Since September 2011, Douglas Lima has been fighting inside the Bellator cage. He’s experienced many ups and a couple of very real downs but now at the start of his second title run, it’s fair to say that Lima’s time as a Bellator fighter has been very successful. The first defense of Lima’s new title reign comes this Saturday night as he fights promotional newcomer Lorenz Larkin on PPV at Madison Square Garden. This fight represents a continued trend for long-time Bellator fighters of welcoming major free agents and for Lima specifically, the chance to solidify his spot as a legitimately elite Welterweight champion.
Lima is far from an overnight sensation though and has already compiled ten wins inside the Bellator cage, only suffering two losses over the last eight years. However, whilst ‘The Phenom’s’ skills were always very much apparent, his resume lacked recognizable names at times. Other than two victories over UFC veteran Ben Saunders, Lima’s wins mostly came against very solid opponents that simply lacked the name value on a national scale. Lima was unsuccessful in his first attempt at winning the Bellator belt too, with Ben Askren dominating him for the duration of their title fight. On his second attempt, Lima would claim the title though, finishing Rick Hawn in April 2014.
However, injuries would prohibit Lima from defending his title for fifteen months before he eventually returned to fight Andrey Koreshkov. In a surprisingly uninspired showing that has since been explained by a pre-existing injury, Lima lost the title via wide unanimous decision. Though Koreshkov was clearly a talented fighter with an excellent record, he entered a mostly unheralded contender and so the result hurt Lima’s reputation as an elite Welterweight fighter. That would soon change though, as Koreshkov next successfully defend his belt by completely dominating former UFC champion Benson Henderson, a result that enhanced his credibility as a top fighter and shed some light on Lima’s prior struggles.
Regardless, Lima would continue to be inactive and next fought almost exactly a year after his title loss. Fortunately, the Brazilian’s performance would be good enough to completely reinvigorate his career’s momentum. Heading to London to fight feared knockout artist Paul Daley in his home country, Lima not only beat the Englishman but most impressively, even got the better of the stand-up consistently. In the very first exchange of the fight, Lima dropped Daley with a heavy left hook and from then on mostly dominated, regularly stinging ‘Semtex’ with hard strikes at range before eventually using his superior grappling to secure the decision win.
That victory positioned Lima for another title shot and more specifically, a rematch with Koreshkov. After some struggles in the second round, Lima suddenly closed the show in dramatic fashion, knocking the champion out with a violent left hook. In an instant Lima had finished his old conqueror and reclaimed the Bellator belt in definitive fashion. Now standing at the top of a flourishing division, Lima’s new challenges begin and that starts this Saturday night with Larkin at Madison Square Garden. Lima’s last reign as champion ended without a successful title defense and for that to be different this time around, ‘The Phenom’ will need to perform at his absolute best.
Even looking past the excellent Larkin, promotional newcomer Rory MacDonald awaits the winner and it’s clearer now than ever that the Bellator landscape is changing rapidly. With the free agent market becoming more and more attractive to the current UFC roster, Bellator’s roster is seemingly always changing and as champion, Lima has the job of welcoming the newest contenders regardless of their reputation. That all starts with the dynamic Larkin this Saturday though and with a win here, Lima can take a huge step forward in solidifying his spot as a truly elite world champion. Either way, after almost six years fighting in Bellator many things have changed but Lima is still here and more than that, he’s the champion