UFC on Fox 9: Urijah Faber vs. Michael McDonald Head-to-Toe Breakdown

James MacDonald@@JimMacDonaldMMAFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2013

UFC on Fox 9: Urijah Faber vs. Michael McDonald Head-to-Toe Breakdown

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    UFC on Fox 9 is brimming over with must-see matchups, but Urijah Faber vs. Michael McDonald might just be the pick of the bunch. Certainly, the heartbreaking cancellation of Carlos Condit vs. Matt Brown doesn’t hurt its claim.

    Despite the Northern California pair playing down the geographical rivalry, there is bound to be a healthy amount of pride at stake, particularly with the event taking place at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif.

    More intriguing still, the 12-year age difference between the two should provide plenty of fodder for the youth vs. experience debate.

    Without further delay, let’s take a closer look at how UFC on Fox‘s co-main event breaks down.


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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    It would be uncontroversial to say that, for the majority of his career, Urijah Faber’s striking could best be described as “functional.” Then again, “The California Kid’s” game has never been about excelling in any one area.

    Like Georges St-Pierre, Faber’s effectiveness revolves around his ability to blend together all elements of the sport, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

    That being said, the 34-year-old probably won’t want the fight to turn into a kickboxing contest.

    McDonald is one of the most potent strikers in the bantamweight division—and arguably the sport in general. The 22-year-old boasts stupid power, which he imparts effortlessly almost every time he lands.

    This is a close fight in almost every area, but a clear gap exists in this category.


    Edge: McDonald


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    As Mike Goldberg often delights in reminding us, Michael McDonald is the new breed of fighter. From the moment he stepped in the gym, he trained in every element of the sport.

    But despite being extremely well-rounded, McDonald is generally content to keep the fight on the feet, using his wrestling defensively in the style of Chuck Liddell.

    Urijah Faber, on the other hand, is adept both offensively and defensively with his wrestling. His ability to dictate the terms of the fight has been central to his success since he entered the sport.

    Whether Faber can consistently take McDonald to the mat remains to be seen, but the wrestling edge certainly goes to the veteran.


    Edge: Faber

Ground Game

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Both Faber and McDonald possess outstanding skills on the ground, but they excel in different areas.

    Due to the nature of his style, McDonald’s top game doesn’t receive a great deal of exposure. However, he has demonstrated the effectiveness of his guard on more than one occasion, particularly in his most recent fight against Brad Pickett.

    In contrast, Faber is all top game. Rarely is the former WEC featherweight champ forced to work from his back. His smothering top game is complemented by his near-peerless scrambling, which allows him to maintain a dominant position under even the most chaotic of circumstances.

    Also of note is Faber’s terrific back mount. If the gents at Team Alpha Male specialise in one area, it would have to be chokes. Whether it’s a guillotine or a rear-naked choke, Faber and his crew have developed a python-esque squeeze that could close off even the deepest of veins.


    Edge: Faber


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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    It’s standard practice to include this category in head-to-toe breakdowns, but it seems redundant in this case. At 34 and with a decade of experience under his belt, it should go without saying that Faber has the edge in this area.

    Still, don’t let McDonald’s age fool you. He has been competing since the age of 16, entering the sport just four years after Faber made his debut in 2003.

    But in terms of experience against the sport’s elite, he remains light-years behind the California Kid.


    Edge: Faber


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    This is a tough category to call, with both fighters being creative in their own ways.

    Faber’s ability to push a relentless pace and overwhelm his opponents with his diverse offense is a quality that few fighters possess.

    However, McDonald has the capacity to end the fight in the blink of an eye. His prohibitive power is arguably the biggest X-factor in this contest.


    Edge: McDonald


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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Quite honestly, I might as well toss a coin to predict this one. It’s one thing to break the fight down into its constituent parts, but evaluating the contest as a whole is a much more challenging exercise.

    While I lean toward Faber, due to his experience and ability to mix up his game, McDonald’s fight-changing power gives me pause.

    That being said, I anticipate the California Kid being able to impose his will on the younger fighter, avoiding the right hand and grinding out a decision.

    I wouldn’t be surprised by any outcome, though.


    Prediction: Urijah Faber by Unanimous Decision