I believe this upcoming UFC Fight Night has the distinction of being the first ever UFC card to totally steal the name of an earlier UFC event. And I’m not counting episodes 1-100 of “Ultimate Knockouts”, or my suggestion for “UFC Seek and Destroy 2: Still Seakin’” that Dana has yet to return my calls about.
Yes, the original UFC “Battle on the Bayou” will always hold a special place in my heart. As a young(er) fan watching the event on VHS, I will never forget the image of Frank Shamrock slamming Igor Zinoviev like he was a 50-pound sparring dummy. A 50-pound sparring dummy that had slept with his wife.
It was a different era in mixed martial arts. An era of underground fights and penny pinching promoters (say that three times fast), of fading popularity and no money and efforts to ban the sport. Certainly no one was making Oscar contending movies starring Nick freakin’ Nolte about our little sport back then.
It was a different age, a bygone era, a time so distant it has faded to lore.
It was March 13, 1998.
Less than a year later, Jason MacDonald made his professional MMA debut. Talk about being O.G.
Since then, MacDonald has been almost to every extreme this sport has. He’s fought from one end of Canada to the other, becoming a legend on Canada’s regional circuit. He fought in a lot of dingy armories and high school gyms for little more then promises and bragging rights.
To vaguely quote Mike Goldberg, “More than paying his dues in the sport of MMA, is Jason MacDonald!” At least I think he said that.
Inside the UFC, MacDonald has done it all, from the PPV marquee fights to the undercard curtain-jerkers. From being “in the mix” for a belt to being cut from the organization. He’s experienced the elation of a surprising victory and the heartbreak of a shocking defeat—and that’s just the few times I’ve seen him live.
He fought Rich Franklin, Chris Leben, Yushin Okami and Demian Maia, and gave all those men as much (or more) than they could handle.
This Saturday is, from a personal standpoint, bigger then all those fights for MacDonald. A win gives him the chance at another run in the sport’s big leagues. A loss almost certainly means the end of his UFC tenure. It could also very well signal the end of his MMA career as well.
MacDonald isn’t exactly standing on rock solid footing career-wise at the moment. As mentioned, “The Athlete” has already been bounced from the UFC following a loss to Nate Quarry. After putting together a few wins on the Canadian regional circuit, MacDonald was given a “for one night only” ( you lose, you’re gone) UFC return against John Salter to fill an undercard spot in Montreal last year.
One botched take-down attempt later, and MacDonald had a broken leg, another loss on his record, and some serious questions about his future.
Luckily, Dana White proved to be a man of his word. Kinda. After a year on the shelf, White honored his original deal with Jason and booked him another “for one night only” appearance, this time on the UFC 129 undercard in Toronto in April. This time, MacDonald took care of business, won his fight in the opening frame, and thus maneuvered his way into this card.
Still, the numbers are against J-Mac. He is 37-years-old with over a decade of full-time fighting under his belt. His fight with Alan Belcher this Saturday will be his 40th career bout. MacDonald has fought only two times in the last two years, with lots of downtime to recover from a serious injury. He’s 1-3 in his last four UFC fights.
Those are damning statistics for any fighter to face. But MacDonald has some unique advantages, as well.
He’s won “Submission of the Night” three times, “KO of the Night” once and has a reputation for exciting, dramatic fights. He’s also a known commodity to Canadian MMA fans, someone they’ll care about and pay to watch. He’s a great “gatekeeper” that can test new guys on the way up. So from a promoter’s viewpoint, he’s still a fighter to have on the roster if he wins Saturday.
MacDonald also has an advantage in that Alan Belcher may be the only guy at middleweight with worse luck than him. A serious eye injury in training almost ended Belcher’s career; now he makes his return to the Octagon after a year and a half on the shelf. He may not be the same fighter he was when he left.
Which is good, cause at last viewing, Alan Belcher was a “talented” middleweight (see what I did there?) who was a handful for anyone. And he’s fighting in his backyard, so you know he’ll be bringing it come fight night.
So MacDonald stands, as he so frequently has, as the answer to a question. Is Alan Belcher still a top level middleweight? That’s the question the UFC wants answered in the booking of this fight.
But the question I’m more interested in is—Is Jason MacDonald still a UFC-level fighter?
Belcher has time and coming off such a bad injury fans and media will likely forgive a loss. But for MacDonald, it’s do or die. Win, and you get to write a couple more chapters into an already long and storied UFC career. Lose, and that book could very well be closed forever.