Rory MacDonald: The Lost Opportunity of a Mic in His Face

Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistJune 15, 2014

Jun 14, 2014; Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Rory MacDonald (red) fights against Tyron Woodley (blue) in their welterweight bout at UFC 174 at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

He'd done it.

The hometown boy made good.

Rory MacDonald had come to Vancouver and vanquished his UFC demons there, battering Tyron Woodley in a clinical display that is becoming regular enough to describe as "MacDonaldesque."

At the site of his most humbling defeat, a 2010 loss to Carlos Condit, MacDonald kept Woodley at the end of his jab for the entire night and beat up the former Strikeforce star against the cage.

At the end of it all, Woodley looked utterly exhausted and demoralized. MacDonald looked like he had 10 more rounds in him if he wanted them.

It was a good performance, though not a spectacular one. It was fun for the young Canuck to derail an opponent's hype train on home turf, but it lacked killer instinct.

On a night when a title shot was quite conceivably at stake if enough violence was produced, MacDonald was happy enough to stick with what's allowed him a steady ascent at 170 lbs.

A few jabs.

A few kicks.

A little dancing.

30-27s all around.

Still, with the right amount of post-fight vigor, the performance could have stood up in the face of a search for the next title challenger. Woodley had been coming on strong and blasting up the ranks, and MacDonald dominated him without displacing a single hip hair on his decidedly hip head.

Except that's where the biggest problem took place for him at UFC 174: With a mic in his face, MacDonald let the moment pass him by.

Joe Rogan, as big a booster of the prodigious youngster as there is in the sport, set him up to call out some names and talk his way into a title shot. The crowd was hanging on his every word, he was clearly enjoying the moment, and he was in the perfect space to announce his refusal to be overlooked any longer.

And then he didn't.

When asked where he wanted his career to go from here, MacDonald basically answered with the equivalent of "aw shucks, thanks for coming out you guys. I'm just so gosh-darn happy to be here!"

Hm. Okay then.

No mention of Johny Hendricks, the man anyone in the business who weighs 170 lbs should be thinking about and talking about 24/7?

No mention of Robbie Lawler, the last man to beat MacDonald and a man who's next in line to a crack at gold if he beats Matt Brown next month?

No mention of Condit, the loss to whom still eats at MacDonald to this day (regardless of what he said in the days leading up to fighting another opponent)?

That was the time for MacDonald to throw some fuel on the fire. That was the time for him to start making demands, to start naming names. He looked good enough to be in the title discussion on merit, and with a hometown crowd backing up his every word, he was likely one iconic callout away from jumping the queue.

Except he elected to shake proverbial hands and kiss proverbial babies, damning himself to take another fight or two and hope things fall in place for him to eventually get a title shot for himself.

It's funny how that happens to guys. People watched Chael Sonnen talk his way in to fame and fortune for years. They're watching it happening again with Conor McGregor.

Yet when the spotlight is on and the chance is there to change your career forever, all that comes out is thanking the fans and your sponsors and maybe even Rogan for taking the time to interview you.

Hi Mom! Love you! I'll be home soon!

There's more to this sport than putting fists on faces. That's a big part of it, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease and the louder the squeak, the more grease it's going to get.

Go out and beat a guy up, then tell the world how great you are. Tell the world how terrible the champion is. Tell the world how your greatness will steamroll the champion.

Especially in your hometown, where anything short of endorsing puppy mills and child labor will get you an enormous pop.

Rory MacDonald didn't do that on Saturday. It was the ultimate lost opportunity. He beat Tyron Woodley up, but it was definitely a steak without much sizzle.

It's too bad, too.

We all like steak, but we like it better when it's done right.


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