Bellator 222 is set to take place this Friday, June 14 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. The promotion has put together a very solid six-fight main card that airs live on DAZN, and below are my predictions as to who will get their hand raised.
Welterweight title bout: Rory MacDonald vs. Neiman Gracie
The main event of the evening is a welterweight tournament semifinal between Rory MacDonald (20-5-1) and Neiman Gracie (9-0). MacDonald’s welterweight title is on the line in this fight. The 29-year-old MacDonald is coming off of a controversial draw to Jon Fitch. Many believe he should have lost that bout, but he moved through onto the next round of the tournament with a draw. Overall, MacDonald is just 2-1-1 in Bellator and appears to be on a steep career decline. Gracie, meanwhile, is 30 years old and is undefeated in MMA with eight of his nine career victories coming by submission. He has a perfect 7-0 record in Bellator that includes a tapout win over Ed Ruth in the quarterfinals. Although Gracie certainly could get the upset here because of his incredible ground game, I still have to go with MacDonald. He’s the more experienced and well-rounded fighter and I believe he will do enough to take home a unanimous decision win.
Pick: Rory MacDonald
Light heavyweight bout: Lyoto Machida vs. Chael Sonnen
The co-main event is a light heavyweight bout between veterans Lyoto Machida (25-8) and Chael Sonnen (31-16-1). Machida is 41 years old now and far removed from his days as a UFC champion, but he’s still out there winning fights. “The Dragon” is currently riding a three-fight winning streak with victories over Vitor Belfort, Eryk Anders and, in his Bellator debut, a split decision nod over Rafael Carvalho. Sonnen, meanwhile, is 42 years old himself and is coming off of a TKO loss to Fedor Emelianenko. Sonnen is still an effective wrestler, but Machida historically has had excellent takedown defense and he’s by far the superior striker in this matchup. I expect Machida to keep the fight standing and piece apart Sonnen on the feet. The pick is Machida to win by TKO.
Bantamweight title bout: Darrion Caldwell vs. Kyoji Horiguchi
In a bantamweight title rematch, Darrion Caldwell (13-2) puts his Bellator belt on the line against RIZIN champ Kyoji Horiguchi (27-2). This is a rematch from the pair’s bout in RIZIN on New Year’s Eve, which Horiguchi won via third-round submission. That fight took place in a ring while this one takes place in a cage. The 31-year-old Caldwell is 11-1 overall in Bellator with just the one loss to Joe Taimanglo, a defeat he later avenged. He hasn’t fought since Horiguchi beat him in December, making for a very intriguing rematch here. Horiguchi, meanwhile, is just 28 years old and is currently riding a 12-fight win streak, including a nine-fight unbeaten streak in RIZIN. After beating Caldwell, Horiguchi finished Ben Nguyen in April via TKO. Caldwell is a solid fighter but Horiguchi is truly something special. The pick is Horiguchi via submission once again.
Pick: Kyoji Horiguchi
Featherweight bout: Eduardo Dantas vs. Juan Archuleta
In an intriguing featherweight bout, former Bellator champ Eduardo Dantas (21-6) takes on Juan Archuleta (22-1). Dantas is not the same fighter he was during the early Bellator days when he was finishing everyone, but he’s still only 30 years old and most recently defeated Toby Misech by decision to snap a two-fight losing skid. Archuleta, meanwhile, is one of the most underrated fighters in Bellator. He’s currently riding a 17-fight win streak that includes a perfect 4-0 run so far in Bellator. Archuleta is actually the older fighter here at age 31, but he hasn’t taken much damage during his career and has tons of momentum heading into this fight. I like Archuleta in this matchup to outpoint Dantas and take home a unanimous decision. A title shot has to be coming soon for him.
Pick: Juan Archuleta
Catchweight (175lbs) bout: Dillon Danis vs. Max Humphrey
In a catchweight bout, Dillon Danis (1-0) returns to the cage for the first time since the infamous Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor incident at UFC 229 when he takes on Max Humphrey (3-2). The 25-year-old Danis may be the most well-known MMA fighter who has just one fight, having finished Kyle Walker by first-round submission last year at Bellator 198. He now takes on Humphrey, who is making his Bellator debut after losing two of his last three fights by stoppage on the regional scene. Despite Danis having little MMA experience, he should still win this fight comfortably over an overmatched opponent in what is a classic Bellator squash match. The pick is Danis to win via first-round submission.
Pick: Dillon Danis
Bantamweight bout: Ricky Bandejas vs. Patrick Mix
And finally, a bantamweight bout pits Ricky Bandejas (11-2) against Patrick Mix (10-0). The 27-year-old Bandejas is coming off of a decision loss to Juan Archuleta which snapped a six-fight win streak that included a surprising head kick KO over James Gallagher. The 25-year-old Mix, meanwhile, is undefeated as a pro with all of his previous fights coming in King of the Cage. He has a notable win over Andre Ewell. This should be a competitive fight between two young fighters on the rise but based on fighting a higher level of competition I have to go with Bandejas here. The pick is Bandejas to win a decision.
Pick: Ricky Bandejas
Who are your picks for the Bellator 222 main card? Leave a comment below with your predictions.