Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweights Rory MacDonald and Tarec Saffiedine had a technical striking battle last night (Sat., Oct. 4, 2014) at UFC Fight Night 54 inside the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
MacDonald has long been known as the next big thing. Although unexpected losses to Carlos Condit and Robbie Lawler served as road bumps, "Ares" has largely looked the part of a future champion. With a victory over Saffiedine, MacDonald would likely secure his spot as the next title challenger.
Though he has not been active, Saffiedine had been effective in his recent performances. Known as a technical kickboxer with wicked leg kicks, "Sponge" posed a fairly unique challenge to the Canadian wunderkind.
A challenge that MacDonald crumpled with a beautiful left uppercut.
For much of the first round, the two men measured each other out. MacDonald's superior reach allowed him to land some jabs and right overhands, but Saffiedine kept the bout close with a few of his brutal low kicks.
At one point, MacDonald managed to take Saffiedine down briefly. Though "Sponge" was quick to return to his feet, he absorbed some shots and was forced to be careful with his low kicks.
The second round was much of the same, as Saffiedine switched stances often and looked for opportunities to land low kicks. MacDonald continued to rely on the jab and overhand, though he successfully mixed in some leg kicks of his own.
The first two rounds were close, measured affairs that likely went to MacDonald. Knowing this, Saffiedine entered the third with a renewed sense of aggression. He began feinting more actively and attacked with a series of low kicks. About a minute into the round, it seemed that Saffiedine had finally found his range and was ready to let loose.
"Ares," however, was ready for that. He pressured the Belgian fighter toward the fence. With his back to the cage, Saffiedine was forced to exchange. From there, MacDonald's power advantage materialized, as a Canadian uppercut finished off a ducking interloper.
Saffiedine fought fairly well, but he does have some things to work on. His takedown defense held up strong, but he failed to open up until deep into the fight. Leg kicks are money in the bank, but their effect isn't immediate. If Saffiedine wanted to wear the Canadian down, he needed to begin landing them earlier.
In addition, Saffiedine failed to stay defensively sound when he did finally open up. Not long after he really stepped up his kicking game, Saffiedine found his back against the fence. That's a bad position to be in against MacDonald, who excels at punishing opponents stranded along the cage.
Finally, I was not a fan of Saffiedine's constant stance switching. It really did not benefit him, as he failed to accomplish much of anything out of the southpaw stance. Against an opponent as calm as MacDonald, Saffiedine should have known something so simple was unlikely to fluster his foe.
For his rebound fight, Saffiedine deserves another ranked fighter. A scrap with the veteran Mike Pyle would be entertaining, and winnable for both men.
This was a pretty brilliant performance by MacDonald. Though he failed to impose his wrestling game, it turned out not to be necessary. Instead, he took out an excellent kickboxer at his own game and showcased his ability to make adjustments.
MacDonald also proved -- for the umpteenth time -- that it's very difficult to fight him at the end of his range. He stymies his opponent's offense expertly; most fighters would have absorbed far more leg kicks from Saffiedine than MacDonald.
"Ares" has earned a title shot. There's little doubt he'll face either Johny Hendricks or Robbie Lawler, as both are marketable match ups. Plus, the UFC would love to have a new Canadian kingpin.
At UFC Fight Night 54, Rory MacDonald took another step toward the strap by knocking out Tarec Saffiedine. Can MacDonald bring the belt back to Canada?
For complete UFC Fight Night 54 "Saffiedine vs MacDonald" results, click HERE.