Rory MacDonald vs. Jon Fitch Preview

After an exciting Heavyweight Grand Prix, which culminated in the crowning of champion Ryan Bader, Bellator, with the backing of streaming giants DAZN, have kicked off a tournament with eight of the world’s elite welterweights.

So far, Douglas Lima, Michael Venom Paige and Nieman Gracie have booked their places in a star studded semi final line up. Just one place remains up for grabs and it will be contested for this weekend at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.

In a battle of Canada vs the USA, Rory MacDonald takes on Jon Fitch with the victor set to take on Gracie. This is most definitely the most important match up so far, considering MacDonald is the reigning champion.

Despite being the consensus number one in Bellator, MacDonald certainly still has a point to prove going into this contest. In a sport that has been almost monopolised by the UFC, it has been only Bellator that have been able to challenge them in recent years. However, most of their stable consists of legends in the Indian summer of their career rather than athletes at the peak of their powers. This is why it was somewhat shocking when MacDonald made the decision to leave the UFC for Bellator in his prime.

MacDonald is considered one of the most entertaining fighters in the history of the UFC. He has impressive victories over Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley, but he really made his mark when he challenged for world title glory against ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler. Regardless of being on the wrong end of a fifth round TKO, he still emerged with enormous credit for being responsible for potentially the greatest battle in martial arts history.

After another defeat at the hands of ‘Wonderboy’ Stephen Thomson, MacDonald signed a contract with Bellator. He made an impressive debut with a comprehensive victory on away soil in London against power puncher Paul Daley.

Next came what he had signed up with Bellator for, a world title shot. In a terrific back and forth battle with Douglas Lima, MacDonald emerged victorious with a belt around his waist. Then came a daring move, he attempted to be great by stepping up to middleweight against fellow world champion Gegard Mousasi.

MacDonald seemed far too small to compete in the middleweight division and was beaten badly, losing via TKO in the second round. Despite being champion, MacDonald is coming off a heavy defeat and has it all to prove this weekend to maintain his position at the top of the welterweight tree.

Saturday night’s challenger Jon Fitch has had a slightly different path to MacDonald en route to his title attempt.

With an extensive wrestling background, Fitch excelled in the UFC. He picked up wins against Thiago Alves and Diego Sanchez before challenging for world title glory against George St Pierre. Unfortunately for Fitch, although being half responsible for a fight of the night, his bid for world honours was unsuccessful.

Controversially just a few fights later, after a loss against Demian Maia, Fitch was released from the UFC. This was a huge shock, the American was 14-3-1 and still ranked in the top ten. This provoked comments from those who question the UFC’s “code of conduct” as well as making many wonder what skills were needed to compete. Were the UFC dismissive of grapplers?

Fitch signed for World Series of Fighting and his time at the promotion started in a shocking way. He was defeated forty-one seconds into the opening round by Josh Burkman. Fitch showed extreme resilience to build back and eventually win their championship against João Zeferino. He successfully defended his belt twice, most notably against Jake Shields, but he vacated the belt when Bellator came knocking.

On his debut he brushed aside Paul Daley and bagged himself a place in the Welterweight grand prix and won the lottery with his opening match up to have world title stakes.

At Bellator 220 the final place in the semi finals will be taken. MacDonald desperately needs to prove he’s still got what it takes to be the best of the best and that his last defeat was down to a matter of weight rather than talent. Whereas Fitch who is now forty-one years of age has probably his last chance to pick up the biggest victory of his career. It’s an intriguing contest and all MMA fans are set to be glued to their screens.

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