Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight contenders Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald squared off in a pivotal showdown in the co-main of UFC on Fox 9 last night (Sat., Dec., 14, 2013) from Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California.
No. 2-ranked Faber was on a three-fight win streak since losing his fifth straight title bid to interim UFC Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao at UFC 149. Like all of his Team Alpha Male brethren, "California Kid's" striking had risen to a new level under the tutelage of head coach Duane Ludwig.
He looked to prove he could hang with the explosive knockout power of McDonald.
"Mayday" was last seen pulling off a slick submission win over the always-tough Brad "One Punch" Pickett at UFC Fight Night 26. Like Faber, he failed in his title bid against Barao, submitting to an arm triangle in the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 7 last March.
McDonald was eager to prove that he deserved to fight the winner of UFC 169's Dominick Cruz vs. Barao title unification bout. Unfortunately, that just didn't transpire as Faber continued his trend of destroying every opponent he faces outside of a title bout.
Let's take a look back at how "California Kid" delivered a rousing show for his hometown fans last night.
The fight started with Faber getting an early takedown. The crowd roared in support of Faber as he attempted to pick McDonald up and slam him. McDonald looked for a triangle but Faber rained down with punches. Faber appeared the much stronger fighter.
Referee Herb Dean stood the fighters up and Faber threw a big shot. McDonald missed a takedown and ate a body shot. McDonald threw a knee that Faber caught, following it with a solid right hand. "California Kid" tagged "Mayday" with a left hook to close the round.
Faber stalked McDonald to start the second. The fighters traded shots in the center of the Octagon. McDonald absorbed a low blow and took a short recovery time. Faber threw and landed a massive right hand to McDonald's chin, stunning him. Faber pushed forward but McDonald recovered to throw a hard leg kick. Faber was fresh with bounce in his step as he cut off McDonald's angles.
He hit "Mayday" with a big right hand that sent him reeling, following it up with a flurry that lead into a tight guillotine choke. McDonald had no choice but to tap towards the end of the second round.
It was a dominant performance for Faber, who moved to an incredible 19-0 in fights without a belt on the line. He was never even close to in trouble in Sacramento, and his striking delivered on all the massive hype behind it. His conditioning and energy level were top-notch as usual and now his standup has caught up to his wrestling and grappling skills.
That's a scary proposition for Barao and Cruz. They both hold a decision win over "California Kid," but at 35 years old, Faber looks to be in the best fighting shape of his storied career.
There's really no other option for him but to await the winner of Cruz vs. Barao. A fight with either of them has the potential to be a closely matched affair. Faber just has to put his streak of dropping title fights to bed. It won't be easy against either one of his former foes, but he has looked unstoppable as of late. If he does indeed fight for the belt his next time out, it will likely be the most defining bout Faber will ever participate in.
Win and he'll add a huge piece to his already considerable legacy. Lose and he'll see that legacy tarnished by the unfortunate distinction of delivering in all but the biggest of fights.
Faber should by no means be branded as such so he'll have to put on the performance of his life.
For McDonald it's a disappointing loss, but he has a long time to fight the best 135-pound fighters in the world. Perhaps UFC threw him to the wolves against Barao and Faber a bit too soon. He looked considerably smaller than "California Kid" last night and never had him in any trouble. Despite his exciting knockout power and solid ground game, it's clear that "Mayday" needs to spend some time fighting lower-tier top ten Bantamweights rather than the true elite.
There's no reason to ruin the kid's confidence by constantly getting destroyed by the top-ranked guys.
McDonald's day will come. If it's a couple years off, that's okay. He has all the potential in the world and a ton of fights under his belt for a competitor of his age. Maybe the hype got to him.
At the end of the day he should ultimately benefit from the experience of fighting a true legend in Faber.
Urijah Faber continued his impressive run by finishing Michael McDonald with his trademark guillotine choke. Is it time for "California Kid" to get yet another shot at championship gold?"