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Fight Preview: MacDonald vs. Gracie

Madison Square Garden will play host to Bellator 222 Friday, June 14, 2019.  After two consecutive boxing cards at the “Mecca of Sports”, Mixed Martial Arts will be center stage.  The card features fighters including Machida, Sonnen, Danis, Caldwell, and Horiguchi but, it’s the main event that looks to put its imprint on the night for Bellator. Bellator 222 is headlined by Welterweight Champion Rory “The Red Kind” MacDonald (20-5-1 MMA, 2-1-1 BMMA) versus Neiman Gracie (9-0 MMA, 7-0 BMMA) in the semi-finals of the Welterweight World Grand Prix Tournament.  The winner advances to the Grand Prix Finale to face former Bellator Welterweight Champ Douglas Lima with $1 million going to the victor. With the stakes at an all time high, the fight promises to deliver fireworks.

A post shared by Neiman Gracie (@neimangracie) on May 1, 2019 at 5:09am PDT

MacDonald is a veteran who has fought and beaten some of the best fighters in the world including Tyron Woodley, Nate Diaz, Demian Maia, Paul Daley, and Douglas Lima.  Training out of Tristar gym under the tutelage of coach Firas Zahabi and ex-UFC great Georges St-Pierre, MacDonald has continued to improve and dominate the welterweight competition.  After leaving the UFC a few years ago it only took the Canadian two fights to win the Bellator Welterweight Championship versus Lima.

A post shared by Rory "RED KING" Macdonald (@romac_gorilla) on Mar 17, 2019 at 12:39pm PDT

Recently, MacDonald has gone through a tough stretch going 0-1-1, first suffering a 2nd round TKO against Bellator Middleweight Champion Gegard Mousasi as he attempted to move up to become a champion in two weight classes and then advancing in the Welterweight Grand Prix with a majority draw versus Jon Fitch.  At 29-years-old, fans and media have questioned whether MacDonald still has the hunger to compete after he revealed in his most recent post fight interview, “I don’t know if I have that same drive to hurt people anymore.”

A post shared by Rory "RED KING" Macdonald (@romac_gorilla) on May 8, 2019 at 12:49pm PDT

Neiman Gracie is largely inexperienced with only 9 fights.  But the undefeated fighter comes from the famous Gracie Family of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.  The 4th generation Gracie has an opportunity to add to the legacy of MMA’s Golden Family which includes ex-champions, Royce Gracie and Renzo Gracie.  The blackbelt trains out of his Uncle Renzo Gracie’s Academy in New York City. His six submission victories in Bellator are currently tied for the most in company history.  Despite the inexperience and being 30 years old he continues to improve in other areas of his game. In his toughest fight versus another rising prospect Ed Ruth in the quarterfinals of the grand prix Gracie showed the progression of his standup game trading jabs, overhand rights, along with mixing in constant leg kicks.  In the process he showcased his wrestling by taking the former collegiate All-American wrestler down. But it was when Gracie took the fight to the mat where he showed his excellent BJJ transitions that his family is famous for and eventually subbed Ruth by rear-naked choke in the fourth round. Armbars, neck cranks, arm-triangle chokes, and rear naked chokes, you name it and Gracie can do it.  

A post shared by Neiman Gracie (@neimangracie) on Jan 14, 2019 at 6:18am PST

MacDonald and Gracie couldn’t be more different. At first glance Gracie’s 9-0 record seems strong, but those wins have come against mediocre competition. As Bellator slowly brought Gracie along, MacDonald has fought nothing but the best welterweights in the world beating ex-champions like UFC Welterweight Tyrone Woodley. Although Gracie is a beast on the ground, MMA requires an expertise in all fighting styles and MacDonald grew up competing at age 14 learning all disciplines. The standup advantage of “The Red King” will be noticeable as he throws combination jabs. Gracie will look to trade with MacDonald to set up his takedowns. Although Gracie will have the clear jiu-jitsu advantage, MacDonald himself is a blackbelt and won’t be intimidated if he’s on his back. One thing to look for is MacDonald shooting for takedowns of his own and finishing the fight with non stop ground and pound and elbow strikes. Gracie must commit to his boxing and leg kicks to keep MacDonald off balance and striking on the ground at the right time. At the end of the night the fans in the Garden will rejoice as they witness an exciting fight with the winner being one step closer to the $1 million prize.

PREDICTION: Rory MacDonald TKO Round 3

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