Rory MacDonald gave B.J. Penn a rude welcoming last weekend (Dec. 8, 2012) at UFC on FOX 5, dismantling the former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight and welterweight champion in what was "The Prodigy's" 170-pound return to the Octagon after a 14-month layoff.
"Ares" dominated the fight from the jump, battering the future UFC Hall-of-Famer for 15 minutes en route to a unanimous decision victory. In the lead up to the much-anticipated 170-pound showdown, Rory and B.J. engaged in a war of words that eventually turned a relatively fan favorite, MacDonald, into a heel of sorts.
After all, Penn is one of the most beloved mixed martial arts (fighters) in history, so when he's attacked, his loyal fan base quickly comes to his defense. It was evident during the weigh-in proceedings as Rory was serenaded with boos from the thousands of fans in attendance at Seattle's KeyArena.
During the bout, MacDonald was met with another flock of boo birds as he did his best version of the ‘Ali Shuffle' on more than one occasion. Once at the two minute mark of round number three and then again in the final 10 seconds of the bout. On top of that, Rory dropped his hands, almost baiting Penn to throw a strike.
Many 'perceived' the actions from the young Canadian to be adding insult to injury, as they felt he was showboating and celebrating early for defeating one of the all-time greats.
According to McDonald's head trainer, Firas Zahabi, who recently spoke to Sherdog, it wasn't showboating on the part of his young fighter, it was all part of the game plan.
"I can't believe people perceived it that way. It makes no sense to me because the shuffle is a technique. It's a way to draw your opponent's attention. Rory did the technique three or four times, and he followed it up with a superman punch. It's exactly what we drilled. He was trained to do that. He was not just doing it to showboat. He was doing it to execute a strike."
Interesting technique to say the least.
In fairness, Rory did follow up each shuffle with a strike that found its mark (see the highlights here).
Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz and UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva have been known for doing the same, yet, probably don't receive near as much flack, if any, for their in-fight antics.
Anyone buying Zahabi's claim that Rory's shuffling around in the Octagon was all part of a game plan? Or was it indeed showboating?
We'll have a chance to see if Team Tri-Star employs the same tactics against "The Natural Born Biller," Carlos Condit, when the two rematch at UFC 158 on March 16, 2013 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.