Rory MacDonald will make his Bellator debut Friday in London against Paul Daley, and the winner will earn a shot at the welterweight championship.
Douglas Lima, the current 170-pound kingpin in Bellator, is slated to defend his belt opposite Lorenz Larkin at Bellator 180, but will closely watch the welterweight showdown that headlines Bellator 179.
“It’s going to be a good fight,” Lima told MMA Fighting. “I think Daley is a dangerous fight for anyone. I think it depends on how Rory returns. I don’t know if he’s confident with his nose, because he has had issues in the past. I think it depends on how Rory comes back.”
MacDonald enters the Bellator cage for the first time after leaving the UFC on a two-fight losing skid, beat by then-welterweight champion Robbie Lawler and Stephen Thompson. However, the Canadian star holds wins over both current UFC kingpin and No. 1 contender, Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia.
Daley, on the other hand, returns to action four months after his starching flying knee knockout against Brennan Ward.
For Lima, MacDonald’s success under the Bellator banner depends on how much he has recovered from his latest five-round wars in the Octagon.
“If he’s 100 percent back to what he was before, I think he beats Daley by unanimous decision,” the champion said. “He mixes it up well, strikes a little and goes for takedowns to keep him there. Rory can complicate because he has a good jab, good distance, but the thing is Daley’s heavy hands. If he connects one of his hooks, he can knock anyone out. It depends if it lands or not. I don’t know. But I also think Rory beats him standing, too.”
“I won’t choose one to win,” he added. “I’d rather face Rory because I’ve already fought and defeated Daley. I’m not looking past Larkin, he’s a dangerous opponent, but my goal is to beat Larkin and Rory.”
“The Phenom” regained the Bellator championship last November, knocking out Andrey Koreshkov in the third round to avenge a 2015 decision loss. Between those fights, in July 2016, Lima beat Daley via unanimous decision.
The American Top Team talent needs to get past Larkin in order to face the winner of MacDonald-Daley, and that’s where his focus is right now. However, Lima hopes “Red King” is victorious Friday night so he can add victories over a pair of top UFC veterans in his resume.
“Rory is a top 4, top 5 in the world today, for sure. Defeating someone like him, come on, that prove I belong in the top,” Lima said. “Larkin is in the top 10 as well. This is going to be a wonderful year for me, defeating two top guys and showing the world that I belong.”
Ahead of the first title defense of his second run as Bellator champion, Lima says he has changed a few things in his diet. “The Phenom” currently weighs 192 pounds, almost 15 pounds lighter than he used to be six weeks ahead of his fights.
Lima, who finished his opponent in eight of his last nine Bellator wins, foresees an easier weight cut this time, but calls for another stoppage at Bellator 180.
“Third-round knockout,” he predicts.
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