One of the UFC's most prominent welterweight prospects is looking to be tested this Saturday night (April 21, 2012) as 22 year old phenom Rory MacDonald takes on England's Che Mills on the UFC 145 main card in Atlanta, Georgia.
Rory "Ares" MacDonald has long been hailed as one of the next big things in the welterweight division. After nearly defeating Carlos Condit but coming up just short, he's bounced back by dominating both his 2011 foes. MacDonald is looking to continue his climb up the division's ladder against Che Mills.
Mills made a terrific first impression at UFC 138, crushing Chris Cope with a hellacious knee to the face and some ground and pound to earn a big post-fight bonus. He asked for a step up in competition and he got it against MacDonald.
Will "Ares" bring the war to Mills this weekend? Had Mills bitten off more than he can chew by asking for MacDonald? What's the key to victory for both men on Saturday night?Rory MacDonald
Record: 12-1 overall, 3-1 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. "Ares" 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.
In his last fight, MacDonald crushed Mike Pyle with a first round knockout via ground and pound and after a couple delays, he's good to go against Mills.
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 neutralize what Mills does best and then capitalize on Mills' weaknesses.
MacDonald has some pretty nice striking skills, but there's no point standing in the pocket and trading with the Brit when he's got such a huge advantage on the ground. I fully expect the Canadian to close the distance either with a shot or by simply clinching and then taking Mills for a ride.
If and when he puts Mills on the ground, MacDonald can either attack with submissions or with ground and pound, likely a mixture of both. Expect to see him try to knock Mills out on the ground and if that doesn't work quickly enough or if Mills gives him an opening, he'll be looking for a choke.
Record: 14-4 (1 no contest) overall, 1-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: Jake Hecht (CWFC 38), Chris Cope (UFC 138), Marius Zamoskis 2x (Cage Rage 26, Cage Rage Contenders 2)
Key Losses: Jim Wallhead (KUMMA 3)
How he got here: Che Mills got off to a rough start in his mixed martial arts career, losing two of his first three bouts, but then something clicked for British striker and he went on a terrific nine fight unbeaten streak which included two victories over former Dream welterweight champion Marius Zaromskis.
Mills again ran into trouble against Jim Wallhead and Japanese grappler Yuyu Sharai, but got right back on track with four straight wins which included a decision against current UFC 170-pounder Jake Hecht.
The victories earned him a shot on the UFC 138 preliminary card against The Ultimate Fighter season 13 alumni Chris Cope and Mills made the most of it, destroying Cope with a beautiful knee to the face followed by some ground and pound to earn a 40 second finish and a $70,000 bonus for "Knockout of the Night."
He asked for a huge step up in competition and he got it when UFC needed an opponent for Rory MacDonald
How he gets it done: Mills has some strong kickboxing skills and he absolutely needs to keep this fight standing. He's explosive with punches, kicks and knees. He has to utilize good footwork and try to crack MacDonald with his punches from a distance.
If MacDonald tries to overaggressively come inside for a takedown, Mills needs to instinctively land a big knee. His knees could be the great equalizer, although he's a huge dog in this fight for a reason. MacDonald is going to try to take him down and if he does, the fight is going to be over.
Mills needs to avoid the ground at all costs.
Fight X-Factor: The X-Factor for this fight is the huge disparity in pre-fight rankings. MacDonald, while a tremendous heavy favorite (with fair reason) can't let it get to his head how badly he's supposed to win. If he comes in arrogant or too confident like Melvin Guillard, he could very well get caught and knocked out. "Ares" needs to treat Mills like he's just a tough of an opponent as anyone else he's faced. If he doesn't, an upset could be brewing.
Bottom Line: I don't know how exciting this fight is going to be. Mills should be able to hang with MacDonald in the stand-up, but if MacDonald closes the distance, I have a bad feeling that it will get finished with either strikes or submissions on the ground for MacDonald. This is a very one-sided match-up and to me, it seems like MacDonald is getting showcased here in an attempt to gain attention from all the extra people who are tuning in to see the grudge match between Jones and Evans. There's a strong possibility that it pays off with a highlight reel finish or at least a dominant showing for "Ares."
Who will come out on top at UFC 145? Tell us your prediction in the comments below!