On Friday night, Bellator 222 took place from Madison Square Garden and saw Rory MacDonald shut down Neiman Gracie to advance to the finals of the Welterweight Grand Prix while Chael Sonnen called it a career.
*Rory MacDonald def. Neiman Gracie by unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47) to retain the Welterweight title in the semi-finals of the Welterweight Grand Prix
*Lyoto Machida def. Chael Sonnen by TKO at 0:22 of Round 2
*Dillon Danis def. Max Humphrey by armbar at 4:28 of Round 1
*Patrick Mix def. Ricky Bandejas by rear-naked choke at 1:06 of Round 1
*Juan Archuleta def. Eduardo Dantas by KO at 4:59 of Round 2
*Kyoji Horiguchi def. Darrion Caldwell by unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46) to win the Bellator bantamweight title
In the night’s main event, MacDonald went the distance earning a unanimous decision over the previously undefeated Gracie in their semi-final fight. Just seven weeks removed from his majority draw with Jon Fitch and questions arising from his post-fight interview, MacDonald put in 25 minutes that got the job, although failed to put on a spectacle for the audience.
In the early going, MacDonald established his jab while trying to time Gracie’s takedowns and secure top position. It was inside of Gracie’s guard that MacDonald spent a large portion, mixing in strikes and leaving Gracie ineffective off his back. Gracie had several openings rolling for a kneebar in the second round and going for the arm in the third, both unsuccessfully. The fifth round belonged to Gracie where he took down and mounted the champion, controlling the final five minutes of action.
The judges scored it 49-46, 48-47, and 48-47 for MacDonald, who will advance to the finals against Douglas Lima, the same individual MacDonald defeated to become champion in January 2018.
In the co-feature, Lyoto Machida put on a striking clinic against Chael Sonnen to retire the 42-year old after a second-round stoppage. Sonnen absorbed a vicious flying knee in the first round and covered up to withstand the barrage of strikes and got out of the round. It was an encore from Machida in the second, dropping the Oregon native with another knee and this time getting the job done with his ground and pound.
After the loss, Sonnen announced he was retiring after fulfilling the five fights on his Bellator contract and walks away as one of the dominant personalities in the sport’s history.
Dillon Danis returned to the Bellator cage, 14 months removed from his professional debut and made easy work of 3-2 fighter Max Humphrey. Danis secured the takedown and rode Humphrey, taking the back and applying both hooks. In a quick transition, he secured the arm and tapped Humphrey to improve to 2-0. Danis showed zero signs of humility, throwing out challenges to Rory MacDonald and Jon Jones in his post-fight interview.
In a bantamweight fight, Patrick Mix improved to 11-0 with a quick submission of Ricky Bandejas. The King of the Cage veteran took down Bandejas and immediately worked for the choke and got the tap at the 1:06 mark as he remained undefeated.
Former bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas was hopeful a recent rebound win over Toby Misech would springboard him back into contention, but Duane Ludwig pupil Juan Archuleta has other plans on Friday. The 31-year old won the first round and then continued with his striking game in the second round, nailing Dantas with a left hand and sneaking in a follow up right. The highlight moment came in the closing moments as Archuleta came off the fence with a right hand that knocked Dantas to the mat, stopping the former champion with one second remaining in the second frame.
Those tuning into the main card immediately saw championship action with Darrion Caldwell and Kyoji Horiguchi opening the broadcast with their bantamweight title fight. The fight was lacking fireworks and was a game plan of control initiated by Caldwell with little action beyond his takedown and remaining still on top.
It appeared Caldwell won the first two rounds with this strategy. In the third round, Horiguchi was the one taking the top position in half-guard and later through his sprawl technique. Horiguchi worked for a guillotine in the fourth round and executed a necessary trip takedown near the end. The audience was restless in the fifth round, while Horiguchi landed numerous elbows to the side of the head, which was important in a fight that lacked a lot of action.
Horiguchi won the fight on scores of 49-46 twice and 48-47 to become both Bellator and Rizin bantamweight champion.
On the preliminary portion, Adam Borics handed Aaron Pico his second consecutive after a flying knee and strikes finished the 22-year old in the second round.
Heather Hardy’s return to Bellator didn’t get out of the first round with the boxer/mixed martial artist being stopped by Taylor Turner at 3:53 of the opening round in their 128-pound catchweight fight.
Lindsey VanZandt defeated Rena Kubota with a technical submission in the first round and middleweight prospect Phil Hawes earned a victory over Michael Wilcox with a doctor’s stoppage after the opening round.