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UFC Fight Night 89 fight card: Rory MacDonald vs Stephen Thompson full fight preview

Rory MacDonald and Stephen Thompson will face off TONIGHT (June 18, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 89 inside TD Place Arena in Ottawa, Canada. In a match up of top contenders, what adjustments must be made for either man to claim victory? Find out below!

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Hendricks vs Thompson Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight contenders Rory MacDonald and Stephen Thompson will clash TONIGHT (June 18, 2016) at TD Place Arena in Ottawa, Canada.

Rory MacDonald came within inches of capturing the Welterweight crown but ultimately end up on the wrong side of a fifth round knockout loss. Now, "The Red King" looks to get back into the win column and begin his title hunt anew.

On the other hand, most wrote Thompson off after a loss in his second UFC fight. However, he’s been running through tough opponents since then and proven himself a top fighter.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both athletes:

Rory MacDonald
Record: 18-3
Key Wins: Tyron Woodley (UFC 174), Tarec Saffiedine (UFC Fight Night 54) Demian Maia (UFC 170)
Key Losses: Robbie Lawler (UFC 189, UFC 167), Carlos Condit (UFC 115)
Keys to Victory: MacDonald has evolved from one of the finest prospects in the world to an elite title contender right before our eyes. Currently, he's one of the most refined and technical fighters in the world, skilled in all areas.

In this bout, MacDonald needs to put the pressure on his opponent. Thompson thrives at battering his foe from the outside and countering his attempts to close distance, but MacDonald still needs to accomplish that goal.

Luckily, MacDonald is one of the best at keeping his opponent on the end of his strikes and trapping him along the fence. In fights with Jake Ellenberger and Tyron Woodley, MacDonald masterfully picked his opponent apart with smart, pressure-based game plan.

Thompson is a different animal, but MacDonald's strategy should remain the same.

In addition to pressuring, MacDonald needs to force some grappling exchanges. He's the superior wrestler and submission artist, so getting Thompson to the mat would obviously be a big help.

Even if the takedown fails, defending the shot will tire Thompson and slow down his strikes. In that case, MacDonald will have a far easier time striking with the Karateka and looking for future takedown setups.


Stephen Thompson
Record: 12-1
Key Wins: Johny Hendricks (UFC Fight Night 82), Jake Ellenberger (TUF 21 Finale), Patrick Cote (UFC 178), Robert Whittaker (UFC 178)
Key Losses: Matt Brown (UFC 145)
Keys to Victory: Thompson is an excellent kickboxer with a deep karate background. He's finished seven of his opponents via knockout, including former world champion Johny Hendricks.

In every fight, Thompson looks to maintain his distance, where he attacks with powerful kicks and counter punches. Early on, his wrestling was something of a weakness — most notably in his loss to Matt Brown — but he's obviously put a ton of work into that area of his game and the result has been steady improvement.

Now that Thompson is confident in his defensive wrestling, he's more dangerous than ever.

To defeat MacDonald, Thompson needs to deter his advance immediately. Each time MacDonald moves forward, a hard side kick or counter punch should meet him.

Despite MacDonald's habit of pressuring, he likes to work from the outside more than in the pocket. If Thompson can deter him from closing the distance, he'll fall back to his natural preference of striking at range.

That's "Wonderboy's" wheelhouse.

Bottom Line: This is an exciting fight between two highly talented fighters. Plus, it could be a title eliminator.

MacDonald came incredibly close to winning the strap, and it’s clear that he has the potential to beat anyone in the division. If he’s able to return to the win column here, he’s right back in the immediate title hunt.

On the other hand, a loss would be a considerable setback. MacDonald would still be in the top five, but he would also need a longer win streak to fight for the title again.

Thompson is on an incredible win streak. He’s beaten some very tough fighters and improved a lot along the way, and a victory here would be an incredible addition to that streak. If he can defeat the former title challenger, he’s definitely earned a chance to battle for the strap.

However, there’s also a lot to lose for "Wonderboy." Defeat would break his excellent win streak and force him to start again, which is a difficult task in a talent-rich division like Welterweight.

TONIGHT at UFC Fight Night 89, Rory MacDonald and Stephen Thompson will battle in the main event. Which fighter will have his hand raised?

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