Can Rory MacDonald Really Hang with the Elite Strikers of His Division?

Sean LevinsonContributor IIDecember 9, 2012


The three men this question is referring to are Carlos Condit, Johny Hendricks, and Nick Diaz.

Last night, Rory MacDonald put on the best performance of his young career on UFC on FOX 5. He lit up B.J. Penn with numerous jabs, body shots, and that unforgettable low-to-high sidekick that caught everyone watching off-guard. MacDonald felt so confident from his win that he went so far as to call out expert kickboxer Carlos Condit to avenge his controversial loss to the “natural born killer”—the only blemish on MacDonald’s record to date.

Regardless of his request, there is a good chance that MacDonald will have to face Condit, Hendricks or Diaz in the not-so-distant future. While it’s obvious that his striking skills did a great deal of damage to a washed-up B.J. Penn, could those same skills really stand a chance against his rivals?

MacDonald’s blows against Penn were fairly accurate and undeniably powerful, but the only times in which he truly shined were when he was stalking Penn up against the cage. He didn’t really get in the former champion’s face with many unique combinations, cut him off with angles and advanced circling techniques, or even loosen up to prepare a flurry that could have potentially put “the Prodigy” away.

Yet, it’s safe to say that MacDonald didn’t really have to make much of a strenuous effort to win, considering the absence of a defense from Penn.

This is why it could be argued that the real stand-up story of the match wasn’t how impressive MacDonald looked—it was the unbelievably sorry excuse for boxing displayed by B.J. Penn.

We all saw what Nick Diaz did to Penn in their fight, and if Penn stood there like a punching bag against Hendricks or Condit, he would either be knocked out or similarly beaten into a bloody pulp.

The same goes for MacDonald’s preferred stand up strategy as well. If he were to simply stand in front of either of these three fighters like he did before unloading on Penn, he’d have a lot less opportunities to capitalize on a lack of movement or responding strikes from his opponent. MacDonald wouldn’t have a target standing in front of him with not much to offer in return. In fact, he’d probably become the punching bag instead.

MacDonald most definitely exuded an understanding of MMA striking against Penn, but his win was not dominant enough to pose a threat on the feet to Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, or even Johny Hendricks. There is still reason to believe MacDonald would be at a disadvantage in the event of an exchange with any of these competitors.

Although he did just win a fight primarily due to strikes, Rory MacDonald’s greatest strength lies within his wrestling. This provided the foundation for him to do significant damage on the ground when he faced Nate Diaz, Che Mills, and Carlos Condit. MacDonald probably didn’t impose this strategy on Penn because of the fear of a possible submission or reversal from the decorated Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.

Or maybe he was just bent on humiliating Penn on the feet.  

Whatever his motivation was, MacDonald only wrestled with Penn for a few moments. If he truly wants to challenge Hendricks, Diaz or Condit, he’d better get back to his base and not overestimate his striking skills.

That’s not to say he’d have an easy time grappling with any of these guys, but it’d be a hell of a lot easier than standing with them.

Yes, MacDonald picked up a huge win over Penn and he earned it definitively. However, his striking abilities did not showcase the level of efficiency of the hands of Nick Diaz, Condit, or Hendricks. Rory MacDonald cannot and should not be counted out in a fight with a top contender. A pure boxing/kickboxing match with Diaz, Condit or Hendricks, however, would not be a good situation for the Canadian to find himself in.