UFC Fight Night 89 Play: Rory MacDonald (-105) vs Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (-115)

Rory MacDonaldUFC Fight Night 89: MacDonald vs Thompson Date: June 18, 2016 Arena: The Arena at TD Place City: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Welterweight bout: Rory MacDonald (-105) vs Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (-115) Fight Breakdown: The UFC Fight Night 89 main event will be a welterweight title eliminator between former title challenger Rory MacDonald and rising star Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. The betting odds for this 170-pound showdown are currently at a near coin-flip, with MacDonald being barely an underdog at -105 ($105 to win $100) and “Wonderboy” being an ever-so-slight betting favorite to win at -115 ($115 to win $100) at Several Bookmakerss. Rory MacDonald (18-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) last saw action at UFC 189 nearly a year ago, where he lost via fifth round knockout at the hands of UFC Welterweight Champion “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler. He was up 3-1 headed into the fifth and final round of the title found and just minutes away from becoming the promotions new 170-pound champion when Lawler completely crushed his nose and forced the stoppage. MacDonald will be fighting out the last fight on his current UFC contract with this bout and will become a free agent after it. He is very hungry for victory, as coming off a win would mean over Stephen Thompson would mean a lot more on the free agent market than a two-fight losing streak would. The former 170-pound title challenger wants to get his hand raised with an impressive victory over “Wonderboy” tomorrow night and then follow it by signing a new fat deal with the UFC and getting another shot at the division’s gold. The 26-year-old is a very well-rounded mixed martial artist who is getting better in all facets of the game on a daily basis. He is a gym-junkie and is addicted to making improvements from day to day. MacDonald is a fast learner who excels in every aspect of the sport. He is an excellent grappler who does a good job of changing levels and working takedowns, being most effective with his double-leg. He is quite effective from top position on the mat, posesing excellent top control and a brutal ground-and-pound attack, putting on one of the worst I’ve ever seen in his UFC 145 win over Che Mills. The former UFC 170-pound title challenger also owns a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and six career wins by tapout, so he will have the edge in submissions heading into this main event scheduled for five rounds. The TriStar Gym product is a talented striker who likes to be technical on the feet. He works a beautiful jab, and all of his punches are very crisp. MacDonald will have a two and a half inch reach advantage over Woodley heading into this welterweight tilt, so I expect the jab to be his main weapon of choice on the feet. The Canadian is best when he is being the aggressor, and can have problems when he is moving backwards. He is great at both scoring points and doing damage. MacDonald also does a fantastic job of incorporating kicks into his offensive striking attack. Since his loss to Carlos Condit in his second Octagon appearance, the 26-year-old has really focused on improving his cardio, and has not really had a problem in that department ever since. Despite the near year-long layoff, I expect him to have enough in the tank for a full 25-minutes of action, if necessary. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (12-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) is coming off a first round TKO of former UFC Welterweight Champion Johny Hendricks at UFC Fight Night 82 over four months ago, and the victory unquestionably marked the biggest of his professional mixed martial arts career. It also put him at six in a row inside the Octagon and he plans to extend that to seven on enemy soil tomorrow night while parlaying it into a title shot (against the winner of UFC 201’s (c) Robbie Lawler vs Tyron Woodley title fight). Aside from Hendricks, the impressive list on his current run includes Jake Ellenberger, Nah-Shonn Burrell, Chris Clements, Patrick Cote and Robert Whittaker. The 33-year-old is a phenomenal striker and arguably the best in the UFC’s 170-pound division. He comes from a Karate background and because of that he tends to keep his hands down at his waist and his chin high and exposed. Despite that, he has never been finished in his professional mixed martial arts career. In fact, his lone career defeat came via unanimous decision against Matt Brown in his second UFC appearance. That was a very strange fight because both fighters, who are known for their cardio, gassed terribly early on in the fight and battled it out until the final bell. Thompson noted that he had an uncanny experience of fatigue setting in and losing power in his legs right after throwing his first kick early in the first round of action. Ultimately, he blamed it on overtraining and started preparing for future fights differently. “Wonderboy” has a nice jab and puts together some excellent 1-2 combinations on the feet. He has an incredible kicking game, being very effective with his kicks to the head and body of his opponents, as has been evident with his finishes of the aforementioned Hendricks and Ellenberger. He works nice inside leg kicks and hammers away with hard outside leg kicks. The South Carolina native moves well on his feet, has good range management and likes to switch stances, being effective in both southpaw and orthodox. He is patient and effective with his strikes and accurate with his selection, dishing out mostly single strikes and two-strike combinations. The Karate fighter has improved wrestling; his takedown defense is very good and when taken down, he does a good job of working his way back to his feet. He works well in the clinch against the cage and is often able to reverse position when finding his back against it. Thompson has been constantly getting better, showing improvements from fight to fight and he plans to have a showcase against MacDonald and earn a shot at the gold. He is a well-conditioned martial artist who will have enough of the tank for a full five rounds of action, should this fight hit the judges’ scorecards for a decision. Gabe’s Call: MacDonald by Unanimous Decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-47) Gabe’s Thoughts: I think this fight is close on the feet and expect MacDonald’s edge in grappling to play the difference. I think he finds takedowns and ultimately secures either a TKO stoppage or possible submission, but if not, I favor him to take this fight on the judges’ scorecards, should they get to have a say in the matter. There is a lot on the line for MacDonald here and I expect to see him at his best. I expect the same of Thompson but I think MacDonald at his best beats Thompson at his best, because he is just a more well-rounded mixed martial artist. I think he is capable of beating Thompson on the feet, but I see his ground-game being the difference in this match-up. That said, I can’t ignore the fact that Thompson is phenomenal and currently red hot, which is why I will be keeping this play much smaller than I would have before I saw what he did to Johny Hendricks. Granted, that was a Johny Hendricks who pretty much trained himself for that fight. Gabe’s Recommended Play: MacDonald (-105) 2.1u to win 2u

Written by Gabe Killian

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