In 2018, Bellator announced that it they would be putting together a welterweight grand-prix to run through 2018-2019. The tournament included Rory MacDonald, Jon Fitch, Douglas Lima, Andrey Koreshkov, Neiman Gracie, Ed Ruth, Paul Daley, Michael Page, as well as alternates, Lorenz Larkin and Erick Silva.
On Saturday, April 27, the quarterfinals of the tournament will come to an end. The title will be on the line for the first time in the main event of Bellator 220 in San Jose. Current champion, Rory MacDonald, will attempt to defend his title for the first time as he faces Jon Fitch.
Before we take a look at this weekend’s main event, let’s take a look at the three previous quarterfinal fights.
Douglas Lima vs. Andrey Koreshkov III
It had been announced that the grand-prix would kick off at Bellator 206 on September 29, 2018. Kicking it off would be a trilogy fight between two former champions, Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov.
The pair first met in 2015 at Bellator 140 as Lima attempted to defend his newly won title for the first time. However, Koreshkov had other plans as he was awarded a unanimous decision win to become the new champion. Their second meeting came just a little over a year later at Bellator 164. Lima made sure to end it before they reached the scorecards as he finished Koreshkov by knockout in round three. With the knockout win, he won his title back.
Their third fight wasn’t a title fight but it still had high stakes as the loser would be eliminated from the tournament. The early rounds were close, but as the fight progressed, Lima began to pull ahead. He used his takedowns in the later rounds and in the fifth round, after stunning Koreshkov on the feet, he would sink in a rear naked choke that would end the fight.
Neiman Gracie vs. Ed Ruth
The second quarterfinal match-up was scheduled to take place at Bellator 213 in Hawaii. That fight would feature a jiu jitsu vs. wrestling match-up as undefeated jiu jitsu fighter, Neiman Gracie, took on former 3x NCAA Division I wrestling national champion, Ed Ruth.
Both fighters traded some good exchanges on the feet and in the pocket, with Ruth seeming like the quicker man. In round one, Gracie locked up a triangle choke that seemed dangerous, but Ruth was eventually able to pull out of it. As the fight went on, both fighters looked for takedowns and both fighters landed well on the feet. In the fourth round, Gracie was able to get it done as he submitted Ruth with a rear naked choke to extend his record to 9-0.
Michael Page vs. Paul Daley
The next quarterfinal happened in the main event of Bellator 216 on February 16. Two popular British strikers faced off that night as undefeated Michael Page took on MMA vet, Paul Daley. The lead up to the fight was full of back and forth trash talk from both fighters. It was expected to be a very exciting fight as Page brings a very flashy style as opposed to Daley who brought with him his terrifying one punch knockout power.
As a shock to many fans, the fight did not live up to the hype at all. It was a long, uneventful affair that wouldn’t see a whole lot of action. In the end, Page was awarded the unanimous decision win, scoring 48-47 on all three scorecards. The win advanced ‘MVP’ to the semifinals where he will face Douglas Lima.
Rory MacDonald vs. Jon Fitch
The final quarterfinal of the tournament takes place this Saturday at Bellator 220. For the first time in this grand-prix, the champion will attempt to defend his title. Current champion, Rory MacDonald, looks to defend his Bellator title for the first time. Standing across from him will be former UFC title challenger, Jon Fitch.
Since leaving the UFC, MacDonald has looked good after signing with Bellator. He made his debut against one punch knockout artist, Paul Daley. MacDonald submitted Daley in round two of their main event fight with a rear naked choke. The win would grant him a title shot at the champion then-Douglas Lima. After a very close fight that saw MacDonald nearly fighting on one leg at the end, MacDonald was deemed the new champion as he won by unanimous decision.
After winning the title, he called out Bellator’s middleweight champion, Gegard Mousasi to fight for his 185-pound title. Mousasi would accept the challenge and the two met in the first champion vs. champion fight in Bellator history at Bellator 206. Mousasi easily got past MacDonald in that fight. Since the loss, MacDonald has made it clear he wants to get through this grand-prix.
Jon Fitch had a storied career in the UFC. He defeated many key names which included the likes of Thiago Alves (x2) and BJ Penn. He would also challenge for the welterweight title against all-time great, Georges St-Pierre, but would go on to lose. Since leaving the UFC, he won the welterweight title with WSOF before signing with Bellator. He made his Bellator debut against a mutual opponent of MacDonald’s, Paul Daley. Fitch was able to control the entirety of the fight with his wrestling and would win by unanimous decision.
Douglas Lima vs. Michael Page
The first semifinal match-up to materialize will be between two exciting strikers as they look to claim a spot in the championship. Former Bellator welterweight champion, Douglas Lima, looks to put an end to the hype train of the UK’s Michael Page. The two are currently scheduled to meet at Bellator 221. The fight will be taking place in Chicago, Illinois, headlined by a lightweight title fight between Michael Chandler, and featherweight champion, Patricio Freire.
Neiman Gracie vs. Rory MacDonald/Jon Fitch Winner
When the doors close on the quarterfinal round of the grand-prix on Saturday night, the semifinals will be set. Coming off his submission win over former NCAA wrestling champion, Neiman Gracie will fight for the welterweight title in his next fight. Whether it be against the current champion, Rory MacDonald, or the challenger, Jon Fitch. The second semifinal will take place in New York City as the Bellator cage returns to Madison Square Garden for Bellator 222.
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