Bellator 179 Betting Breakdown: Paul Daley vs. Rory MacDonald
Prior to each Bellator fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the main event of Bellator 179 as Rory MacDonald makes his long anticipated Bellator debut against Paul Daley.
Paul Daley (Record: 39-14, +275 Underdog)
A 15-year veteran of MMA, the Englishman Daley has fought in most of the largest MMA organizations on the planet. He’s been fighting in Bellator since 2015 and has amassed a 4-1 record in the promotion. His lone loss coming to current welterweight champion Douglas Lima at Bellator 158.
Daley has been training in the martial arts since he was a child. He began karate lessons at just eight years old before transitioning to Muay Thai. Over his 15 years in MMA, Daley has been widely regarded as one of the division’s top strikers. Not only does he have devastating hands, but he has a history for the unbelievable. In just his last fight, he landed an incredible flying knee which floored his opponent, Brennan Ward. When Daley is able to be the bully with nothing to fear, he fights with a confidence that is hard to match. When an opponent does have an adept wrestling game, he’s much more tentative and his output wains. In the years he was in Strikeforce and the UFC, he landed just 3.14 significant strikes per minute. Furthermore, his takedown defense was only 64 percent. Of his 14 career losses, five of them are by submission, which shows his vulnerabilities on the ground.
Rory MacDonald (Record: 18-4, -335 Favorite)
The 27-year-old born and raised Canadian welterweight took over the title of the country’s top mixed martial artist after the retirement of training partner Georges St. Pierre. This fight marks MacDonald’s first appearance in a Bellator cage. MacDonald has gone toe-to-toe with the top welterweights in the world and has only lost to elite competition.
MacDonald has long been positioned as a future world champion. Despite being just 27, he’s fought a dozen times in the UFC. His game is very well-rounded. He has an excellent jab in the stand-up and does a good job of maintaining distance in the striking exchanges. His kicking game is sharp as well; he had Robbie Lawler nearly finished in their title fight with one of his kicks. MacDonald lands nearly four significant strikes per minute and absorbs just over 2.5 strikes per minute. In short, he’s landing a lot more than he is being hit. He has a decent ground game too, securing over two takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon. In top control, he has excellent ground-and-pound. He uses a lot of elbows and is capable of finishing with strikes. Furthermore, MacDonald has faced a who’s who of the welterweight division, beating some of the division’s top fighters, including Demian Maia and current UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. He’s a tested, skilled welterweight in the midst of the prime of his career. The big question, is how does he come back from consecutive losses? Not only did he lose, but he took significant damage, requiring a lot of surgery and recuperation. Many top fighters who suffer brutal losses like that are unable to reach the level they did prior to that crossroads fight. That’s the question mark that lies over MacDonald’s head as he enters into Friday’s fight.
Bellator fans are in for a treat as Macdonald makes his promotional debut against fan favorite Daley in London. Daley is looking for the biggest win of his career, while MacDonald is looking for a fresh start in Bellator, in which he can prove he’s the biggest fish in a smaller pond. For Daley, it is a real step up in competition. MacDonald has proven to be a very difficult fighter to beat. MacDonald is calculated, technical, athletic and has very few flaws in his repertoire. Daley is athletic and powerful, but one has to question if he has the all-around savvy to give MacDonald much difficult. In a traditional striking matchup, Daley can certainly be competitive with MacDonald. He may even be a better striker, but MacDonald uses distance very well and his jab is probably the most underrated in all of MMA. Where this fight really turns is in the grappling exchanges. MacDonald averages close to two takedowns per 15 minutes in the cage and successfully secures them at a 47 percent clip. From top position, MacDonald is very good, and his ground-and-pound is vicious, with elbows as his primary weapon. MacDonald is a tactician and knows what he needs to do in order to dominate. Look for MacDonald to test the waters early on the feet. If he feels confident he can win just by striking, that’s what he will do. If he believes he needs to mix in takedowns, he will adapt and utilize a more grappling focused game plan. Either way, MacDonald is one of the top welterweights in the world, and this is his fight to lose. MacDonald is a great parlay starter for a two-leg parlay with Alexander Gustafsson (fights next weekend at UFC Fight Night 109 in Stockholm, Sweden). At time of publication, this parlay is lined at -131 at 5Dimes Sportsbook, and it is a bet I recommend making on two superiorly talented fighters against aging, less skilled opponents.
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