UFC Fight Night 89 Breakdown: Rory MacDonald vs Stephen Thompson

093_Stephen_ThompsonPrior to each UFC fight card, Jay Primetown takes a look at some of the key contests at each event. In the latest installment, we look at the main event of UFC Fight Night 89 in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa as Rory Macdonald battles Stephen Thompson in a clash of two of the sport’s top welterweights.   Rory Macdonald (Record: 18-3, -105 Underdog, Fighter Grade: A) The 26-year old born and raised Canadian welterweight took over the title of Canada’s top mixed martial artist after the retirement of training partner Georges St. Pierre. Macdonald makes his first appearance inside the Octagon since his legendary fight with Robbie Lawler 11 months ago. Macdonald went toe to toe with the champion before succumbing to strikes in the fifth round. Rory Macdonald has long been positioned as a future world champion. Despite being just 26 years old, he’s already fought a dozen times in the UFC. His game is very well rounded. He has an excellent jab in the stand up and does a good job of maintaining distance in the striking exchanges. His kicking game is sharp as well; he had Robbie Lawler nearly finished in their title fight with one of his kicks. Macdonald lands nearly four significant strikes per minute and absorbs just over 2.5 strikes per minute. In short, he’s landing a lot more than he is being hit. He has a decent ground game securing over two takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon. In top control, he has excellent ground and pound. He uses a lot of elbows and capable of finishing with strikes. Furthermore, Macdonald has faced a who’s who of the welterweight division beating some of the division’s top fighters including Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley. He has only lost to Carlos Condit and the aforementioned Lawler. He’s a tested, skilled welterweight in the midst of the prime of his career and very nearly beat the champion. The big question is how does he comeback from the loss to Lawler. Not only did he lose, but he took significant damage requiring a lot of surgery and recuperation. Many top fighters who suffer a brutal loss like that and are unable to reach the level they did prior to that crossroads fight. That’s the question mark that lies over Macdonald’s head as he enters into Saturday’s fight.   Stephen Thompson (Record: 12-1, -115 Favorite, Fighter Grade: A) Stephen Thompson is fast moving up the rankings of the welterweight division have won six straight fights inside the Octagon. He’s on a run of victories which includes top ten middleweight Robert Whittaker and former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks. Thompson now finds himself in a position to earn himself his first UFC title shot with a victory on Saturday. A 5th degree black belt in kempo karate and a black belt in American kickboxing, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is one of the most gifted strikers in MMA today. Thompson has a 57-0 record in kickboxing and was at one time considered the best kickboxer in the United States and arguably in the world. He has been training in martial arts since he was a child and continues to show that skill set in MMA. It took him some time to develop a more well-rounded approach for MMA, but he has found his stride. He’s put on some muscle and has developed some stout takedown defense. NCAA wrestling champion Johny Hendricks was unable to take Thompson down showing just how good his defensive wrestling is. On the feet, Thompson has very good footwork and a lot of variety in his strikes. As one would expect with his background, he keeps distance exceptionally well and opponents struggle to get inside and force him into a different kind of fight. Thompson is able to pepper his opponents with kicks and he combines his hands well as well. With his confidence at an all-time high, it will take something special for him to defeated.   Match-up There’s a lot to be excited about with Saturday’s welterweight main event. This is a match-up between two top five welterweights that many believe are capable of being world champion. Macdonald has long been pushed as a potential breakout star while Thompson is finally being recognized after his knockout win over Johny Hendricks as someone who could be a star in this sport.  Rory Macdonald is the more well-rounded fighter. He’s put a lot more pieces together than Stephen Thompson and is what many would consider that next generation of MMA talent. Macdonald does many things very well but there’s nothing in his game that is considered best in class or a X factor. That’s where this fight gets interesting. Thompson is an exceptional striker capable of taking somebody’s head off with a timely leg kick. Thompson has that one strike knockout capability combined with sharp technical ability and a consistent pace that shouldn’t slow him down. This fight is nearly a pickem for good reason. Both fighters are very good and have proven that over the past few years. The reason I favor Thompson in this match-up is because of the difficulties Macdonald had in the Lawler fight. He is hittable and he’s taken a lot of damage. Thompson has gotten through recent opponents fairly easily and physically is at his peak since turning professional. Macdonald will make life difficult for Thompson if he’s able to get the fight to the ground, but I see this as primarily a stand up exchange where Thompson has the advantage. Look for the damage to accumulate as the fight progresses and for Thompson to get a late stoppage win.

Written by Jay Primetown

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