INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Heading into the opening fight of the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix eight-man heavyweight tournament, both Chael "The American Gangster" Sonnen and Quinton "Rampage" Jackson repeatedly acknowledged that Sonnen's strategy was to take Jackson to the ground and negate Jackson's considerable size and strength.
Though Sonnen got Jackson on the ground several times, as he proudly predicted, that wasn't what ultimately won Sonnen the fight. Whether they were on their feet or on the ground, Sonnen was merely too quick and too skilled for Jackson.
All told, Sonnen (30-15-1) defeated Jackson (37-13-0) via unanimous decision to advance to the semifinals of the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix, where the winner of Fedor Emelianenko vs. Frank Mir awaits. All three judges scored the fight 29-28.
The fight started slow, with both fighters trading jabs for most of the first round. Jackson landed some jabs and slammed Sonnen, but his takedown defense and grappling skills couldn't prevent the inevitable: Sonnen prevented Jackson from using his overwhelming strength and knockout power and simply picked away at him.
"I've met 6,000,000 men, and none of them are as tough as Chael Sonnen," said Sonnen as The Forum crowd rained boos upon him.
Before the fight, Sonnen and Jackson made a bet that Jackson would pay Sonnen $10,000 for every takedown. By an unofficial count Sonnen had at least three takedowns, and he expects Jackson to be a man of his word.
"I will tell you this: I will not cash his check," Sonnen said. "I do expect him to hand me it. But what I do with it is my business. But I'll tell you what, I will not cash that check."
This now marks back-to-back wins by unanimous decision for Sonnen. Meanwhile, Jackson has now lost consecutive fights by unanimous decision.
MacDonald outlasts Lima despite gruesome leg injury
Two of the three judges scored the fight decisively in MacDonald's favor: 48-47, 49-45 and 49-46.
Lima targeted MacDonald's nose early, eventually busting it open in the third round and landed several leg kicks that eventually injured MacDonald's left shin -- seemingly giving him a hematoma -- and knocked him down in the third and fourth rounds. The Forum crowd broke out in "Rory!" chants as MacDonald hung around and withstood blow after blow to his nose and leg.
Despite the injuries, MacDonald controlled the pace and positioning of the fight and was able to consistently gain the advantage on the ground, where he was able to use his superior jiu-jitsu skills to pin Lima multiple times and open up a gash on the right side of his forehead.
MacDonald, who had to be carried out of the cage and was taken to the hospital after the fight, had nothing but praise for Lima.
"He's the best fighter I've ever fought. Easy," MacDonald said. "It was an honor to compete with him."
Chandler bounces back with unanimous victory over Yamauchi
Chandler took Yamauchi to the ground in all three rounds, capitalizing with a flurry of punches against the perimeter of the cage. Yamauchi landed a heel kick that caused Chandler to wobble backward early in the second round, but he was on defense for most of the fight.
After losing his Bellator lightweight champion belt this past June because of a fluke ankle injury against Brent Primus that caused the referee to step in and end the fight early, this was a nice bounce-back performance by Chandler.
"I didn't want to prove anybody wrong, but I proved them wrong," Chandler said.
Pico delivers on hype, knocks out Kruchten in first round
Pico, who Bellator MMA president Scott Coker told ESPN "may be the greatest prospect in the history of MMA" last year, lived up to the hype surrounding him, registering his second consecutive first-round knockout in his third professional fight.
"Time is my friend right now," Pico said. "Each time I fight I'm going to keep getting better and better."
The 21-year-old Whittier native was the clear crowd favorite, coming out to "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang" by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg and earning the loudest ovation of the non-main event fights.
Kruchten has now lost two of his past three fights.