12 Jun - 
Bellator 222 breakdown: Can Neiman Gracie topple Rory MacDonald for title?

MMA Junkie Radio co-host Dan Tom breaks down Bellator’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for Bellator 222.

Bellator 222 takes place Friday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card streams on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.

Rory MacDonald (20-5-1 MMA, 2-1-1 BMMA)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 29 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 76″
  • Last fight: Draw with Jon Fitch (April 27, 2019)
  • Camp: Tristar/Toshido MMA (Canada)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Bellator welterweight champion
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 7 KO victories
+ 7 submission wins
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ Long and accurate jab
^ Manages distance well
+ Solid kicking acumen
+ Diverse takedown ability
^ Well-timed level changes
+ Excellent transitional grappler
^ Works well from topside

Neiman Gracie (9-0 MMA, 7-0 BMMA)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 30 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 75″
  • Last fight: Submission win over Ed Ruth(Dec. 15, 2018)
  • Camp: Renzo Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (New York)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ Multiple jiu-jitsu accolades
+ Tied for most submission wins in Bellator (6)
+ 8 submission wins
+ 3 first-round finishes
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Improved overall striking
^ Shows diverse, developing arsenal
+ Solid wrestling ability
^ Takedowns, scrambles, etc.
+ Superb transitional grappler
^ Dangerous from top or bottom

Point of interest: Overcoming the jab

The main event for Bellator 222 features an important installment of the welterweight grand prix, as Neiman Gracie attempts to take Rory MacDonald’s title en route to the finals.

But before Gracie can exercise any of his strengths and reinvigorate his family name back into the annals of MMA, he will first need to get past the threats of MacDonald – namely his jab.

A strike that serves as a distancing tool for both defensive and offensive purposes, such a weapon can be a fighter’s best friend when up against a dangerous grappler the likes of Gracie.

Despite being at an on-paper disadvantage in the striking the department for most of his fights thus far, Gracie has found ways to make his style work, all while making quiet improvements along the way. The 30-year-old does a decent job of staying on balance while attacking, putting punches together competently while punctuating his presence with hard kicks.

In his last outing against Ed Ruth, Gracie demonstrated an acute awareness when it came to slipping punches, hitting some slick inside-slip counters throughout the contest. That said, Gracie also ate his fair share of jabs and straight shots, which makes me wonder how he’ll fare against the striking acumen he will be seeing this weekend in the Garden.

Enter MacDonald.

Developing his overall game from a young age, MacDonald showed early on that he was on a collision course to do battle with the sport’s finest. Uprooting the kickboxing skills he acquired at Toshido MMA in Vancouver, MacDonald later ended up expanding his training camp to the Tristar Gym in Montreal.

There, we would see the rise of MacDonald’s jab.

Building all the fundamentals to facilitate his newfound tool, MacDonald immediately implemented it into his game. Staying long and measured, MacDonald was better able to set up his attacks, whether he was looking for high kicks or takedowns.

When facing skilled strikers like Tarec Saffiedine, MacDonald was able to utilize his jab to disrupt his opponent’s rhythm, tagging him whenever he would switch stances. Against power punchers like Tyron Woodley or Jake Ellenberger, MacDonald demonstrated to ability manage range to his terms, controlling the pace of the fight. If the 29-year-old Canadian can find his rhythm and create space early, then it could spell serious trouble for Gracie.

Next point of interest: Swimming with sharks