Heading into Fox’s 8th UFC broadcast, I was most excited for the welterweight tilt between Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger. This fight turned out to be the most disappointing of the entire card. MacDonald’s strategy produced multiple jabs, minimal action, and mundane results. Although my expectations were all for naught, I can’t be mad—at this stage in the game, victory weighs much heavier than style. Such logic may seem intuitive, but it’s not always the case. Classic wars often carry careers much further than deserved. Just look at Stephan Bonnar’s first defeat to Forrest Griffin—has another fighter ridden a loss to greater lengths? Action fighters like Dan Hardy, Marcus Davis, and the recently released Leonard Garcia have traveled similar paths. In a related story, none of these fighters have ever, nor will ever, hold UFC gold.
One fighter fans are particularly keen to pick on is Georges St. Pierre. I’ll admit, his lack of finishes is exceptionally unspectacular, especially when you compare him to the likes of Cain Velazquez, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva (win or lose), and Jose Aldo. Does this make him a scared fighter? Not one bit. Ironically, an excess of fear is precisely what makes Pierre so smart. If you’ve never seen GSP interviewed (I suggest watching this interview with Joe Rogan), he routinely talks of an overwhelming fear that must be managed each and every time he steps into the cage. That’s what makes Pierre a great champion—he never lets fear get in the way; he merely uses it as a roadmap to victory. Weaponizing fear into strategic fuel does not make a scared fighter; allowing fear to paralyze does.
This brings us back to MacDonald’s performance against Ellenberger—did he fight smart or scared? I say he fought smart. Extremely smart. Extremely cautious, but smart nonetheless. Ellenberger, on the other hand, fought scared. He fought like a fighter wanting to keep what he had instead of a fighter clawing to claim what was his. Rashad did the same against Lil’ Nog in route to a similarly disappointing decision. Rory’s lackluster win likely pits him against Demian Maia or the winner of Condit/Kampmann in a title eliminator. Rory could still get an immediate crack at GSP if Hendricks loses, but if that’s the case, I don’t think stopping Ellenberger would have mattered either way. If GSP loses to Hendricks, you can guarantee MacDonald will stay active while the inevitable rematch of GSP/Hendricks plays out once, if not twice. MacDonald is a fantastic fighter who’s yet to reach his prime. On Saturday, he needed to take care of business and did so in calculated fashion. He neutralized his opponent’s advantage—in this case, power—in route to an easy unanimous decision.
Sounds awfully like another welterweight MacDonald knows all too well.