On the second night of Bellator’s two-night extravaganza in Connecticut this weekend, the main event is a five-round welterweight title fight and the final of the welterweight grand prix.
This contest is a rematch of a January 2018 fight in which Rory MacDonald had his hand raised when he dethroned Douglas Lima via unanimous decision to become champion. Lima has fought twice since his title loss, making his way through the tournament and dispatching Andrey Koreskhov and Michael “Venom” Page as he marched towards the finale. On the opposite side of the bracket, MacDonald retained the belt in a majority draw against veteran Jon Fitch and then picked up a unanimous decision over Neiman Gracie en route to a second showdown with Lima. Not only will the winner leave the cage with the Bellator world title, but, as the grand-prix champion, they will win $1 million. Needless to say, the stakes are sky high for both men.
Hard-hitting British fighter Paul Daley was eliminated in the first round of the welterweight tournament by the aforementioned Page after the two strikers inexplicably engaged in what resembled a 25-minute staredown more than a fight. Daley takes on Saad Awad, who steps in on less than a week’s notice to replace an injured Sabah Homasi. Awad is coming off three straight losses. His most recent setback came just three weeks ago when he was submitted in the first round by Goiti Yamauchi. Though he has spent much of his career fighting in the lightweight division, Awad will meet Daley at a 175-pound catchweight given the short notice.
Undefeated bantamweight prospect Patrick Mix looks to move to 12-0 and spoil the Bellator debut of Isaiah Chapman. Chapman stepped in on less than a week’s notice after Dominic Mazzotta was forced out of the originally scheduled fight. Mix impressed viewers and matchmakers alike in his last fight, where he submitted Ricky Bandejas in just over a minute. Chapman brings a three-fight winning streak with him, and two of those three victories came via submission. Mix’s last six fights have all ended before the final bell. If he comes away with another stoppage victory in a high-profile bout, then he will firmly announce himself as a contender at bantamweight and join the line of people looking to challenge Kyoji Horiguchi for the title.
Bellator 232 takes place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Preliminary action gets underway at 6:45 p.m. ET, with the main card following at 10 p.m. ET. The action can be viewed via the DAZN streaming service.
What does Douglas Lima need to do differently from their first fight in order to defeat welterweight champ Rory MacDonald in this rematch?
He just has to do a little more of what he did and do it a little bit better. The first fight was closely contested, and most informed viewers had the fight even going into the fifth round, despite two of the judges having MacDonald ahead.
At this point in their careers, both men are completed products. The winner will be the one who best implements his game plan.
For Lima to walk out the champion once again and a million dollars richer, he will have to pepper MacDonald with leg kicks and constantly fire off jabs to the nose of the titleholder. If he is able to land with success, then it will stifle some of the grappling that proved to be MacDonald’s advantage the first time around. Lima has above-average takedown defense, and he’s not facing a prototypical collegiate wrestler — “The Red King” often finds success taking fights to the canvas from the clinch, though he is capable of landing a power double in space. The more time the two men spend on the feet, the better the chances Lima has at becoming the second three-time champion in Bellator history, joining Michael Chandler.
The biggest question mark in this fight is what version of MacDonald will show up. No disrespect intended, but he said after his quarter final draw against Jon Fitch that he wasn’t sure if he had the drive to hurt people anymore. If a trepidatious MacDonald enters the cage against Lima, then it could spell disaster for the Tristar Gym standout.
Paul Daley and Saad Awad fight in the co-headliner. Why should we care?
Awad is in desperate need of a win, and he certainly didn’t make things easy on himself when he accepted this fight with Daley. Not only does he have less than a week to prepare for the heavy-handed Brit, but he just fought three weeks ago. A loss to Daley would mark four in a row for Awad and leave the 36-year-old with a tough path forward in Bellator.
Both of these fighters carry power and can end the fight with a single punch. Awad has made no secret about his desire to be a little more cautious in the cage, because he would frequently open himself up to takedowns by overextending on his punches and getting himself out of position. Unless Daley pretends that he is a wrestler again, like he did in his snoozefest with Michael “Venom” Page, this one should remain on the feet for as long as it lasts.
The late-notice replacement makes it an interesting fight for “Semtex.” He rebounded from the Page loss with an entertaining slugfest against Erick Silva, and if he can dazzle the fans as he has done for the majority of his career and add a 31st knockout to his resume, it will keep his name near the top of the welterweight picture in Bellator. He won’t likely earn a title shot against the winner of the main event, especially since both MacDonald and Lima already boast wins over Daley, but a chance at the belt will be one step closer should he leave with his hand raised.
A loss would certainly hurt Daley more than a win would help him, and Awad is a dangerous opponent to face on short notice. Luckily, the game plan for Daley won’t change with the new opponent. If he ends up on the wrong end of this fight — especially if he becomes Awad’s 11th knockout victim — the road to a championship might not be one that the 60-fight veteran Daley wants to travel.
Will Vitaly Minakov prove that he’s a top-10 heavyweight when he clashes with Javy Ayala?
Yes, he certainly will.
Minakov’s only professional loss came to Cheick Kongo in his return to Bellator. It was a rematch of Minakov’s final Bellator fight before vacating the heavyweight title he successfully defended in a unanimous decision over Kongo. Not only was it the former champion’s first fight in over a year, but, like most Kongo fights, it started off with a knee to the groin, which left Minakov looking flat for the remainder of the contest.
Minakov bounced back with a first-round knockout over UFC veteran Timothy Johnson. Now, the Russian should be primed for an elite performance against Ayala, who picked up a submission win over Frank Mir in his last outing to become the first man to make Mir tap. It was a submission due to punches that broke Mir’s alveolar ridge, but a submission nonetheless.
Throughout his career, Ayala has been streaky. He has often alternated between two-fight winning and losing streaks while facing fighters near the top of the heavyweight division. During the Mir fight, it was evident that Ayala has work to do in the grappling department.
If Minakov is struggling to impose his will on the feet, then he should be able to use his sambo and judo backgrounds to take the fight to the mat, where he should have a clear advantage. Mir is not the same world-class submission grappler that he once was, and if he was so clearly head and shoulders ahead of Ayala, then it stands to reason that Minakov should be able to impose his will as well. Whether it’s by knockout or submission, Minakov closes the show and renders the judges useless. The win could potentially set him up for an eventual shot at Ryan Bader’s heavyweight belt.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
This one’s a no-brainer: the promotional debut of Robin van Roosmalen, who takes on Cris Lencioni.
For non-kickboxing fans, let’s take a minute to introduce van Roosmalen. He is a multiple-time world champion kickboxer across multiple weight classes. He is also a black belt in judo and has transitioned nicely into MMA, where he has picked up knockout victories in both of his professional bouts.
Van Roosmalen celebrated his 30th birthday earlier this month. He is in his physical prime as he enters a major MMA promotion. He should be able to handle Lencioni, who has a 4-2 record but hasn’t faced a striker of van Roosmalen’s caliber.
Lencioni does have three submission wins to his name, but van Roosmalen, with his background in judo, should be well equipped to handle the grappling attack en route to another knockout victory. He will likely be handled with kid gloves over his next few fights, but don’t be surprised if the star kickboxer is knocking on the door of contendership before too long.
Main Card (DAZN, 10 p.m. ET)
WW Championship: Rory MacDonald vs. Douglas Lima
Catchweight (175 pounds): Paul Daley vs. Saad Awad
BW: Patrick Mix vs. Isaiah Chapman
HW: Vitaly Minakov vs. Javy Ayala
Catchweight (160 pounds): Nick Newell vs. Manny Muro
FW: Robin van Roosmalen vs. Cris Lencioni
Preliminary Card (DAZN and Bellator.com, 6:45 p.m. ET)
LW: Lance Gibson Jr. vs. Dominic Jones
LW: Marcus Surin vs. Devin Powell
FlyW: Zarrukh Adashev vs. Tevin Dyce
WW: Tom Connolly vs. Ryan Hardy Evans
BW: John Douma vs. Jornel Lugo
FlyW: John Lopez vs. Dan Cormier
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