Last night (Sat., Feb. 22, 2014) Top 10-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight standouts Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia went to battle on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card of UFC 170 from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Both fighters were in dire need of a win after losing their previous bouts.
No. 4-ranked MacDonald has long been thought to be the next UFC champion at 170 pounds, yet he had an extremely underwhelming 2013. Winning a lackluster decision over Jake Ellenberger and losing another to Robbie Lawler, "Ares" was in a slump.
He admitted that he had lost his fire for fighting, but was re-motivated for his bout against talented Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard Maia.
No. 6-ranked Maia was also headed for a title run last year, but a close loss to fellow grappling ace Jake Shields at UFC Fight Night 29 halted his rise. A win over MacDonald would have got him right back on that track, but unfortunately it just wasn't meant to be.
Weathering an early storm to come out victorious in a "Fight of the Night"-winning bout, MacDonald proved he's still one of the finest welterweights on the planet. Let's take a look back at "Ares'" return to the win column.
To watch full Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia fight video highlights from UFC 170 click here.
MacDonald came out throwing hard punches. Maia responded by taking the fight to the ground and landing in MacDonald's half guard. "Ares" did a good job of neutralizing Maia's submission offense for a bit, but eventually Maia mounted him. Maia rained down shots to the head and body as MacDonald struggled to get loose. He finally did, but Maia landed some big punches on the feet to close up a dominant first round.
MacDonald threw some hard shots to wobble Maia early in the second. "Ares" sprawled a takedown attempt, but ate some punches. MacDonald's takedown defense was much sharper as he avoided several attempts. MacDonald landed a hard kick to the body that had Maia hurt. More kicks were finding their mark, and a big right landed. MacDonald kept his distance well throughout, peppering Maia with diverse strikes to turn the tables in the second frame.
The final round kicked off with more pinpoint striking from MacDonald. Maia went for several unsuccessful takedowns as MacDonald stayed just one step ahead. Maia finally locked up a big double leg to smother MacDonald from top control. MacDonald almost got back up and Maia tried to bulldoze him, but he couldn't keep the fight on the canvas. MacDonald landed more front kicks and good punches, unleashing a strong flurry to close out a good fight.
MacDonald delivered on the statement that his fire was back by largely preventing an all-world submission artist from getting him to the ground, He scored with a huge amount of effective, accurate power strikes and fought an incredibly smart fight by utilizing his superior reach.
If there's anything he could improve upon, he was a bit stiff in his standup, which allowed Maia to tag him more than necessary. He'll have to shore up that facet of his game in his next fight, because it's going to be against a top-level opponent. MacDonald is likely only one big win away from a potential title shot. A match against the winner of UFC 171's Carlos Condit vs. Tyron Woodley bout would make sense for him.
Maia will have to go back to the drawing board after two straight losses. He's extremely tough, but he just couldn't get this fight to the ground and keep it there against MacDonald. He missed a ton of takedowns, which is a very bad sign in the wrestling-heavy UFC welterweight arena.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion will most likely receive an opponent towards the half of the Top 15, and he'll need to win that fight in impressive fashion. Heavily hyped less than one year ago, Maia is an excellent example of how fast momentum can dissolve in the rapidly evolving MMA landscape.
Rory MacDonald got back on track by defeating a tough test in Demian Maia. With the pressure of having to potentially fight Georges St. Pierre gone, is now "Ares'" time to shine?