Bellator 232: Higher Stakes for MacDonald vs Lima Rematch

Rory MacDonald Douglas Lima Bellator MMA
Rory MacDonald vs. Douglas LimaCredit: Bellator MMA

As important as the first fight between Rory MacDonald and Douglas Lima was, the rematch on Saturday in the finals of the Welterweight Grand Prix at Bellator 232 is even bigger.

The Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix has come down to Rory MacDonald and Douglas Lima for the $1 million grand prize.

It is only fitting that Rory MacDonald carries the most intrigue going into Saturday night.  Let’s go back more than a year ago: “The Red King” was coming off a disastrous attempt to win the middleweight title and looked vulnerable going into the loaded Grand Prix at the start of 2019.  He met grizzled veteran Jon Fitch in the opening round and moved on only by the skin of his teeth by retaining his title in a draw.  In the second round against the untested Neiman Gracie, MacDonald surprisingly went the full 25 minutes in a fight that saw him spend the majority of the time on the feet where most figured he’d be able to dispatch Gracie.  Once expected to run roughshod over the competition, MacDonald now stands before a steep final summit that he must overcome to reaffirm his dominance in the welterweight division.

The first battle with Lima was by far the biggest risk in the career of Rory MacDonald.  The Canadian upstart left the loaded welterweight division of the UFC for the more immediate opportunities in Bellator.  When he challenged for the welterweight title, he faced a dangerous athlete whose name value carried little familiarity to the fans.  A loss would have been disastrous, but MacDonald showed his mettle to finally claim championship gold in a major promotion.  At the time, he looked poised to run through the competition in the immediate future.  Instead, MacDonald has struggled to establish dominance while the former champion has looked like a destroyer with vengeance on his mind.

Douglas “The Phenom” Lima has had only a few stumbles since he ascended to the elite level, but they have come in critical moments that hurt his momentum.  Ben Askren spoiled his first attempt to claim Bellator gold, while Andrey Koreshkov put a temporary stop to his reign.  But of all the fighters in the Welterweight Grand Prix, Lima has gained the most from the extra attention.  He had one of the most exciting fights of the tournament in the first round with Koreshkov, taking a 2-1 lead on the former champion and coming out on top in their rivalry.  He also, by far, had the best finish of the tournament with his second round knockout of Michael “Venom” Page to hand the Englishman his first career loss.

Almost two years ago, Lima was in a similar position.  After defending the title three times, he was poised to steal some of the shine from new signee MacDonald.  As is the common struggle, validation of one’s skills in MMA is often unfairly dependent on proving them in the UFC.  MacDonald, still considered an elite contender in the Octagon, provided the perfect opportunity to showcase his abilities and silence the critics.  Despite doing heavy damage in the fight, Lima would lose the title to MacDonald.  While his success in the Grand Prix has erased the loss from everyone’s immediate memory, the best revenge would be to stop MacDonald in the final and regain his title in the process.

While neither man has necessarily added major wrinkles to their game since the first bout, they stylistically provide an excellent test against each other.  MacDonald’s well-rounded attack stifled Lima in the first fight and he should be more proactive in getting the fight to the ground in the rematch.  By comparison, it’s expected that Lima will look to open with high volume early and put pressure on MacDonald.

Bellator President Scott Coker has already said that he believes Lorenz Larkin will be next for the winner of MacDonald and Lima.  Larkin is currently on a three fight win-streak and most recently defeated former champion Andrey Koreshkov earlier this month.  Larkin previously challenged for the title back in 2017 where he came up short against then champion Lima in his Bellator debut.