Bellator 179 marked the promotion’s return to London, England, and the debut of top welterweight Rory MacDonald against British striker Paul Daley. The card took place earlier today at the Wembley Arena in London, and will air later this evening on Spike TV. Aside from the hotly anticipated main event, a key light heavyweight fight between former champ Liam McGeary and ex-challenger Linton Vassell, and a heavyweight showdown between Cheick Kongo and Augusto Sakai were highlighted on the card. Plus, the event saw the return of Kevin Ferguson Jr., a.k.a. Baby Slice, son of the late Kimbo Slice.
Slice would open the Bellator 179 main card, beating DJ Griffin, who was making his pro debut. The TKO stoppage came at 3:40 of the first round, and moves Baby Slice to 1-1 as a pro. Another welterweight tilt followed, with Alex Lohore picking up a TKO win in the second round of their scheduled three. “Da Kid” moves to 12-1 with the win.
Kongo Wins, but Doesn’t Dazzle
Facing undefeated Brazilian Augusto Sakai, Cheick Kongo was looking to make it five wins in a row, and perhaps go on one last run for a title. He needed to pick up a win, and make an impact, for a crack at Bellator’s vacant heavyweight belt. He accomplished one of those things.
The first round of Kongo vs. Sakai saw virtually no action. Sakai opened by missing a front kick, then landed a couple of legs kicks. That was the only action for the better part of the round, with Kongo not landing a single strike until the final ninety seconds of the frame, scoring a leg kick of his own.
In the second, the action picked up a little early on, with Kongo coming out and throwing a combo immediately, while Sakai attempted to return fire. Kongo backed his foe up against the fence, working for a takedown, and finally scored one, though not for long as Sakai popped back up to his feet. However, the takedown seemed to mark a turning point, as the French heavyweight turned the bout into the typical grinding Cheick Kongo affair. With the action tied going into the third, it was more of the same, and despite moving into half mount after Sakai slipped in the third, Kongo was unable to secure the finish.
Ultimately the judges scored it a split decision for Kongo (28-29, 29-28, 29-28). He secured the win, but putting him in a title fight coming off a dull decision would be questionable, even with the shallowness of the heavyweight ranks. Sakai moves to 9-1-1 with the loss, while Kongo improves to 27–10–2.
Vassell Becomes the First to Stop McGeary
In McGeary vs. Vassell, McGeary opened the first round utilizing his jab, only to have Vassell answer back as the round progressed. However, the big question of whether the action would go to the ground was answered halfway through the round. With both fighters still relatively dry, McGeary worked from the bottom, looking for submissions, and despite Vassell’s time on top. the end result was a close round that could have gone either way.
Round two was anything but close. Vassell took the former champ to the mat early and kept him there, controlling the action from the top. It was a dominant round for Vassell, who managed to move to mount towards the end of the frame. Heading into the third, it was still anyone’s fight, but you could feel the momentum building in favor of Vassell. He shot in early in the third, taking McGeary down almost at will and moved quickly to mount. From there, he worked on an arm-triangle choke, securing the tap at 2:28 of the third round and becoming the first fighter to finish Liam McGeary.
The question now is, where is Linton Vassell (18–5 (1)) in the light heavyweight division, with Phil Davis fighting Ryan Bader next month, and King Mo waiting in the wings?
The Return of the Red King
And so that brought things to the main event between MacDonald and Daley. Despite not having won in two years, and being off the better part of the last twelve months, The Red King’s return was a triumphant one.
In the first round, MacDonald opened with a jab and shot in early, latching on to Daley’s leg. While Semtex fended off the single leg admirably, before long, he was on his back. That brought the fight into MacDonald’s world, and he showed complete positional dominance, keeping Daley on his back and away from the fence. That allowed MacDonald to score a number of punches and elbows from the top, but most impressive was how easily he controlled Daley, spinning him away from the cage wall easily and preventing any chance of a wall walk back to the feet.
In round two, MacDonald threw a crisp body kick and showed he wasn’t afraid to stand (albeit briefly) with Daley. However, a level change under a Daley strike saw MacDonald once again shoot for a single leg, and put Daley flat on his back again. Before long Daley had rolled onto his side, allowing MacDonald to step over and sink in a rear-naked choke. With Daley helpless to defend, even without hooks in, the tap came at 1:45 of the second round.
After the bout, MacDonald (19–4) spoke to Jimmy Smith in the cage, talking about his big debut win. “It’s been a long time of layoffs, it’s been a long two years to be honest. It look a lot to stay focused, stay on track” MacDonald said. Later, he added “Paul is one of the best guys I’ve ever faught. I had to be on point and at my best, and tonight I was at my best.”
With Douglas Lima defending the belt against Lorenz Larkin in New York next month, MacDonald will clearly be awaiting the winner. So what does he have to say to whoever holds the belt after that fight?
“I will take that belt from you, and I will take your health.”
After seeing his performance tonight, he certainly might.
Rory MacDonald def. Paul Daley by submission (rear-naked choke), Round 2, 1:45
Linton Vassell def. Liam McGeary by submission (arm-triangle choke), Round 3, 2:28
Cheick Kongo def. Augusto Sakai by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Alex Lohore def. Dan Edwards by TKO (strikes), Round 2, 0:56
Kevin Ferguson Jr. def. DJ Griffin by TKO (strikes) Round 1, 3:40
Alfie Davis def. Jay Dods by KO (spinning side kick), Round 1
Stav Economou def. Dan Konecke by submission (guillotine choke), Round 1, 1:05
Amir Albazi def. Jamie Powell by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-26, 30-26)
Nathan Jones def. Umer Kayani by submission (rear-naked choke), Round 1, 4:35
Fabian Edwards def. Rafał Cejrowski by KO (flying knee), Round 1, 3:44
Jeremy Petley def. Chase Morton unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-26)
Mike Shipman def. Marcin Prostko by TKO (knees), Round 1, 2:39
Salih Kulucan def. Diego Barbosa by submission (heel hook), Round 1, 2:18