Bellator 192, Rampage vs Sonnen: Early Picks and Preview

Bellator 192 is set to take place on January 20th in Inglewood, California, and sets in motion the beginning stages of their eight-man Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament.

The co-main event for 192 sees Quinton “Rampage” Jackson face Chael Sonnen in the Grand Prix quarterfinals. It’s a fight between two big names who are well past their primes and not actually heavyweights. Instead of asking whether either has what it takes to win the tournament, the better question is whether either’s career could actually last three more bouts. Both have a history of backing out of fights, showing up out of shape and, in Sonnen’s case, getting nailed for PEDs (performance enhancing drugs). Let’s just say the alternates will be waiting in the wings.

Luckily that potential debacle of a fight will be propped up by a great main event between welterweight champ Douglas Lima and challenger Rory MacDonald. This is one of the best fights Bellator has had in a long time in terms of legitimacy and entertainment value. This fight may just be bigger than Rampage’s gut.

Last spring, the “Red King” MacDonald earned his title shot by defeating Paul Daley at Bellator 179. Now the former UFC star wants a belt or two around his waist. However, the Canadian will have his hands full when he has to duel with “The Phenom,” who’s won his last three fights and has proven to be one of the best talents not in a UFC Octagon.

Let’s break down the big fights at Bellator 192.

Douglas Lima vs. Rory MacDonald

Nov. 2, 2012 - Toronto, Ontario, Canada - DOUGLAS LIMA celebrates on top of the octagon fence during the Bellator Fighting Championship 79 event at Casino Rama. DOUGLAS LIMA defeated KOBE ORTIZ by TKO (head kick and knee) at 4:50 of round 3.
Photo Credit: Darren Eagles/ZUMA Press/Icon Sportswire

The odds have yet to be set, but I’d imagine Rory MacDonald (19-4) will be the early favorite going into this welterweight clash, despite being the challenger. The 28-year-old bring a complete MMA game to the cage and has a variety of tools he can use to beat a power puncher like Douglas Lima (29-6). MacDonald has precision, timing, speed, and technique at his disposal. Whatever strategy he decides upon, it should include takedowns to mitigate the power in Lima’s hands.

Lima is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with; he is rightly considered one of the best welterweights in the game and in no way will he be an easy out. His biggest assets are his size and power. The Brazilian is a very big welterweight who cuts a ton to make 170 pounds. While that has its advantages, it can also have a detrimental effect on his performance on the night of the fight. Many have wondered if that has been the problem for Lima when he gets into deeper rounds and starts to fade.

Lima has a heavy right hand that he likes to set up with devastating leg kicks. If he can force MacDonald into a brawling style (similar to what Robbie Lawler did at UFC 189) he could land some big bombs and end things in a flash, especially on the counter as we saw when Lima knocked out Andrey Koreshkov at Bellator 164.

Lima’s relative weakness is on the mat, and that will be a problem against MacDonald. With a takedown defense of just 46%, Lima is highly susceptible being put on his back — something borne out by the eye test as well as the stats. MacDonald boasts a 1.77 takedown average per 15 minutes with a takedown accuracy of 47%. Not the best numbers, by any means, but takedowns are only one small part of MacDonald’s game. They’re more of “use-when-necessary” weapon.

On paper, MacDonald also has the edge in significant strikes landed. Lima lands 1.92 significant strikes per minute with an accuracy of 36%, while MacDonald’s significant strikes landed per minute is at a whopping 3.75 along with an accuracy of 42%. That said, while “The Red King” throws a lot of leather, he doesn’t throw with nearly the same power as Lima, and power can always beat speed with one big punch.

But power and size advantage notwithstanding, MacDonald is too technical and has too many tools for Lima to handle. Expect him to overwhelm the champ and become the new Bellator welterweight champion.

Predicted Winner: Rory MacDonald

Quinton Jackson vs. Chael Sonnen

No matter what we think of the age of these two competitors or where they might be in their illustrious careers, this is still a fight that is going to happen, and while neither man is among the favorites to win the broader heavyweight Grand Prix, their head-to-head matchup is an interesting kick-start to the tournament.

“Rampage” (37-12) loves to box, averaging 3.25 significant strikes landed per minute, but he often forgets to defend, absorbing 2.51 strikes per minute. The stat you will want to focus in on is his takedown defense, which stands at a solid 73%. The former wrestler knows how to keep fights on the feet and that could spell trouble for Chael Sonnen (29-15-1).

“The American Gangster’s” bread and butter has always been the takedown. With a takedown average of 3.81 per 15 minutes and an accuracy of 59%, he is still a danger to get the fight to the mat. But Chael has become slower over the years, which has meant his shot has become far more predictable.

If Jackson comes into this fight prepared, he should be able to make short work of Sonnen with some crisp and patient striking. If he looks like he did in his last fight against “King Mo” Lawal, then this could be a plodding and boring fight similar to what we saw when Sonnen beat Wanderlei Silva at Bellator 180 in New York.

The better bet is that a relatively motivated “Rampage” is able to keep the fight upright and out-point Sonnen with his hands, if not score a TKO.

Predicted Winner: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson