The Bellator welterweight grand prix came to a head on Saturday night at Bellator 232. Not only did the Brazilian “Phenom” Douglas Lima win the tournament finale and walk away with the $1million prize, he also lifted Bellator welterweight gold for the third time,

Welterweight is traditionally one of the sport’s most talent-rich divisions and that stands true today with top-level 170-pounders competing across multiple MMA promotions.

Lima proved he is undoubtedly one of the best welterweights currently competing in the sport with his victory over the talented Rory MacDonald in their rematch.

MacDonald was the victor at the first time of asking, using his wrestling to secure a decision win after getting his leg chewed up by Lima’s chopping leg kicks.

But things were different second time round. Lima displayed fantastic defensive grappling to resist MacDonald’s takedown attempts and if the fight hit the deck, his scrambles were on point to get himself either in an advantageous position on the ground or back to his feet.

When standing, Lima once again displayed his ferocious kicking arsenal at range, but his hands were the bigger difference maker. A piston-like left jab consistently permeated MacDonald’s defences, making the Canadian hesitant to close distance to either land strikes or attempt another takedown. If Lima’s jab wasn’t snapping MacDonald’s head back, his floating right hand was ready to land instead.

The adjustments he made since their last contest is beyond impressive. It was the near-perfect performance Lima needed to display to win back his championship belt against a determined champion.

But the American Top Team stalwart has looked in fantastic form since dropping that decision to MacDonald in early 2018.

Saturday’s win was the climax to a grand prix run which saw The Phenom submit foe, and former champion, Andrey Koreshkov – turning their head-to-head fight record of 2-1 in Lima’s favour – and viciously knock out Michael “Venom” Page at Bellator 221, handing the Brit his first loss.

That run of dominating performances saw Lima become the first man to ever be a three-time Bellator champion. On top of that, an intriguing, big-money rubber match between he and MacDonald is now in the offing if the latter signs a new deal with the promotion.

However, the 31-year-old says money isn’t his main motivator at this point his career. When asked what meant more, the cheque which single-handedly makes him a millionaire or his Bellator belt, he said it’s the latter.

“Everybody is going to think it’s the money,” Lima began in his post-fight press conference. “If I say it’s the belt, people will say I’m lying. But I’m not. This [the belt] is important to me.

“You know, money comes and goes. For me, it’s a bonus. Maybe it’s because it didn’t settle yet or I haven’t deposited [the cheque] yet – it still doesn’t feel real – but this right here [the belt] does feel real to me. This is where all the work goes into. It’s important for me to be a champion – especially in an organisation like this where it’s still growing.

“There are a lot of killers out here. The division is deep. I’ve just got to keep improving and defend this thing. Definitely, the belt is more important for me.”

A lot of MMA media can be guilty of being too UFC-focussed, but that doesn’t make the fighters of rival promotions any lesser and Lima is among the fighters who would be successful regardless of what promotion is fortunate enough to have him on their roster.

The Phenom has already prompted talk from MMA fans about a cross-promotion welterweight title bouts, harking back to the chatter seen during the days when the UFC and Pride reigned supreme as dominant fight promotions.

As unrealistic a proposition that is, the thought of it is enough to make any fight fan salivate. Lima has proven time and time again that he is a problem for anyone at 170 pounds. That reputation was only strengthened following his dominant win over a truly battle hardened champion in MacDonald.


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