The Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix will continue to move along with the last quarterfinal bout to be booked, and I’ll give my thoughts on this new matchup in today’s MMA odds and ends.
Rory MacDonald vs. Jon Fitch, Bellator
Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald will put his belt on the line in the quarterfinals of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix when he takes on Jon Fitch at a yet-to-be-named event set for April 27 in San Jose, California. Marc Raimondi of MMAFighting.com broke the news. This is the fourth and final quarterfinal bout in the tournament. Douglas Lima beat Andrey Koreshkov in their trilogy fight and Nieman Gracie upset Ed Ruth in the other quartefinal matchups completed thus far, with the Michael Page vs. Paul Daley fight set to take place in February. The winner of MacDonald vs. Fitch will take on Gracie on that side of the bracket’s semifinals, while Lima will fight the winer of Page vs. Daley.
MacDonald (20-5) is 2-1 so far in Bellator. In his first two Bellator fights, he looked like one of the best fighters in the world as he submitted Daley and then beat Lima over five rounds to win the welterweight title. He then moved up in weight in his last bout when he took on Gegard Mousasi in his bid to become a rare Bellator double champion. But MacDonald got crushed in that fight, losing via second-round TKO. MacDonald will have had six months off between the Mousasi and Fitch fights, so he should be good to go health-wise. But the fact he took so much damage against Mousasi is worrisome. Then again, MacDonald was fighting up a weight class for the first time. At welterweight, he’s clearly one of the best in the world, and he even owns a dominant win over current UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
Fitch (31-7-1) has quietly made a run in the twilight of his career. Now 40, Fitch is riding a five-fight win streak at the moment which includes a dominant win over Daley in his Bellator debut. As well, Fitch holds notable wins over Jake Shields and Yushin Okami during his latest win streak, and he was the PFL welterweight champion before signing with Bellator. Since getting cut by the UFC in 2013, Fitch has gone 7-2 in WSOF, PFL and Bellator. He is no longer one of the sport’s elite welterweights like he was a decade ago, but he still has a solid wrestling base that can get him his hand raised.
Having said that, this is MacDonald’s fight to lose. He should have the takedown defense to keep the fight on the feet, and in the standup there’s no question MacDonald is the superior fighter. Fitch has not won a fight by knockout since 2006, so he appears to have no path to victory in this bout if he can’t get it to the ground. Even with the loss to Mousasi, I’d still peg MacDonald around a -500 favorite to defend his belt against Fitch and move on to the next round of the tournament.