Bellator MMA plans to stage a welterweight grand prix, starting at Bellator 206 on Sept. 29. Excitement surrounds the tournament for fans, observers and the participants, including former welterweight titleholder Douglas Lima. However, his enthusiasm is tinged with regret, as he feels he should be entering the draw as the defending champion, not as one of nine other contenders.
Lima’s unanimous decision loss to Rory MacDonald on Jan. 20 still haunts him.
“One more kick was all I needed,” he told Sherdog.com, “because the man could barely walk.”
Lima peppered the Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran’s left leg with vicious low kicks throughout the first four rounds of the fight. The impacts raised a gruesome hematoma on MacDonald’s shin and left him with a leg that was too weak to stand on. Lima sensed the proverbial blood in the water and admits overzealousness got the best of him.
“I think I was too hungry for the finish that I rushed in [and] I pretty much gave him the takedown,” he said. “I knew I had him. I knew how badly hurt he was.”
Lima has an innate sense on when to close the deal, with 24 finishes among his 29 professional wins. That instinct led him to ignore instructions from his corner between rounds and rush MacDonald for a potential stoppage. Lima remembers what he was thinking at the time: “Man, this is it, one more kick and I will finish the fight.” The low kick has long been a staple of his repertoire -- and for good reason.
“I know how much damage it does, [and] I think it’s underused,” Lima said. “You’ve got to have the timing down. Everybody can kick, [and] everybody kicks hard.”
Lima showed great timing and purpose with his kicks in the first 20 minutes of his encounter with MacDonald. He decided to throw caution to the wind in the fifth round, and it cost him. The tactical error led to a MacDonald takedown and a position from which Lima had difficulty escaping throughout the fight.
“It still hurts me until this day,” Lima said. “One little mistake cost me the whole thing. His position on top was really good.”
MacDonald earned the Brazilian’s respect by digging deep, securing the takedown despite the condition of his leg and scoring enough points to net the victory.
“He did more damage in that [fifth] round than [he did] the whole fight,” Lima said.
Regrets aside, the former champion admits he learned much from the setback and hopes to reclaim the lost momentum in the grand prix. Although Lima would have preferred an immediate rematch, he finds comfort in the fact that MacDonald has entered the tournament, with the title on the line.
“I know the belt’s going to be in [the grand prix],” he said, “and a champion can’t enter a tournament without being the champion.”
MacDonald has other business to tend to before he enters the tournament. The Tristar Gym standout will attempt to become a rare simultaneous two-division champion when he challenges Gegard Mousasi for the middleweight crown at Bellator 206. Lima wants to see MacDonald make history.
“Everybody that I’ve fought, I root for them to win,” he said. “It will be very good for the [welterweight] division if Rory wins.”
Inclusion in the grand prix was a win-win proposition for the 30-year-old Lima. He finds comfort in controlling his own destiny and enjoys the challenge associated with competing in such a talent-rich tournament.
“I love the talent that’s in this tournament,” Lima said. “All the top guys in Bellator are in it. It’s very exciting.”
Operating out of an American Top Team affiliate in Atlanta, Lima has already faced a number of the tournament’s entrants, from MacDonald and Lorenz Larkin to Paul Daley and Andrey Koreshkov (twice). When the bracket was announced, he concedes he was surprised that the promotion paired him with Koreshkov for a third time. Even so, Lima took the news in stride.
“I just thought I would get somebody that I haven’t fought before, because most of the guys in the tournament I have already fought,” he said. “It’s better to get one of the top fights in the first round, get it over with and then move on.”
Lima has faced Koreshkov twice for the Bellator welterweight title, going 1-1 in their head-to-head series. He accepted the first fight with the Russian in 2015 despite suffering from a serious knee injury and lost a five-round unanimous decision. Lima did not compete again for nearly a year.
“That first fight,” he said, “I really only did it for the paycheck.”
Once restored to full health, Lima knocked out Koreshkov in their 2016 rematch. He remains confident ahead of their trilogy bout at Bellator 206.
“The big difference [between my first and second fights with Koreshkov] was my health,” Lima said. “If I am healthy, I can beat anybody.”