Bellator 220: “MacDonald vs. Fitch” aired last night (Sat., Apr. 27, 2019) exclusively via DAZN from SAP Center in San Jose, California. Welterweight title dreams could either be made or broken in this round of the Grand Prix as “Red King” Rory MacDonald (20-5) put his belt up for grabs against long time MMA veteran Jon Fitch (31-7-1, 1 NC).
Fitch did exactly what you’d expect him to do in Round 1 — take MacDonald down repeatedly. The only problem was he didn’t score any offensive damage when he did get MacDonald to the ground in this frame or in the second. On the feet MacDonald landed his right hand regularly and precisely while mixing in kicks to the body and the head. In close rounds you have to edge them to MacDonald just for doing actual damage.
The third round was the first time Fitch actually landed solid blows on top and prevented MacDonald from getting back to his feet, making it a definitive 10-9 in his column. He even managed to open a cut around MacDonald’s right eye thanks to a well placed elbow.
Round four will be the most debated round of the fight as MacDonald rocked Fitch with a well timed elbow and had him so woozy that he had to grab a single leg and hang on for dear life. It paid dividends as he did eventually get MacDonald to the ground and ride on top for the rest of the frame, throwing tiny little strikes to the body around MacDonald’s guard. If you judge by “number of strikes” Fitch could win it, but MacDonald hurt him more.
Round five edged to Fitch on this reporter’s scorecard thanks to the fact MacDonald did not land any major strikes and Fitch once again managed to get MacDonald to the ground and keep him there. Would that be enough for the title to change hands in San Jose? The crowd sat on the edge of their seats awaiting the final verdict.
Unfortunately no one left satisfied as the bout ended in a majority draw of 47-47 X2 with one judge scoring it 48-46 for Fitch. MacDonald advances to MSG since he didn’t “lose” and spoke to John McCarthy about it afterward.
“It’s hard sometimes to pull the trigger now. I don’t have that killer inside. It’s really hard to explain. I hesitate a little now. It wasn’t my best performance. As a man I feel like God has really called me the last little while. He’s changed my spirit, changed my heart. It takes a certain spirit to come in here and put a man through pain. I don’t know if I have that same drug in me any more. I know the Lord has a plan for me and he was speaking to me tonight. I have to get out of here and reevaluate. We’ll see what happens. Tonight there was mixed emotions in there. I did good stuff but there was something different.”
Neiman Gracie was there to view his opponent coming up at Madison Square Garden.
“I think Fitch won this fight but all respect to Rory and I’ll see you June 14th.”
That was not the only title defense of the night in California. Undefeated Flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (9-0) returned to the Bellator cage to face the strong challenge of Veta Arteaga (5-2), looking to take the title with a third straight win. Featherweight champion Julia Budd shared her thoughts before the title fight.
The first round was close but Macfarlane came closer to winning it thanks to a takedown that led to several submission positions including Arteaga spending a long time defending a heel hook. Arteaga tried to land knees from clinch but never hit anything big or flush. Thanks to the promotion we can show you a replay of this entire round.
Even though Macfarlane hit another takedown 45 seconds into the round, Arteaga did land a big enough elbow from the bottom to draw some blood trickling from her nose. Macfarlane did acquit herself well enough standing in the last two minutes to argue the round but she was having to breathe with her mouth open which argues for Arteaga.
That discussion is academic based on the third round. Macfarlane took her down and opened a deep gash in the middle of Arteaga’s forehead with a perfectly placed left elbow, and the blood sprayed everywhere immediately and left Arteaga a crimson mask when she stood back up. Jason Herzog called time and the doctor immediately saw how deep the gash was and waved off the fight. It goes down as a TKO win for Macfarlane at 1:50.
“Ilimanator” spoke to John McCarthy about that fight ending elbow afterward.
“I heard it for sure. I felt it in my elbow but I didn’t think it would be what ended the fight. I’m sure that’s not how she wanted to go out. I’m giving her the rematch automatic. 100%. I really did have my hands full. She’s a very worthy opponent. I knew it would be bloody we were both bleeding. Veta you deserve it. I was trying to pick my shots so I didn’t blow my tank out but I did time that one. I didn’t even know it cut her until the blood started pouring out. Nobody wants to win by doctor’s stoppage. Let’s do it again.”
Riding a rare two fight win streak in Bellator into this bout, “Smooth” Benson Henderson (26-8) took on the similarly streaking Adam Piccolotti (11-2) in a battle to see whether the young blood at Lightweight could topple the old guard.
Piccolotti had a very strong first round against the former world champion. He took Henderson down and had him in danger several times, fishing for a rear naked choke and throwing reverse hammerfists from behind smashing into Henderson’s face. When Henderson finally managed to get back up in the last minute he was enraged, coming forward with a striking flurry that sent a statement he wasn’t going anywhere.
Henderson teased a flying knee at the bell in round one and wasted little time going for it to open round two. The veteran fighter scored a takedown of his own and returned the favor to Piccolotti, making him defend the submission attempts and nearly becoming his own worst enemy by standing up with Henderson in a body triangle on his back. Before Henderson could cinch up a rear naked choke, Piccolotti fell back to the ground and got to a better defensive posture. It was all tied up heading into the third frame.
The final round will like so many of Henderson’s fights be debated for years to come. While Piccolotti was scoring with his takedowns, he didn’t generate any successful submission attempts or land any damaging blows as Henderson’s defense stifled his offense. On the other hand when Henderson escaped and spun out on top with under a minute to go, he was landing hands and elbows on top, and for at least two judges that was enough to give him the 29-28 nod, with one awarding the same to Piccolotti for a split decision.
“Smooth” Benson Henderson spoke to “Big” John McCarthy after a hard three rounds.
“I started too slow. San Jose, I love you! Seven years, seven days ago, I had to go see about a girl. She’s at home due with our third baby now. Thank you to her for holding it down so I could come here and put on a show for you guys. This is for my coaches, my teammates. They miss birthdays, wrestling tournaments, this is for your kids who sacrifice so I can be here and do what I love.”
A rematch between two former world champions saw “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis (19-5, 1 NC) look to rebound from his loss to Vadim Nemkov by facing Liam McGeary (13-3), fresh off an impressive win at Bellator 213.
Former champs collide next when @Liam_McGeary takes on @PhilMrWonderful!— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) April 28, 2019
Check out your tale of the tape for this light heavyweight bout.
Watch the #Bellator220 Main Card on @DAZN_USA!
Tune in with @SkySports in the . pic.twitter.com/jV3uEJwiF5
The first two rounds saw Davis outpoint McGeary at every turn, avoiding the strikes coming his way and answering in kind with kicks to the lead left leg. As the time ticked away and Davis avoided even the big Superman punches McGeary threw, his confidence grew and he started clinching with the bigger McGeary to land knees. This all led to a definitive and dominant third round for “Mr. Wonderful.”
Davis put the exclamation point on his performance by breaking McGeary’s jaw with a straight shot to the chin, which officially goes down as a TKO at 4:11 even though it simultaneously appeared that McGeary was submitting as Davis was preparing to put the squeeze on him on the ground. Either way Davis spoke to John McCarthy afterward.
“The kicks were something I had success with in the first fight. I fully expected him to be fired up, ready and coming after me. I needed that as a neutralizer to stop some of his offense. It’s definitely harder to fight someone when they’re coming at you with big hammers connecting with big shot. There’s a champion who runs around but I’m glad Liam is a man who stands with me. If he (Ryan Bader) doesn’t like me running my mouth I’m right here!”
In addition “Dreamkiller” Gaston Bolanos put his 4-1 record on the line against Nathan Stolen (8-4) in a featured Lightweight bout, with Stolen coming in on a three fight skid.
Not surprisingly Bolanos cleaned his clock, landing a left hook that dropped Stolen on his butt and pouring on right hands until referee Frank Trigg stopped the fight at 2:21 of round one. The fight was so fast that Bellator’s social media division put the entire round up as a replay!
Bolanos spoke to “Big” John McCarthy afterward.
“We knew Nathan would be really really tough coming in. We were ready for the grappling man. I’m getting better every day. Madison Square Garden is right around the corner. Scott Coker make it happen. I want to dedicate this win to my grandpa, he’s a real warrior, he’s been fighting cancer but he’s still here.”
For complete Bellator 220 results and coverage click here.