Two middling UFC middleweights will meet this Tuesday night (May 15, 2012) as "Filthy" Tom Lawlor takes on "The Athlete" Jason MacDonald in the opening bout of the UFC on FUEL TV 3 main card in Fairfax, Virginia.
Lawlor is trying to get back on track after running into the undefeated force that is Chris Weidman last November. He's trying to get back to a winning record in his UFC career thus far and he's hoping he can take out one of the most experienced UFC middleweights in the process.
Jason MacDonald is nearing the tail end of of a 40 fight career which has nearly spanned 13 years. He's also coming off a stoppage loss to a top UFC middleweight contender in Alan Belcher and he's hoping to get back on the winning track and potentially fight for the last time in his home province of Alberta this summer.
Will Lawlor have a great fight to go along with his great entrances and weigh-ins? Can MacDonald potentially go out with a big bang? What's the key to victory for both veteran 185-pounders on Tuesday night?
Let's find out:
Record: 7-4 (1 no contest), 3-3 in the UFC
How he got here: Tom Lawlor started his professional MMA career in 2007 but he didn't truly make his mark until 2008 when he was a cast member of The Ultimate Fighter season eight. He would lose on the show to eventual winner Ryan Bader, but a pair of impressive victories to start out his UFC career over Kyle Kingsbury and especially his 55 second submission of C.B. Dollaway really put him on the map.
He put on an incredibly entertaining fight against Aaron Simpson, but would drop a controversial decision to the former All-American wrestler. He followed that up by dominating Canadian veteran Joe Doerkson early before fading and getting submitted in the second round.
Lawlor played it safe in his next fight, grinding out a decision against former title challenger Patrick Cote. He missed over a year with injury and was rewarded with a fight against top prospect Chris Weidman, where he was choked unconscious in the first round. Now, after another pretty long layoff, he's back and looking to earn a victory against one of the most experienced middleweights on the roster.
How he gets it done: Lawlor needs to put his fists on MacDonald's chin. That's all that matters. Whether he can do it standing, in the clinch or on the ground, his fists will be the difference here. He's likely got to do it early as he's been known to slow down as a fight wears on, so expect to see him really try to blitz MacDonald and overwhelm his defenses in the first round.
The longer the fight goes, the less likely he can score a knockout or TKO so he's got to be aggressive and take some risks in the stand-up. If the fight goes to the ground, expect to see Lawlor try to posture up and land that big right hand of his. MacDonald has faded badly the last few times he's been hit hard so if he can do that without gassing out, he's got a very realistic shot of pulling off the victory.
Record: 25-15 overall, 6-7 in the UFC
How he got here: Jason MacDonald has been fighting professionally for nearly 12 years now. He started his career in Canada going 10-1 before running a gauntlet of incredibly difficult opponents especially considering he was still in the early stages of his career. He would suffer losses to Marvin Eastman, Shonie Carter, Jason Brilz and Patrick Cote during this period but would bounce back with four straight wins to earn an invite to the UFC.
MacDonald made an incredible debut with the promotion submitting The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season three runner up Ed Herman in his first fight via first round triangle and following it up with a second round guillotine choke submission of TUF season one alumni Chris Leben, earning "Submission of the Night" honors for both fights..
A streak of consecutive first round losses to Wilson Gouveia and Nate Quarry left him jobless and he proceeded to lose to Travis Lutter in his first fight outside of the UFC in over three years.
Just when it seemed he was washed up, MacDonald bounced back. A three fight winning streak earned him a chance to step in as a late injury replacement to fight John Salter at UFC 113 but "The Athlete" would break his leg while defending a takedown attempt from Salter in the first round and lose via injury TKO.
Nearly a year later, MacDonald returned to the Octagon healthy once more at UFC 129, the promotion's debut in Ontario. In front of a raucous crowd, "The Athlete" secured a triangle choke on the aggressive wrestler Ryan Jensen and refused to let go despite being slammed to earn the submission victory.
MacDonald then welcomed Alan Belcher back to the Octagon but couldn't handle "The Talent's" prolific punching power, turning away from Belcher's strikes via first round TKO. Now, as his career is in its twilight, he's hoping to keep his job and stay healthy enough for one last fight at UFC 149 in Calgary.
How he gets it done: Jason MacDonald's biggest weakness throughout his career has been his susceptibility to strikes from powerful opponents. That being said, he's still capable of dishing out his own punishment with strikes as long as he's properly positioned.
That means he's got to get on top on the ground.
MacDonald has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and proved himself worthy in his fight with Demian Maia, lasting until past the midway point of the third round before being submitted. He should have an edge on the ground against most of the UFC's middleweight division.
His problem is getting the fight there. He can't afford to just pull guard like in his last fight as he can't take a sustained beating via ground and pound on the canvas. If he's going to get the fight to the ground, it's likely going to be from the clinch as he's not much of an offensive wrestler.
If MacDonald can get on top, he's got a good shot at choking out Lawlor as the "Filthy" one has been susceptible to them in the past.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor in this fight has to be time. Tom Lawlor is very dangerous in the first round but he tends to slow down drastically as the fight goes on. If MacDonald can whether the early storm, and that's a big if, he'll have a very realistic chance of taking advantage of Lawlor's conditioning and either working for a TKO from top position or potentially scoring a fight-ending choke. I doubt "The Athlete" can beat Lawlor when he's fresh, but if he holds out long enough, his odds will improve.
Bottom Line: Tom Lawlor's fights are almost always entertaining and MacDonald have a very "finish or get finished" mentality. I'm expecting a stoppage inside the first two rounds, but there is always the possibility something could go awry. The key factor in whether this fight is going to be exciting is whether Lawlor is really concerned about losing his job. The last time that happened, he put on a pretty dull wrestling clinic against Patrick Cote for three rounds and coasted to a decision. I doubt he does that because MacDonald can be knocked out even if taken down repeatedly, but I'm just leaving it out there. Despite all that, I still think this fight will bring some heat.
Who will come out on top at UFC on Fuel TV 3? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!