Lima beats Rory MacDonald to win back title at Bellator 232

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Rory MacDonald, left, and Douglas Lima, right, react to the verdict of their Bellator 232 main event. (Photo courtesy Bellator MMA)

UNCASVILLE, United States — Douglas (The Phenom) Lima regained his 170-pound title from Canadian Rory (The Red King) MacDonald on Saturday night, winning the final of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix by unanimous decision.

The victory at Bellator 232 came with a US$1 million payday.

MacDonald (21-6-1) was unable to take Lima down or cause damage with strikes while Lima (32-7-0) connected with kicks and punches.

"I trained really hard, I felt very sharp good with my game plan," said MacDonald. "Unfortunately I didn’t put on as much pressure as I should have. I think that’s where I was winning the fight, when I would apply the pressure. But I just wasn’t hitting that gas pedal early enough in the fight — until later it started working.

"But I’m not going to sit here and have a heavy face, I have so much to be grateful for. I’m truly blessed. What an honour to share the world stage with another brother in Christ."

The judges scored it 49-46, 50-45, 50-45 for Lima.

"Man it’s been a long road but we did it," said Lima, who left with both the Bellator welterweight and Grand Prix championship belts.

"Tough as nails. Hats off to him. Man, he’s a warrior," he said of MacDonald.

MacDonald had put his welterweight title on the line twice already in the eight-man Grand Prix, fighting veteran Jon Fitch to a majority draw in April before winning a decision over Neiman Gracie in June. Lima submitted Russia’s Andrey (Spartan) Koreshkov in September 2018 and knocked out England’s Michael (Venom) Page in May.

MacDonald weighed in at 169.75 pounds Friday while Lima was 169.25 pounds.

MacDonald’s Bellator contract expires after this bout but the born-again Christian says he plans to keep fighting so he can use his mixed martial arts platform to help spread God’s word.

MacDonald, a B.C. native who now calls Montreal home, claimed the title in a five-round decision over Lima the first time they have met at Bellator 192 in January 2018. While MacDonald won a 49-48, 49-45, 49-46 decision, he needed help leaving the cage due to Lima’s vicious leg kicks and headed immediately to hospital.

"I think I have a person growing inside me," MacDonald said of his swollen leg after the fight.

Lima, 31, came out first Saturday to the strains of "Tell the World" by Lecrae featuring Mali Music. MacDonald, 30, followed to "See a Victory" by Elevation Worship.

It was a close first round with Lima stuffing a MacDonald takedown and landing a couple of kicks.

In the second, MacDonald circled to his right in a bid to avoid Lima’s kicks. Lima, taking the centre of the cage, stalked MacDonald throughout the round and landed some solid blows.

Lima shrugged off three more MacDonald takedown attempts in the third round. And he started to connect with his jab.

It was more of the same in the fourth round with Lima landing his first big kick to MacDonald’s left calf. MacDonald ended on his butt

MacDonald got Lima down in the fifth but Lima reversed position quickly, bloodying him with strikes from on top. The round finished with MacDonald in Lima’s full guard, looking to score with strikes.

MacDonald’s record in Bellator dropped to 3-2-1. The previous defeat came at the hands of middleweight champion Gegard (The Dreamcatcher) Mousasi at Bellator 206 in September 2018.

In the co-main event Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena, England’s Paul (Semtex) Daley stopped American Saad Awad at 1:30 at of the second round in a fight contested at 175 pounds. Daley (42-17-2) dropped Awad (23-13-0) with a left to the head and finished off him with several hammer-fists.

On the undercard, lightweight (Fearless) Lance Gibson Jr. of Port Moody, B.C., made short work of American Dominic (Domnation) Jones (2-3-0) in winning his Bellator debut.

Gibson (3-0-0) stuffed a takedown, took Jones’ back and started firing elbow strikes and punches until the referee stepped in at 1:58 of the first round.

Gibson, 24, is the stepson and training partner of Bellator featherweight champion Julia (The Jewel) Budd. Budd and Lance Gibson Sr., a former UFC fighter, were in his corner Saturday.

On Friday at the same venue, Canadian lightweight Mandel Nallo (7-1-0) suffered his first loss as a pro by third-round TKO to Killys Mota (12-1-0) on the Bellator 231 undercard. The fight was stopped when Nallo’s ankle buckled due after a string of nasty leg kicks from the Brazilian.

Nallo, a Vancouver native, trains at Montreal’s Tristar Gym.

Frank Mir won a unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) over Roy (Big Country) Nelson in the Bellator 231 main event in a matchup of former UFC heavyweights.

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