UFC 174 preview: Rory MacDonald needs to finish Tyron Woodley for a welterweight title shot -- and vice versa

UFC

Otherwise, that spot could end up going to the winner of Robbie Lawler vs. Matt Brown next month in San Jose.

Do you wanna be a f---ing title contender?

Rory MacDonald will battle Tyron Woodley in the co-main event of UFC 174: "Johnson vs. Bagautinov," which takes place this Sat. night (June 14, 2014) inside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

See a full video preview here.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) fans -- and media -- were under the impression that the winner of MacDonald vs. Woodley would be the first one in line when reigning 170-pound champion, Johny Hendricks, returns from bicep surgery.

That is, until Robbie Lawler had to go and remind everyone why he's still the second baddest welterweight in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

"Ruthless" was perhaps one takedown away from capturing the division crown at UFC 171 last March, and could have probably gotten an immediate rematch without much resistance. Instead, he signed on to fight dangerous power puncher Jake Ellenberger.

Then left "The Juggernaut" for dead at UFC 173 last month in "Sin City."

His reward was a UFC on FOX 12 showdown against "Immortal" super slugger Matt Brown, who also wants to cut the 170-pound line and get his hands on "Bigg Rigg." So how do we determine which of the aforementioned contenders gets first dibs?

We can't

Well, at least not yet. We must first see how they perform because A) the field is wide open and B) they are too closely matched, based on their last five performances.

Take a look:

Rory MacDonald (4-1)
What helps him: He's chummy with Georges St. Pierre (think Hendricks at UFC 167) and sells lots of tickets in Canada.
What hurts him: He already lost to Lawler and has just one finish during that 4-1 span.

Tyron Woodley (3-2)
What helps him: Stopped two former number one contenders in back-to-back fights.
What hurts him: Has two losses (one by KO) during that 3-2 span, more than any of the other contenders.

Robbie Lawler (4-1)
What helps him: Four finishes in five wins and damn-near toppled Hendricks.
What hurts him: Nothing outside of a loss to Brown.

Matt Brown (5-0)
What helps him: Five straight finishes, loves to WAR.
What hurts him: Still hasn't beaten a top 10 welterweight.

It's close.

I think the title shot will come down to who has the more impressive performance, but again, the finish is key. Especially for Woodley, who may have a tougher hill to climb. Dumping and humping MacDonald may get him the "W," but riding off into the scorecards would be a tough sell if Lawler kicks Brown's head into the fourth row.

And "Ruthless" can probably trump MacDonald if both prevail, simply because of his previous win at UFC 167. Then again, the former Strikeforce middleweight could really use a break, according to this guy, so it's not crazy to think he would ride the pine until "Ares" and Hendricks settled their differences.

It all depends on who is "The Chosen One."

The good news is, Woodley recognizes his dilemma and has every intention of making his UFC 174 co-main event a memorable one. In addition, using one winner and not the other still leaves the promotion with a second title contender for 2015, since it's unlikely we'll see Georges St. Pierre back anytime soon.

Agree? Disagree? Don't care either way?

Let's hear your pick for a "perfect world" at welterweight as the action unfolds over the next month and a half. In the meantime, get a closer look at MacDonald vs. Woodley at UFC 174 right here.

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