Lyoto Machida and Gegard Mousasi started slow at Bellator 228, but after two close rounds, Mousasi pulled away in the third.
Rematches are a funny thing in MMA. Some fights scream for them. Others are barely necessary. When Lyoto Machida and Gegard Mousasi threw down at Bellator 228 in Los Angeles on Saturday, it was somewhere in the middle. Their first meeting, back in the UFC, was a definitive enough win by Machida. But in Bellator, five years later, they were two of the biggest names competing at middleweight.
And light heavyweight, if one or the other felt like it. Ergo, it was no surprise to see Bellator book the fight. A title shot in either division potentially hung in the balance.
In short, a big opportunity was on the line in what had become the main event of Bellator 228 (the original headliner, Pitbull vs. Archuleta, went down earlier to accommodate the featherweight grand prix second round selection process). Which had both men fighting cautious, until Gegard Mouasi landed a counter-right hand, Machida stumbling back as a result. That gave Mousasi a little confidence boost, and he began moving in on the attack more frequently. He mixed in a leg kick, while Machida used his patented, elusive style.
Machida, for his part, would launch a head kick later in the round. While it didn’t land clean, he’d get a piece of Mousasi moments later with a counter. How the judges scored the round, however, might come down to activity, with Mousasi having a slight edge.
With just three rounds for the main event, whoever found their range and rhythm first would have a huge advantage. In the second, Mousasi attacked early, then added a kick moments later. Machida answered with a kick of his own, but that led to a stalemate. Two fighters, looking to counter, neither wanting to pull the trigger.
Later in the round, Mousasi, clearly the crowd favorite, did begin to press the action. But it was bursts of action, not a consistent attack from either man, once again in the second. Which once again would make it a difficult round to score. Machida would finish the frame with a body kick, while Mousasi landed a counter right hand.
Mousasi vs. Machida II, through the first ten minutes, was doing little to suggest that either man would fare well against the likes of Ryan Bader. Perhaps the third round would change that.
Mousasi fired a kick early. Machida led with a punch then went upstairs with a kick. Machida went to the body with a kick, and Mousasi countered with his hands. These brief exchanges were coming a little more frequently in the third round. Mousasi, however, was showing some redness around the eye. Machida caught him with a punch, but a Mousasi kick tripped up ‘The Dragon.’ Another one sent him down; Mousasi moved into guard, in a key moment in the fight.
Gegard Mousasi had ninety seconds to take control of the main event. Simply being in top position for a significant chunk of the third round might secure the win for him. Machida, aware of this, locked in a guillotine from the bottom, while in guard. It was tight! The ten second warning rang out. Machida held on, straining, but time would run out. Mousasi had done enough.
“It’s going to be Lovato next fight,” Mousasi confirmed following the win. “100%”
Result: Gegard Mousasi def. Lyoto Machida by split decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27)