Bellator 178 preview: Straus, Mazzotta, Busick look for statement wins in Connecticut

Bellator 178

This Friday’s Bellator 178 will have a distinct Ohio Valley flare, as three fighters hailing from the area will compete in pivotal bouts on the card.

In the night’s main event, Cincinnati native Daniel Straus (24-6) will return from an extended layoff to defend his featherweight title against Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (25-4). This will be the fourth meeting between the two, with Freire holding a 2-1 advantage over the champion.

They first met at Bellator 45 in 2011, with Freire taking home a unanimous decision and earning a title shot in the Season 4 Featherweight Tournament Final. They met again at Bellator 132 in 2015, with Freire successfully defending his title with a fourth round submission win.

The third time was a charm for Straus, who finally edged Patricio Pitbull in their most recent meeting at Bellator 145 in November 2015. 

But the win was costly for Straus, who suffered a hand injury in the first round of the bout. 

This will be his first time in action since winning the title. 

For Straus, he wants to even the score and then move on to new challenges. 

“I’m going out there to put a stamp on this fight,” Straus said. “I want to knock him out. I want to knock him out in the second or third round.”

Mazzotta vs McKee

Also in action will be Pittsburgh area native Dominic Mazzotta (12-1) who makes his promotional debut on the main card against A.J. McKee (7-0). 

Mazzotta signed a three-fight deal with Bellator, and he’s confident heading into his debut.

“I don’t think he’s on my level,” Mazzotta told FloCombat. “It [taking the fight] was never a question. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, let’s check this guy out.’ No. I get a [22]-year-old kid who’s undefeated, who’s never really been tested, who they’re pushing? Yeah, give me that all day. I would’ve taken it on two weeks’ notice, but thankfully I got five weeks.” 

Mazzotta is currently riding a nine-fight winning streak, and he holds both the Pinnacle FC bantamweight and featherweight titles. Ten of his wins have come via stoppage, with his only loss coming in 2014 to current UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt.

He has a tough opponent on his hands, as the 21-year-old McKee is seen as one of the top prospects under the Bellator MMA banner. He made his pro debut for the promotion in 2015 and has remained undefeated since. In his last outing, the son of UFC veteran Antonio McKee topped Brandon Phillips via decision at Bellator 171 in January.

And on the prelims, Branko Busick (0-0) will make his pro debut against former national champion wrestler Tyrell Fortune (2-0). 

Busick, the son of former WWE star Nick “Big Bully” Busick, posted a 5-1 amateur MMA record with his last bout coming at IT Fight Series 42 last April. He originally committed to play football at West Virginia University before transferring and playing at California University in Pennsylvania. He was also AP Ohio Defensive Co-Player of the Year during his time in high school.

Fortune was a Division II national champion wrestler at Grand Canyon University. The 26-year-old heavyweight is also 2-0 with the promotion, with TKO wins over Cody Miskell at Bellator 163 and Will Johnson at Bellator 171 on his record.

Bellator 178 takes place on Friday, April 21 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The main card airs on Spike TV at 9pm ET, with the prelims streaming on Spike.com beginning at 7pm ET.

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