Bellator MMA brings one of their best cards of the year to date to Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York on Friday night. The main event of Bellator 222 takes place in the welterweight division where Rory MacDonald will defend his title against Neiman Gracie which also serves as a semi-final bout in Bellator’s welterweight grand prix tournament.
Rory MacDonald won the Bellator welterweight championship by defeating Douglas Lima via unanimous decision at Bellator 192.
After winning the welterweight title, MacDonald moved up to middleweight to challenge Gegard Mousasi for Mousasi’s middleweight championship in his next fight. Mousasi made quick work of the undersized challenger by defeating MacDonald via TKO in round two at Bellator 206.
After his failed attempt at middleweight, MacDonald dropped back down to welterweight and took on Jon Fitch in the quarterfinals of the Bellator welterweight grand prix. The two fought to a majority draw and thus MacDonald retained the title and moved on in the tournament.
Rory is 2-1-1 in Bellator. The twenty-nine-year-old Canadian born fighter has fourteen finishes in twenty career victories. He’ll be making the walk for the twenty-seventh time on Friday night.
Neiman Gracie has yet to taste defeat as a professional fighter. His most recent win occurred at Bellator 213 where he subbed Ed Ruth in the fourth round of the Bellator welterweight grand prix quarterfinals. Fighting out of famed Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Neiman boasts eight wins via submission in his nine career victories. At thirty-years-of-age, Gracie will make the walk for only the tenth time.
The co-main takes place in the Bellator light heavyweight division where Lyoto Machida will take on Chael Sonnen. Lyoto Machida is 1-0 in Bellator.
Machida beat Rafael Carvalho via split decision at Bellator 213. “The Dragon” enters Friday night’s fight against Sonnen the winner of his previous three fights dating back to his time in the UFC. At forty-one years-of-age the Brazilian born fighter will be making the walk for the thirty-fourth time. Of his twenty-five career victories, thirteen of them went the distance.
Since coming over to Bellator, Chael Sonnen has amassed a 2-2 record. His most recent fight was at Bellator 208 where he competed in the heavyweight division and got finished by Fedor Emelianenko in the very first round.
All four of Sonnen’s Bellator fights have been against fighters well past their primes including the aforementioned Fedor, Quentin Jackson, Wanderlei Silva and Tito Ortiz.
Sonnen is forty-two years old and this will be his forty-seventh professional fight. Of his thirty victories, eighteen went to the judge’s scorecards.
The third fight on the main card features Dillon Danis who will be making his second appearance for the promotion. He won his debut by defeating Kyle Walker via submission at Bellator 198. He will be taking on Max Humphrey who’s making his Bellator debut. All three of the thirty-year old’s professional wins have been finishes.
The main card also includes Ricky Bandejas taking on undefeated Patrick Mix, former two-time Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas goes up against the always dangerous Juan Archuleta and current Bellator bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell defends his title against Kyoji Horiguchi.
The prelims will stream on DAZN beginning at 5:30 PM (CST) and the main card starts at 9:00 PM (CST) also on DAZN.
Note: The predictions in this column do not necessarily mean that I will be betting them. I have changed my mind in the past and gone the other way after conducting more research. For all of my official bets follow me on Twitter @MichaelGrocke.
Rory MacDonald (20-5-1) vs. Neiman Gracie (9-0) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: MacDonald -170; Gracie +140
Pick: MacDonald by decision.
I’m going with Rory MacDonald here. After his last performance and the statements he made afterwards had me skeptical as to where he was at mentally. However, I do like what I’ve heard from him this week and I think we see a different Rory MacDonald than the one we saw at Bellator 220. Gracie is going to want to get the fight to the ground, but I think MacDonald will be able to defend the takedown. Gracie just doesn’t have the wrestling of Jon Fitch. If Gracie is forced to stand and trade, then it’s going to be all Rory MacDonald and that’s the fight I’m looking for. All too often we live in the moment and I think that’s the case here. Everyone is looking at the way Rory looked in his last fight which is why the odds are where they are. The fact is Grace is making a huge leap in the level of competition.
Lyoto Machida (25-8) vs. Chael Sonnen (30-16-1) – Light heavyweight 205 lbs.
Current Odds: Machida -330; Sonnen +250
Pick: Machida by decision.
Let’s be honest, does anyone expect an exciting fight between these two? Neither fighter’s most recent performances have been very impressive. Sonnen will spend the entire fight trying to get Machida to the ground where he’ll lay and pray while Machida will want the fight standing and control range. If Sonnen has success taking down Machida I can see him grinding out a decision. If Machida can successfully defend the takedown and keep the fight standing then he’ll win a decision and possibly get the finish. All that said, Machida shouldn’t be a -330 favorite here. Machida very well may win this fight, but don’t be surprised if Sonnen pulls off the upset. I would seriously consider backing the “dog” here.
Dillon Danis (1-0) vs. Max Humphrey (3-2) – Catchweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Danis -1430; Curran +865
Pick: Danis by submission.
Clearly this fight was made to make Danis look good. His opponent, Max Humphrey went 1-4 as an amateur and is currently 3-2 as a professional fighter.
Ricky Bandejas (11-2) vs. Patrick Mix (10-0) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Bandejas -115; Mix -115
Pick: Bandejas by decision. I’m picking Bandejas but with little confidence.
Eduardo Dantas (21-6) vs. Juan Archuleta (22-1) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Archuleta -200; Dantas +160
Pick: Archuleta by decision.
Darrion Caldwell (13-2) vs. Kyoji Horiguchi (27-2) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Caldwell -165; Horiguchi +140
Pick: Caldwell by decision.
The two just fought in December at Rizin 14 where Horiguchi submitted Caldwell in the third round. If you told me that you were betting Horiguchi I wouldn’t blame you. However, the setting will be much different at this event than the one Caldwell faced in Japan. The fact that Caldwell is the favorite after already losing to Horiguchi tells me all I need to know.
Prelims Quick Picks
Wilcox over Hawes
Surin over Mirkhojaev
Gracie over Vera
Kimbel over Ruiz
Gozali over Wurlitzer
Kubota over VanZandt
Loureda over Dasch
Pico over Borics
Hardy over Turner
Rivera over Beneduce
Xhema over Francois
Medina over Polcare
Enjoy the fights!