Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia were moving up the welterweight rankings in 2013, but then both suffered setbacks.
The matchup at UFC 170 would help put one back on the winning track toward gaining a title shot later this year.
Maia turned in a beautiful first round. He took MacDonald down and controlled the action. MacDonald defended well, survived and came back strong in the second.
Maia looked gassed in Round 2. MacDonald capitalized on this and punished his opponent with a variety of strikes. Maia remained in the fight, but he looked dead in the water as the fight drew longer. MacDonald piled it on in the third en route to a unanimous decision. The performance showed the importance of cardio.
"The animal is back. I'm ready to kick some ass. I'm ready to kill," MacDonald says. Fight of the night so far, IMO.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) February 23, 2014
What We'll Remember About MacDonald vs. Maia
We will remember MacDonald's resilience the most from this fight.
Being underneath Maia is a terrifying position to be in, but MacDonald weathered the storm. As he took Maia deeper into the fight, the easier the takedown was to defend, and the easier the target Maia became.
MacDonald could have packed it up in that first round, but he did not. He showed his superior conditioning and striking. A quality performance from the Tristar product.
What We Learned About MacDonald
MacDonald has no quit in him and showed what kind of shape he is in.
When he was taken down in the third, he was able to get back to his feet rather quickly and finish out the round strong.
MacDonald kept a good pace throughout the fight and did not tail off much in his output. That is a big plus for him in this division. MacDonald's cardio cost him years ago against Carlos Condit, and he has certainly put that behind him. He looked outstanding.
What We Learned About Maia
We learned that Maia is a front-runner. There isn't anything wrong with that, but it makes him a sitting duck past the first frame.
He shoots from way outside, putting everything into his strikes, and it causes him to tire out quickly. The upper-echelon fighters of this division are not going to tire after five minutes. It hurts Maia's chances of ever becoming a serious threat in the division.
He's a gatekeeper.
What's Next for MacDonald
UFC 171 will be very telling for MacDonald's future. If Tyron Woodley knocks off Condit, then that would be an ideal opponent for a title-eliminator bout.
If Condit wins, it seems like he will get the next title shot, taking that fight off the table for MacDonald.
Another good fight on the card is between Jake Shields and Hector Lombard. Should Condit come out on top at UFC 171, then MacDonald should be opposite the winner of that fight.
What's Next for Maia
As a newly minted gatekeeper at 170 pounds, Maia should take on one of the UFC's up-and-coming prospects who are close to the top 15 spots.
Maia would be a very stiff test for any of those young bucks, but they need to be tossed into the fire to see if they have what it takes.