‘The Red King’ finally has his crown!
Bellator 192 touched down in Los Angeles on Saturday night. The MMA promotion’s first card of the year was also one of its biggest to date. In the co-main event (which they had taken to calling a second “main event”), former UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald had a title shot against champ Douglas Lima, with not only the 170lb belt but arguably the moniker of “best welterweight today” on the line.
Champ Douglas Lima has been criminally underrated in his Bellator run to date. Having knocked off names like Andrey Koreshkov, Paul Daley, and Lorenz Larkin, the reigning, defending 170lb King had quietly amassed an impressive record. Yet MacDonald represented his toughest challenge to date, while at the same time representing a shot at wider recognition. That’s a topic the champ discussed with Cageside Press prior to the bout.
For MacDonald, who defeated Paul Daley in his promotional debut at Bellator 179 last year, Saturday represented a chance to finally claim gold in a major promotion. MacDonald has long been considered the heir apparent to teammate Georges St. Pierre, but fell short in a Fight of the Year war against Robbie Lawler at UFC 189 in 2015. MacDonald had fought just twice since then prior to Saturday night. In addition to the Daley fight in Bellator, he suffered a decision loss to Stephen Thompson at UFC Ottawa in his final UFC appearance.
Five rounds or less would determine the best welterweight in Bellator, at the very least. MacDonald opened with a jab, and immediately pressed forward. He changed levels for a takedown, but Lima shook it off. “Rory” chants erupted in the arena in the opening minute. Lima had his back to the cage, but lashed out with a leg kick. MacDonald went for a head kick that missed. The big surprise was how stationary Lima appeared early. He tried to circle out of harm’s way, flashed another leg kick, then fought off a single leg attempt by the challenger. MacDonald had underhooks in, but was eating short punches from the champ. MacDonald then secured a throw, taking the fight to the ground. He went to work in Lima’s closed guard, posturing up. With Lima trying to hang on, ‘The Red King’ looked to slip in elbows and a right hand. Lima would throw in some hammer fists from the bottom, but they represented more of a nuisance than anything. However, with not enough progress being made, the ref stood them up just prior to the bell.
MacDonald caught a leg kick early in round two, but while struggling for the takedown, he ate a number of shots. The end result was Rory pressing Douglas Lima up against the cage, buying some recovery time. This would continue on for some time, with the ref letting it go. Once they moved off the fence, Rory MacDonald worked his jab, while champ Lima looked to counter with an overhand right. MacDonald, for the most part, was the aggressor, but connected with a low blow (kick) late in the round. Once back underway, MacDonald immediately went to his grappling, looking to finish the frame with a takedown. It wasn’t to be, however.
In the third, Douglas Lima opened with another crisp leg kick, and just missed with a big uppercut as MacDonald dropped down for a takedown attempt. MacDonald stayed on the attempt, but wound up just pressing his foe up against the fence. The takedown would come later in the round, however. As in the first, MacDonald postured up inside Lima’s closed guard. He wasn’t able to make much of the position, however. And back on the feet, Lima felled MacDonald with a hard leg kick. Some follow up punches came next as Lima followed him down. MacDonald’s infamous broken nose was also back in play, clearly damaged.
To start the fourth, the unthinkable – Lima got on top of MacDonald after MacDonald blew a takedown, and quickly gained mount, raining down blows. MacDonald looked caught, but Lima, rather than punching himself out, methodically worked to flatten MacDonald out. However, while Lima was in control, he wasn’t doing enough, and the ref stood them up. That certainly hurt the champ. Rory MacDonald then earned a takedown of his own, with just over a minute left in the round. He proved to be more active on top, fighting to make space in order to land elbows. The round would end in that fashion.
The fifth and final round could easily have been the deciding frame. Rory MacDonald landed a takedown early, setting it up along the fence but planting Lima in the middle of the cage. Lima wrapped an arm around MacDonald, who found himself in half guard, then back into Lima’s closed guard. This takedown turned out to be key for MacDonald, who spent the entire round bruising and bloodying Lima from the top. After that, it was up to the judges.
It wasn’t the barn burner we’d all hoped, but there was some solid action, and Rory MacDonald did enough for the judges to award him the unanimous decision — and the Bellator welterweight title!
After the bout, MacDonald called Lima “the best fighter I’ve ever fought, easy.”
Rory MacDonald def. Douglas Lima by unanimous decision (48-47, 49-45, 49-46) — to win the Bellator welterweight championship