Questions regarding a potential title fight with Tristar teammate and UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre have gotten awfully stale for budding star Rory MacDonald.
Granted, his confidence has developed significantly since suffering his only loss, which came in the waning seconds of a bout against former title challenger Carlos Condit in June 2010, MacDonald remains adamant that a scrap with St. Pierre will never happen, a sentiment he made clear in this post-fight press conference for the UFC on Fox 5 on Saturday:
"I don't feel that I need to fight Georges. I don't think it's going to happen—it won't happen. Me and him are friends. He's done a lot for me and I'm very grateful for him (and) I'm not going to stab him in the back. And I don't want to wreck my opportunity training at Tristar. They've done a lot of things for me, so, I don't know. We'll see—we'll see what happens. There's lots of fights for me right now."
Just as MacDonald insists that a fight with St. Pierre won’t ever come to fruition, the 23-year-old Canadian remains determined to dominate any other heavy hitter in the division. After brutal wins over Nate Diaz, Mike Pyle, Che Mills and B.J. Penn in his last four outings, MacDonald must now search for larger and more formidable prey to hunt.
To continue his meteoric rise, here’s a look at five possible opponents for MacDonald’s next fight.
Although he’s expressed a burning desire to lock horns with St. Pierre, Hendricks may have to momentarily put his title aspirations on the shelf because of a probable title tilt between villain Nick Diaz and St. Pierre.
With St. Pierre temporarily out of the picture, and his first-round knockout of perennial contender Martin Kampmann less than a month in the rear-view, Hendricks’ list of worthy peers has quickly shriveled.
With that said, Hendricks could either stay out of the octagon and wait for St. Pierre, since he’s certainly earned his crack at a title, or he can test his valor against a dangerous, rising star like MacDonald. Either way, his next fight will certainly prove his most perplexing.
If MacDonald becomes his next challenger, the 5’9” Hendricks will have to withstand a three-inch height disadvantage and a seven-and-a-half inch reach disadvantage. And even with extraordinary knockout ability and an equally strong wrestling prowess, Hendricks may trail MacDonald in every other technical category.
If Diaz can’t convince the UFC brass that he’s the next man to challenge St. Pierre, then the 29-year-old former Strikeforce champion may want to seek revenge on MacDonald, the man who roughed up his younger brother Nate at UFC 129 in April 2011.
Before his loss to Condit at UFC 143 in February, Diaz reeled off 11 straight win from May 2008 to October 2011. In that span, Diaz finished Paul Daley, Evangelista Santos, Hayato Sakurai, Marius Zaromskis, Scott Smith, Frank Shamrock, Thomas Denny, Muhsin Corbbrey and Katsuya Inoue.
In fact, the only two fighters Diaz didn’t finish in the midst of that streak are Penn and K.J. Noons, two fighters he brutalized en route to unanimous decisions.
Unlike Hendricks and Ellenberger, Diaz would match MacDonald in height and he’d hold a 1/2-inch reach advantage over the Firas Zahabi disciple. Diaz would also offer comparable Muay Thai chops and an arguably a better ground game than MacDonald.
Pitting these two alpha males would surely produce fireworks. This has Fight of the Night, maybe even Fight of the Year, written all over it.
Regarded as one of the best in the division since challenging St. Pierre in August 2008, Fitch recently tested his worth when he fought off a nasty rear-naked choke attempt from surging prospect Erick Silva and then coasted to a unanimous decision win at UFC 153 in October.
With the win, Fitch catapulted himself back into the ranks of the division’s elite, a not-so-friendly confine where MacDonald also currently dwells.
A former captain on the Purdue University wrestling team, Fitch possesses a sophisticated aptitude for grappling and a motor that never quits. Fitch has also proven a more than serviceable Muay Thai practitioner, even though he suffered a flash knockout at the hands of Hendricks last December.
MacDonald has faced little resistance in grounding his opponents thus far in the UFC, a fact that either Fitch or Hendricks has the best chance of altering.
In the same vein, MacDonald has managed to stay off his back in the UFC, with the exception of a chunk of time in the third round against Condit, so it would be intriguing to see Fitch implement a successful ground-and-pound attack.
A rematch with “The Natural Born Killer” seems almost imminent after listening to these confident words from MacDonald in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan at UFC on Fox 5 on Saturday:
“There’s a guy that humiliated me a couple years ago and I want my revenge. Carlos Condit—I want a rematch. Accept my challenge. Let’s do it in March. I’m going to get my revenge.”
Less than three years have passed since Condit survived two furious rounds from MacDonald before dishing out a memorable beating in the third round that culminated with a referee’s stoppage with just seven seconds left in the fight.
Condit taught MacDonald a valuable, and quite frankly, necessary lesson that night in June 2010. Unfortunately for Condit, MacDonald has used the lessons he learned from being embarrassed to become an even colder and more calculated weapon.
If the rematch ever happens, for Condit’s sake, he better alter his game plan drastically so he can become more conducive to MacDonald’s unconventional style. MacDonald won’t gas out this time, and that’s only if Condit survives the first two rounds.
Ellenberger bounced back from his first defeat since 2009 by handling Jay Hieron at UFC on FX: Browne vs. Bigfoot in October. Before that, Ellenberger had prevailed in six of his previous seven bouts, including wins over Diego Sanchez, Jake Shields and Pyle.
Ellenberger didn’t see his six-fight winning streak come to a halt until he absorbed too many knees from Kampmann at the Ultimate Fighter Live Finale in June.
With just two losses under the UFC banner (the other coming to Condit in his promotional debut), Ellenberger has proven that he poses a threat to any fighter in the division, including MacDonald.
But stylistically, Ellenberger could struggle with the more dynamic and rangy MacDonald. Not only does MacDonald possess a reach and height advantage, he also has shown more well-rounded Muay Thai skills, a better chin, and equally stellar wrestling and submission tools.
In order for Ellenberger to get his hand raised against MacDonald, he’d undoubtedly need to dig deep into his wrestling repertoire and use some funky techniques to put the slippery MacDonald on his back, where he can get busy with elbows and fists.