Bellator middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi will look to defend his belt against welterweight champion Rory MacDonald in a historic clash at Bellator 206.
After a year of adding names to the roster and developing new stars, Saturday may well be the culmination of several years of rebranding in Bellator. No longer just another player in the market, the company has become a boon for free agents, veterans, and prospects alike as the company continues to push the envelope. Bellator 206 will feature the first blockbuster of many historic matchups as middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi looks to defend his title against welterweight champion Rory MacDonald.
He claimed the title. Now, it's time to defend it.
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) September 26, 2018
Gegard Mousasi has an argument that he is the best fighter to ever compete under the Bellator banner. A professional since 2003, “The Dreamcatcher” has held titles around the world in promotions like Strikeforce, Cage Warriors, and Dream. His resume lists victories over fighters such as Jacare Souza, Chris Weidman, Mark Hunt, and Dan Henderson.
In a well-chronicled move, he left the UFC last year on a five-fight win streak. At any other time in the division, such a run would have pegged him as the overwhelmingly obvious top contender for the belt. But as he was at the peak of his run, a litany of setbacks was plaguing the title picture. In the prime of his career, Mousasi elected to capitalize on the immediate opportunities available in Bellator. In his new home, Mousasi has already dispatched long-time middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho and top contender Alexander Shlemenko in the past twelve months. Should he manage to turn away the surging MacDonald, it is suspected that Mousasi may begin his own campaign for a second title at light heavyweight in 2019.
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) September 23, 2018
Rory MacDonald has logged an incredible career since he entered the UFC as the youngest fighter on the roster in 2010. In a parallel with Bellator, fans have watched him rebrand himself several times in the past decade. Only the most devoted followers today likely remember him as “The Waterboy,” when he was the baby-faced assassin who was touted as the heir-apparent to his teammate and mentor Georges St-Pierre.
Today, he uses the moniker of “The Red King,” and is a battle-tested veteran who has the experience of being a perennial contender in the UFC and having engaged in the all-time classic against Robbie Lawler in 2016. In Bellator, he unseated dangerous champion Douglas Lima in a dominant five-round effort and is now presented with the opportunity to become the first two-division champion in company history. When considering the fact that he also holds a win over current UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, MacDonald’s place as one of the best ever in the weight class could be secured should he be victorious on Saturday night.
Stylistically, the move up for MacDonald will be the biggest factor. The Canadian is deceptively strong and frequently has been able to overpower explosive opponents with his own striking and technique on the ground. Should he be unable to handle the size of Mousasi, he may look to use his speed to get in and out with strikes rather than try to pick him apart against the fence as he does with opponents at 170.
Mousasi is one of the most technically proficient middleweights in the world, with impressive boxing to complement his fantastic ground-game. Against MacDonald, he should look to use his size to bully MacDonald against the fence where he can load up on shots to the body to wear down the challenger. Few opponents have shown the ability to out-grapple MacDonald, but Mousasi may look to test his prowess on the mat by trying to put him on his back.
Both men are not without options moving forward. For Gegard Mousasi, the biggest fight possible after a victory over Rory MacDonald would be a move up to light heavyweight to challenge for the title there. However, that may not be until 2019 as Ryan Bader is currently focused on the Heavyweight Grand Prix where he is currently in the semifinals. MacDonald’s next fight has already been outlined as he will be returning to 170 lbs for the Welterweight Grand Prix where he is already set to face grizzled veteran, Jon Fitch.
So often, the inescapable criticism surrounding Bellator is the question of whether the top fighters would be able to hold their own consistently against the deep ranks of the UFC. There are none of those questions heading into this bout, and both men will raise their profile as one of the best fighters of the decade with a victory on Saturday night.