Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated's in-depth look at MMA. Every week, this column offers insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.
Adam Borics is ready to play the role of spoiler at Bellator 286.
Reigning featherweight champion Patrício "Pitbull" Freire (33-5 MMA, 21-5 BMMA) defends his title against Borics (18-1 MMA, 9-1 BMMA) in Saturday's Bellator 286 main event, which is a card that also features A.J. McKee making his lightweight debut in front of a hometown crowd in Long Beach, California. If both Freire and McKee win, the natural progression will be a rubber match between the two rivals.
Yet there is one flaw in that plan. Borics, who has been wiping out top competition, plans to dethrone Freire and walk away with the title.
"I've been overlooked and disrespected, but I am going to make a statement in this fight," says Borics. "I'm not a big trash talker, but I do speak the truth. I'm the best in the world. I'm excited to show that and become the champion."
Only 29, Borics has found a way to improve in every showing. His most recent fight was a victory against Mads Burnell in March, where he nullified Burnell's takedowns and ground game, and showed a refined evolution since his lone loss to Darrion Caldwell in January of 2020. Since that defeat, he has won four in a row, including defeating Jeremy Kennedy.
But Borics has never fought anyone like Freire.
This marks the first defense for Freire since regaining the title from McKee in April. A Bellator icon, Freire aspires to craft a memorable title run beginning with this bout. The 35-year-old is prepared and ready, and he refuses to be caught off-guard by this dangerous challenger.
"I've had my eye on Borics for a long time," says Freire. "He's very impressive and had great wins against Aaron Pico and Mads Burnell. I'm taking him very seriously, and I think we have a great strategy entering this fight."
The last two fights for Freire have been against McKee. Even though they are both fighting on the same card this Saturday, Freire maintained that his focus on fight night will be entirely on Borics.
"A.J.'s looking for a fight and trying to provoke me, but that doesn't really matter to me," said Freire. "I was born to fight. Come fight me in the hotel. Then I'll go out and fight Borics after."
Borics believes his emergence into the main event will be a breath of fresh air for the division, particularly after back-to-back Freire-McKee title fights.
"A.J. and 'Pitbull,' their second fight was boring as hell," Borics says. "This will be exciting. We'll have good grappling, wrestling, striking. I love to fight, and this is going to be a great one."
Freire is aware of the challenge in front of him. Opponents keep growing hungrier and more talented, with Borics the latest fighter to attempt to put a dent in Freire's legacy. But the champ still operates at an elite level, and he is favored for a reason. Though the time will undoubtedly come when Freire has to pass the torch in the featherweight division, he firmly believes that will not be the case Saturday.
"I'm very confident," Freire says. "I'm excited to follow my game plan, not make any mistakes, and get my hand raised this Saturday."
45-year-old Aleksei Oleineik fights off retirement for another bout in the octagon
Retirement was set up perfectly, or so it seemed, for Aleksei Oleinik this past April.
Oleinik, who was 44 at the time, snapped a three-fight losing streak with an impressive submission victory against Jared Vanderaa. That marked win No. 60 for Oleinik, an incredible accomplishment. That would have been a perfect end to a great career. And that was the plan, until the allure of competition drew Oleinik back into the octagon.
"I need to keep fighting," says Oleinik. "I have been fighting all my life, and all my life I have been chasing impractical, impossible goals. Sixty wins, that goal seemed impossible. Fighting at this age, that seemed impossible. Now we are here. I want to make the impossible into the possible."
Like Oleinik, Latifi is also coming off a victory, heightening the stakes at the closed-off UFC Apex.
"I'm 45, but I'm still fighting for the top organization in the world," Oleinik says. "My goal is to always be better. That is not just for fighting, that is my goal in life."
A master of the art of submission, Oleinik will look to make Latifi tap. This is not expected to go long, but it should be a short burst of violence.
"I have a lot of respect for my opponent, and I have a lot of respect for this sport," Oleinik says. "Now I will go out and do what needs to be done."
The Pick 'Em Section:
Bellator 286 featherweight bout: Patricio "Pitbull" Freire vs. Adam Borics
- Pick: Patricio "Pitbull" Freire
UFC Fight Night women's strawweight bout: Mackenzie Dern vs. Yan Xiaonan
- Pick: Yan Xiaonan
ONE on Prime Video 2 women's strawweight bout: Xiong Jing Nan (c) vs. Angela Lee
- Pick: Xiong Jing Nan
Bellator 286 light heavyweight bout: A.J. McKee vs. Spike Carlyle
- Pick: A.J. McKee
Bellator 286 featherweight bout: Aaron Pico vs. Jeremy Kennedy
- Pick: Aaron Pico
Last week: 4-1
2022 record: 111-63
This story first published at SI.com/MMA.