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The bantamweight division is packed with excellent competition for McDonald. From where we sit now, McDonald’s presence and movement in the division is absolutely welcome.
McDonald is not ready to face Dominick Cruz or Urijah Faber. At this point, he probably shouldn’t even fight Renan Barao, whose potential will be better suited against the top fighters in any upcoming match after his UFC 148 match with Ivan Menjivar.
But McDonald should absolutely be thrown in the mix with the top bantamweights, and soon.
A fight against Scott Jorgenson, Brad Pickett or the loser of Barao versus Menjivar would be a good match for McDonald. He’s got a good chance to win any of them, and each will help us learn a little more about McDonald’s full potential while helping the fighter develop any weaknesses. I’d even go a bit further and say that McDonald could fight Brian Bowles. Though it's a dangerous one, a victory there would catapult his career.
Given his exciting performance last night, the UFC could also choose to simply place him in an exciting fight next (much like Rory MacDonald versus Che Mills) to showcase his talent and build the hype. The good thing for McDonald is that there are few options that would diminish our attention to his promise.
The bantamweight fighters ranked above him will all prepare him for a fight against Dominick Cruz, given Cruz’s cleaning of the division. Moreover, fighters like Bowles, Faber and Barao will test McDonald’s complete style, as all are adept at striking, submission and changing up when the fight calls for it.
I’d argue that these fights will only help McDonald mature smartly. At his age and with his skill, a loss won’t greatly impact his eventual shot at a title. While the young fighter is hungry for that shot at the title, time spent climbing his way up this particular ladder will be time well spent.