In what was perhaps the final fight of his MMA career, Chael Sonnen fell to Lyoto Machida by second-round technical knockout at Bellator 222 from Madison Square Garden in New York City on Friday night.
After Machida took Sonnen down with a flying knee and finished him with punches early in the second round, Sonnen laid his gloves in the middle of the ring and seemed to announce his retirement:
If Sonnen is indeed done as a fighter, he left an indelible mark on the sport for his talking perhaps as much as his fighting.
Chamatkar Sandhu of Pro Fight League and ESPN's Marc Raimondi are among those who praised Sonnen following Friday's bout:
Sonnen appeared to be overmatched against Machida, as The Dragon nearly forced a stoppage in the first round before finishing him quickly in the second.
With the victory, Machida improved to 26-8 overall and extended his winning streak to four in a row. The expectation is that the 41-year-old Brazilian is now in line for a Bellator middleweight title shot against Gegard Mousasi.
Mousasi, 33, beat Rafael Carvalho for the championship at Bellator 200 in May last year, and he is in the midst of an eight-fight winning streak split between Bellator and UFC.
Machida and Mousasi fought once before for the UFC in 2014, and Machida prevailed with a unanimous-decision win.
While Machida will look to become a champion in Bellator for the first time, the 42-year-old Sonnen is set to ride off into the sunset with a 30-17-1 career record and a resume that includes fights against many of the biggest names in the history of the sport.
In addition to Machida vs. Sonnen, here is a look at the results for every fight on the preliminary and main cards for Bellator 222, including the welterweight title main event between Rory MacDonald and Neiman Gracie.
Rory MacDonald def. Neiman Gracie via unanimous decision (49-46, 48-47, 48-47)
Lyoto Machida def. Chael Sonnen via second-round technical knockout (0:22)
Dillon Danis def. Max Humphrey via first-round armbar submission (4:28)
Patrick Mix def. Ricky Bandejas via first-round rear-naked choke submission (1:06)
Juan Archuleta def. Eduardo Dantas via second-round knockout (4:59)
Kyoji Horiguchi def. Darrion Caldwell via unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46)
Phil Hawes def. Michael Wilcox via first-round TKO (5:00)
Mike Kimbel def. Sebastian Ruiz via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 30-27)
Robson Gracie Jr. def. Oscar Vera via first-round armbar submission (3:15)
Lindsey VanZandt def. Rena Kubota via first-round rear-naked choke technical submission (4:04)
Haim Gozali def. Gustavo Wurlitzer via first-round triangle choke submission (4:02)
Marcus Surin def. Nekruz Mirkhojaev via split decision (30-27, 27-29, 29-27)
Valerie Loureda def. Larkyn Dasch via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Adam Borics def. Aaron Pico via second-round knockout (3:55)
Taylor Turner def. Heather Hardy via first-round technical knockout (3:53)
John Beneduce def. Kenny Rivera via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Kastriot Xhema def. Whitney Francois via second-round technical knockout (3:17)
Brandon Polcare def. Brandon Medina via first-round guillotine submission (4:33)
Rory MacDonald def. Neiman Gracie
In the main event, MacDonald outlasted Gracie to win by unanimous decision and retain the Bellator welterweight title:
Additionally, MacDonald advanced to the finals of the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix, where he will face Douglas Lima. That fight will be a rematch from Bellator 192, which saw MacDonald beat Lima by unanimous decision to win the Bellator welterweight title.
Gracie represented a dangerous test for MacDonald since the Canadian had drawn against Jon Fitch and lost to Gegard Mousasi in his previous two fights. Meanwhile, Gracie was a perfect 9-0 in his professional career with eight submission victories.
The Brazil native was aggressive in attempting to take down MacDonald and trap him in one of the submission holds from his vast repertoire:
While Gracie came close on a few occasions, MacDonald did well to control the pace of the fight for the most part and maintain the power position on the mat:
Robbie Fox of Barstool Sports was especially impressed by the grappling display that both MacDonald and Gracie put on:
MacDonald's performances in his previous two fights left plenty to be desired, but he appears to be back on track and ready for what promises to be a competitive rematch with Lima.
Meanwhile, Gracie now has a blemish on his record, but he looked impressive in defeat and likely won't stray too far from the title scene.
At just 30 years of age, his best years are likely ahead of him, and he showed Friday that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the welterweight division as he continues to improve and gain experience.
Kyoji Horiguchi def. Darrion Caldwell
In the first fight on the main card of Bellator 222, Kyoji Horiguchi and Darrion Caldwell went the distance in a clash for the Bellator bantamweight title.
While Caldwell held his own and took Horiguchi down on a few occasions, Horiguchi earned a unanimous-decision victory to become the new champion:
The 28-year-old Horiguchi was making his Bellator debut after successful stints in the UFC and Rizin. With the win, he improved his sparkling career record to 28-2.
Since he was already the holder of the Rizin bantamweight title entering Friday's fight, Horiguchi made history, per Mike Bohn of USA Today:
Meanwhile, Caldwell fell to 13-3 in what was his second defense of the Bellator bantamweight title since winning it from Eduardo Dantas at Bellator 184 in October 2017.
Friday's title fight was the rematch of a bout between Horiguchi and Caldwell at Rizin 14 in December for the Rizin bantamweight title. Horiguchi won that fight by third-round submission, but Caldwell posed a stiffer challenge this time around.
The first few rounds of Friday's fight were fairly even, and they included some lightning-quick flurries, such as this exchange in the third:
However, over the final two rounds, Horiguchi was able to establish a position of dominance and hold Caldwell at bay for the most part.
ESPN's Ariel Helwani noted that although Horiguchi is technically a Rizin fighter, he is obligated to defend the Bellator bantamweight belt in order to avoid relinquishing it:
Because of that, Horiguchi figures to be busy over the next year, and he can also make the case for being the best bantamweight fighter in the world if he wasn't already.