The demise of Rory MacDonald’s fighting spirit appears to have been greatly exaggerated.
The Bellator 170-pound champion defended his title and advanced to the finals of the Welterweight World Grand Prix with an impressive unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Neiman Gracie on Friday in the main event of Bellator 222 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“I feel pretty good. It’s such an honor to be able to compete in an arena like this in New York City,” MacDonald said. “I truly feel blessed to have come so far in my career here to be fighting for a world championship in Madison Square Garden.”
MacDonald (21-5-1), who openly questioned whether he still had the heart to keep fighting after his disappointing draw with Jon Fitch in April, took home judges’ scores of 49-46 and 48-47 (twice). He advances to face former champion Douglas Lima, whom MacDonald defeated in a 2018 five-round thriller, in the finals of the Grand Prix for the $1 million prize.
“That’s a toughie, but I’m looking forward to it because it was a close fight [the first time,]” MacDonald said. “I’m not surprised to meet him in the finals. He’s a true fighter and a gentleman and it’s an honor to compete to a guy like that.”
After coming up short against MacDonald via unanimous decision at Bellator 192, Lima (31-7) bounced back to submit former champion Andrey Koreshkov in their September trilogy bout before knocking out Michael Page in May to advance to the final.
“That’s what we are waiting for, this is the rematch that I’ve been waiting on,” Lima said. “You can see why Rory is the champion as he is a warrior.”
Gracie (9-1), a fourth generation member of the family Brazilian jiu-jitsu family and nephew of legend Renzo Gracie, was unable to submit MacDonald despite multiple attempts over five rounds. Not only was the champion’s submission defense at an elite level, he dominated the fight in the standup by routinely landing right hands that swelled Gracie’s eyes.
MacDonald showed good takedown defense and remained patient each time Gracie reversed on the ground to attempt a series of armbars and leg locks. MacDonald also landed significant damage from top position each time he was able to stuff a Gracie takedown and force the Brazilian to his back.
Although Gracie was successful in taking down MacDonald early in Round 5, he never attempted to land anything of note in terms of striking and was unable to rally for a dramatic finish.
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Bellator 222 card, results
Rory MacDonald (c) def. Neiman Gracie via unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47)
via second-round TKO (punches)
Dillon Danis def. Max Humphrey via first-round submission (armbar)
Patrick Mix def. Ricky Bandejas via first-round submission (rear-naked choke)
Juan Archuleta def. Eduardo Dantas via second-round KO (punch)
Kyoji Horiguchi (c) def. Darrion Caldwell (48-47, 49-46, 49-46)
via second-round TKO (knee)
Bellator 222 updates, highlights
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