Bellator MMA may soon know whether or not Rory MacDonald was a worthwhile investment.
The Tristar Gym staple and former King of the Cage champion makes his organizational debut opposite Paul Daley in the Bellator 179 headliner on Friday at the SSE Arena in London. Their three-round battle carries potential title implications at 170 pounds and buoys a five-fight main card scheduled to air on Spike TV via tape delay (9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT).
MacDonald will enter the cage on a two-fight losing streak. The 27-year-old Firas Zahabi protégé last competed at UFC Fight Night 89 on June 18, when he dropped a five-round unanimous decision to Stephen Thompson at TD Place Arena in Ottawa, Ontario. MacDonald has secured 13 of his 18 career wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission and owns high-profile victories over Nate Diaz, Demian Maia, B.J. Penn, Jake Ellenberger, Tyron Woodley and Tarec Saffiedine. The three men to whom he has lost -- Thompson, Carlos Condit and Robbie Lawler (twice) -- own a cumulative record of 70-23-1.
Daley, meanwhile, carries with him one of the highest knockout rates in the sport, as he has delivered 29 of his 39 professional victories by KO or TKO. His list of victims includes Duane Ludwig, John Alessio, Scott Smith and Martin Kampmann. The former Cage Rage champion last fought at Bellator 170 on Jan. 21, when he put his name in the “Knockout of the Year” conversation with a spectacular flying knee finish on Brennan Ward. Daley has compiled a 5-1 record in Bellator, losing only to current welterweight champion Douglas Lima.
With the MacDonald-Daley showdown as the centerpiece, here is what to watch for at Bellator 179:
Liam McGeary’s path to a rematch with reigning Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis runs through Linton Vassell in the co-main event.
McGeary has become a Bellator staple at 205 pounds. The 34-year-old last appeared at Bellator 173 on Feb. 24, when he stopped Brett McDermott in the second round of their encounter at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland. McGeary holds the rank of brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under John Danaher and sports 11 finishes among his 12 pro victories, eight of them inside one round. His five-round decision loss to Davis in November cost him the Bellator light heavyweight crown and remains the only blemish on his resume.
Vassell, 33, has captured titles in the Olympian MMA Championships and Ultimate Challenge MMA organizations. He joined the Bellator roster in November 2013 and has gone 6-2 since, with wins over Francis Carmont, Emanuel Newton and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou.
Age has yet to sink its teeth into Cheick Kongo.
The French kickboxer will attempt to once again keep Father Time at bay when he toes the line against the undefeated Augusto Sakai in a three-round heavyweight showcase. Kongo, who turns 42 on May 17, has the spring of a four-fight winning streak in his step. He last competed at Bellator 172 in February, when he was awarded a unanimous decision over British strongman Oli Thompson. Kongo owns victories over Alexander Volkov, Shawn Jordan, Matt Mitrione and 2006 Pride Fighting Championships open weight grand prix winner Mirko Filipovic.
Sakai, 25, started his career with nine consecutive wins but fought to a majority draw with Dan Charles at Bellator 155 nearly a year ago. He has not appeared since.
Alex Lohore has begun to make waves in the welterweight division.
The 27-year-old will ride a seven-fight winning streak into his three-round tilt with journeyman Dan Edwards. Lohore made his promotional debut at Bellator 173 in February, as he submitted “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes” finalist Colin Fletcher with a second-round rear-naked choke. He has recorded nine of his 11 wins by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Lohore suffered his only pro defeat at a regional event in October 2015, succumbing to strikes from Carl Booth in just 38 seconds.
Edwards, 29, has rattled off back-to-back wins -- the first such streak for the Englishman in nearly five years. He last appeared at a European Beatdown event on December 2016, forging a technical knockout against Vaso Bakocevic in the second round. All 15 of Edwards’ career victories have resulted in finishes.