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Bellator featherweight champion Patricio (Pitbull) Freire stopped Canadian Jeremy (JBC) Kennedy with a flurry of blows in the third round Friday in the Bellator Champions Series.

The 31-year-old from Surrey, B.C., had staggered Freire with a left hook earlier in the round and roughed him up at the fence, drawing blood.

But the 36-year-old Brazilian, a Bellator icon who has held titles in two weight classes, absorbed the damage. And once he got away from the fence, he drove Kennedy backwards with a string of punches and wobbled him with a blow that clipped his head.

Freire (36-7-0) moved in for the kill, delivering more than 30 unanswered strikes before Kennedy (19-4-0) crumbled at the fence, prompting referee Kevin MacDonald to step in.

American Corey (Overtime) Anderson won a decision over Belfast’s Karl Moore to claim the vacant light-heavyweight title in the other marquee bout.

It was a tough day at the office for Canadians.

Earlier, Canadian Aaron Jeffery lost via decision to Britain’s Fabian (The Assassin) Edwards in a middleweight title eliminator.

The SSE Arena show was the first for Bellator since it was purchased by the Professional Fighters League in November — and the first of eight Bellator Champions Series events in 2024, each featuring title fights.

Freire has now won 24 of 29 fights in Bellator since 2010 and had multiple stints as 145-pound champion. In 2019, he knocked out lightweight titleholder Michael Chandler in the first round to hold Bellator titles in two weight classes, eventually vacating the 155-pound crown in October 2021.

At five-foot-11, Kennedy had a five-inch reach in height and a 5 1/2-inch reach advantage.

The two picked their spots in a wary opening to the fight with Freire landing a string of punishing calf kicks. The round was paused briefly after a clash of heads.

It was more of the same to start the second. But Kennedy started moving forward, looking to take the fight to the Brazilian. They ended the round with Kennedy squeezing Freire on the fence and delivering an inadvertent low blow that prompted another pause with 12 seconds remaining.

Kennedy, who fights out of Las Vegas, fell to 4-2 in Bellator.

Earlier the judges scored it 29-28 for Edwards, who earned another shot at Bellator champion Johnny (Pressure) Eblen with the win. All three judges gave Jeffery the first round and the second and third to Edwards.

Edwards, the younger brother of UFC welterweight champion Leon (Rocky) Edwards, was coming off a knockout loss to Eblen in a September setback.

Jeffery (14-5-0) said before the fight that while Edwards wanted to make it a kick-boxing match, to fight at range, he wanted “to rough him up” and “make it gritty.”

The 31-year-old from Tillsonburg, Ont., did just that early on.

The first round was spent at close quarters, mostly in a clinch at the fence, with Jeffery the aggressor. It was more of the same in the second as Jeffery looked to smother the Brit.

Edwards (13-3-0) had some success with strikes late in the second round, cutting Jeffery under the right eye with an elbow.

Edwards continued to find the target in the third while Jeffery looked to keep the bout at close quarters.

Jeffery fell to 3-2-0 in Bellator.

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