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When the brackets were announced in August 2018 for Bellator’s Welterweight Grand Prix, Lima—the former Bellator welterweight champion—realized he and MacDonald were on a collision course toward Saturday night’s Bellator 232 rematch for the latter’s welterweight belt (and $1 million prize) at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena. The event will be streaming exclusively on DAZN.
“I expected to fight [MacDonald] in the final, especially when I saw we were on both sides of the bracket,” Lima (31-7) told Muscle & Fitness. “[Bellator’s] build up for this fight was perfect for the both of us to meet again. I was the champion before, he’s the current champion. He defended the belt twice. I built my way up to fight for the belt again. Everything is just going perfect—you couldn’t ask for a better finals.”
In their 2018 war, MacDonald used his exceptional ground attack to take the belt from Lima via a close unanimous decision—however, victory has rarely looked as painful, as the Canadian sustained a heap of physical damage. “Obviously, that fight wasn’t super dominant,” MacDonald says. “I worked on a lot of things to pick stuff out of my game that I’d seen in that fight. I feel that difference will show in this fight.”
Moments after having his hand raised in victory in their first battle, MacDonald’s badly battered body—including a leg that appeared twice its size compared to when he entered the cage—had to be carried out of the ring and into an ambulance. MacDonald says he needed about two months of home rest before resuming training.
“The pain wasn’t super bad at first, but over time it got more painful. I basically sat in my La-Z-Boy chair for two months. Recovery for that sucked.”
About six months later, MacDonald returned to the cage and lost to Gegard Mousasi in a non-title bout via TKO. The champion’s road through Bellator’s Grand Prix hasn’t been smooth, starting with a majority draw over Jon Fitch, followed by impressive unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Neiman Gracie to advance to Saturday’s championship. The rematch is where MacDonald looks to make a statement this time around.
“A finish for me is important, either a knockout or submission,” MacDonald says. “That’s how a fight’s supposed to finish. It’s how I look at it. It gets the fans excited. You go and you finish who’s been training months to fight you. That’s important to me.”
Lima, meanwhile, has been waiting for this literally moments after losing his belt at LA’s Forum. “I wanted it right away,” Lima says. “It was a close fight. But it’s here, and it’s even better with the Grand Prix.”
Lima tore his way through Bellator’s 16-fighter Grand Prix, taking out Andrey Koreshkov via rear-naked choke, then followed that with an electrifying 2nd round KO of Michael “MVP” Page. He says there were many lessons learned from their first fight, and doesn’t expect to make the same mistakes twice.
“I shouldn’t be taken down that easily [in the first fight],” Lima says. “I should have defended those takedowns better. But you know, you always learn a lot from your fights, from your mistakes, so corrected that during training camp.”
While both expect their hands to be raised Saturday night, neither has thoughts at the moment about a possible trilogy.
“I don’t know, maybe,” MacDonald says.
“That’s up to how the end results will be,” Lima responded.