Bellator 222 predictions, fight card-- Rory MacDonald vs. Neiman Gracie: How to watch, odds, start time

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In what has become the organization's main tent pole event, Bellator MMA is ready to take over your Friday evening. Returning to Madison Square Garden after last year's PPV event, Bellator 222 is here with one of its biggest cards of the year (DAZN, 10 p.m. ET).

In the featured bout on Friday night, Bellator welterweight world champion Rory MacDonald will square off with undefeated prospect Neiman Gracie in the second semifinal matchup of the Welterweight World Grand Prix. The welterweight champ and ex-UFC star MacDonald (20-5-1) continues to stay alive in this tournament, though his latest advancement was met with some controversy after a majority draw with Jon Fitch in April at Bellator 220. By default, MacDonald, being the champion, advanced. Gracie (9-0), meanwhile, continued to make the family name proud with a fourth-round submission win over Ed Ruth at Bellator 213 in December 2018. 

Can't get enough MMA? Subscribe to my podcast -- State of Combat with Brian Campbell -- where I break down everything you need to know in the Octagon, including a breakdown of Bellator 222 at the 1:36:24 mark.

The co-main event of Bellator 222 could actually be considered the most anticipated bout on the card by some. Former UFC light heavyweight Lyoto Machida will make his second appearance in a Bellator cage when he takes on Chael Sonnen. Machida (25-8) was successful in his promotional debut as "The Dragon" defeated Rafael Carvalho at in Hawaii last December. Sonnen (31-16-1) is coming off a brutal first-round TKO loss to the legendary Fedor Emelianenko in the semifinals of the Heavyweight World Grand Prix back in October 2018. 

And to drive the point home of just how stacked this card is, the opening bout to be contested on the main card Friday will see the bantamweight championship on the line as Darrion Caldwell defends against Kyoji Horiguchi, who's visiting from the RIZIN promotion in Japan. These two first met on New Year's Eve as part of the RIZIN 14 event with the promotion introducing a bantamweight title to its fold. That bout and the title were claimed by Horiguchi (27-2) via third-round submission, so now Caldwell (13-2) will be looking for retribution on his home turf. Or, Horiguchi could add to Caldwell's misery by becoming a two-promotion bantamweight champion. 

Plus, a pair of Bellator's rising prospects take center stage during the preliminary card when Aaron Pico takes on Adam Borics and Valerie Loureda takes on Larkyn Dasch. Pico is coming off a devastating knockout loss to Henry Corrales, but the 22-year-old is ready to prove he's back on the elite level.

With a big card on tap, our experts took a crack at picking each of the main card fights. Here are your pick makers: Brian Campbell (combat sports writer), Brandon Wise (editor) and Jack Crosby (editor). 

Bellator 222 predictions

FightCampbellWiseCrosby

Rory MacDonald (c) (-170) vs. Neiman Gracie (+145)

MacDonald

Gracie 

Gracie

Lyoto Machida (-340) vs. Chael Sonnen (+270)

Machida

Machida

Machida

Dillon Danis (-1600) vs. Max Humphrey (+900)DanisDanisDanis
Juan Archuleta (-200) vs. Eduardo Dantas (+170)DantasArchuletaArchuleta
Ricky Bandejas (-140) vs. Patrick Mix (+120)BandejasBandejasBandejas
Darrion Caldwell (-185) vs. Kyoji Horiguchi (+155)CaldwellHoriguchiHoriguchi
Overall (2019) 18-1519-1419-14

Campbell on why MacDonald will win: There's little doubt that welterweight champion Rory MacDonald has given fans and Bellator officials alike reason to worry about what version of the "Red King" will show up in the cage on Friday. Not only is MacDonald not far removed from an ill-advised move up to middleweight where he was dominated by champion Gegard Mousasi, his comments following a disappointing draw against Jon Fitch suggested the fight may no longer be inside of him. MacDonald, however, is still just 29 and enters a favorable matchup against the unbeaten Neiman Gracie from the standpoint that he's unlikely to face the threat of a knockout. Look for MacDonald to quiet fears of his demise by controlling distance and striking from the outside en route to a decision win.

Wise on why Gracie will win: Following in the lineage of his famous family, Neiman seems destined for greatness. The 30-year-old has been a destroyed since making the jump to MMA, with his latest victory the most impressive in stopping rising prospect Ed Ruth. While MacDonald's uncertain future is getting all the attention, it might be more important to look at the prospect Gracie has developed into. His game is rounding into form at the perfect time to take down a champion and move on to the final.

Crosby on why Machida will win: Machida isn't what he once was by any stretch, but he has a lot more left in the tank than Sonnen does. If Sonnen was extremely overwhelmed by Fedor, then I can't imagine that he'll be able to overcome the well-roundedness that Machida can still bring to the table. Machida will come away with a likely TKO victory, and with Machida holding a KO win in his career over reigning Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader, whispers regarding a potential rematch may begin to surface. 

Who wins Gracie vs. MacDonald? And how exactly does each fight end? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed Bellator 222 picks, all from the incomparable expert who's up more than $21,000 on MMA in the past year, and find out.

Jack joined CBS Sports in 2018 as an editor and writer covering college football, combat sports and golf. He was raised to love the New York Yankees unconditionally since birth and firmly believes a four-team... Full Bio

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