It seemed a can't-miss bout on paper, with the No. 3- and No. 4-ranked Welterweight fighters in the world squaring off, both having registered blowout performances in recent bouts, in the high-profile co-main event of UFC on Fox 8, which took place last night (Sat., July 27, 2013) at KeyArena in Seattle, Washington.
if the ho-hum decision win that Rory MacDonald turned in over an equally reluctant Jake Ellenberger provided anything, it's that even high expectations can be grossly underserved even when neither guy has a reputation for anything but exciting fights.
In short, MacDonald found an advantage early, in his powerful, snaking jab, landing it enough to keep Ellenberger unable to close the gap to strike or open up viable takedown attempts. Shower, rinse, repeat. That was pretty much the entire fight until the final minute, where Ellenberger scored a takedown and proceeded to get tied up in MacDonald's tricky guard, but doing very little.
In a weird way, the winner's lack of an impressive statement sort of extends MacDonald's parallel existence alongside good buddy and training mate Georges St. Pierre, who as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 170-pound kingpin defends his title Nov. 16, 2013, against top contender Johny Hendricks. Instead of landing a title shot, as was a stated possibility before the bout by UFC President Dana White, MacDonald continues moving alongside St. Pierre, but making little direct progress toward fighting him.
Maybe this will all go away at UFC 167 if Hendricks pulls a Chris Weidman and reshuffles the landscape of the division. But, maybe not. And it's certainly going to only get weirder if MacDonald keeps winning the way he did Saturday night, which is not likely.
We can only hope.
Two years ago, when I interviewed MacDonald and trainer Firas Zahabi leading up to his one-round destruction of Mike Pyle, both opined that they really didn't want to fight St. Pierre. That was made crystal-clear. However, with MacDonald's impressive wins since then over Che Mills and B.J. Penn had teed up him for Ellenberger with huge stakes on the line.
I've always believed you can tell a lot about the UFC's intention for what it wants to happen by how it matches fighters. MacDonald's an amazing talent and it's a bit reactionary to judge him entirely off of one fight. But at some point, he's going to have to fight like he wants the title shot against a top contender.
Until he does that, he's just another guy amidst a talented heap of contenders.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst