Bellator 222: MacDonald vs Gracie Betting Preview, Odds and Predictions

By Rick Rockwell in MMA on June 12, 2019

18

Minute Read

On Friday, June 14th, Bellator will be live from the hallowed grounds of Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY, for Bellator 222: MacDonald vs Gracie. The Bellator 222 main event features a welterweight title fight in the semifinals of the Welterweight Grand Prix as champion Rory MacDonald defends his belt against the undefeated Neiman Gracie.

The co-main event is a fight between two MMA stars as the entertaining Chael Sonnen takes on Lyoto Machida. Additionally, there will be a bantamweight title fight between Darrion Caldwell and Kyoji Horiguchi in a rematch from nearly six months ago. In total, Bellator 222 will feature six fights and stream live on DAZN beginning at 9 PM ET. The preliminary portion of the event will consist of 12 bouts and stream on MMA Junkie beginning at 6:30 PM ET.

MMA betting sites have released odds for the entire Bellator 222 main card. Let’s step inside the betting octagon to look at these MMA odds courtesy of 5Dimes, identify any betting value, and KO our picks.

Darrion Caldwell (13-2) vs Kyoji Horiguchi (27-2)

  • Darrion Caldwell (-140)
  • Kyoji Horiguchi (+100)

It’s odd that Bellator decided to place this bantamweight title fight as the opening bout of the main card. You would think that a world title fight should get better placement on the card especially when there are numerous other fights that could accomplish the same excitement to kick off a show. For example, Aaron Pico vs Adam Borics could’ve been moved from the prelims and placed in this position. Nevertheless, the Bellator brain trust has made this decision. As for the fight itself, it should be entertaining.

Darrion Caldwell is the reigning bantamweight champ, but lost to Horiguchi on New Year’s Eve. The two fought under the Rizin FF banner for the vacant Rizin bantamweight title. Kyoji came out the victor in this battle as he won via submission in the third round of their fight. According to MMA Junkie, this first contest was in Japan and the rematch will be in New York, where Caldwell feels very confident in his chances of coming out victorious:

“The thing about Horiguchi, he was destined for that. That was his time. He’s a great fighter, and that was his time to be the champion. I think moving forward, after fighting him the first time, it will play itself out. I don’t remember ever in my martial arts career or my wrestling career where I just had an opponent who I couldn’t beat. The second time will be even better for me. He’s going to come over here, I’m doing to defend my belt against him, and the trilogy he’s going to defend his Rizin belt against me in Japan. That’s how that’s going to go.”

By Caldwell’s comments, you can tell that he’s already planning on a trilogy fight with Horiguchi provided that Darrion wins on Friday. Caldwell had won four straight fights before losing to Kyoji six months ago. Seven of his 13 wins have come via stoppage with five of those by way of submission.

Although he’s three years younger, Horiguchi has nearly twice as many professional fights as his opponent. His win over Caldwell was only the third submission victory of his career. He does have 14 wins via KO/TKO and another 10 via decision. Speaking of KOs, he just defeated Ben Nguyen via KO in April. He’s fighting on about seven weeks’ notice. In the last 13 months, he has defeated one Bellator fighter and two former UFC fighters. He’s also scored three stoppages during that span.

It’s great when two champs step inside the cage to determine who the best is. I like this rematch and think Bellator was smart for making it under their banner. But I do think Caldwell is a little bit overvalued at -140 odds. He just lost to Horiguchi in his last fight and isn’t a superior fighter. Really, these odds should be a lot closer. His only real advantage is the five-inch height advantage.

I’m taking the value in this bout and going with Horiguchi to win his 13th straight fight. He hasn’t lost since April 2015, when he suffered a submission defeat to Demetrious Johnson during the peak of his UFC reign. And, Horiguchi lost at the 4:59 mark of Round 5. That was the only loss of Kyoji’s UFC run as he went 7-1 during that span. I’m taking Horiguchi to win via UD.

Bellator Bet: Kyoji Horiguchi (+100)

Eduardo Dantas (21-6) vs Juan Archuleta (22-1)

  • Eduardo Dantas (+115)
  • Juan Archuleta (-155)

There’s an unofficial buzz going around that the winner of this bout could potentially fight the winner of Caldwell vs Horiguchi next. Keep in mind, Dantas is the former bantamweight champ and lost the belt to Caldwell in 2017 via UD. He turned around and dropped another fight via KO to McDonald 11 months ago, but fractured his ankle in that fight.

Dantas last fought in February and won via UD over Misech. 11 of his 21 career wins have come via decision. Dantas will also move up to 145 pounds to take on Archuleta who is on 17-fight win streak.

Archuleta hasn’t lost since March 2015. He’s quickly gone 4-0 inside Bellator with four fights from March 2018 to January 2019. In his last fight, Archuleta defeated Ricky Bandejas who will be on this card as well. For Juan, he’s either going to take the fight via the judges or KO/TKO an opponent. 10 of his 22 wins have come via TKO/KO and 11 have come via decision. Since joining Bellator, three of his four fights have gone the distance. His fourth one ended via KO in the third round.

While Eduardo Dantas is making his featherweight debut, Archuleta last fought in the bantamweight division against Bandejas. However, his three Bellator fights prior to the Bandejas bout were contested at featherweight.

I like the value that Dantas offers here as he does have some speed and power. But will that translate to a heavier weight class? Archuleta has proved that he can fight at either weight class and have success. Unlike the fight above, I actually think the oddsmakers got this fight right. I’m taking Juan Archuleta to win via UD unless he can score a late round TKO. There’s something to be said about winning 17 straight fights.

Bellator Bet: Juan Archuleta (-155)

Ricky Bandejas (11-2) vs Patrick Mix (10-0)

  • Ricky Bandejas (-135)
  • Patrick Mix (-105)

Patrick Mix is going to make his Bellator debut this Friday after winning nine straight fights in KOTC including five straight stoppages. He’s a proficient grappler with solid submission skills and will try to take this fight to the mat. Six of his 10 career wins have come via submission. Four of his last five fights have ended with Mix forcing his opponent to tap out. As for this Friday’s matchup, Mix told Fightful is confident he will stop Bandejas and get the victory:

“I’m coming out there to win and I’m coming out there to finish him. He’s been finished and I finish better than all the guys…I feel I finish better than all the guys that have finished him, I’m coming there to finish him. I’m coming there to put him away and he’s ranked number three and after this fight, I plan to be in that ranking and I plan to get the big fights. By no means necessary is Ricky an easy fight, he’s not easy to be finished…but if one person’s gonna do it, it’s gonna be me.”

As mentioned above, Bandejas last fought in January and lost via UD to Archuleta. Prior to that, he won six straight fights including his Bellator debut last August against the colorful James Gallagher. Bandejas handed Gallagher the only loss of his career. In fact, whether he wins or loses this fight against Mix, he says that he would love a rematch against Gallagher in Dublin later this year. As for his opponent this Friday, Sherdog reports Bandejas believes he will defeat Mix largely due to Patrick’s lack of resume:

“[The plan is to] just be myself. Come forward like I always do and pressure. Stuff his takedowns, he wants the fight on the ground so just be on my A game. I just think I’ll be too much for him. I know he is very good. I’m on a different level than him. He hasn’t fought anybody like me. I will go out there and give him a tough time. We are getting a win just matter of how.”

After checking out some of Mix’s highlights online, I would have to agree with the MMA betting sites and their listed odds for this matchup. Bandejas is the slight betting favorite and I feel he is the better fighter. At least, he’s the better fighter standing up. His loss to Archuleta was closer than the UD result. Some pundits thought Bandejas actually did enough to get the decision win. Nevertheless, I believe he will do enough to get the win against Mix.

I don’t doubt Mix’s potential, but I need to see him fight someone the level of Bandejas before I would feel comfortable in putting money on him. At least with Ricky, we know what we’re getting and it’s worth the wager.

Bellator Bet: Ricky Bandejas (-135)

Dillon Danis (1-0) vs Max Humphrey (3-2)

  • Dillon Danis (-675)
  • Max Humphrey (+425)

Of all the fights on the main card, this one has most pundits and fans scratching their heads. How can a fighter with one win and another barely above .500 be on the main card when you have Pico vs Borics on the undercard? Not to mention, why would this fight be in the middle of the main card lineup instead of the bantamweight title fight? It’s this kind of matchmaking and booking by Bellator that drives me crazy at times.

Moving on, Max Humphrey comes in as the biggest underdog of the main card. And rightfully so. He has an unimpressive career record of 3-2 and has lost two of his last three fights. In fact, he hasn’t fought since last July and suffered a TKO loss in 16 seconds. This is one of the worst main card, handpicked matchups I have seen Bellator do in quite some time.
I have no doubt about Dillon Danis’ potential as a fighter and that’s even without the influence of Conor McGregor. I actually believe that Danis said it best when he described his opponent in a recent interview:

“[He’s] just someone who has to get taken out so I can achieve my dreams. He’s just a sacrificial lamb for me.”

That’s exactly what Humphrey is, a lamb being led to the slaughter. This isn’t going to be a competitive contest. It’s a glorified sparring session taking up valuable main card time. Danis is a superior grappler to Humphrey like an eighth grader taking on a first grader in a spelling bee contest. He’s also been working on his striking skills, which are probably better than Humphrey’s as well.

Dillon is a polarizing figure with a lot of potential, but Bellator really dropped the ball with their matchmaking and event lineup. I’m actually surprised that the betting odds aren’t even higher. There’s no value with Danis and Humphrey isn’t worth a flier, let alone even being on the main card.

Bellator Bet: Dillon Danis (-675)

Lyoto Machida (25-8) vs Chael Sonnen (31-16-1)

  • Lyoto Machida (-305)
  • Chael Sonnen (+225)

In the co-main event of the night, we have two notable fighters with a combined age of 83 years old taking on each other in a classic striker versus wrestler matchup as Lyoto Machida takes on Chael Sonnen. Both fighters have the same goals: Win this fight on Friday night and get a title shot in the next fight.

Machida is the large betting favorite in this matchup, largely because he’s won three straight fights all in 2018. Machida finished out his UFC contract with two wins over Anders and Belfort, then signed with Bellator and defeated Carvalho last December.

Machida decided to go to Bellator because he wants to fight for another championship and that wasn’t going to happen in the UFC. And BJPenn.com released news that he’s open to fighting for the middleweight or the light heavyweight titles:

“I would like to be a champion. That is one of my goals in Bellator. I did not come to Bellator just to play around, to just be here to make money. That is not my purpose here. My purpose here is to be a champion and to be an inspiration to all the fighters. I would love to fight Ryan Bader again. He is the heavyweight champion to now. He is huge. He has grown a lot and improved a lot. I believe that is a fight that everyone would like to see.”

Bader holds the heavyweight and the light heavyweight belts. Machida defeated Bader via KO in 2012. I don’t see that happening in a rematch. Lyoto would be lucky to escape a mauling as Bader is at peak form.

According to ESPN, Sonnen would also like to fight Bader and has publicly discussed how he used to wipe the mat with Bader every time they practiced against each other:

“I used to whip Bader in the wrestling rooms. He never got the best of me. So if that match does come about, I will have a good source of confidence and motivation.”

As for his opponent on Friday, Sonnen has made sure to keep his focus on Machida and not think too far ahead or dream about title fights:

“Right now I have to remain fully locked on Machida. He is all I think about, all day long. At night, I get in bed and watch Machida tapes. I go to the gym and practice with Machida in mind. It’s not easy, though, keeping to ‘one step at a time.’ I’m better at talking about it than doing it. And yet I know that if I don’t keep my focus, I could get carried out after fighting Machida, like many guys have.”

Sonnen last fought in October 2018, and lost via TKO to Fedor Emelianenko. It snapped a two-fight win streak where he defeated Rampage and Wanderlei Silva via UD as he controlled the fights with his wrestling. Fedor is a solid grappler and was able to rock Sonnen before Chael could get control of the fight on the mat.

Machida doesn’t have the takedown defense that Fedor does. He also doesn’t have the strength that Fedor or other fighters like Tito Ortiz had when he defeated Chael in January 2017. I’m not saying Machida is incompetent on the ground, but at 41 years old, Lyoto is going to stick with what he does best and that’s striking. Sonnen will stick with what he does best and that’s wrestling.

For me, I am going with the upset in this fight. Sonnen knows he needs to take the fight to the mat to have any chance. If Machida is unable to stuff the takedown attempts, then he has no shot at winning. I believe that Sonnen will have success getting this fight to the mat and I see Chael pulling off the upset. The smart money is on Machida, but I like this matchup for Sonnen and his +225 odds are very appealing.

Bellator Bet: Chael Sonnen (+225)

Rory MacDonald (20-5-1) vs Neiman Gracie (9-0)

  • Rory MacDonald (-125)
  • Neiman Gracie (-115)

Neiman Gracie comes in as a slight underdog with everything to gain and really nothing to lose. His “Gracie” name is royalty in this sport, but he’s still less experienced in his MMA career with just nine fights compared to Rory’s 26. Nevertheless, Neiman is undefeated and has the elite BJJ skills that have led to eight submission victories in his nine fights. Despite his opponents knowing ahead of time what to expect from Gracie, My MMA News reports they’re still unable to stop it:

“My game plan never changes, no matter who I’m fighting, it is no secret to anyone but it’s kind of hard to stop it. I’m going for a submission. I expect him to try to stop my take downs and keep the fight standing. I expect him to try to stop my takedowns and finish the fight standing up.”

Gracie went on to state that he believes this fight will be a war, and he credits Rory for being one of the best welterweights of all time. With that said, I still have concerns over MacDonald’s mindset for this fight.

Rory last fought in April against John Fitch and it ended in a Majority Draw. After the fight, MacDonald talked about losing his killer instinct and not being able to pull the trigger on finishing off his opponent. He seemed like a fighter who lost his edge inside the octagon and someone that should’ve taken time off. But instead of taking a break from fighting, as he’s competed five times in the last three years, MacDonald agreed to continue with the Welterweight Grand Prix and take on Gracie. Less than a week after his emotional post-fight speech, MMA Fighting released a statement that MacDonald was not retiring from the sport:

“To be clear, I am not retiring from my professional MMA career, I’ve always been true and honest in the sport and I spoke from the heart. As for my career at the moment, I am going to move forward in this tournament and compete boldly against Neiman Gracie in New York at MSG on June 14.”

Rory MacDonald is an incredible competitor, but I’ve never seen him that emotionally or mentally drained before. He seemed like a completely different person. Can an elite fighter regain his “mojo” and get back inside cage to fight again?

Gracie believes that MacDonald will be his usual self and ready to fight. I’m not as confident as Gracie is. However, I also am not confident in Neiman being able to win this fight. MacDonald isn’t only a capable grappler, but he is also a solid striker. He will have a massive advantage in the striking department.

So, this fight will come down to MacDonald’s ground game and takedown defense versus Gracie’s striking offense and defense. Unlike with the Sonnen and Machida fight where the two men are past their primes, these two combatants are in the peaks of their MMA careers. MacDonald is only 29 and Gracie is 30. Both men are in great physical shape, although I’m not sure Rory is ready for another fight less than two months after the war with Fitch.

I have legitimate concerns for both fighters and wish I could just say that this fight will end in a Draw. With that said, the challenger has to do enough to prove that he’s beaten the champ. I’m not sure Gracie will be able to do that. I think MacDonald’s advantage in the standup game will be enough to keep Neiman at a distance for a while. The striking volume will give MacDonald the rounds until Gracie takes this fight to the mat. And I’m not sure he will be able to.

Whichever way you go with your wagers, each man offers betting value with their lower odds. For me, I am going to side with “The Red King” for one more fight. I hope Rory rediscovered his killer instinct because he will need it against Gracie. I’m taking Rory to win via UD at Bellator, unless he can find a way to score the TKO in the latter rounds.

Bellator Bet: Rory MacDonald (-125)

Bellator 222 Final Thoughts

As mentioned, I do have concerns with MacDonald and his mindset going into this main event fight. His post-fight interview after five tough rounds with Fitch left me feeling uneasy about MacDonald going forward. With that said, I just don’t see how Gracie will win the fight if we get MacDonald at 100%. Once again, I would like to state how I hate some of Bellator’s event lineup. Danis shouldn’t be on the main card and his opponent shouldn’t even be on the show.

For me, I’m most excited about the bantamweight fight between Caldwell and Horiguchi. I think these two men will have a solid battle that could go the distance. I love Hiroguchi’s betting odds and value. I’m also interested in seeing the co-main event. I understand these two fighters are past their prime, but it should be entertaining as Sonnen is one of the sport’s all-time best personalities. Bellator 222 will be a fun way to spend a Friday night.

Bellator 222 Full Fight Card

  • Rory MacDonald (20-5-1) vs Neiman Gracie (9-0)
  • Lyoto Machida (25-8) vs Chael Sonnen (31-16-1)
  • Darrion Caldwell (13-2) vs Kyoji Horiguchi (27-2)
  • Dillon Danis (1-0) vs Max Humphrey (3-2)
  • Eduardo Dantas (21-6) vs Juan Archuleta (22-1)
  • Ricky Bandejas (11-2) vs Patrick Mix (10-0)

Bellator 222 Undercard

  • Aaron Pico (4-2) vs Adam Borics (8-0)
  • Heather Hardy (2-1) vs Taylor Turner (3-5)
  • Brandon Polcare (1-2) vs Brandon Medina (0-0)
  • Phil Hawes (4-2) vs Michael Wilcox (6-3)
  • Mike Kimbel (2-1) vs. Sebastian Ruiz (2-2)
  • Robson Gracie (1-0) vs Oscar Vera (0-0)
  • John Beneduce (2-2) vs Kenny Rivera (2-1)
  • Kastriot Xhema (2-3, 1 NC) vs Whitney Francois (2-6-1)
  • Rena Kubota (8-2) vs Lindsey VanZandt (5-1)
  • Haim Gozali (10-6) vs Gustavo Wurlitzer (22-22, 1 NC)
  • Valerie Loureda (1-0) vs Larkyn Dasch (0-1)
  • Marcus Surin (5-1) vs Nekruz Mirkhojaev (4-2)
Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site.

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