Bellator Champion Douglas Lima: Is He the Most Underrated Welterweight in MMA?

Dana BeckerContributor IIMay 8, 2014

Douglas Lima has worked himself into a top welterweight by winning the Bellator title.
Douglas Lima has worked himself into a top welterweight by winning the Bellator title.Bellator

Douglas Lima has perfected the art of finishing fights, his latest such victory earning him the Bellator welterweight championship and a spot on the short list of top 170-pound fighters in the world. 

In each of his last five fights, Lima has scored wins inside the distance, including an April TKO over Rick Hawn that secured his first title in Bellator. Lima bruised and battered Hawn so badly over eight minutes of action that the corner threw in the towel to save him from any further punishment.

When you think about the welterweight division, names like Johny Hendricks, Rory MacDonald, Tyron Woodley, Carlos Condit and of course Georges St-Pierre come to mind.

Lima believes he is in that same group, as he said in an interview with Fightline: "I put myself up there. I'm definitely not the best, but I'm training hard to be. I just want to fight the best and move up in the ranks. I watch all the 170 pounders. I'll fight any of them."

Bellator lost unbeaten fighter and former U.S. Olympic wrestler Ben Askren to ONE FC last year, as Askren left without surrendering the belt. He was the last man to defeat Lima, earning a decision over him in 2012.

Since that defeat, Lima has turned himself into a monster, training with the crew at American Top Team in Atlanta that includes Dhiego Lima, his brother and a current member of The Ultimate Fighter 19 cast. He came back almost seven months after the defeat to Askren and finished Jacob Ortiz in the third round after delivering a head kick.

In 2013, the 26-year-old started off his run in the Bellator season eight tournament by defeating Michail Tsarev with leg kicks in the second round. Less than a month later, he knocked out Bryan Baker with a first-round knockout that was only topped later that year when he dropped Ben Saunders with a head kick that landed him on the highlight reels.

His ability to stop an opponent by taking out his most vital ligaments, his legs, is on par with what we've seen from other Brazilians like UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao. It's proven to be an effective weapon once fighters step inside the cage. 

Other than the loss to Askren, the only things that have troubled Lima have been issues with breaking his hand and making the cut to 170 pounds. He admits that he's eventually going to outgrow the division and will need to make the move to the middleweight ranks, but he has his focus set on becoming a legend at welterweight first.

Before settling in at his current weight class, Lima won the 2010 REDLINE Middleweight Grand Prix by besting the likes of UFC fighter Clint Hester and Cortez Coleman while stringing together a nine-fight win streak that also included a victory over former World Series of Fighting welterweight champion Steve Carl.

He has discussed a potential match with Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko, telling FightLine that "I would love this match up. Shlemenko is very tough and durable, and he's been on top forever, finishing everybody. I respect him a lot and I do see myself again him down the road."

Lima is right there with him in terms of stopping foes, and Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney has taken note of what he can do and where he might be headed.

Rebney told Sherdog's "Beatdown" radio show, "The future is incredibly bright for this guy. He's got a huge future ahead of him here. I think that future probably, at some point, sees him move up to 185, but for the time being, he's a devastating 170-pound champ."