On Saturday night at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., Bellator 220 featured two title fights and a ton of controversy as both Rory MacDonald and Ilima-Lei Macfarlane retained their belts in unsatisfying fashion.
In the main event, Rory MacDonald took on former WSOF champion Jon Fitch. A huge favorite heading into the bout, MacDonald was unable to avoid Fitch’s takedowns for the most part though Fitch was unable to mount much offense either. In the third round, Fitch was finally able to secure a takedown, hold position, and start actually landing strikes, even opening up a cut over MacDonald’s eye, and it looked like the momentum had turned. But in the fourth, MacDonald landed a big shot that put Fitch into survival wrestling mode, eventually securing a takedown and spending the rest of the round controlling MacDonald against the fence. Heading into the final round, the fight was up for grabs but neither man made a strong case. Fitch stuck to the wrestling game plan and MacDonald was unable to stop the takedown but did have a triangle choke attempt. It didn’t get anywhere though and Fitch finished the round the same as he had much of the fight, on top but not doing a ton of damage. Ultimately, the judge’s were just as conflicted as the fans, scoring the bout 47-47, 47-47, and 48-46 for Fitch, resulting in a majority draw.
Normally, a majority draw would necessitate a rematch, but since this bout was part of the welterweight grand prix, and MacDonald retained his title, “The Red King” advances to face Neiman Gracie later this year. That is, if MacDonald still wants to compete. After the bout, the welterweight champion was candid in revealing that he did not feel good inside the cage and that he “doesn’t have the same drive to hurt people anymore” that he used to.
“I landed some good stuff in there but, I don’t know, something is just. . . it’s hard to sometimes pull the trigger now, I guess. I don’t have that killer inside. I don’t know. It’s really hard to explain but I hesitate a little bit now. I don’t know what to say, it wasn’t my best performance.
“I feel like God has really called me the last little while and, I don’t know. He’s changed my spirit, changed my heart and it takes a certain spirit to come in here and put a man through pain and stuff and I don’t know if I have that same drive to hurt people anymore. I don’t know what it is but it’s confusing. I know the Lord has something in store for me, he was speaking to me in here tonight and, I don’t know, it’s a different feeling.
“I have to get out of here and reevaluate. We’ll see what happens. Tonight was a mix of emotions in here. I landed some good stuff but there was something different.”
Things were equally as controversial in the co-main event of the evening, when Ilima-Lei Macfarlane put her flyweight title on the line against Veta Artega and had a harder time than expected in retaining her belt. In the first round, Macfarlane was able to secure a takedown but wasn’t able to get much actual offense off aside from a few leg lock attempts that didn’t get very far. The second round was similar, with the champion enforcing a grappling game but not doing much while Artega was doing more damage. The third round looked like it might continue in the same manner but after getting a takedown, Macfarlane landed a huge elbow on Artega that opened up an enormous gash on her forehead and caused the doctor to stop the bout. Afterwards, Macfarlane admitted that Artega was giving her a hard fight and said she wanted to do an immediate rematch.
A lightweight showcase bout saw former UFC champion Benson Henderson take on Adam Piccolotti in a scrambling showcase that had grappling fans in a tizzy. Piccolotti came out like a house on fire, securing a takedown and then a backmount that he held for most of the first round, threatening numerous chokes that Henderson was able to defend before escaping shortly before the round’s end. That only served to fire up Henderson though who ended the round strong with kicks and then secured a takedown early in the second round, where he also got back control. The rest of the round was a grappling showdown with Henderson taking the lead but things changed once again in the third, where Piccolotti one again was able to secure a takedown and back control, with Henderson again reversing things late and coming on strong to finish things out. In the end, the judges thought “Smooth” did enough to edge the fight out and awarded him a split decision victory.
In a pivotal light heavyweight bout, former champions Phil Davis and Liam McGeary rematched their 2016 fight, and while the result was the same, the outcome was quite different. The first round and second rounds were entirely a striking affair, with Davis landing a number of low kicks while McGeary struggled to get any meaningful offense off. Knowing he was likely down two rounds, McGeary came out for the third pressuring aggressively but Davis used that against McGeary, ducked under, secured a takedown, and punished McGeary with strikes. McGeary ended up getting back to his feet but had lost a lot of gas and shortly afterwards, Davis broke McGeary’s jaw with a left hand as McGeary stepped in. McGeary immediately dropped to the ground and as Davis took back mount and started to punch, McGeary tapped. Davis moved to 7-2 inside of Bellator and keeps himself in title contention.
In the opening bout of the evening, Gaston Bolanos continued his winning streak with an impressive knockout of Nathan Stolen. Stolen ended up getting a takedown early, but the Bellator kickboxing veteran was able to get back to his feet and then land a right hook, left hook combo the ended the bout. Stolen actually also landed a left hook that buzzed Bolanos but Stolen was completely out of it and a few perfunctory follow up shots got Bolanos his fifth victory inside the Bellator cage.