This Friday, Bellator MMA makes their return to the United Kingdom as the promotion brings some of the biggest names on their roster to Wembley Arena in London, England for the hotly-anticipated Bellator 179.
The marquee show will also have a main event to match as former UFC star Rory MacDonald will make his long-awaited Bellator debut in the welterweight division and will take on top British talent Paul Daley. Also on the card is a light-heavyweight showdown between former champion Liam McGeary and Linton Vassell.
Announced in August last year, the signing of Canadian MMA star Rory MacDonald by Bellator was seen as a statement of intent by the promotion. No longer were they in the market for ageing legends and second tier talents, but instead they could now attract disgruntled names from the UFC by offering the fighters a viable alternative deal.
After losing to Carlos Condit at UFC 115, MacDonald would start training alongside Georges St. Pierre at Tristar Gym in Montreal, Quebec and has stayed ever since.
Although MacDonald is coming off the back of two losses, both were against two of the top welterweights in the world in Robbie Lawler and Stephen Thompson, and at only 27-years of age, the Tristar product is still on the upslope of an already successful career. Having taken a years’ hiatus from the sport due to the damage done to his nose in the previous two fights, MacDonald now returns to the cage this weekend at Bellator 179, in a step towards realising his serious intentions of success in Bellator’s welterweight and middleweight divisions.
Can “Semtex” finally earn his shot at Bellator gold?
Since Paul Daley’s return to Bellator in 2015, the Nottingham native has gone 3-1, with his only defeat coming at the hands of current welterweight champion Douglas Lima via a unanimous decision on the promotion’s previous visit to the capital.
After being released by the UFC for punching Josh Koscheck after the bell at UFC 113, Daley’s career looked to be in tatters as UFC President Dana White said on numerous occasions that he would not rehire the Brit.
Daley returned home afterwards and would fight regularly for BAMMA as well as having fights and spells under a variety of banners such as Strikeforce, Cage Warriors and a standalone Bellator TKO win over Rudy Bears at Bellator 72. Daley’s career would take a hit once more when he was released by Bellator in 2012 due to “on-going legal issues” after a bar fight left Daley facing assault charges.
Once again, Daley would impress whilst back on the domestic and regional scene and was re-signed to Bellator. Since then, he has climbed the ladder quickly but was denied a title shot when he lost to Lima. A win over MacDonald at Bellator 179 would assure the veteran that he would have the next shot at the winner of the Bellator 180 welterweight title fight.
Friendship placed aside as McGeary and Vassell fight for number one contender spot
Former light-heavyweight champion Liam McGeary will face his “good friend” Linton Vassell as both men put friendships aside and look to become the number one contender to face the winner of Bellator 180’s light-heavyweight title fight between champion Phil Davis and recent free agency signing Ryan Bader.
McGeary would recently bounce back from losing his title and clean record to Davis with a TKO win over Terry McDermott at Bellator 173 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. After a poor and uncharacteristic performance against Davis, McGeary was eager to fight for the title as soon as possible however a familiar face in “The Swarm” stood in the way.
Despite the closeness of the two, Vassell now has his own claim to the next shot at the champion after three wins in his last four including a TKO win over PRIDE legend Sokoudjou. With both men in their thirties, they agree the time is now for this fight to happen and there couldn’t be any better place for the bout than London.
Will “Baby Slice” come good after losing first professional fight?
With a famous father’s legacy to live up to and the Bellator hype machine in full swing, Kevin Ferguson Jr. was finally set to make his debut against Aaron Hamilton at Bellator 165. It couldn’t have gone any worse for the fighter or the promotion as the rookie crashed and burned to an opponent with a 0-2 record and lost via a second round guillotine submission.
“Baby Slice”, whose father was street fighting legend and MMA star Kimbo Slice, will look for a better outcome in his second professional fight against the debuting DJ Griffin on Friday night. After working closely with coach Antonio McKee and fellow Bellator star AJ McKee, Ferguson will need to significantly improve to get the win and retain any hopes of a career at the top-level after Bellator 179
Bellator 179 Fight Card
Welterweight Main Event: Paul Daley (39-14-2) vs. Rory MacDonald (18-4)
Light-Heavyweight Bout: Liam McGeary (12-1) vs. Linton Vassell (18-5)
Heavyweight Bout: Cheick Kongo (26-10-2) vs. Augusto Sakai (9-0-1)
Welterweight Bout: Dan Edwards (14-14) vs. Alex Lohore (11-1)
Catchweight Bout (165 lbs): Kevin Ferguson Jr. (0-1) vs. DJ Griffin (0-0)
Lightweight Bout: Jay Dods (6-0) vs. Alfie Davis (7-1)
Heavyweight Bout: Dan Konecke (10-9) vs. Stav Economou (17-5-1)
Flyweight Bout: Jamie Powell (6-1) vs. Amir Albazi (9-0)
Welterweight Bout: Umer Kayani (7-3) vs. Nathan Jones (10-5)
Middleweight Bout: Fabian Edwards (0-0) vs. Rafal Cejrowski (2-0)
Catchweight Bout (150lbs): Jeremy Petley (10-8-1) vs. Chase Morton (6-3)
Heavyweight Bout: Neil Grove (12-8-1) vs. Lukasz Parobiec (13-6)
Middleweight Bout: Marcin Prostko (4-3) vs. Mike Shipman (9-1)
Bantamweight Bout: Salih Kulucan (4-5) vs. Diego Barbosa (3-0)