It wasn’t the size of “Rampage” or the power in his hands that made all the difference. It was the wily Sonnen’s technique and superior wrestling and grappling skills that won the day.
Sonnen defeated Jackson by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) in the main event of Bellator 192 at The Forum to advance in the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix tournament. Next up will be a matchup against the winner of an April fight between Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir.
Jackson had a good first round, landing a big slam and some hard combinations against Sonnen. But “The American Gangster” was able to take him down and get his back toward the end of the first five minutes and that was a revelation about how the rest of the bout would go.
Sonnen took Jackson down slickly with a trip in the second round and got him down in the third, too. While there, he worked submissions and some ground and pound. When the fight was standing, Sonnen was able to land some solid punches, too, though “Rampage” got the better of most exchanges.
Sonnen (30-15) has won two in a row now for Bellator after dropping his debut last year against Tito Ortiz. The longtime UFC fighter and former multiple time title challenger has found a new life in Bellator — and will have more huge fights ahead in this tournament. Sonnen, 40, is still one of the most fascinating personalities in MMA and a proven draw.
Jackson (37-13) has now lost two straight and his future is unknown after falling in the first round of the grand prix. The Southern California resident, who had a lot of fans here Saturday, complained about getting a wrestler in this matchup and he was pretty prophetic in his statements. Jackson, 39, did have his moments when he let his hands go, but those moments were few and far between.
Rory MacDonald likely busted his nose. He probably sustained serious damage to his left leg.
Despite all that, MacDonald beat Douglas Lima by unanimous decision (48-47, 49-45, 49-46) in the co-main event Saturday night to become the new Bellator welterweight champion.
MacDonald took Lima down and did very well from top position in both rounds, which he likely won. Lima turned the tide in the third when he landed a thudding leg kick that caused MacDonald’s leg shin to swell up in rather disgusting fashion. Lima finished the round on top and MacDonald limped back to his corner.
In the fourth, MacDonald came right out and shot for a desperate takedown. Lima countered and ended up in mount. He did some damage from there, but MacDonald was able to reserve and end up on top to end the round. MacDonald landed some hard elbows before the close of that round, too — perhaps the closest one of the bout.
The fifth looked much like how the fourth ended. MacDonald got a takedown, ended up on top and landed hard elbows and punches. Lima was a bloody mess by the end of the fight. MacDonald didn’t look much better and had to be helped on and off of his stool.
MacDonald, long known for his incredible toughness, said Lima was the best fighter he has ever fought and he felt like the best 170-pound fighter in the world afterward. The leg injury? He didn’t know what that was.
“I think I have a person growing inside me,” MacDonald said.
MacDonald (20-4) has now won two straight to open up his Bellator run after being a former title challenger in the UFC. The Canadian has said he is interested in future fights in multiple divisions moving forward. MacDonald, 28, owns a win over UFC champion Tyron Woodley and could make a case for being the best welterweight in the world.
Lima (29-7) was on a three-fight winning streak heading into Saturday. The now former two-time champion had held the title since 2016. Lima, 30, has been a stalwart for Bellator dating back to 2011.
it wasn’t the prettiest of performances or a one-punch knockout. It was a grind and it got bloody. But Michael Chandler got it done against Goiti Yamauchi in what ended up as a pretty one-sided affair by the end.
Chandler smashed Yamauchi on the ground from top position in all three rounds and did a bunch of damage in the third. Yamauchi somehow hung in there to the bell. Chandler, the former University of Missouri stud wrestler, said he was “probably the toughest guy I’ve ever fought.”
Afterward, Chandler said he didn’t want a title shot next. He lost the belt to Brent Primus last year in relatively controversial fashion. But “Iron Michael” admitted he would take that title chance if that’s what Bellator wanted.
“If that’s what Scott wants, that’s probably what’ll end up happening,” Chandler said. “I’m a model employee. I do what I’m told.”
Chandler (17-4) has won five of his last six fights. He’s one of the very best fighters in Bellator history. Chandler, 31, remains one of the most dangerous lightweights in the world, in any promotion. Yamauchi (22-4) came in on a three-fight winning streak. The Brazilian submission specialist is still just 25 years old.
Aaron Pico rebounded from a debut loss with a knockout in September. Now, he’s on a full-fledged win streak courtesy of another highlight reel finish.
The blue-chip prospect knocked out Shane Kruchten in just 37 seconds with a devastating left hook to the liver. Pico dropped Kruchten in the opening seconds with a shot to the body and then finished him off just moments later with an absolutely brutal, Bas Rutten-style blow.
Pico (2-1) has now won two in a row since falling to Zach Freeman in his Bellator debut last June. The 21-year-old Southern California native remains one of the best prospects in the history of the sport. Kruchten (12-4) was making his Bellator debut and coming off a win at WSOF 34 in 2016.
To open the main card, Henry Corrales put together a solid performance to top Georgi Karakhanyan via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28). Corals (15-3) has now won three straight and is putting himself closer to a featherweight title shot. The Los Angeles native lost three in a row before this current run and seems to have completely turned around his career. Karakhanyan (27-8-1) has lost two of three and is now a free agent.
On the prelims, Devon Brock beat Khonry Gracie, the son of Royce Gracie, by unanimous decision, Jose Campos defeated Haim Gozali by unanimous decision and Guilherme Bomba knocked off Ivan Castillo by first-round submission (arm triangle).
In the pro opener, prospect and former stud wrestler Joey Davis knocked out Ian Butler in just 39 seconds with an incredible spinning back fist knockout. Davis’ heel nailed Butler right in the liver and Butler turtled up immediately. Davis is now 3-0 as a pro and looks like a future force in the welterweight division.