Top UFC welterweight Rory MacDonald put on a gutsy performance against Robbie Lawler last Saturday night (July 11, 2015) at UFC 189 in Las Vegas, Nevada, in what was one of the most entertaining and violent fights of 2015.
Ultimately, "Red King" suffered a fifth round technical knockout loss to "Ruthless" after taking one too many hits to his already broken nose. Aside from his busted beak, Rory went home with several cuts and bruises, as well as a broken right foot.
And while coming back from such a brutal and demoralizing defeat isn't the easiest thing to do, Rory's head coach, Firas Zahabi, is confident that his star pupil will return to the Octagon stronger than ever after his first-ever five-round UFC title fight.
From his conversation with The MMA Hour:
"It was hard to watch because we are so close-yet so far type thing, and he worked really hard for this. But, this is a hard life and you can't focus on setbacks and you have to focus on what to do next. I think it was a good lesson, I think he's going to become stronger from this. If you look at Robbie Lawler, he lost his first fight with Hendricks arguably in round five and he learned from it and won his next fight. He learned from that fight and moved forward. I think Rory is going to do the same. He is going to learn from this loss. He's never done a five-round fight before, it was his first time in the championship rounds. Lawler has done it before and he's experienced. That experience you can't learn it, you have to experience it. You have to get that chance in the Octagon to do it and I think Rory got that chance and he'll be better for it."
Heading into the final round, MacDonald was up on all three judges' scorecards (see them here). Which meant all the Canadian star had to do was hold on and withstand the pain of a broken nose for five more minutes to become world champion.
Something Firas reminded his student before answering the bell.
"Yes, absolutely. I had the same score as the judges, three to one. I told Rory before going into the final round, 'All you have to do is be the smarter fighter in the world and you will become world champion. You're winning three to one.'"
Unfortunately, the experience that Robbie possesses -- as mentioned by Zahabi -- kicked in once again in the fifth and final round to help him retain his belt. Much like it did in the final round of his rematch against Johny Hendricks, which helped him win the title at UFC 181.
Still, Team MacDonald is happy with Rory's execution of his game plan despite coming up short. After all, as Zahabi reiterated, there isn't much one can do about a broken nose in the middle of a fight. Aside from the bumps and bruises, Firas says Rory told him after the loss he "had a great time."
With plenty of time to heal up from his wounds, the famed trainer say MacDonald is eager to work on his comeback trail.
Who should he fight in his return?