Whatever remaining reservations Bellator MMA may have had in regards to the signing of Rory MacDonald have likely been alleviated.
MacDonald chewed up and spit out Paul Daley in the Bellator 179 main event on Friday at the SSE Arena in London, as he tapped the former Cage Rage champion with a second-round rear-naked choke. Daley bowed out 1:45 into Round 2, submitting for the first time since Jake Shields subdued him with an armbar on Oct. 4, 2008.
It was never competitive. MacDonald executed a single-leg takedown inside the first 30 seconds and spent the rest of the opening round in top position, applying his ground-and-pound and searching for holes in the Brit’s defenses. Round two brought more of the same. MacDonald ducked under punches, secured another takedown and landed in side control. Short punches, elbows and forearm strikes followed created a lane for the Canadian, who moved to the back and cinched the choke for the quick tapout.
In the aftermath of Bellator 179, here are four matches that ought to be made:
Rory MacDonald vs. Douglas Lima-Lorenz Larkin winner:MacDonald infused even more life into Bellator’s already potent welterweight division in what was a flawless promotional debut. The 27-year-old Tristar Gym star thrashed and throttled Daley in less than seven minutes, establishing himself as an instant contender for promotional gold at 170 pounds. In the process, he snapped a two-fight losing streak and calmed some of the concerns surrounding the mileage he had accumulated in attritive battles with Robbie Lawler and Stephen Thompson. Lima will defend his Bellator welterweight championship against Larkin at Bellator 180 on June 24 in New York.
Paul Daley vs. Michael Page:Outclassed and overmatched, Daley had nothing to offer MacDonald. Still, the loss -- it was largely expected -- did little to damage his stock and “Semtex” was quick to shift gears afterward. The 33-year-old turned his attention to Page, the undefeated karateka who was penciled in to face Derek Anderson at the event before an injury forced him off the card. It was a wise strategic move for Daley, who has lost twice in his past three appearances. Page last fought at Bellator 165 on Nov. 19, when he moved to 12-0 with a three-round split decision over Fernando Gonzalez at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.
Linton Vassell vs. Phil Davis-Ryan Bader winner:Vassell recorded the most significant victory of his 24-fight career, as he submitted former champion Liam McGeary with a third-round arm-triangle choke in the co-main event. The 33-year-old has pieced together a three-fight winning streak since his September 2015 defeat to onetime Strikeforce titleholder Muhammad Lawal, besting McGeary, Francis Carmont and Emanuel Newton in succession. Vassell now owns a 7-2 mark under the Bellator flag and has become one of the organization’s most reliable competitors at 205 pounds. Davis will defend his light heavyweight championship against Bader at Bellator 180 in June.
Augusto Sakai in a plodding three-round heavyweight showcase. The 42-year-old Frenchman has won nine of his 11 bouts since signing with Bellator in 2013, decision losses to the aforementioned Lawal and Vitaly Minakov the only missteps. Kongo will carry a run of five straight wins -- the longest such streak of his career -- into his next appearance. Lashley, meanwhile, finds himself on an eight-fight winning streak. The former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar has not competed since he submitted Josh Appelt with a second-round rear-naked choke at Bellator 162 in October.