Bellator MMA brings a stacked main card to the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., for Bellator 206.
The headliner is a middleweight title fight between champion Gegard Mousasi and Bellator’s welterweight kingpin, Rory MacDonald. Both titleholders are UFC veterans and have won their first two fights in Bellator. Mousasi beat former champs Alexander Shlemenko and Rafael Carvalho in his first two fights with the organization. MacDonald debuted with a submission victory over Paul Daley and then took a unanimous decision over Douglas Lima.
The co-main event heads to what is essentially the “Legends’ Division,” where Quinton “Rampage” Jackson takes on Wanderlei Silva. Jackson is on a two-fight skid with losses against Chael Sonnen and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. Silva fought for the first time in four years when he returned in 2017 with a loss by unanimous decision to the aforementioned Sonnen.
Also on the card, rising prospect Aaron Pico takes on Leandro Higo at featherweight. At welterweight, we have one portion of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix, as former champions Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov face off for the third time. In the women’s flyweight division, Keri Melendez takes on Dakota Zimmerman.
The Bellator 206 preliminary card will air on Bellator.com at 7 p.m. ET. The main card streams live on DAZN at 10 p.m. ET.
Gegard Mousasi’s first middleweight defense comes against fellow UFC defector Rory MacDonald, who recently captured Bellator’s welterweight strap. Can MacDonald become a two-division titleholder?
MacDonald has long been touted for his wealth of potential. While he was viewed as a future UFC champion, he’s now in Bellator, where he could live up to that potential with a victory over Mousasi.
This is probably the most interesting fight Bellator could have made. Both guys left the UFC while near the top of their respective divisions and haven’t lost a beat since. They have only fought twice each since joining Bellator in 2017. These long layoffs are absolutely criminal. These are easily two of the best fighters on Bellator’s roster.
If MacDonald becomes a two-division champion, what is Bellator’s end goal? He already fights sparingly. If he becomes the champion of two divisions, the logjam would be atrocious for the promotion.
Both men are equally well rounded in all facets of the game. These are two highly experienced fighters who have fought the best of the best. Mousasi is a former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, and MacDonald has been one of the best welterweights in the world for the past five years.
MacDonald has a ton of heart and has been in some absolute wars. His title fight with Robbie Lawler comes to mind, and MacDonald seemed to enjoy how fierce that fight became. It all depends on which Mousasi decides to show up. The motivation is there for him in some fights, but sometimes Mousasi just coasts along. We haven’t seen that Mousasi in quite a while — he is on a seven-fight winning streak — but the possibility is always there.
MacDonald should inspire a lot of motivation for Mousasi to go out there and get his eighth straight victory. However, MacDonald has learned from the best in Georges St-Pierre. The welterweight champ could take a page out of the legend’s playbook and pick apart Mousasi on the feet and grind him out on the grind for a decision victory.
The co-headliner takes us to what some might call the “Legends’ Division,” where Quinton “Rampage” Jackson meets Wanderlei Silva. Will this be a tough fight to watch, or does at least one of these men still have a highlight-reel finish left in their bag of tricks?
It’s difficult to know what to expect. Any fight taking place in the “Legends’ Division” has been pretty bad, and that’s putting it mildly. They are gimmicky, and their presence every few cards is kind of annoying, honestly.
These fights mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. Absolutely nothing. There are fights on the undercard with more on the line. Meanwhile, these legends are engaging in rematches, trilogies and grudge matches where one fighter will be able to say he got the upper hand on a rival he last fought a decade ago.
Rampage could absolutely still contend in either the light heavyweight or heavyweight division for Bellator. He is still up to par with some of the current contenders. Yet, the allure of these “legend” fights is too much.
We can’t be totally elitist about these pairings either, because these are the sort of fights that made MMA into what it is today. Eyeballs were drawn in by the weird match-ups of the sport’s early days. Big names that fans heard in passing caused them to tune in to see just who that fighter was. Many of these people stuck with the sport.
We can’t go into this thinking it’s going to be tough to watch, but this was made for the guy who watches maybe one card a year and just happens to know these names. Maybe it’s someone who has been in a coma for a decade. They wake up now and don’t know what has happened to these two fighters in the last decade. They might enjoy it.
Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov square off in a welterweight grand prix quarterfinal bout. Who advances?
This is a great card featuring a lot of even match-ups, and this is another fight where either fighter could take the win.
Lima and Koreshkov have fought before. They first met at Bellator 140 in July 2015. Koreshkov absolutely smothered Lima on his way to a unanimous decision in that affair. Koreshkov took the welterweight crown from Lima, too. They fought again almost a year and a half later at Bellator 164. The second fight was a completely different story. Lima not only took back his crown, but he did it by knocking out Koreshkov in the third round.
This rubber match is going to be like that Bellator 164 fight. It comes down to both guys excelling in completely different areas of MMA. Koreshkov is known for his takedowns and ability to grind out opponents on the ground. It isn’t a pretty style and won’t be a crowd favorite, but it gets the job done in convincing fashion. Koreshkov accomplished a lot in round two of the pair’s second fight. You could even say he did so in the first frame, but Lima was more able to break out and get back to his feet earlier in the fight.
Lima has a big advantage here that he needs to go to early and often. This would be the leg kick. Lima is an absolute animal with his leg kicks. They are powerful, and they take a huge toll on his opponent. This helps significantly against a fighter like Koreshkov who likes to go for takedowns. It puts an immense amount of pressure on Koreshkov’s lead leg and gives him less mobility as he tries to secure the takedown. It’s hard to generate much power after four or five of those kicks from Lima. This is where Lima has shined in numerous fights.
If Lima can get those kicks going early, he has a huge avenue to victory. That being said, the more likely outcome is one in which Koreshkov lands takedowns and grinds out Lima. Koreshkov let Lima go too often in their second fight, and he paid the ultimate price in the third round.
Koreshkov will not quit in his efforts to take this fight to the mat. It should lead to a win.
Why bury Arlene Blencowe and Amber Leibrock in the prelims?
This is a question for someone who gets paid more than I do.
Aaron Pico belongs on the main card. He is a legit prospect in a budding division for Bellator. Furthermore, he is going against a big test in former title challenger Leandro Higo. This is a big fight for a big division within the promotion.
However, Keri Melendez and Dakota Zimmerman over Blencowe and Leibrock? That’s questionable. Blencowe and Leibrock are a much tighter fight than Melendez and Zimmerman. The women’s featherweight division doesn’t get a whole of attention in general, so it would seem to make sense for Bellator to shine a bigger spotlight on it and build up some fresh names.
Simply put, though, Bellator has invested a lot into Melendez. She has been on the company’s kickboxing cards in absolutely one-sided matchups. The same goes for her MMA bouts. She is one of Bellator’s go-to female fighters.
Melendez is a flashy striker who gets put against fighters that help build her highlight reel so Bellator can later push her as the face of the flyweight division. Fans want to see fighters get finishes, and Melendez will most likely accomplish this feat against Zimmerman. The same can’t be said for Blencowe and Leibrock, who could end up going the distance.
The closer featherweight match-up is perhaps the more ideal main-card fight for the hardcore MMA crowd, but Bellator is trying to produce ratings. Melendez will help the promotion in that respect.
Main Card (DAZN, 10 p.m. ET)
MW Championship: Gegard Mousasi vs. Rory MacDonald
HW: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva
WW Tournament Quarterfinal: Douglas Lima vs. Andrey Koreshkov
FW: Aaron Pico vs. Leandro Higo
Women’s FlyW: Keri Melendez vs. Dakota Zimmerman
Preliminary Card (Bellator.com, 7 p.m. ET)
Catchweight (160 pounds): Adam Piccolotti vs. James Terry
Women’s FW: Amber Leibrock vs. Arlene Blencowe
FW: Jeremiah Labiano vs. Justin Smitley
FW: Gaston Bolanos vs. Ysidro Gutierrez
Catchweight: Josh San Diego vs. Joe Neal
LHW: Chuck Campbell vs. Joseph Ramirez
LW: Anthony Figueroa Jr. vs. Samuel Romero
BW: Isaiah Batin-Gonzalez vs. Khai Wu
FW: Ricky Abdelaziz vs. Laird Anderson
FW: Ignacio Ortiz vs. Jacob Ycaro
BW: Cass Bell vs. Ty Costa
Catchweight: Abraham Vaesau vs. DeMarco Villalona
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