his first five-round affair?
Below, I’ll analyze the stylistic matchup and the odds for Saturday’s contest.
Tale of the Tape
|Weight (pounds)||144 lbs.||144 lbs.|
|Date of birth||7/7/87||4/7/95|
McKee has massive physical advantages here — standing 4 inches taller, with an 8-inch reach advantage.
For context, UFC Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski has a 71.5-inch reach, while Max Holloway has a 69.5-inch reach — and McKee’s frame and physique is unique for the 145-pound division.
McKee struggled to make weight on Friday, but returned to the scales a second time and hit the 145-pound limit. Freire has competed at 155, but he’s closer to a 135-pounder in terms of stature.
Still, he possesses massive power in both hands from his low center of gravity and is capable of shutting the lights off in any opponent:
Pitbull has faced a higher level of competition than McKee and fought for 25 minutes on five occasions (3-2 in those decisions). The championship rounds are uncharted territory for the challenger, and McKee looks like he should be able to maintain a solid pace for 25 minutes. Still, a difficult weight cut could serve to work against him in the late stages of this fight.
Freire does his best work off the counter, which should play well against McKee’s early pressure. However, McKee’s length advantage could pose problems since Freire tends to throw hooks as opposed to straight punches, so he’ll really need to step inside of that range and close the distance.
Since Pitbull fights from an orthodox stance, he’ll be exposed a bit against McKee’s southpaw/switch attack, particularly with body kicks. And if Mckee works kicks off of his jab, he could frustrate Pitbull quite a bit in the early going.
Both men are high-level jiu-jitsu practitioners, but I think Pitbull would prefer to keep this fight standing because McKee’s size on the ground potentially poses more of an issue than it does on the feet.
With his long limbs, he’s able to pull off submissions from positions that don’t seem possible:
Pitbull has a nasty guillotine choke of his own that he can sink into opponents if they try to change levels in fights. But mostly, I think the Brazilian would prefer to counter-wrestle McKee and try to put the hurt on an opponent who hasn’t faced much adversity in professional MMA.
The beauty and the curse of McKee’s early finishes (four first-round wins in his last six fights) is that we haven’t had a chance to fully see the improvements that he’s made over the past three to four years.
His striking has come a long way, but there are still some holes in his game – like a tendency to throw naked kicks – which could prove detrimental against an opponent of this caliber.
The tools are all there for McKee- but his overall skill set isn’t necessarily refined, and the application of his physical gifts may not be optimized.
Fighters who can counter McKee — like Pitbull — can take advantage of his pressure and recklessness. However, fighters like McKee — who can smother opponents on the ground or grind you down with size and strength — are the best archetype to defeat Pitbull.
The champion doesn’t necessarily have the best cardio — or fight in a way where he blows out opponents on the scorecards — but he is certainly resilient and battle-tested.
Even if McKee is the man with better cardio, he hasn’t faced true adversity in the cage, and Freire seems the man more likely to dig deep and stage a late comeback in the championship rounds.
Still, McKee may be a truly generational talent — the start of a new wave of MMA fighters — and nobody can stop this hype train.
Freire vs. McKee Pick
Pitbull opened as a -125 favorite in this fight, and the line has come down to around a pick’em at the time of writing.
Based upon the public pick data that I scrape, McKee is the much more popular selection, with fans picking the challenger to stay undefeated at around a 63% clip, which would imply a line closer to -170.
I would have expected to see Pitbull lined closer to -150 (60% implied) before breaking down the fight at a deeper level.
Based on what we have seen and what we know about their respective careers, it’s hard not to make Pitbull the favorite in this matchup. After my assessment, I think the opening line closer to 55% (-122 implied) was more than fair.
A bet on McKee is a bet on his unlimited long-term upside, but this is still a massive step up in competition against a dominant champion who now seems to be suddenly underrated. At a pick’em price, all you are doing is planting your flag.
McKee could come out and absolutely dominate this fight and stamp himself as a potential generational star in MMA — and I would be fine with that result. He’s a terrific talent, and I’m excited to see his career play out.
Still, I see far more flag planting on the McKee side than I do on the champion’s side, and I’m happy to play against the public and snatch up some perceived line value.
Bet Pitbull here, up to -120, and try to find a plus-money price in the live market after the first couple of rounds, as McKee’s finishing upside wanes.
I also think there’s value on the over 2.5 rounds (-135) or the “Fight to Go the Distance” prop (Yes listed +165) since I only projected this bout to end inside of the distance 55% of the time (-122 implied odds).
However, this fight could play out in various ways – and could even end in the opening exchanges — so I would be much more cautious about sweating an over, as opposed to the moneyline.
The Pick: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (-115, 1 unit) | Over 2.5 Rounds (-135, 0.25u)