Rory MacDonald and Stephen Thompson will share the main event spotlight at UFC Fight Night 89 in a fight which will be pivotal in the careers of both these men, for MacDonald at the young age of 26 this is an opportunity to get another crack at Robbie Lawler and the crown to which he was long considered the rightful heir. Stephen Thompson on the other hand is campaigning for his first title shot in the UFC and at the age of 33 one would assume right now would be the perfect time for Thompson to go on after this fight and claim the title especially if he would like to have a few title defenses to his name.
Rory MacDonald (18W-3L)has not fought since the title shot against Robbie Lawler which was awarded the fight of the year accolade but did not go his way. It’s worth noting however that MacDonald was up on all 3 cards 39-37 going into that final round, meaning if Rory had avoided being stopped in that final round only a 10-8 round in the favor of Lawler would have denied MacDonald becoming the UFC welterweight champion.
Stephen Thompson (12W-1L) since joining the company has been quietly gaining momentum climbing the rankings and improving his game, his only loss coming against Matt brown way back in April of 2012 seems a lifetime ago because since that loss he has been on a run that has earned him performance of the night in 3 of his last 6 fights and among them some highlight reel finishes. His most recent fight was against a returning Johny Hendricks and he put on a flawless performance resulting in a first round finish giving Hendricks his first stoppage loss which led fans to campaign for a title shot on Thompson’s behalf.
The form guide may be pushing fans one way in regards to picking an eventual winner but i happen to think that this match up is interesting for a variety of reasons.
Making a case for MacDonald
MacDonald has the advantage when it comes to experience he’s fought double the rounds Thompson has in the UFC and if you look at Rory’s record he,s had no easy fights so all those rounds under his belt are all extremely valuable considering just how young he still is. The other thing that stands out for MacDonald is he has a few ways to win this fight he could catch Thompson standing as he is no slouch on the feet but in the wrestling and ground game Rory has at least on paper much better credentials giving Firas Zahabi the opportunity to create a game plan focused on mixing things up without having to worry too much about Stephen Thompson attacking from the ground. The huge threat for Rory is when both men are striking, If MacDonald can execute a strategy similar to what Meisha Tate used against Holly Holm then Thompson could be in for a long night. Stephen Thompson has yet to compete in rounds 4 and 5 of a fight and the longer the fight goes on the better it is for Rory MacDonald in my book. MacDonald has to keep Thompson guessing denying him the chance to find a rhythm in this fight, ideally MacDonald would want Thompson to be worrying about or trying to second guess his next move.
Making a Case For Thompson
Stephen Thompson has the obvious edge in striking having previously compiled a kickboxing record of 57-0 he has displayed his striking talents on numerous occasions in his UFC stint. Thompson’s game plan should be a simple one to decipher he will want to keep the fight standing and find a finish when the opportunity arises. Here is the problem, knowing what hes going to do and stopping him doing it is a whole different ballgame Stephen brings into the octagon a unique striking style much like Lyoto Machida utilizes a wide stance but is far more active and risky with his output and shot selection. From his kickboxing experience hes attained a superior to average understanding of distance and is a master of catching people as soon as they enter his striking zones. If Stephen Thompson thwarts MacDonald’s attempts to take him down and can keep his back off the cage Rory will be forced to essentially kick box with Thompson and although as i mentioned earlier Rory still has a chance there i would think the majority of the time Thompson beats MacDonald in a straight kickboxing exchange and for that reason Thompson will want to keep this fight standing as much as possible.
I make this fight a 55-45 in terms of probability of winning, i have mentioned that the longer the fight goes the more i favor MacDonald so if the fight goes into round 4 things could change but in my opinion the most likely outcome in this fight is Thompson finding his opening on the feet where the fight will start and each round begins and for that reason i predict
Thompson wins by TKO round 2.