• On The Rise: Rory MacDonald

  • Whenever a major fight card takes place there will be movement up and down the rankings in some way, shape or form. This feature will look to reflect upon a recent fight card and analyse which of its competitors had made the biggest impact, made the biggest statement or has simply gained the most from victory.

    We will look at that particular fighters past, present position and what we can expect from them in the future, as well as comparing the outcome of their individual fight against the others on the same fight card.

    This week we will be looking at Rory “Ares” MacDonald who faced off with fellow welterweight contender, Demian Maia this past weekend at UFC 170, in what was seen as an important fight for shape of the division moving forwards.

    MacDonald entered the UFC back in 2010 with a perfect 9-0 record and managed to improve that to 10-0 in his first UFC outing against Mike Guymon. However, that streak was ended in his next fight when he came up against Carlos Condit and lost in the third round, despite being up on the Judges’ scorecards.

    It is often said that a defeat will only make you stronger and the loss to Condit does seem to have been a turning point for MacDonald looking back. Following this loss, he moved to Montreal and began training full time with Firas Zahabi & Co at the Tristar Gym, which is famed for producing another welterweight star, Georges St. Pierre.

    As a result of training with GSP on a daily basis and Zahabi’s tutelage, MacDonald then managed to reel off five successive wins inside the Octagon including some of the best around such as B.J. Penn, Nate Diaz, Mike Pyle and current top five welterweight, Jake Ellenberger.

    This success created a problem for MacDonald in that it had the media speculating for a long time as to whether he would sacrifice the bond forged in training with GSP in order to achieve his ultimate goal of winning a UFC title. When asked, both he and GSP sidestepped the issue of whether they would fight one another, but the question loomed large over MacDonald in particular.

    It seemed to be the consensus opinion among MMA fans that both fighters had agreed that MacDonald wouldn’t need to wait much longer until Georges was out of the picture and he would be left to rise to the top of the ranks and maintain Tristar’s stranglehold on the 170lb division.

    However, those plans were not to come to fruition despite the fact that Georges made the decision to step away from the UFC and the Sport, for an indefinite period of time in December 2013.

    What perhaps hurts the most was that MacDonald was coming off a split decision loss to Robbie Lawler. And it was Lawler, who using that win over MacDonald as ammo, catapulted himself into a title fight for the vacant belt following the departure of Georges St. Pierre.

    Following his loss, MacDonald openly questioned his mindset going into the fight with Lawler and vowed to return with renewed motivation and purpose. For the first time in a long time, MacDonald had an open run to the title without the burden of having to face Georges once he got there. This clear path to the top may have helped MacDonald focus his mind as he approached the Maia fight, safe in the knowledge that a win would put him right back in contention.

    However, Rory’s comeback didn’t start especially well with many viewers giving the first round to Maia, but as the fight progressed he managed to control the Brazilian native and get the victory.

    The fight itself is perhaps most notable for the fact that it showcased MacDonald’s abilities to engage and dictate the fight. Whereas, in past performances he had been less aggressive and had been criticised, even by the UFC, as a result.

    As we consider what is next for MacDonald, it is safe to say that his status as the current #4 welterweight, according to the UFC’s official rankings, is safe. However, he may not get the immediate title shot that he has long since craved, given the fights we will witness in a few weeks time at UFC 171 in Texas.

    That fight card contains several high profile fights in the 170lb division, all of which will change the landscape of the division drastically.

    In the main event, we have the fight for the vacant title with Johny Hendricks looking to finally get the belt many believe he should already hold, taking on the last man to beat MacDonald in Robbie Lawler.

    In addition to the title fight, the co-main event features former interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit facing off against Tyron Woodley who is himself rising through the ranks as of late. Should Condit or Woodley make a statement in the co-main event then its impact could pave the way for a meeting with the winner of the main event that evening.

    All in all, Rory MacDonald has grown up before our eyes inside the Octagon. He has gone from a young kid training at home to an understudy to the best welterweight fighter ever.  With the victory over Demian Maia, McDonald now seemingly has the chance in 2014, to step out of the shadows cast by Georges St. Pierre and make a real claim for the throne himself.

    Whichever way the welterweight fights go at UFC 171, it is safe to say that come March 16th, we will be questioning when rather than if, Rory MacDonald will face off for the Welterweight strap.

    About The Author – Greg Byron

    Greg started training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after his brother introduced him to a local MMA fighter/coach when he was just 16 years old. Greg has trained for nearly a decade in both BJJ and MMA, competing in several grappling events within the UK. In addition to MMA, Greg possesses a law degree and works for a firm in northern part of England.

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