Bellator MMA returns for the first time in 2018 with a stacked card in Inglewood, Calif., at the Forum.

Topping off this five-fight main card is the first part of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix. UFC veterans and MMA legends Chael Sonnen and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson will do battle in the first quarterfinal-round fight. Neither fighter is a true heavyweight, but they enter the tournament’s first round looking to make it to the semifinals. Sonnen is coming off a victory by unanimous decision over Wanderlei Silva. Rampage last fought in March in a loss to Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal at heavyweight.

The co-headliner is a welterweight title fight. Rory MacDonald makes his sophomore appearance for Bellator against reigning welterweight champion Douglas Lima. MacDonald fought for the first time under the Bellator banner in May 2017 against veteran Paul Daley. MacDonald overcame the almost year-long layoff to win via second-round submission. Lima defended his title for the first time in June against UFC veteran Lorenz Larkin. Lima took the fight by unanimous decision.

Bellator 192 also heads to the lightweight division, where former champion Michael Chandler returns for the first time since losing his belt. Chandler goes up against Goiti Yamauchi. The card will also head one weight class lower for the remaining two fights at featherweight. In one, Georgi Karakhanyan takes on Henry Corrales. In the other featherweight contest, prospect Aaron Pico looks to continue on the right track when he meets Shane Kruchten.

The Bellator 192 preliminary card airs live on Bellator.com at 7 p.m. ET. The main card airs live on the rebranded Spike TV, which is now known as the Paramount Network, at 9 p.m. ET.

Rory MacDonald is set for his crack at the Bellator welterweight title. Can MacDonald continue the trend of UFC veterans coming into Bellator and claiming titles, or will champion Douglas Lima overcome his toughest test yet?

I don’t know how much of a “trend” it is. There have been just as many failures to capture titles by UFC veterans as there have been successes. Mostly, the successes have happened in the weaker divisions, like light heavyweight, where the obvious best talent resides in the UFC and then comes over to dominate the lesser talent pool. At welterweight and below, it seems to be closer than people think.

That being said, MacDonald is undoubtedly the favorite to win this fight. Lima has fought valiantly as the Bellator welterweight champion against some of the toughest guys Bellator has been able to throw at him. MacDonald, though, is on another level. We’re talking about one of the best welterweights from the UFC roster who was touted as the next big thing in the division.

Before choking out Paul Daley, MacDonald did struggle in two straight fights, but those were against much better competition than Bellator has in its own welterweight division. One loss came against Robbie Lawler for the UFC welterweight title. The other came against two-time title challenger Stephen Thompson. No shame in either of those defeats.

It might sound crazy, but the edge in any part of this fight goes to MacDonald. He has shown previous flashes of great grappling skill, and he has battled some of the toughest strikers in the welterweight division to great overall results. Lima might be one of the better welterweights on the planet, but it would be a completely different story if the Brazilian was to compete in the UFC.

This fight shouldn’t be close. Lima can keep the distance with leg kicks, but that probably won’t last long before MacDonald totally settles in and coasts to the win.

The heavyweight grand prix kicks off with a battle of former light heavyweights Chael Sonnen and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Who wins this contest, and does that winner stand any chance of topping the larger heavyweights elsewhere in the bracket?

Sonnen wins this fight, but, no, barring some sort of upset meltdowns by the other fighters in this tournament, he won’t end up as the tournament’s champion.

There are some other really good fighters in this bracket that make Sonnen more than just an outsider to win. There are guys like Frank Mir, Matt Mitrione and Ryan Bader. Heck, even Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal should be a favorite to win this whole thing — he has done it before in the Rizin Fighting Federation and actually sports one of the better heavyweight records in the tournament.

This fight, though, is one Sonnen can win. Rampage doesn’t have the ability to beat wrestlers nowadays. Wrestlers are his biggest weakness, and Sonnen just happens to be one.

Rampage won’t have this fight on the feet for very long, so he will need to land a knockout blow while he can. There is a very slim chance he is able to out-wrestle or submit Sonnen. Jackson’s chances of victory rely on him channeling his old style and landing bomb after bomb to put Sonnen out of the fight.

This will be a very hard goal to pull off. It’s almost a guarantee Sonnen is going to look to grab a hold of Jackson every chance he gets. With the distance closed, Sonnen is going to grind and sap Rampage of every ounce of energy. Jackson doesn’t really look for anything besides punches, and that only helps Sonnen close the distance to secure the takedown. It will most likely be a long night for Rampage.

Sonnen progresses to see at least one more tournament fight.

The main card is stacked with battles featuring Michael Chandler against Goiti Yamauchi, Aaron Pico against Shane Kruchten, and Henry Corrales against Georgi Karakhanyan. Which three fighters emerge with the victories, and who makes the biggest statement of all from this trio of fights?

These fights are going in the favor of Chandler, Pico and Karakhanyan.

Out of the three, Chandler should make the biggest impact. The fight is made to give Chandler the edge. Yamauchi is the best of the opponents for the predicted winners. He has displayed some of the best grappling on Bellator’s roster and previously was one of the best fighters in his division, well on his way to fighting for the title. Chandler’s victory over Yamauchi, even if it comes by decision, would be the biggest statement based on quality of victory alone.

Chandler is a finisher and knocks his opponents out cold when it isn’t for the title. He should be fighting for the lightweight belt after his loss to Brent Primus cameby way of a leg injury. This is still a good fight to gauge exactly where Chandler is at in his recovery from the injury following the loss. There will almost definitely be a callout at the end if Chandler emerges victorious. He’ll want another shot at Primus.

Pico doesn’t benefit from the same high-level opposition. His outing should end in an easy victory and re-establish the Pico hype train. The fight should end by decision, but it might not be pretty, given Pico’s wrestling background. Pico should stick to his wrestling in this fight. Another loss for the uber-prospect would almost certainly squash his status as a top up-and-comer. He just needs to avoid the telegraphed takedowns that caused him to falter in his first fight.

In an unusual move for Bellator, there have been an astounding 10 prelim/postlim bouts announced for this event well over a week in advance of the card. Are there any future Bellator studs hidden among the 20 prelim participants?

The obvious choice would be Khonry Gracie, the son of the legendary Royce Gracie. However, his game is most likely based solely on grappling, which could limit his potential in the evolving sport of MMA. Plus, we’ve been talking about the Gracies for years, so it’s time to mention someone else.

Let’s go with Joey Davis. Davis wrestled at Notre Dame. He has flown under the radar while winning his first two career fights. Much like Pico, Davis needs to work on rounding out his game to become a more complete mixed martial artist and not one that completely relies on one facet of the game. Of course, that will take time, but Davis has looked good thus far. He should continue that trend against Ian Butler at Bellator 192.

Fight Picks

Fight Pick
Main Card (Paramount Network, 9 p.m. ET)
HW Grand Prix Quarterfinal: Chael Sonnen vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson Sonnen
WW Championship: Douglas Lima vs. Rory MacDonald MacDonald
LW: Michael Chandler vs. Goiti Yamauchi Chandler
FW: Shane Kruchten vs. Aaron Pico Pico
FW: Henry Corrales vs. Georgi Karakhanyan Karakhanyan
Preliminary Card (Bellator.com, 7 p.m. ET)
WW: Marlen Magee vs. Johnny Cisneros Cisneros
BW: Chad George vs. James Barnes Barnes
WW: Ivan Castillo vs. Guilherme Vasconcelos Vasconcelos
WW: Jose Campos vs. Haim Gozali Campos
WW: Ian Butler vs. Joey Davis Davis
WW: Devon Brock vs. Khonry Gracie Gracie
BW: Kyle Estrada vs. David Duran Duran
LW: Christopher Padilla vs. Gabriel Green Padilla
FW: Cooper Gibson vs. Andrew Lazo Gibson
LW: Noah Tillis vs. Jalin Turner Turner

About The Author

Sal DeRose
Staff Writer

Sal DeRose hails from New Jersey and is currently training for his first MMA fight. He hopes to use his knowledge and insight to generate articles that interest and entertain readers. Prior to joining Combat Press, his work appeared on The MMA Corner and Bleacher Report MMA. Outside of MMA, Sal is a big fan of every other sport. He's a die-hard New York sports fan, with the exception of cheering for the Green Bay Packers.

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