With three wins in four Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bouts, Rory MacDonald was a streaking Welterweight contender last year, with impressive wins over Nate Diaz and Mike Pyle. However, the talented Canadian suffered an injury coming into a scheduled Dec. 2011 bout with tough veteran Brian Ebersole, which was the kind of measuring-stick bout that would help solidify whether or not "Ares" was indeed the future of the division.
Mills, who is coming off a blowout stoppage of Chris Cope, is an aggressive type who can make a serious statement with a win here. MacDonald, a 5-1 favorite, will look to get back into the mix of a 170-pound division that's experienced considerable churn and change among its top contenders since he last fought in August.
Staples like Jon Fitch and Jake Shields have suffered shocking knockout losses to fall down a few spots, while emerging contenders like Johny Hendricks and Jake Ellenberger have surged in the hierarchy. And, of course, Carlos Condit reigns as interim champion while Georges St. Pierre recovers from knee surgery.
MacDonald's second bout in the UFC, a gritty last-second technical knockout loss to Condit, was the kind of composed showing you rarely see from a fighter just 20 years old. Now all of 22 years old, MacDonald looks to remain on the winning track against the tough Mills.
Follow me after the jump for a complete breakdown of the UFC 145 fight between Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills:
The UFC is in a curious position with MacDonald, whose buddy and training partner at Montreal's Tri-Star gym is none other than the aforementioned St. Pierre. In an interview I did last year with MacDonald, both he and trainer Firas Zahabi stated they wouldn't fight St. Pierre on account of them being teammates.
However, as MacDonald keeps piling up impressive wins, he may eventually force a confrontation or a tough decision for himself. It's apparent that in terms of pure talent, he's absolutely a top-ten welterweight and maybe top five in terms of upside.
Mills, for his part, has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
What makes MacDonald exciting to watch are many things, but it's his seamless integration of striking and wrestling that really makes him go. He gave Condit fits transitioning into takedowns from tie-ups and catching Carlos' leg kicks, and his ability to flow from one move into the next is really something to watch.
Since Mills isn't a powerful wrestler (he's English, after all) this gives MacDonald a big tactical breather in terms of potential pressure Mills could put on him. Mills will have to win a standing fight, and that's not likely to happen with MacDonald's range and power. Plus, MacDonald is filling out nicely at 170 pounds, packing significant size on to a big frame.
He'll simply be too much on the feet and the mat for this to last long. Look for MacDonald to get the better of the early exchanges, stunning and dropping Mills in the first round and pouncing in for the kill.
MacDonald via knockout
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Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst or firstname.lastname@example.org