Bellator 222 on Friday night is one of the best fight-cards Scott Coker and co. have assembled in quite some time, a superb offering filled to the brim with matchups of real significance to the sport.
With eighteen fights to be found on its lineup, there is, of course, every reason to be put off by the length of this event to a certain extent.
And I agree that this would have certainly been a more digestible card had they shaved off about five or six fights to bring it down to a more UFC-esque 12-13 on the bill.
That being said, there are more than a few reasons to get excited for this one.
Starting with the obvious, the Bellator welterweight grand-prix will crown its second-finalist as defending champion Rory MacDonald makes a quick turnaround from his draw with Jon Fitch in a semi-final showdown with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black-belt Neiman Gracie.
There have been quite a few questions about Rory’s commitment to the sport following some comments he made after his last outing about his lack of a ‘drive to hurt people’ but given that he signed to fight just two months later, one would have to assume that his head is in the right place.
On top of that, the Bellator bantamweight title will be up for grabs in the second of a pair of unique cross-promotional super-fights between Bellator’s champion Darrion Caldwell and the man who defeated him at RIZIN 14 with a late submission, Kyoji Horiguchi.
If your knowledge of this former UFC flyweight title challenger extends only as far as his last-second armbar defeat to Demetrious Johnson back in 2015, you truly are missing out on one of the sports most electric talents. Horiguchi has gone an absolute tear in the time since that defeat, winning twelve in a row, and now, he finds himself on the verge of holding both the RIZIN and Bellator bantamweight titles consecutively.
Horiguchi’s fellow RIZIN standout, kickboxing star Rena Kubota, will also make her promotional debut as well as the former unbeaten professional boxer Heather Hardy.
Established legends of the sport Chael Sonnen and Lyoto Machida will go to battle in the night’s co-main event where they follow up the double-header of former champion Eduardo Dantas and the man to hand Ireland’s James Gallagher his first loss, Ricky Bandejas.
Aaron Pico will look to set himself back on course after his shocking KO defeat to Henry Corrales at Bellator 214, a loss that certainly took some of the wind out of his sails to a certain extent but make no mistake, this guy is one of the most talented prospects in the sport today. A recent move to JacksonWink MMA could well prove to be the perfect catalyst to close up the holes in his approach.
There’s also the small matter of SBG jiu-jitsu standout Dillon Danis making his second professional outing – facing Max Humphrey on the event’s main-card.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena