Bellator 220: “MacDonald vs. Fitch” airs this weekend (Sat., Apr. 27, 2019) inside SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., streaming exclusively online via DAZN. Welterweight champion, Rory MacDonald, is putting his title on the line in the main event against Jon Fitch, while the women’s Flyweight champ, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (9-0), is defending hers against Veta Arteaga in the co-main event. Two dynamite fights are set to explode as a result!
Let’s break it down:
170 lbs.: Rory MacDonald (20-5) vs. Jon Fitch (31-7-1, 1 NC)
The last time we saw “Red King” in the Bellator cage things did not go so well for him. Brimming with confidence ahead of a “super” fight with Middleweight king Gegard Mousasi, MacDonald did not achieve his goal of becoming a two weight class world champion. Instead MacDonald took one of the most humbling losses of his career in a bout where he gave up size, strength and striking accuracy to one of the best fighters alive today. Finished via technical knockout in the second round, MacDonald would be forced to leave San Jose with his tail between his legs and look ahead to the Welterweight Grand Prix instead.
His upcoming showdown with Fitch gives him a chance at redemption, but no easier of a puzzle to solve. “Fitch’d” is how to describe what happens to a fighter who is taken down over and over again and given no chance to recover once they hit the ground. The Purdue University wrestling graduate has been doing this to opponents since the mid-2000s and has run up numerous long winning streaks in a storied career. He comes into this bout with a current five-fight win streak, having vacated his PFL title for the opportunity to come to Bellator.
What did he do when he arrived? He Fitch’d Paul Daley, naturally.
Given that MacDonald trains with some elite wrestlers and grapplers at Tristar in Montreal, Fitch can’t assume that the takedown is a given going into this battle. Furthermore, numerous statistics favor the champion. He’s 6’0,” has a 76-inch reach, and he’s submitted just as many opponents as he’s knocked out (seven each). Fitch is the same height, but gives up two-inch reach, and despite having a longer career than MacDonald he has less finishes (five knockouts, six submissions). The most telling difference though is their age — MacDonald is only 29 while the veteran Fitch is 41. Fitch tends to have outstanding cardio, but so does his opponent, and though it may be ageist to say so I believe the older man will break first.
Final prediction: Rory MacDonald wins via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (9-0) vs. Veta Arteaga (5-2)
Speaking of long streaks, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is unbeaten and in search of a career-defining tenth win against Veta Arteaga. Two third of her fights (six of nine) have ended by submission, and that includes both her world title win and her last two defenses. 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu may have to add an 11th one to circle the orbit of their brightest star. There may in fact be more “tens” than Tye Dillinger in this cage — a perfect “10” scoring a perfect 10th win and once again affirming her status as reigning queen of the Flyweights.
Don’t count Veta Arteaga out just yet, though. She handed Emily Ducote a loss in July 2018, and Ducote was one of Macfarlane’s fiercest rivals in two stellar fights. Following that “Prelims” undercard win, Arteaga got a main card bout against renowned kickboxer Denise Kielholtz, and proceeded to submit her via guillotine choke. It would be foolish to deny that Arteaga has a more than fair chance of scoring the upset win after scoring two back-to-back upset wins in her own right. Arteaga has fairly and definitively earned this title shot.
The diminutive “Ilimanator” seems to give up size to most of her challengers, but Arteaga is the rare exception. Macfarlane is 5’4” with a 66.5-inch reach, while Arteaga also stands 5’4” and has a shorter 64-inch reach. This changes the dynamic of the fight tremendously. Macfarlane is used to being able to dip under the strikes of larger opponents, take them down at the knees and then submit them on the ground. With Arteaga, she’ll have to square up with her face to face first, then go for a leg trip or a judo throw from the clinch. Will she get it? Yes. Is she likely to get at least a few bruises or a black eye in the process? Yes. Arteaga will get her licks in, but the champ will ultimately prevail when she dictates where the finish occurs.
Final prediction: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane via rear-naked choke in the second round
155 lbs.: Benson Henderson (26-8) vs. Adam Piccolotti (11-2)
Both Lightweights enter this contest on two-fight win streaks, though bragging rights might go to Henderson for knocking off both Roger Huerta and Saad Awad. Then again, Carrington Banks was a rising star of Bellator before Piccolotti submitted him, and veteran fighter James Terry has been around as long as Henderson. What we’re left with then is a younger (30) and less experienced fighter in Piccolotti taking on a more experienced and multiple-time world champion fighter in Henderson at age 35. For Henderson age is nothing but a number though, and if he could handle the relentlessly heavy hands of Saad Awad then I feel comfortable with picking him over a younger and fresher Piccolotti.
Final prediction: Benson Henderson wins via unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Phil Davis (19-5, 1 NC) vs. Liam McGeary (13-3)
This is a curious rematch. When these men first met at Bellator 163 it seemed like the champion, McGeary, was an unstoppable juggernaut, but Davis nullified that with his powerful takedowns and left the big man a hapless foe off his back. This resulted in a lopsided unanimous decision for “Mr. Wonderful” and seemed to spell doom for the big Brit, as other opponents copied Davis’ playbook to perfection. When it seemed as though all hope was lost, McGeary rebounded against an equally-skilled wrestler in Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal. He not only thwarted the takedowns, but rocked Lawal with strikes, and in doing so, reasserted a claim to the throne that was once his.
Ironically, it’s now the former champion, Davis, who is in bigger need of a comeback after dropping a fight to Vadim Nemkov his last time out. Were he coming in off a win I would feel confident in saying that he could follow the same strategy he did when he took McGeary’s title, but now I’m not so sure. After railing at McGeary for his lack of takedown defense in fight after fight, it seems like the MMA punditry finally got through to the man and got him to change up his training before a fight. If he could hang with Lawal and not be ridden like a horse then I’m actually willing to believe he’s got something to offer Davis in this redo. McGeary has always been a monstrous Light Heavyweight at 6’6” with an 81-inch reach, but those holes in his game negated his size and striking advantages. Plug those holes and it’s a whole different ball game.
Final prediction: Liam McGeary wins by third round knockout
155 lbs.: Gaston Bolanos (4-1) vs. Nathan Stolen (7-4)
All of Bolanos’ four wins have come by knockout, including his last three fights in a row. Stolen has lost his last three fights in a row, all via form of submission. I think Stolen is being fed to the sharks here, but Bolanos is far more likely to knock him loopy than submit him.
Final prediction: Gaston Bolanos via first round technical knockout
That’s a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 220 this weekend with a main card on at 10 p.m. ET and DAZN “Prelims” undercard fights starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.