Rory MacDonald beat Neiman Gracie by unanimous decision to retain the Bellator welterweight title at Bellator 222 from Madison Square Garden in New York City on Friday.
The judges scored the fight 49-46, 48-47, 48-47:
The victory ended a two-fight winless streak for MacDonald and allowed him to improve his record to 21-5-1. Meanwhile, Gracie suffered his first professional loss and now sits at 9-1.
MacDonald controlled much of the bout and was often working from an advantageous position after taking Gracie down to the mat:
Gracie is a submission specialist who seemingly came close to catching MacDonald on a few occasions, but he was never able to put the champion in true peril.
Friday's fight was not only for the Bellator welterweight title, but it was also a semifinal bout in the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix. With the win, MacDonald advanced to the finals to face Douglas Lima.
When MacDonald and Lima meet, it will be a rematch of their Bellator welterweight title clash from Bellator 192 in January 2018. In just his second fight under the Bellator umbrella, MacDonald beat Lima by unanimous decision to win the championship.
That allowed MacDonald to move to 2-0 since leaving the UFC to sign with Bellator, but he fell short in his attempt to become a double champion at Bellator 206 last September, when he lost to Gegard Mousasi by TKO in a middleweight title match.
MacDonald followed that up with a majority draw against Jon Fitch at Bellator 220 in April before beating Gracie in a quick turnaround.
While MacDonald initially made a name for himself in the UFC, Gracie has essentially been a homegrown talent for Bellator aside from his first two professional fights with the World Series of Fighting.
Gracie, who is part of the famous Gracie Brazilian jiu-jitsu family, entered Friday's contest with eight wins by submission among his nine career victories.
That included five submission wins in a row, with a triumph over Ed Ruth in the quarterfinals of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix among them.
MacDonald finally placed a blemish on Gracie's resume and set the stage for a fitting end to the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix, as he will defend the Bellator welterweight title against the fighter he originally won it from.