Two strong but wildly different welterweights will square off this Saturday night (August 6, 2011) on the UFC 133 main card in Philadelphia as the new wave of fighter, Rory MacDonald, takes on uber-experienced Mike Pyle in a divisional showdown.
What's interesting is both of these men have been in this situation before.
MacDonald is looking to take it to the next level after failing in his last attempt against a veteran in Carlos Condit. He switched camps after the loss to Georges St. Pierre's Tristar gym and is coming off a thorough destruction of Nate Diaz that was so bad, he chased the Cesar Gracie fighter back to the 155-pound division and he's out to prove he's ready to contend.
Pyle absolutely refuses to be a stepping stone.
The veteran grappler out of Xtreme Couture beat John Hathaway in the exact same situation less than a year ago and he's back to knock the rising prospect down a notch while raising his stock a little higher. He knows a loss would seriously derail any chance he'll ever have to be a title challenger.
Will the switch in camps continue to provide fantastic results for MacDonald? Can Pyle grind on the Canadian and eventually dehydrate "The Waterboy?" How much longer can "Quicksand" delay the inevitable rise of the top young promotional prospects?
Let's find out:
Record: 11-1 overall, 2-1 in the UFC
Key Losses: Carlos Condit (UFC 115)
How he got here: At just 22 years old, Rory MacDonald has already been fighting for nearly six years professionally. He began training completely in mixed martial arts at a young age and many view him as the "new age" fighter that has worked on everything with no specific base as his background.
"The Waterboy" fought the King of the Cage Canada circuit, working his way up to and winning the promotion's lightweight title when he was 19 years old. After winning the title, he fought for the overall King of the Cage belt and won that as well the next November.
He would never defend his titles, simply outgrowing the 155 pound division and moving to welterweight. After one more victory on the local circuit, he made his UFC debut last January, defeating Mike Guymon with a first round submission.
MacDonald was all over former WEC champion Carlos Condit for two rounds in his second fight with the promotion before fading in the third and getting stopped with just seven seconds left in the round. After joining the Tristar Gym, he would rebound at UFC 129 against Nate Diaz, destroying the Stockton fighter with slams, wrestling, and ground and pound over the course of three rounds to get back on track in the division.
How he gets it done: MacDonald is so talented, young and well-rounded already at this point in his career. The key to victory would be to do what worked best against a stronger fighter like Carlos Condit, except he has to stay strong for the full three rounds.
Expect MacDonald to show off his entire skill-set, trying to utilize his jab and straight punches in the stand-up, slamming Pyle from the clinch, and working his ground and pound if he can get Pyle to the canvas.
The wisest plan of action would likely be to keep the fight standing as Pyle is a strong wrestler and submission fighter. Pyle has been hurt pretty badly in the past by powerful strikers like Jake Ellenberger and even Rory Markham. Expect "The Waterboy" to try to lull Pyle to sleep with his jab and then slip in a big right hand to put the veteran down.
Record: 21-7-1 overall, 4-2 in the UFC
Key Losses: Jake Ellenberger (UFC 108), Jake Shields (EliteXC: Renegade)
How he got here: Mike Pyle has been competing for nearly 12 years now. The 35 year old Xtreme Couture fighter made his MMA debut against Quinton Jackson, managing to last all the way to a decision despite being outweighed by about 30 pounds. His next fight three years later wouldn't be any easier, taking on eventual UFC powerhouse Jon Fitch and submitting the Purdue wrestler at the midway point of the first round.
Over the next five years, Pyle would fight all over the world, from M-1 in Russia, Viking Fight in Denmark, Sengoku in Japan as well as making pit stops in the IFL, WEC, EliteXC, Affliction and Strikeforce in the US. He has literally traveled the globe fighting for every promotion that would give him a chance.
He got off to a rough start in the UFC, losing two of his first three fights, but he's since rebounded strongly, winning three in a row. He was expected to be a stepping stone for British top welterweight prospect John Hathaway but he completely outworked the young grappler, dominating the UK fighter positionally to take a unanimous decision last October.
After winning a very close decision against Ricardo Almeida and forcing the BJJ black belt's retirement, Pyle is being given another opportunity against one of the promotion's top prospects in MacDonald.
How he gets it done: Mike Pyle is one of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructors at Xtreme Couture. Needless to say, he needs to take this fight to the ground. He did an incredible job of out-wrestling the wrestler when he fought John Hathaway, but Rory MacDonald is more than just a wrestler, he's very well-rounded in all aspects.
Pyle will need to disguise his takedown attempts with lead punches, clinch attempts, anything to add the element of surprise to his attack. Pyle is not a great striker, but he's very good at pounding on an opponent once he has them on the ground.
He also has a sneaky-good submission arsenal. With his 12+ years training in the sport, he's added several tricks up his sleeve that he will hopefully be able to utilize against MacDonald, who most certainly hasn't seen everything the MMA game has to offer in his brief career.
When standing, Pyle will likely need to sit back, ready to pounce and counter a MacDonald blow with a takedown. Getting "The Waterboy" on his back will be a top priority.
Fight "X-Factor:" The key factor in this fight will be Mike Pyle's ability to get the fight to the ground. He's extremely dangerous positionally, with striking on the ground and with submissions once there, but if MacDonald stuffs all of his attempts, he'll be a sitting duck in the stand-up.
Bottom Line: This fight is bristling with possibilities as the young pup takes on the old dog in a battle to be alpha male. MacDonald is one of the most hyped prospects in the UFC while Pyle has now won three straight and is becoming dangerously close to being in the proverbial "mix." The only way this fight isn't entertaining is if Pyle can't score a takedown and decided to clinch for three straight rounds, but MacDonald is smooth enough to either slam out of danger or simply reverse position and back away. This is anybody's game if the fight goes to the canvas.
Who will be victorious at UFC 133? Let us know in the comments below!