Bellator 179: "MacDonald vs. Daley" takes place tomorrow (Fri., May 19, 2017) at SSE Arena in London, England. Ever since Rory “Red King” MacDonald signed with Bellator last year, fight fans have been eagerly anticipating his promotional debut. The hard-hitting Paul “Semtex” Daley will look to play the spoiler in front of a raucous hometown crowd.
The Spike TV-televised card has been stacked up with other favorites as well, including former Light Heavyweight champion Liam McGeary, long-time Heavyweight veteran Cheick Kongo, and the son of the late Kimbo Slice. This should make for a good show on Spike TV and for the fans in attendance.
Let’s break it down!
170 lbs.: Rory MacDonald (18-4) vs. Paul Daley (39-14-2)
If the story of “Red King” were to be written now, history would record that Rory MacDonald came up short twice against “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler, the second time in a world title fight where MacDonald was seemingly four minutes away from achieving his dream. As good as MacDonald is, though — and anybody making a series list of Welterweights has to put him in their Top 5 — MacDonald has got to be haunted by those failures. The second fight with Lawler was so brutal and bloody it may have forever changed him, and in his final UFC fight against Stephen Thompson, he didn’t seem to be the same any more.
You don’t want to be a changed man going against Paul Daley. “Semtex” is six out of his last seven, including a brutal flying knee knockout of Brennan Ward in his last fight this past January. Indeed, the man from Nottingham has 29 out of 39 wins by knockout, but that 74 percent does drop a bit when compared to his overall total of 55 fights, coming in at just under 53 percent. Still, when you’re knocking out more than half of the competition — and you’ve also got a 21-3 record in kickboxing with 14 wins by knockout there — the nickname “Semtex” (a form of plastic explosive) is well and truly earned. Few healthy fighters with a good chin want to taste his hands, elbows or knees — let alone anybody who may have had their jaw turned to glass.
Is MacDonald a fragile opponent now? It’s hard to say. At times against Thompson he seemed to be wilting, but he still took “Wonderboy” to the distance and arguably gave as good as he received. With nearly a full year off from that fight until now, he should be coming in as fresh as he’s been at any point in his career. When MacDonald has taken a loss in the past it has only been to figthers at the highest level — Lawler, Thompson and Carlos Condit. Meanwhile, with 14 losses on Daley’s scorecard you can find both quality defeats (Douglas Lima, Tyron Woodley, Nick Diaz) and questionable ones (Luiz Azeredo, Alexander Yakovlev). Anybody can have a bad day, but Daley seems to have his worst ones against fighters with stamina (seven losses by decision).
As such a strategy has emerged that is potentially smart for MacDonald. If he plays it safe he’ll stay at a distance to avoid the power shots, wait for Daley to load up on one big haymaker, then duck under and double leg Daley to the ground. With six wins by submission and seven by knockout, MacDonald is equally as dangerous on the ground as on the feet. And if you train at the Tristar Gym and can’t shoot the double then you’re not spending enough time working out with Georges St-Pierre. Then again, MacDonald may be so eager to prove to Bellator he was worth the signing bonus that he looks to use his height (6’0”) and accuracy to slug it out with the shorter Daley (5’9”), but they both have a 76” reach. I expect MacDonald to wear out Daley on the mat and then take his shots standing in the third round if he can’t find a submission before then.
Final prediction: Rory MacDonald wins unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Liam McGeary (12-1) vs. Linton Vassell (17-5, 1 NC)
On his road back to the Light Heavyweight title that was once his, Liam McGeary made a pit stop at Bellator 173 in Belfast to face Brett McDermott. The journeyman fighter almost pulled off the upset by rocking McGeary early in the first round, but soon gave way to the natural size advantage the 6’6” McGeary had over his foe. He took enough of a battering in the first round that a second round technical knockout (doctor’s stoppage) was basically inevitable, as was the outcome all along, really. It was a tune-up fight to get McGeary back into the mix. Now comes the real test against a former title contender eager to return to the spotlight.
Winner of three of his last four bouts, “The Swarm” Linton Vassell could just as easily as McGeary sign his name to the dotted line for the winner of Davis vs. Bader at MSG. His Kryptonite, however, has always been wrestlers, as Emanuel Newton wore him down and choked him out in his title shot. Then, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal took him a unanimous decision loss at Bellator 142. Vassell is a good match up for McGeary in size, though at only two inches shorter and actually owning the edge in reach (82” vs. 81”). His last two wins by decision suggest Vassell is turning into a strategic fighter who won’t rush in to smash or get a quick submission, and if McGeary didn’t improve on the takedown defense he showed against Phil Davis there’s a big hole in his game to exploit.
Final prediction: Liam McGeary wins via split decision
265 lbs.: Cheick Kongo (26-10-2) vs. Augusto Sakai (9-0-1)
Fight fans keep waiting for Bellator MMA to crown a new Heavyweight champion ever since Vitaly Minakov was stripped of the title. In fact, it has been more than one year now and we’re all still waiting. Every Heavyweight fight now becomes a game of, “Will he be the guy? Will they finally pull the trigger?” Cheick Kongo may have come up short against Minakov, but that’s ancient history now. And with four straight wins he’s as good a candidate as anyone.
The technically undefeated Augusto Sakai is also an excellent choice for Heavyweight champion, but going to a draw with Dan Charles in Boise wasn’t his most impressive statement. Neither one of these men need a decision win because that won’t get Scott Coker and friends to make their decision at long last. Unfortunately, that’s the style of fight Kongo has now. “The Darkness” uses his size, strength and weight to take down foes and hold them down. That’s what I expect for this affair, too.
Final prediction: Checik Kongo wins a unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Alex Lohore (11-1) vs. Dan Vinni (14-14)
A last minute injury to Michael “Venom” Page forced his bout with “Barbaric” Derek Anderson off the main card and promoted Lohore vs. Vinni to take its place. That’s good news for “Da Kid” Lohore, a rising star with seven straight wins coming off an impressive Bellator debut in Belfast a few months ago. That’s bad news for Dan “Vinni” Edwards, a struggling fighter who as recently as 2015 had a six-loss mixed martial arts (MMA) losing streak. He’s won two fights just to get back to .500, but against a hungry Lohore with finishes in 81 percent of his wins (five knockouts, four submissions) Vinni is little more than a snack on his way to a much bigger meal.
Final prediction: Alex Lohore wins via first round technical knockout
165 lbs.: Kevin “Baby Slice” Ferguson Jr. (0-1) vs. D.J. Griffin (0-0)
A late addition to the main card sees the son of MMA and boxing sensation Kimbo Slice take his second fight professionally (and in Bellator MMA). Widely expected to make a spectacular debut in San Jose last year, things went his way in round one before exhaustion and incorrect techniques allowed Aaron Hamilton to score a come-from-behind submission win. The good news is that learning experience will make “Baby Slice” a better fighter. And just like his last bout, he’s being given an opponent with no professional experience. I don’t expect the Lynnwood, Wash., native Griffin to simply be a pushover in the fight, but I don’t see Ferguson taking a second “L” here.
Final prediction: Kevin Fergusion Jr. wins by first round technical knockout
That’s a wrap!
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