Bellator 192: “Rampage vs. Sonnen” takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., this Saturday night (Jan. 20, 2018), featuring two-time Welterweight champion Douglas Lima facing what may be his toughest test to date in former No. 1-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contender, “The Red King” Rory MacDonald. However, that fight has been overshadowed though by the opening match of the Heavyweight Grand Prix between former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Rampage Jackson, taking on Chael Sonnen.
In addition, Bellator 192 features the return of former Lightweight champion, Michael Chandler, who has been out of action since Bellator’s debut at Madison Square Garden.
Let’s break it down:
265 lbs.: Quinton Jackson (37-12) vs. Chael Sonnen (30-15-1)
It’s a bit perplexing to have a Heavyweight Grand Prix fight between a Light Heavyweight and a Middleweight, but then again if we’re being honest about it “Rampage” Jackson hasn’t been a 205-pound fighter for a long time. His last UFC fight was at 215 pounds and both fights since he returned to Bellator were Heavyweight. If that’s where he’s comfortable at age 39, let’s not expect him to cut, as he’s already incredibly swoll at 6’1.” That physical presence has led to 16 knockouts, but it’s sometimes forgotten that he’s won seven times by submission. Jackson likes to fool people into thinking he’s not a cerebral fighter, but behind the jokes and trash talk lies a deadly opponent.
Meanwhile, no one knows trash talk better than “The American Gangster” Chael Sonnen. And the build to this fight may prove to be superior to the actual match. Although Sonnen is also 6’1,” he’s never been as thickly built as Jackson — but not for lack of trying. He even has a one-inch reach advantage over Sonnen, and I don’t see that as helping much given he has nine fewer knockouts by comparison. Sonnen isn’t a brawler, he’s a grappler, and if he’s going to ruin Jackson’s night he needs to do what he did to Wanderlei Silva at Madison Square Garden — lots of takedowns. In their respective recent histories, though, Sonnen has lost four of six, while Jackson has won five of six, and Sonnen’s biggest strengths these days are as an interviewer and commentator.
Final prediction: Quinton Jackson wins via technical knockout in the second round
170 lbs.: Douglas Lima (29-6) vs. Rory MacDonald (19-4)
The resilience and I dare say “intestinal fortitude” of Douglas Lima is not to be questioned. After a two-year stretch from 2014-15 where he was only able to take two fights because of injuries, surgeries and staph infections. “The Phenom” came roaring back to reclaim the title at Bellator 164 and successfully defend it against Lorenz Larkin in NYC. In a Bellator career that spans from 2011 to the present day, Lima is 11-2 with eight wins via (technical) knockout. The only loss he unable to avenge is to “Funky” Ben Askren, and while he recently retired Lima is still going strong.
Rory MacDonald is the most dangerous opponent Lima has faced in a long time. Lima is 6’1” and MacDonald is 6’0,” but the reach hurts Lima in this fight as he’s 71” and MacDonald is 76.” While Lima has the punching power to hurt people when he closes the distance, MacDonald is just as dangerous standing (seven knockouts) as on the ground (seven submissions) and proved that against the equally prodigious punching power of Paul Daley. Even the fights MacDonald has lost like his second fight with Robbie Lawler have become legendary in the annals of the sport.
The really amazing thing about this fight to me is that neither man has reached 30, which to me suggests the possibility neither has peaked yet in their career. Both have also weather the storm of five round title fights where they came up short, coming back better after a loss than they were before. Lima can say one thing above all else that MacDonald can’t — he’s been a champion twice and has that chip on his shoulder defending it. Lima’s best chance is to sprawl and brawl as MacDonald has been knocked out twice. Lima has only been submitted once, but he’s lost four decisions, so MacDonald should put that Tristar Gym wrestling to the test and then look for ground and pound to open up submissions. Even if he can’t finish Lima he could outpoint him and with two fighters this good it may come down to the cards.
Final prediction: Rory MacDonald claims the Welterweight title via split decision
155 lbs.: Michael Chandler (16-4) vs. Goiti Yamauchi (22-3)
After a gutsy and slightly disgusting performance at MSG where he lost the title by injury, one might have expected former two-time champion Michael Chandler to demand an immediate rematch with Brent Primus. Instead “Iron Mike” is taking a much bigger risk by taking a fight to earn that right against an underrated opponent in Goiti Yamauchi. Yamauchi has put together three straight wins, all by first round submission, and with an astonishing 81 percent of his wins coming the same way (18 of 22) he’s as deadly at jiu-jitsu as almost any fighter in the sport.
The news doesn’t get any better for Chandler from there. He’s giving up significant size advantages to Yamauchi at Bellator 192 in both height (5’8” to 5’10”) and reach (69” to 74”). Neither of these things have bothered Chandler in the past though, and when it comes to Lightweights I hear a Russian in the back of my head saying “strong like bull” every time I look at him. Chandler has earned seven knockouts and six submissions in 16 wins by packing a lot of power into a diminutive frame, so when he hits you feel it and when you are caught in a choke tapping out seems wise. I don’t think he wants to go hold for hold with Yamauchi though.
If Chandler uses his All-American wrestling to block takedown attempts and keep the fight standing, he could cut angles and land on Yamauchi with power, though it’s hard to guarantee he can knockout Yamauchi because no one has done it to date. On the other hand if Yamauchi thinks he could submit Chandler, that’s not guaranteed either, because no one has done it to “Iron Mike” thus far. The cliche “styles make fights” summarizes what we have here, and with only three rounds to get the job done, both men will be going hard and fast to try and find a weakness and exploit it. It’s a race to see who gets there first.
Final prediction: Goiti Yamauchi via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Georgi Karakhanyan (28-7-1) vs. Henry Corrales (14-3)
It’s a shame this Featherweight fight gets overshadowed by some of the other bigger name action headlining this card. Corrales has rebounded nicely from a tough three fight skid to claim back-to-back wins over Cody Bollinger and Noad Lahat, putting him back in the mix of divisional contenders. Karakhanyan has been one for a long time but someone always seems to show up at just the wrong time to throw a monkey wrench in the mix — Pat Curran, Emmanuel Sanchez, et cetera — and an injury cost him a St. Louis fight with Patricio Pitbull. A win here would give Karakhanyan four out of his last five and he’s a proven finisher at 22 of 28 (eight knockouts and 14 submissions) while Corrales is quietly amassing finishes of his own (five knockouts and six submissions) and Karakhanyan can ill afford to look past him.
Final prediction: Georgi Karakhanyan wins via rear-naked choke in round two
145 lbs.: Aaron Pico (1-1) vs. Shane Kruchten (12-3)
Continuing the tradition of giving its most highly-touted prospect nothing but hard fights with veteran fighters, Aaron Pico takes his third Bellator bout (and third fight of his career) against the 12-3 Shane Kruchten. On paper you could find reasons for an experienced wrestler like Pico to win either of his previous two fights, one of which he got stunned in quickly and lost, the other of which he showed rapid improvement in his stand-up game. He’ll need that for the third because Kruchten hails from 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, the team that made Ilima-Lei Macfarlane a killer. Unsurprisingly, 50 percent of Kruchten’s wins (six of 12) come via submission. There’s good news for Pico though — Kruchten has only taken three fights in the last four years. Maybe he’s injury prone, maybe he’s had better opportunities outside of fighting, but either way that’s hardly enough activity to stay sharp. If Pico comes out fast he may knock Kruchten’s ring rust right off.
Final prediction: Aaron Pico wins via technical knockout in the first round
That’s a wrap!
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