The first bout of the Bellator MMA heavyweight grand prix went about as one might expect, with Chael Sonnen outwrestling Quinton Jackson to earn a unanimous decision triumph in the Bellator 192 headliner at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Saturday night.
Barring injury or other unforeseen circumstance, Sonnen’s fate is already sealed. He will advance to the bracket’s semifinals to face the winner of the Frank Mir vs. Fedor Emelianenko bout, which will take place in April.
A new welterweight champion was also crowned on Saturday, as Rory MacDonald earned a hard-fought five-round verdict over Douglas Lima in the evening’s co-main event. Competing in one of the promotion’s deepest divisions, there should be plenty of interesting options on the horizon for “The Red King.”
In the wake of Bellator 192, here are five matches that need to be made.
Rory MacDonald vs. Andrey Koreshkov: MacDonald has talked about winning Bellator titles in multiple divisions, but his victory over Douglas Lima was difficult enough that a move up doesn’t seem necessary at this point. While a rematch with Lima isn’t out of the question, Koreshkov also remains a top contender. The former 170-pound titlist has won seven of his last eight fights, including a first-round stoppage of Chidi Njokuani in his last outing at Bellator 182.
Douglas Lima vs. Chidi Njokuani: At times, it looked as if Lima was ready to take control against MacDonald, but he ultimately was unable to do enough to earn the nod from the cageside judges. While he isn’t far out of the title picture, it wouldn’t hurt for “The Phenom” to earn a quality victory in the meantime. Njokuani, who has been victorious in five of six Bellator appearances, could fit that bill.
Michael Chandler vs. Brent Primus: Chandler says he wants “big fights,” and while both he and reigning featherweight king Patricio Freire seem game for a superfight that could anchor a Bellator tentpole event, it doesn’t make sense to hold up two divisions. After taking a dominant decision victory over Goiti Yamauchi at Bellator 192, Chandler remains the class of the lightweight division. A left ankle injury severely hampered -- and ultimately doomed -- Chandler during his first meeting with Primus at Bellator 180. At 100 percent, “Iron” Mike would be favored to regain the 155-pound belt.
Aaron Pico vs. Sam Sicilia: Pico is beginning to showcase the talent that had so many people within the MMA community singing his praises before he ever set foot in the Bellator cage. After succumbing to Zach Freeman in shocking fashion in his promotional debut, Pico has dispatched back-to-back foes via spectacular first-round knockout. Bellator hasn’t been shy about matching Pico up with more experienced opposition -- Saturday foe Shane Kruchten had 13 more fights -- so a showdown with “The Ultimate Fighter 15” cast member Sam Sicilia could be an interesting next test.
Henry Corrales vs. Pat Curran: Corrales has already fought some of the toughest competition Bellator has to offer, so why not add another former champion to the list? Corrales looked impressive in dispatching ex-World Series of Fighting titlist Georgi Karakhanyan via unanimous decision on Saturday, giving him three straight victories within the California-based promotion. Curran has also won three straight, so the winner could establish himself as a top contender at 145 pounds.