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Bellator 222: MacDonald vs. Gracie staff picks and predictions

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Friday’s Bellator 222: MacDonald vs. Gracie fight card.

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The Bloody Elbow team has made its picks for Friday’s Bellator 222 card in New York. Good news, everyone! We were not unanimous for the main event between Rory MacDonald and Neiman Gracie. Opinion was split right down the middle, so you can’t bring up the BE curse for a big fight this time around. Meanwhile, most of us are going with Lyoto Machida over Chael Sonnen in the co-main, and ditto Kyoji Horiguchi over Darrion Caldwell to open up the DAZN broadcast.

Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he’s going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.

Rory MacDonald vs. Neiman Gracie

Mookie Alexander: I gave serious thought about picking Gracie. Think about round 1 of Demian Maia against Rory MacDonald and instead of Rory surviving, he’s tapping. There’s also the mental state of Rory and whether or not he wants to continue fighting, which remains a concern given such a quick turnaround. From a pure skills standpoint, there is a hell of a leap from Ed Ruth to Rory MacDonald. We do know that MacDonald’s takedown defense is normally very strong and that he’s never been submitted. It’s a lot easier said than done to fend off someone like Neiman Gracie, but if he can keep it standing, he has the tools to outstrike Gracie and take a decision. Either way, the winner of this one is losing to Douglas Lima. Rory MacDonald by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: I’m making this pick entirely off-the-cuff here, but it’s hard not to wonder just where MacDonald’s head is at right now. He’s never been submitted before, but he also seems (and sounds) like a fighter who is less interested in engaging in a hard battle than ever before. He’s also a fighter who has increasingly depended on his wrestling and grappling skills in recent years. If MacDonald can shut down Gracie’s sub offense, or just keep this entirely on the feet, he absolutely has the tools to win. But, if he decides that his best path is a grappling battle, and if Gracie is the one willing to push the more taxing fight there? I’ll take the flier on Neiman Gracie by Submission.

Fraser Coffeen: I don’t have massive faith in Neiman, but I also make it a point to not pick fighters talking openly about being done in the sport. So, for old time’s sake, Neiman by armbar

Staff picking MacDonald: Mookie, Stephie, Tim
Staff picking Gracie: Nick, Zane, Fraser

Lyoto Machida vs. Chael Sonnen

Mookie Alexander: Seems pretty logical. Sonnen wins if he gets his takedowns and smothers Machida on top. Everything else points to Machida even if they’re both faded. Lyoto Machida by TKO, round 2.

Zane Simon: I gotta go with Lyoto here. He’s clearly lost a step, and that could be a huge detriment to his counter-striking based offense, especially if he can’t time Sonnen entering for takedowns. But, Sonnen’s striking seems like it’s only gotten less competitive lately and he has a nasty habit of falling to pieces when even small things go wrong. This fight could be dreadfully dull, right until Machida lands a shot to change it. But I’ll take Lyoto Machida via TKO.

Staff picking Machida: Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Fraser
Staff picking Sonnen: Nick, Tim

Ricky Bandejas vs. Patrick Mix

Mookie Alexander: This is a fun fight. If Patrick wins then he has to be In the Mix at bantamweight, having been a standout in King of the Cage. Ricky Bandejas by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Bandejas: Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Tim
Staff picking Mix:

Eduardo Dantas vs. Juan Archuleta

Mookie Alexander: Dantas is 30 but it kind of feels like he’s an old 30. Archuleta has won 17 in a row and while he’s not an offensive marvel -- I didn’t think he beat Ricky Bandejas, but it wasn’t a robbery -- he is consistent and scrappy. The obvious doom factor for Archuleta is if he gets taken down, in which case Dantas is likely to style on him. I don’t know… this is just a hunch here that Archuleta can pull off the W. Juan Archuleta by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: If Archuleta can stay composed and keep to his boxing inside, we’ve seen Dantas get cracked a couple times before. Otherwise, it only tends to be people who can really firmly out-wrestle him that beat the former champion. Archuleta is scrappy and durable, but I don’t get the feeling that he can hang with Dantas on the ground if the fight gets there. And he’s just a little too willing to get wild with his strikes to make me feel certain he keeps this fight upright all night. Eduardo Dantas via decision.

Staff picking Dantas: Zane, Tim, Fraser
Staff picking Archuleta: Nick, Mookie, Stephie

Dillon Danis vs. Max Humphrey

Mookie Alexander: I rest my case. Max Humphrey by TKO, round 1.

Tim Burke: I hope Danis loses just so Twitter can have a field day with him. Petty? Yes. Immature? Maybe. Do I want it to happen? You bet your ass I do. Max Humphrey, TKO, round 1

Staff picking Danis: Nick, Stephie, Zane, Fraser
Staff picking Humphrey: Tim, Mookie

Darrion Caldwell vs. Kyoji Horiguchi

Mookie Alexander: I think you can make a solid argument that Horiguchi is the best fighter in MMA who’s not in the UFC. He covers distance so damn well and his such a powerful and crafty striker, plus he showed off his submission skills by choking out Caldwell when they first fought. The cage vs. ring dynamic interests me greatly, as I think Caldwell will have a bit more success with his wrestling under these confines, but Horiguchi is the more well-rounded fighter and I think he’ll take a more competitive rematch this time around. Kyoji Horiguchi by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Honestly an incredibly difficult fight to call the second time around. Horiguchi has a distinct advantage in that his preferred kickboxing range is also Caldwell’s preferred range; both men like to be way out in open space where they have time to be creative. But, Horiguchi is much better schooled there and a more consistent, accurate puncher. However, Caldwell’s takedown game clearly suffered a lot in the ring, with Horiguchi getting tangled in the ropes on a couple of occasions where Caldwell might have got him down in a cage. Eventually I’ll lean that the size and space of the Bellator cage, and Caldwell’s desire to stay way outside, will be enough to keep Horiguchi upright. But, it may just be that the cage wall gives Caldwell exactly the buffer he needs to make his size and wrestling count all fight. Kyoji Horiguchi by decision.

Staff picking Caldwell: Nick
Staff picking Horiguchi: Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Fraser

Aaron Pico vs. Adam Borics

Mookie Alexander: There’s legitimate reason to be concerned that Pico gets his lights shut off again. Borics is a finisher and a very talented athlete in his own right, albeit without Pico’s credentials. What seems undeniable is that Pico is a gifted offensive fighter, or at least a gifted offensive striker. His defense remains a liability but when you combine his wrestling credentials and his ferocious power-punching -- his body shots are lethal -- I think that will spell doom for Borics down the line. Aaron Pico by TKO, round 1.

Zane Simon: I’ll pick Pico, just because the way Borics backs up with his body straight while throwing wide punches seems primed for Pico to dip in and land the overhand or just take him down. But, anytime Pico faces a big, relatively composed, willing striker you’ve got to wonder if this is the next time he loses spectacularly. Probably not. But I can’t help wanting to pick Borics anyway. Aaron Pico via TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Pico: Mookie, Nick, Stephie, Zane, Tim
Staff picking Borics: Fraser


Who wins the Bellator 222 main event?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    MacDonald by stoppage
    (171 votes)
  • 29%
    Gracie by stoppage
    (162 votes)
  • 36%
    MacDonald by decision
    (202 votes)
  • 2%
    Gracie by decision
    (14 votes)
549 votes total Vote Now

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