Bellator 206: “Mousasi vs. MacDonald” takes place this weekend (Sat., Sept. 29, 2018) at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., featuring the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion’s return to the famed “Shark Tank” with a meeting of two world champions and the renewal of an old rivalry that’s already taken place three times to date.
Let’s break it down:
185 lbs.: Gegard Mousasi (44-6-2) vs. Rory MacDonald (20-4)
Things are certainly rolling for Mousasi right now — he’s on a seven-fight win streak (five in UFC, two in Bellator) with five technical (knockout) finishes in that span. The last one of those was a quick first round finish of Rafael Carvalho that made “The Dreamcatcher” Bellator’s 185-pound champion. At 32 he may be actually getting better with age even though he’s already had more than 50 professional MMA fights. That’s a scary proposition for anybody seeking to dethrone him as the new champion.
MacDonald loves a challenge, though, and the Welterweight kingpin is looking to become a two-weight class title holder. This is only natural since the Bellator 206 card kicks off the Welterweight Grand Prix to find a new contender for MacDonald’s title, and “The Red King” needs something else to do in the meantime. He doesn’t hold the long win streak that Mousasi does, but considering he lost to Robbie Lawler and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson before jumping to Bellator, it’s not like he wasn’t fighting world class competition in all four of his most recent fights.
Can MacDonald successfully make the jump to 185 pounds to claim another belt? Well, he’s already a decent sized Welterweight (6’0” with a 76-inch reach), but Mousasi is two inches taller and has the same reach. Mousasi seems to be able to make the cut and keep all of his power in tact as shown by him having 24 knockouts in 44 wins (54 percent) and he’s also a strangler on the ground with 12 submission wins. There’s no good place to go with Mousasi — he’ll take an opponent standing or finish him on the mat.
MacDonald is the epitome of the “well rounded” modern MMA fighter, though — seven knockout wins, seven submission wins, and six decisions. Also if we learned anything from his two fights with Lawler let alone his war with Carlos Condit, it’s that you absolutely have to beat the bricks off MacDonald to get the win. He’s not the type to quit in a fight no matter how bruised, bloody or beaten he might be. Mousasi has finished numerous opponents with his power and accuracy, but the 28-year-old MacDonald has only been finished twice by the aforementioned Lawler and Condit.
In short, strap yourself in for an epic war this weekend.
Final prediction: Gegard Mousasi retains via split decision
265 lbs.: Quinton Jackson (37-13) vs. Wanderlei Silva (35-13-1-1)
I feel like there’s a metaphor in this fight somewhere about two old lions who no longer lead the pack, but still have their PRIDE (sorry I couldn’t resist) and won’t back down from each other. This will be the fourth time they’ve met over an epic series of fights that dates all the way back to Nov. 2003, an astonishing 15-year rivalry in a sport where longevity is no guarantee. On that very note things haven’t gone so well lately for either man. “Rampage” has dropped two straight to Chael Sonnen and “King Mo” Lawal, while Silva hasn’t strung together two back-to-back wins since 2005-2006.
For the series as a whole, Silva holds the 2-1 edge, but the last time they met a decade ago Jackson finished Silva with a vicious knockout. Jackson’s stand-up prowess is famous, yet we haven’t seen him knock anybody out since Christian M’Pumbu at Bellator 110, and M’Pumbu always seemed like a small and skinny Light Heavyweight, though credit where it’s due as Bellator’s inaugural champion. At least getting a knockout in 2014 puts him one ahead of Silva, who hasn’t had one in five years since facing Brian Stann on Fuel TV. Jackson is also slightly younger at 40 (versus 41) if that makes any difference.
The longer I spend trying to break down this fight the more I suspect that we’ve reached a point in their respective careers where there’s really nobody else left for the other to fight. Their rivalry is famous, but their records suggest that we won’t see them ever rise to the top again in any major promotion. On paper they are within shooting distance of each other in every way. Silva stands 5’11” with a 74-inch reach, while Jackson stands 6’1” with a 73-inch reach. Both enjoy striking more than submissions. What conclusion can we draw from this? Only one. They touch gloves, go back to their corners, and come out swinging at the bell to see who drops first.
There’s one other thing in Jackson’s favor and that’s having at least one (if not several) fights a year every year dating back to 1999. Silva, on the other hand, had a four-year layoff (due in part to a drug test failure) from 2013-2017 and hasn’t looked like he improved at all in that time, with an equally aged Chael Sonnen easily out-wrestling him last year. Rampage may be on the wrong side of his long career, but he did have a five-fight win streak during Silva’s absence. That plus the fight being tailor made to play to what Jackson loves to do the most leads me to think the series is about to be all tied up.
Final prediction: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson wins via second round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Douglas Lima (29-7) vs. Andrey Koreshkov (21-2)
This is the kind of fight I both love to see and hate to predict. I’d pick either man to beat just about anybody else in the entire division other than their opponent or the aforementioned “Red King.” In fact, history has played out precisely that way with Lima losing the world title to Koreshkov in 2015 then knocking him out to regain it in 2016. They are about as evenly matched as two men can be. Lima stands 6’1” with a 71-inch reach and has finished 24 of 29 wins (83 percent) with 11 knockouts and 13 submissions. The equally dangerous Koreshkov is the same height, 74-inch reach, knocking out 12 and submitting three. The third match will determine who advances in the Welterweight Grand Prix, but will do little to settle the rivalry. They could fight 10 times and go 5-5. It’s just that close. If their last five rounder is any indication, though, Lima may have more power in the later rounds than Koreshkov.
Final prediction: Douglas Lima via split decision
145 lbs.: Aaron Pico (3-1) vs. Leandro Higo (18-4)
Team Body Shop-trained fighter Aaron Pico is rapidly improving after a rough start in his debut on pay-per-view (PPV). He has reeled off three straight wins since that time and the power of his punch is quickly turning into something to make potential opponents turn down a fight. At only 21 years old, he has virtually nowhere to go in his career but up. Leandro Higo is more of a mixed bag. He was on an eight-fight win streak before coming to Bellator, dropped two of three since his debut, and missed weight for a title shot to boot. Even though he holds a huge experience edge over Pico, I honestly question how much difference it makes given Pico is 5’8” with a 70.5-inch reach and “Pitbull” Higo is 5’6” with a 72-inch reach. Higo is better known for submissions than striking so Pico needs to do what he does best — work the body.
Final prediction: Aaron Pico wins via first round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Keri Taylor-Melendez (2-0) vs. Dakota Zimmerman (0-0)
I’ll just keep this short and sweet like Keri Melendez herself — one is a ferocious fighter with a kickboxing background and the other has never had a professional fight in her life much less with a more experienced foe. The outcome is obvious.
Final prediction: Keri Taylor Melendez via second round knockout
145 lbs.: Gaston Bolanos (3-1) vs. Ysidro Gutierrez (4-2)
A very late addition to the main card sees the streaking Bolanos (back to back first round knockouts at Bellator 189 and Bellator 199) take on the more experienced Gutierrez, who is batting 500 over his last four bouts and most recently took a split decision win in July. Bolanos is the smaller fighter at 5’7” versus 5’9” but based on the fact Gutierrez has one knockout and three decision wins whereas Bolanos has three knockout wins and NO decisions, I think size is NOT a factor here. If it is then it’s actually because Bolanos can pack more muscle onto a smaller frame and hits harder as a result.
Final prediction: Gaston Bolanos wins by third round TKO
That’s a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 206: “Mousasi vs. MacDonald” this Saturday with fights streaming on DAZN at 10 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.