When the UFC touches down in Halifax, Nova Scotia this Saturday, they are bringing with them the fight that may determine the next contender for the welterweight title. No. 2-ranked Rory MacDonald takes on No. 9-ranked Tarec Saffiedine in the main event of UFC Fight Night 54, and with a win, MacDonald should secure a shot at the welterweight championship, and the winner of Hendricks vs. Lawler at UFC 181.
Around this time last year, Rory MacDonald was gearing up for his UFC 167 fight, alongside his good friend and training partner, then-UFC welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre. St. Pierre was defending the title against Johny Hendricks, and Rory was facing Robbie Lawler in a title eliminator for the welterweight division. MacDonald was constantly facing the question:
“Will you fight Georges?”
Rory kept insisting that he would not be fighting his friend, while UFC President Dana White proclaimed the exact opposite.
If both Tri-Star teammates won that night, they’d be staring head-on at one another atop the UFC welterweight division. Fast forward one year, and Hendricks is the champion and MacDonald is back to being one fight away from the championship.
MacDonald lost to Lawler that night by split-decision, in a very close fight that he nearly finished at the very end of the third round. He went on to win unanimous decisions over Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley, giving him seven wins in his last eight fights.
Tarec Saffiedine made his UFC debut in January in Singapore, Thailand with a win over Hyun Gyu Lim, who was a short-notice replacement for Jake Ellenberger. Saffiedine was the final Strikeforce welterweight champion, taking the title from Nate Marquardt in the final fight under the Strikeforce banner in January of 2013. He’s riding a five-fight winning streak going into the bout with MacDonald, and his only loss in his last nine fights was against Tyron Woodley in 2011.
If MacDonald can get past a former champion in Saffiedine, he will have done enough to earn a title shot against the winner of Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler. MacDonald is 10 fights into his UFC career at 25 years old, and he matures and improves his technique each fight we see him in.
He has had a few performances that were lackluster, where he appeared to be fighting on the safer side and being a bit more risk-averse, but lately he’s been fighting with more aggression and looks to hurt his opponent with every strike.
MacDonald told Yahoosports.com when this fight was booked back in August that he is hungry for the title, saying:
“I’m coming for the belt. I’m going to demolish everyone I have to to get to that point.”
MacDonald is great at using his long reach to sting his opponent with jabs and fire powerful kicks to the body. He has a strong mental game and his confidence level usually fuels his unique striking displays. He uses his size and strength to shove off his opponents takedown attempts, and he defended well against clinch attempts from Tyron Woodley.
With Saffiedine training at the grappling-centric Team Quest in California, as well as his background in Judo, it will be interesting to see if he tries to grapple with MacDonald.
MacDonald is entering into his prime, and if he truly has shaken the mental aspects of his game that were holding him back, then we are looking at a future champion.
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Courtesy of :Bleacher Report – UFC