May 19, 2017

Bellator 179: What To Expect From Rory MacDonald In His New Promotion

By Adam Martin

After months of waiting, former UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald will finally make his return to the cage this weekend when he makes his Bellator MMA debut against Paul Daley at Bellator 179 this Friday night at SSE Arena in London, England. MacDonald, who is 27, signed a huge free-agent offer sheet with Bellator after losing consecutive fights to Robbie Lawler and Stephen Thompson in the UFC.
The UFC chose not to match the offer, and UFC President Dana White later did an interview with TMZ and said the UFC was concerned about the amount of damage MacDonald took in the Lawler fight and to a lesser extent the Thompson fight, particularly to his nose. Still, the UFC lost one of the top five welterweights in the world to its biggest rival, making it a questionable decision to let him go without matching the offer.

After all, MacDonald has a dominant win over current UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley as well as a victory over current #1 contender Demian Maia. MacDonald also has victories over Nate Diaz, Jake Ellenberger, BJ Penn, and Tarec Saffiedine. He’s clearly a fantastic fighter, and writing him off so soon after losing to elite fighters in Lawler and Thompson seems silly. Regardless, the UFC made the decision it did and let him go, and Bellator is better for it.

MacDonald signed with Bellator and Scott Coker booked him for this match against Daley, who is coming off of a ridiculous KO win via flying knee over Brennan Ward. It’s an exciting matchup for fans between one of the best welterweights in the world in MacDonald and a longtime vet coming off of a big win in Daley. But it’s a fight MacDonald should win.

Yes, Daley is a KO artist and MacDonald got finished by Lawler, but still. The difference between Daley and Lawler at this point is pretty drastic, so you can’t take too much from that fight. Yes, Daley has the KO power to finish anyone at 170, but if he loses, it will be because MacDonald is the better fighter. With MacDonald holding the grappling advantage in this fight, and with him going back to a three-round, 15-minute fight after struggling in five-round fights, this is a good matchup for MacDonald to enter Bellator with and get a victory and his debut.

Should MacDonald win, the most likely next opponent for him would be the winner of Bellator NYC’s Douglas Lima vs. Lorenz Larkin. Lima is the current champ, having knocked out Andrey Koreshkov to claim the title, but Larkin -- like MacDonald -- was a massive free-agent signing for Bellator and could easily win that fight. The prospect of MacDonald fighting against either Lima or Larkin for Bellator’s 170-pound title is tantalizing, but obviously the Canadian will have to get by Daley first.

When he signed with Bellator, MacDonald also expressed an interest in fighting in Bellator’s middleweight division and becoming a multi-division champ. The current champ at 185 in Bellator is Rafael Carvalho, and while he did just knock out veteran Melvin Manhoef with a head kick to defend his belt, he’s still a very beatable opponent for MacDonald. MacDonald’s focus right now is of course on Daley, but looking ahead there’s a very good chance MacDonald fights at middleweight in Bellator.

MacDonald is a great fighter and is still in his prime. Losing to Lawler and Thompson shouldn’t be a huge cause for concern and the Canadian should still have plenty of gas left in the tank. In Bellator, MacDonald will be fighting lesser competition than what he was used to fighting in the UFC and will have a good chance to win not just one, but two titles. But all starts with Daley tonight.

Bellator 179: Daley vs. MacDonald takes place May 19, 2017 at The SSE Arena in London, England.

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