There was no need for Rory MacDonald to open up old wounds in search of a war, submitting Paul Daley in the second round of their fight at Bellator 179 in London.
The SSE Arena Wembley in London played host to Bellator’s second London event on May 19, which also served as the promotional debut of Canadian MacDonald. Both men entered to electric responses, further defining the importance of a fight with serious title implications. The “Red King” elected to utilise a safe and calculated gameplan, taking Daley down in the first round and holding his position until the end of the first five minutes. The Tristar Gym fighter expanded his gameplan into the second round, taking Daley down once again. This time however, there was a clinical byproduct to MacDonald’s setup, as he secured the back of Daley and submitted him with a rear-naked choke.
Notching the first win of his Bellator career, MacDonald made his intentions clear in his post-fight interview, setting up a fight against the winner of Douglas Lima and Lorenz Larkin in New York. The Canadian commented: “I will take that belt from you and I will take your health.”
As for Daley, in spite of his loss, he used his airtime after the fight to angle for a fight against newfound rival Michael “Venom” Page. Although unconfirmed, it is believed that both Daley and MVP were involved in an altercation following Daley’s exit from the cage, which required security to split them up. Without question, a fight between the two Brits could prove to be massive for the UK MMA scene, especially if Bellator decide to host the fight in London. Page was originally scheduled to compete against Derek Anderson at Bellator 179 before suffering a knee injury in training.
Linton Vassell grabs the spotlight in Bellator 179 co-main event
In the Bellator 179 co-main event, Linton Vassell put on a masterful performance, submitting former Bellator light-heavyweight champion Liam McGeary in the third round. Two men who were the cornerstone for Bellator’s British Invasion back in 2015, for two years they have travelled down very different paths within the promotion. With McGeary becoming Bellator’s first British-born world champion, Vassell was often overlooked in favour of his overachieving counterpart. However, the 33-year-old grabbed the spotlight for himself in London, controlling McGeary for three rounds before getting the head and arm triangle finish.
McGeary began to pop his jab well early in the fight, but Linton quickly found success at range. Milton Keynes’ Vassell was able to trip McGeary in the first round, and from there, began his great work from top position. This continued into the second round, as Vassell suffocated his opponent, potentially meriting a 10-8 round. But scores would prove irrelevant, as Vassell once again took McGeary down in the third, this time, mounting McGeary and locking in a head and arm triangle at the 2:28 mark. An outstanding showcase from Vassell will likely earn him the next title shot after Ryan Bader and Phil Davis face off in New York.
It was a less than enthusiastic performance from either man, but veteran Cheick Kongo took a split decision over Augusto Sakai, handing the Brazilian his first MMA defeat. Despite the heavyweight moniker attached to the fight, the actual bout was an anthesis of what fans have come to expect from the big men. A slow-paced encounter, with very little real action, Kongo did at one point smother Sakai against the cage fence, but apart from that, the three ringside judges were forced to work for their money. In the end, a split decision to former UFC man Kongo was received with resounding boos from the London audience, showing their displeasure at a bout which can only be described as, the most disappointing of the night.
Bellator 179 also saw another victory for top British welterweight prospect Alex Lohore, who looked head and shoulders above opponent Dan Vinni. Despite having 28 fights under his belt, Lohore was the fighter who looked like he had the experience edge, as he pressured Vinni, much to the chagrin of the very vocal, anti-Lohore crowd. Although Vinni was able to survive the first round, it took just 56 seconds of the second for “Da Kid” to steal the finish, as two huge right hands put an end to the contest. Picking up his 12th career win; and following rival Nathan Jones’s victory on the prelims, a BAMMA title fight between the welterweights would now certainly make a lot of sense.
In the opening bout of the night, Kevin “Baby Slice” Ferguson Jr. dedicated a first round stoppage to his late father Kimbo Slice. Bellator 179 was a special moment for Ferguson Jr., competing in London 10 months after his father was scheduled to headline the promotion’s first UK card, in July 2016. His untimely passing meant Kimbo’s big UK moment never came to fruition, but “Baby Slice” was able to score a huge victory; and his first a pro fighter, in his father’s honour. Ferguson Jr. fought against another man in search of his first pro win, D.J. Griffin, but it soon became apparent that despite their similar records, “Baby Slice” was clearly the more skilled of the pair. With a lively crowd spurring him on, Slice Jr. fed off the atmosphere and took the fight straight to Griffin with the 25-year-old getting the stoppage with a savage left hook at the 3:40 mark of the first round.