Bellator 222 Sonnen vs Machida: Odds, Predictions, and Picks

Chael Sonnen vs Lyoto Machida - Bellator Logo

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, there is no UFC this week so let’s turn our attention to a Bellator card headlined by a former UFC champion and a “Bad Guy” that was alllllmost a UFC Champion.

Oh, what an emo rollercoaster that night was…

As one of the biggest Anderson Silva fans on planet Earth, I went from complete shock bordering on a deep depression to one of the most elated moments of my life in Ocean City, Maryland at a random beach bar.

Ah, but that was long ago and Anderson nor Chael is the same fighter. Well, Chael is back on the umpteen steroids they found in his system after that fight for sure as Bellator doesn’t test nearly at the level of the UFC. So maybe the “Bad Guy” as he likes to call himself hasn’t changed too awfully much.

His opponent Friday night from the mecca of sports, Madison Square Garden, I might add has tested positive for performance enhancers himself back in the UFC.

Lyoto Machida, who is a long-time protege and training partner of Anderson Silva, is looking to have a career resurgence of his own after joining the Bellator ranks.

He has had only one fight with the organization. The lifetime martial artist won a split decision over fellow Brazilian Rafael Carvalho back in December.

Chael is coming off of an absolutely devastating TKO loss to the legendary Fedor Emelianenko.

Here’s a video of the fight if you missed it. The former NCAA All America and Olympic wrestling hopeful Sonnen wasn’t able to take the Russian down. It was soon exit stage right after that.

Chael has fought nothing but massive names under the Bellator banner. I’ll give him that. After being submitted by Tito Ortiz in his debut with the organization, he went on to defeat Rampage Jackson and Wanderlei Silva both by decision before meeting his fate against the aforementioned “Last Emperor”.

Now that you have the backstory, just keep in the back of your mind because MMA is all about matchups and these two match up pretty darn closely.

More on that in a minute.

There is a Welterweight Grand Prix going on right now and the first semifinal will be the co-main event.

Former 170-pound UFC Title challenger Rory McDonald faces off against a man looking to carry on the first family of MMA’s name to the next generation, Nieman Gracie.

Rory is 2-1-1 in Bellator with his only loss coming at the hands of one of the best fighters in the world, Gegard Mousasi. This fight was 15 pounds up at Middleweight as well.

“The Red King’s” opponent is 9-0 with 8 submission victories. What more can you ask for, right?

In my eyes, a submission win is more impressive than a knockout because all fights start standing and you have to take the contest to the ground in order to secure a submission, for the most part, I guess.

His most recent win was rather impressive against former Nittany Lion wrestling standout and future superstar Ed Ruth.

Rory is a different animal, though.

Let’s take a look at the betting odds released by the BetOnline for some of the main card and make some picks!

Darrion Caldwell vs Kyoji Horiguchi

CALDWELL
-163
HORIGUCHI
+143

Darrion Caldwell is the 2009 NCAA National Champion at 149 pounds in the sport of wrestling and has had a very good career in mixed martial arts amassing a record of 13-2.

One of those losses, though, came by way of submission to his Bellator 222 opponent, Kyoji Horiguchi in the Japanese organization of RIZIN back in December on New Year’s Eve.

Hmm…then why are the odds in favor of mini “DC”?

Okay, I just pulled up this fight and Caldwell was all over him dominating the fight from the opening bell. There were several instances early when Darrion had the Japanese superstar taken down and even almost submitted with a Kimura when the ropes of the ring saved him.

The guillotine choke that ended the fight did not occur on a takedown attempt. Darrion was on top against the ropes and just got lazy. Congrats to Horiguchi for taking advantage but I believe Caldwell will be much more aware in the rematch.

The Bellator cage will make a massive difference as well.

I have to go with the favorite and Bellator Bantamweight Champion in this one.

My Pick
Caldwell by 2nd rd TKO

Rory McDonald vs Nieman Gracie

MCDONALD
-170
GRACIE
+145

We have to start with this.

Following his draw with UFC vet Jon Fitch, Rory said some unexpected words for fans.

We can’t ignore this.

We know he is a smart calculated fighter. Could this be a trick?

I don’t think so.

I feel like it was 100% real. One of the best things, in my opinion, about religion and spirituality is that it can make someone completely transparent.

He put it out there and said things that I’m sure other fighters have felt in the past and will in the future but may not ever say to their friends much less the entire world.

He is still the favorite, though. Oddsmakers believe he will keep the fight on the feet and win with his superior striking, experience, and MMA IQ.

It’s definitely possible.

Nieman is the nephew and student of my favorite Gracie, Renzo.

His mother is the second Gracie woman to achieve the rank of black belt.

His mother didn’t marry in the family so his last name is not actually Gracie, but hey, he’s in the family so why not?

Looking back at Nieman’s fight with wrestling standout Ed Ruth, the only takedown Gracie secured was in the 4th round when Ruth was tired.

Ed was able to defend all of Nieman’s submission attempt up to that point and Gracie does not have the power to hurt Rory, I don’t think.

McDonald may not have that want “to hurt someone” in his life anymore, but against Nieman, I don’t think he’s going to need it to win.

He has never been submitted and kept Damien Maia, who is much much bigger than Gracie, from taking him down so I think Rory just needs to stay on his feet and comfortably pepper the man with jabs.

My Pick
McDonald by UD

Lyoto Machida vs Chael Sonnen

MCDONALD
-335
GRACIE
+275

I’m looking at these odds and I’m really surprised. Chael does choke at the end of fights but I think he has what it takes to control Lyoto long enough for a win.

Looking back at “The Dragon’s fight record, he really hasn’t done that much in a long while.

  • His Bellator win was a split decision many thought he lost
  • Before that, he knocked out a withered Vitor Belfort
  • Won a split decision against a mediocre at best Eric Anders
  • His previous 5 fights, he had one win and that was against CB Dolloway who is barely top twenty material
  • His loss against Phil Davis is what stands out to me most…

Maybe I just remember that fight well because I won I believe around 200 dollars on Davis. He is a dominant wrestler with a good enough BJJ game to stay out of submissions.

I would put Chael in that category.

Yea, Sonnen is 40+ years old but so is Lyoto.

He really isn’t the type to get dropped hard from a shot on his feet.

Machida is the type to do that to anybody, though, so the possibility is there.

I have heard the opinions of many pro fighters on this contest and the vast majority go the way of Chael Sonnen.

If I were to handicap this fight, I would have to go with…

(-125) for Machida and (+105) for the man from West Linn, Oregon, and that is only because Chael isn’t really a finisher and in all likelihood will have to take Lyoto down multiple times to win.

Let’s take the value here, though.

My Pick
Sonnen by UD

In Conclusion

No UFC this week?

No problem!

Bellator 222 is loaded with big names and really good matchups.

Young budding superstar A-A-Ron Pico is on the undercard if that tells you anything.

I don’t really understand that one but, okay.

The main card features the most touted Gracie family member to enter the MMA scene since his Uncle Renzo, I suppose.

Look up some of his talks…such a lovable character.

Neiman Gracie’s opponent in the Welterweight Grand Prix, Rory McDonald, has said he doesn’t want to hurt anyone anymore.

This is the same guy people were comparing to Norman Bates or Christian Bale’s character in American Psycho.

The 135 belt is on the line too in a rematch from a ring fight in another organization to now a cage!

This is exciting.

Oh and there’s one of the best talkers and takedown artists of all-time, Chael Sonnen, taking on one of the quietest knockout artists to ever step foot in the cage in Lyoto “The Dragon’ Machida.

I’m loving all of these matchups as well as the value on the odds and my picks.

Get ‘em in early guys. This one goes down Friday night from Madison Square Garden!

Mike Pruitt / author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.