After his impressive first-round knockout over Brennan Ward at Bellator 170, former title contender Paul “Semtex” Daley challenged UFC veteran-turned Bellator signee Rory MacDonald to a fight.
It looks like Daley got his wish.
In a news release, the promotion announced that Daley will face MacDonald in the Bellator 179 main event, scheduled for May 19 in Semtex’s home country of England. The last time Daley fought in the U.K. was back in July of last year when he dropped a decision to former welterweight champion Douglas Lima, who recaptured the 170-pound title in November from Andrey Koreshkov. This is going to be a new environment for MacDonald, who has never fought outside of North America in his professional career.
Besides competing in the U.K. for the first time, Bellator 179 marks MacDonald’s debut for the promotion. “The Red King” is coming off a 9-4 UFC run that includes wins over Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia, B.J. Penn and Nate Diaz. Though MacDonald’s big performance came in his 2015 welterweight title bout against Robbie Lawler – a “Fight of the Year” performance from both guys.
After MacDonald left the UFC last year, he signed with Bellator, setting his sights on both the welterweight and middleweight championships. I’m a little surprised that Bellator didn’t give him a title shot for his first fight – ala Benson Henderson, who challenged then-170-pound king Koreshkov in his Bellator debut.
But Daley is still a high profile opponent. When he signed with Bellator in 2012, he had already made his name after stints in numerous organizations like UFC and Strikeforce – not to mention a couple of Cage Rage championships and an undefeated professional kickboxing run – but the Brit has built himself a decent run in the Bellator cage – 5-1 so far.
As much as I’ve criticized Bellator for relying on athletes with name recognition over homegrown talent, I’ll admit I’m excited for this match.
This is a bout that MMA fans, casual and hardcore, can enjoy. Those who have been watching the sport for a long time know the trials that MacDonald and Daley have faced in their careers as well as the victories they’ve attained.
Some folks believe that both fighters are due for a world title reign – and the winner of this fight could certainly make a case for a championship bout. If Daley wins, he could set his sights on Lima and have the opportunity to not only win the Bellator welterweight title, but also avenge last year’s loss.
A win for MacDonald would prove to Bellator that they’ve wisely invested their money in him and that a shot at Lima makes the most sense.
As for the casual fans – like my old roommates and coworkers – Daley and MacDonald specialize in striking. They both have wrestling and jiu-jitsu in their arsenal, but are mainly known for their hands – with 36 knockouts (29 of them Daley’s) between them. Having a main event between two strikers is good for casual fans because, let’s be honest, they tend to get bored when a fight turns into an uneventful grappling match – and they will voice that boredom with boos.
If the fight between Daley and MacDonald comes down to striking, my question is who has the better chin? Other than the loss against Lawler – via fourth-round TKO – MacDonald has only been finished once, a 2010 loss to Carlos Condit. Daley hasn’t been stopped since 2011 when Nick Diaz finished him in their Strikeforce title bout.
No other bouts for Bellator 179 have been announced, but I’m sure we’ll see some featured talent on the card.
So bravo Bellator, you’ve put together a promising main event.