It's not often that two men are so closely pitted for the No. 3 spot in their weight division, but that is exactly what we have between Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight contenders Michael McDonald and Urijah Faber.
Both of these men, while not quite the very best in their weight class, are well-versed in all areas of mixed martial arts (MMA) and are formidable opponents for any fighter in the world. The match up between the pair later this evening (Sat., Dec. 14, 2013) in UFC on Fox 9 co-main event from Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif., is one of the most intriguing fights combat sports fans have had in a long time.
As already stated, both of these men are incredible in every portion of fighting. Faber's smooth, crisp striking and wrestling work together seamlessly, while McDonald mixes a cerebral approach with raw power and finishing ability, making him a dynamic and fearsome fighter.
In all definable phases of MMA, I am inclined to believe McDonald has either equal or better ability than Faber. However, it's that in-between game -- the transitional phases -- where Faber has the most opportunity for success here. He is one of the best fighters in the world at mixing up his game to fluster opposition, and with that, he may best a very daunting opponent in McDonald.
McDonald's approach is going to have to be one of caution. His striking offense may have to suffer at the expense of being on guard for takedown attempts and clinch exchanges, but that doesn't mean he should go into a defensive shell. He'll have to be opportunistic and follow the gameplan that has topped Faber in the past, beating him to the punch, and stopping him from getting you down.
Of course, that's much easier said than done, as in recent years it has only been done by the finest fighters the lighter weight classes have to offer such as Renan Barao, Dominick Cruz,and Jose Aldo. Faber is a fighter who thrives in dogfights, making opponents think he's doing one thing before he does something different entirely, which makes him very difficult to break down.
His timing is other-worldly and his wrestling and boxing are extremely technical and well-aided by his athletic ability.
If and when McDonald is on his back, he'll need to be very careful of Faber's tricky offense. Faber is masterful at taking better position in scrambles, which means that McDonald should probably stick to more orthodox methods in trying submissions or standing back up. This will mean prolonged ground exchanges that will most likely be very technical, but also exciting, seeing one of the best positional grapplers in the world face off with a younger, more explosive fighter who wants to finish the fight.
Standing, this fight could go several ways, seeing as McDonald's immense power for a Bantamweight makes for such a huge game changer. Even with Faber's clean technique, he'll definitely have to be on guard, lest he risk being smashed in the face with McDonald's extremely powerful hooks or uppercuts. Faber will need to cut angles and use his speed to offset the power and length of McDonald, and I anticipate technical, interesting exchanges between the two on the feet.
In the end, this fight will be decided in a battle of two immense skill sets. McDonald is very good at just about every facet of MMA, but Faber is undoubtedly better at using them in unison. This is a fight that I could see both men winning, and one that I believe will be competitive bell to bell.
When Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald fight in the co-main event at UFC on FOX 9 tonight, two of the best 135-pound fighters in the world have championship dreams on the line. That's a recipe for a memorable clash between the two this weekend, one with all the explosive ingredients to deliver the "Fight of the Night."