The biggest event of the year under the Bellator banner goes down on Saturday, September 29 as Bellator 206 goes down in San Jose, California. The card is stacked as it features names like Wanderlei Silva, Rampage Jackson, Aaron Pico, and Douglas Lima. But, the most important fight of the night will be the main event.
The main event will feature the first champion vs. champion fight in Bellator history. Former UFC fighters, Gegard Mousasi (44-6-2) and Rory MacDonald (20-4), will meet with the Bellator middleweight title on the line. Mousasi will look to defend his middleweight title for the first time against Bellator’s welterweight champion, MacDonald.
Road to the Title:
Gegard Mousasi has had a very long and storied career. He’s been apart of countless promotions over his 15-year professional career including Strikeforce, PRIDE, and the UFC. Before arriving in Japan’s PRIDE FC, Mousasi went 12-1-1 in various other promotions.
His PRIDE debut came in 2006 as he entered the PRIDE welterweight grand prix. In the opening round, he faced Makoto Takimoto who was 2-2 at the time. He won during that opening round by TKO in the first round and would go on to face Akihiro Gono in the quarterfinals. However, he would go on to lose that fight by submission in the second round.
After suffering that loss in the quarterfinals he would be placed in an alternate fight for that same Grand Prix against future Bellator middleweight champion, Hector Lombard. Mousasi came out of that fight victorious by unanimous decision, but this would be his final fight under the PRIDE banner. However, this would be the start of a 15-fight win streak that would last three years.
The next win would come as a member of Cage Warriors as he defeated Gregory Bouchelaghem to become the Cage Warriors middleweight champion. He would never go on to defend this belt though. Instead, he would go 5-0 in various promotions, with a win over Evangelista Santos, before debuting for Dream.
As a fighter in Dream, he would earn very notable wins over Melvin Mahoef, Ronaldo Souza (to become the inaugural Dream middleweight champion), and Mark Hunt in a Super Hulk Grand Prix quarterfinal.
First stint with Strikeforce:
After the win over Mark Hunt, Mousasi began his relationship with current Bellator president, Scott Coker, when he signed with Strikeforce in 2009. He faced Renato Sobral in a light heavyweight title fight which he would go on to win by knockout one minute into the fight. Mousasi was set to defend his title for this first time in 2010 against Muhammed Lawal. This title fight came after a non-title fight and a fight with Dynamite. Unfortunately, Mousasi would lose his title to Lawal by unanimous decision.
Second stint with Dream:
After he lost his title, he would return to Dream. He would go 2-0 in his second stint, winning the Dream light heavyweight title. That title fight came in 2010 at Dream 16 as he defeated Tatsuya Mizuno by rear naked choke. After those two fights back in Dream, Mousasi would return to Strikeforce.
Second stint with Strikeforce and third stint with Dream:
Mousasi would return to Strikeforce in 2011 when he took on Keith Jardine at Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley. The pair of fighters would end up fighting to a draw. And once again, Mousasi would go to fight for Dream once again. Mousasi returned to take on Hiroshi Izumi as he looked to defend his light heavyweight title. He was successful as he won the fight in the first round by TKO.
Third stint in Strikeforce:
After his final fight with Dream, Mousasi would return to Strikeforce where he would fight two more times. The first of those came against current UFC light heavyweight, Ovince Saint Preux. He defeated OSP unanimous decision and would then go on to face Mike Kyle in his final fight with Strikeforce. Mousasi defeated Kyle by rear naked choke in the first round, and then the UFC bought Strikeforce.
After the buyout of Strikeforce, Mousasi made his debut in 2013 in the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 2. He would face Ilir Larifi in that fight and defeated him by unanimous decision. Mousasi then went on to return to the middleweight division and fought Lyoto Machida in his return. He came up short against Machida as Machida was awarded a unanimous decision win.
After losing to Machida, Mousasi would go 3-2 in his next five fights. One notable fight from that stretch was a rematch with Ronaldo Souza. After coming up short in their first matchup, Souza got his revenge against Mousasi as he finished him in the third round of their main event via guillotine. He would also lose to Uriah Hall via TKO during their meeting in 2015, remember this matchup.
After that 3-2 stretch, Mousasi would win his next five straight. It all started with a unanimous decision win over Thales Leites at UFC Fight Night 84. He then won back to back fights by KO/TKO with finishes over Thiago Santos and Vitor Belfort. Another win by TKO would come next in a rematch with Uriah Hall. Mousasi claimed the first fight was a fluke and he proved himself right as he finished Hall in the first round in their rematch. His next fight would come against former UFC middleweight champion, Chris Weidman at UFC 210. He would win the fight by TKO after landing some controversial knees that would result in 20 minutes of review afterwards. But, ultimately, the win was awarded to Mousasi, his fourth straight KO/TKO finish. He was on the path to a UFC title shot, but then he signed with Bellator.
In a big move, Mousasi would come over to Bellator and reunite with former Strikeforce president, Scott Coker. In his debut fight, he was given no easy contest as they gave him the former middleweight champion, Alexander Shlemenko. After a back and forth slug-fest, Mousasi was given the razor-close unanimous decision. This would prove good enough for a title shot as he was matched up with the champion, Rafael Carvalho at Bellator 200. Mousasi made quick work of the champion as he got him down to the mat and unleashed the ground and pound until the ref stepped in crowning Mousasi as the new middleweight champion of Bellator.
Mousasi is really an all-around great mixed martial artist. He can finish the fight wherever it goes, but he has lots of power in his hands. He is a very skilled kickboxer as he has competed in kickboxing promotions like K-1 and done exceedingly well. His biggest strength will definitely be the striking game, but don’t underestimate his ground game. In Mousasi’s career, he has finished 24 of his 44 wins by KO/TKO. He can also finish the fight on the ground though as he’s submitted twelve of his opponents.
Mousasi is a known finisher as more than 75% of his fights have been finishes. He has only gone the distance 14 times out of his 52 professional fights, winning eight, losing two, and drawing two.
Road to the Title:
King of the Cage: Canada:
Although he began fighting as a professional at 16 years old, Rory MacDonald has only half the pro fights that Mousasi has. MacDonald made his debut in 2005 when he took on Terry Thiara at Extreme Fighting Challenge 4. He won his debut in the first round via rear naked choke. He would then go on to win his next four fights, as a fighter of King of the Cage: Canada, with the same rear naked choke. One of those wins came over current UFC fighter, Jordan Mein. Another five wins would be added to his record under KOTC: Canada, including a win over Kajan Johnson and another that would capture him the KOTC Canadian lightweight title.
MacDonald made his UFC debut when he was 20 years old as he took on Mike Guymon at UFC Fight Night 20. He was victorious that night as he finished Guymon with an armbar, and was then given Carlos Condit in his next fight. That fight took place at UFC 115 with Condit getting the win with a TKO finish in the third round, ruining MacDonald’s perfect 10-0 record.
After that loss against Condit, MacDonald would go on a tear. He won five straight with notable wins over Nate Diaz, Jake Ellenberger, and UFC legend, BJ Penn. His next opponent would be someone he would meet again down the road as he fought Robbie Lawler at UFC 167. The fight was close, but the judges would end up giving the split decision to Lawler.
After the loss to Lawler, MacDonald would come back strong once again and go on a three fight win streak. The first of those wins came over arguably the greatest jiu-jitsu practitioner in MMA history, Demian Maia. That win came at UFC 170 with the “Red King” winning by unanimous decision. The next victory would come against the current welterweight champion, future champion at the time, Tyron Woodley. MacDonald would defeat him by unanimous decision at UFC 174. The last of that win streak would come against former Strikeforce welterweight champion, Tarec Saffiedine as he beat him by TKO at UFC Fight Night 54.
As a result of this win streak, the UFC would give a MacDonald a rematch with Robbie Lawler at UFC 189. However, this time Lawler was champion of the UFC welterweight division and was making his first title defense against MacDonald. At 24 years old, MacDonald entered his first UFC title fight with “Ruthless” and put up a very good fight. In the later rounds of the fight, MacDonald stunned Lawler on multiple occasions, coming very close to a finish at one point. But Lawler kept his cool and stayed in the fight. In the fifth round of 2015’s fight of the year, Lawler landed a punch on MacDonald’s already shattered nose that forced MacDonald to go down and cover up, ending the fight by TKO.
After losing that title fight against Lawler, it would seem to many that MacDonald had faded. His first fight since the loss to Lawler came against Stephen Thompson. Thompson won the fight easily that night by unanimous decision in the main event of UFC Fight Night 89.
It was announced in August of 2016 that MacDonald would sign with Bellator. He made an appearance at Bellator 160 where he made it clear he wanted to win two belts in Bellator at welterweight and middleweight. In his Bellator debut at Bellator 179, he would challenge former UFC and Strikeforce fighter, Paul Daley in the main event. He utilized his wrestling in this fight to get away from the dangerous striking of “Semtex”. He would get Daley down in the second round and submit him under two minutes into the round via rear naked choke.
His successful debut would give himself a title shot scheduled for Bellator 192 against the champion, Douglas Lima. Both fighters put on a show in a close fight that went the whole five rounds. The end of the fight saw a nasty bump on MacDonald’s shin as it swelled up big after five rounds. The decision would go to MacDonald at the end of the fight as he began his quest for two belts.
Like many others at the Tristar gym in Montreal, MacDonald has a very good wrestling game. Along with that, he is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has finished seven of his twenty wins by submission. He can also finish the fight with his hands as well as he has seven finishes by KO/TKO. A big factor in this fight will be the size difference between both men. MacDonald is a couple inches shorter, but he is fighting Mousasi who has spent his career at middleweight and light heavyweight meaning he is naturally bigger. MacDonald will have to work his way around that problem if he wants to keep his promise on winning two belts in Bellator.
This fight will be a very close and well matched fight. Both fighters have skill wherever the fight ends up going. However, MacDonald may look to really utilize his wrestling to avoid the size difference on the feet. This match-up is too close to predict a winner. Let us just sit back and enjoy this very interesting fight and may the best man win.
Watch Mousasi vs. MacDonald at Bellator 206
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