A fully loaded Bellator 222 card kicks off tonight from Madison Square Garden in New York City. The main event will see welterweight title fight/Grand Prix matchup Rory MacDonald vs. Neiman Gracie. That matchup will get its own preview post as this write-up will cover the rest of the main card. Don’t forget to take a look at the prelims. There are several notable names and prospects like Aaron Pico, Phil Hawes, and others.
In the co-main event slot, two legends of the sport will collide when former UFC light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida squares off with a talkative icon who never takes an easy fight in Chael Sonnen. Machida departed from the UFC on a two-fight winning streak, and then made his promotional debut with a decision win over former Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho. As for Sonnen, he made it past Rampage Jackson in the opening round of Bellator’s heavyweight Grand Prix, but fell short in the next round to G.O.A.T. Fedor Emelianenko. For this co-main event, Machida will be moving back up to light heavyweight, and Sonnen will be moving back down to 205-pounds.
Jiu-Jitsu ace, Conor McGregor BJJ coach, and Khabib Nurmagomedov brawl victim Dillon Danis is set for his second professional/Bellator match. The Jits whiz won his MMA debut by way of leg lock in just 98-seconds. His 3-2 opponent Max Humphrey is coming off of a brutal 16-second knockout loss. This could get weird. Ricky Bandejas made his Bellator debut in emphatic fashion when he brutally knocked out the then undefeated James Gallagher. Bandejas suffered a minor hiccup in his followup performance, dropping a tough decision to Juan Archuleta, and now looks to rebound. His opponent, Patrick Mix posted up an 11-0 amateur record before going 10-0 as a professional. The bulk of Mix’s pro wins occurred within the King of the Cage promotion, and now he looks to take that step up onto the big stage.
Looking to get back on a winning streak, former two-time Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas will attempt to slow down the momentum of the surging 22-1 Juan Archuleta. Dantas has been elite for some time now. He has only been out-wrestled by specialists Darrion Caldwell and Joe Warren. Only the likes of Michael McDonald and Tyson Nam have been able to stop him with strikes. Archuleta does a lot of things really well, but isn’t exactly a specialist in any facet of the sport. His biggest strength is the frenetic pace he pushes, and he will need every bit of that if he hopes to get past his toughest test to date.
Opening up the main card will be a co-promotional rematch when Bellator’s bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell welcomes over RIZIN’s champ Kyoji Horiguchi. The first time these kings went heads up was at RIZIN 14’s New Year’s Eve event in Japan this past December. Caldwell dominated the wrestling exchanges across the first-two frames, but come the third round, Horiguchi jumped on a guillotine choke to get the win on his home turf. Now it’s time to run it back to see if things will be different this time around in Bellator, in the United States, and inside of a cage instead of a ring. It’s fair to say that this is one of the most important bantamweight bouts that could take place, regardless of the promotion.
Main Card: (DAZN, 10 PM ET)
- Rory MacDonald vs. Neiman Gracie: Welterweight Title/Grand Prix
- Lyoto Machida vs. Chael Sonnen: Light Heavyweight
- Dillon Danis vs. Max Humphrey: 175-pounds
- Ricky Bandejas vs. Patrick Mix: Bantamweight
- Eduardo Dantas vs. Juan Archuleta: Featherweight
- Darrion Caldwell vs. Kyoji Horiguchi: Bantamweight
Prelims: (Bloody Elbow, 6:30 PM ET)
- Aaron Pico vs. Adam Borics
- Heather Hardy vs. Taylor Turner
- Valerie Loureda vs. Larkyn Dasch
- Robson Gracie Jr. vs. Oscar Vera
- Mike Kimbel vs. Sebastian Ruiz
- Haim Gozali vs. Gustavo Wurlitzer
- Rena Kubota vs. Lindsay VanZandt
- Phil Hawes vs. Michael Wilcox
- Marcus Surin vs. Nekruz Mirkhojaev
- Brandon Medina vs. Brandon Polcare
- Kastriot Xhema vs. Whitney Jean Francois
- John Beneduce vs. Kenny Rivera