MacDonald could emerge as the top UFC welterweight
UFC fans have become accustomed to a Canadian ruling the welterweight division. For the last four years, Georges St. Pierre has stood as the dominant force in the weight class, emerging as one of the top competitors in the sport while dispatching elite contenders at every turn.
As the Rated Next series continues with a look at the welterweight division, there is a possibility that even when GSP relinquishes the crown, another Canuck that calls the Tristar Gym home could inherit the throne.
Rated Next: Rory MacDonald (11-1)
Mark my words: MacDonald will win a UFC championship before he turns 26.
The kid from Kelowna, British Columbia has quickly established himself as the best prospect in the welterweight division, and one of the top young prospects in the sport as a whole.
Much like bantamweight Michael McDonald, the 21-year-old Canadian is part of the new breed of fighters who began their training focused on mixed martial arts as a whole instead of one particular discipline. While there are obviously different areas where MacDonald excels more than others, you don’t see the same kind of gap between disciplines that you do in fighters who come from a specific background.
MacDonald will never be one of those guys that is significantly lacking in one area, and that comes from working with David Lea at Toshido Martial Arts from the time he was 14 on all facets of the sport. Now that he’s relocated to Montreal, he’s maintaining that same approach with Firas Zahabi and the all-star crew that is assembled in La Belle Province.
That’s not the only reason I can see MacDonald with a UFC belt wrapped around his waist inside the next four years.
For a 21-year-old kid, he’s scary confident. Actually, he was scary confident when I interviewed him prior to his UFC debut against Mike “Joker” Guymon, telling me that he’d be an undefeated UFC champion in five years. The unbeaten part isn’t possible any more, but the championship reign is a possibility.
There is a difference between MacDonald’s boasts and those you hear from other fighters.
He’s not bragging or telling everyone how good he is when he speaks about his plans for the future; he’s letting you know his destination before embarking on the journey. Then he’ll follow it up by telling you how hard he intends to work in the gym to reach that goal, and that is what separates him from the rest of the pack.
He’s been on this path since he was 14-years-old. When I was 14, all I knew with any certainty was that I wanted to put my hands on this girl Joanna’s ass during the a slow song at the next high school dance. I couldn’t commit to doing my homework every night, yet alone going to the gym and working with a singular goal in mind, but that’s why MacDonald is a 21-year-old on the verge of stardom in the UFC and I’ve taken the circuitous route to finding my calling.
What really cements my faith in my fellow Canadian’s chances of capturing UFC gold before his 26th birthday is the progression we’ve seen over his first three trips into the Octagon.
Though his debut produced a first round submission win over Guymon, MacDonald showed areas that needed to be improved. He didn’t have the strength to control the veteran on the ground, and his boxing defence needed shoring up as well.
While he lost his second UFC fight to Carlos Condit, the performance actually did more to raise MacDonald’s stock than the win over Guymon. Over the first two rounds, MacDonald captivated the Vancouver crowd, dominating the former WEC welterweight champion.
He had Condit completely off his game and in need of a finish heading into the third. “The Natural Born Killer” poured it on late and earned the stoppage win, the pair collected Fight of the Night honors and MacDonald convinced a lot of people that he was for real.
Fast forward to UFC 129 in Toronto and we saw proof that MacDonald has filled the holes that showed in each of his previous two fights.
He was bigger and stronger than each of his previous appearances in the Octagon, and fought a more tactical battle against Nate Diaz than he had against Condit. Everything was measured and deliberate; there were no wasted movements and no wasted energy. Unlike his fight with Condit, MacDonald entered the third with a full gas tank, and manhandled Diaz in the final frame en route to collecting a clean sweep on the scorecards.
Seeing the marked improvement in MacDonald between Vancouver and Toronto, and knowing that came as a result of his first full training camp at Tristar, it’s hard not to envision a championship reign in his future.
This weekend, MacDonald will put his constantly improving skills on the line against durable and dangerous veteran Mike Pyle. “Quicksand” has said he isn’t going to be anyone’s stepping stone, but he may not have a choice in the matter. MacDonald keeps getting better every time he steps into the cage, and I expect UFC 133 to be his best performance to date.
It’s a pattern that will repeat itself. Each fight will be better than the last until MacDonald stands alongside his teammate at the top of the welterweight division.