UFC 170 Sleeper … don’t overlook the importance of Maia vs. MacDonald

Posted: February 19, 2014 in Commentary/Opinion, UFC Events
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rory vs demianMost of the hype surrounding UFC 170 has understandably revolved around two things—Ronda Rousey’s next title defense and Rashad Evans dropping from the Daniel Cormier bout. But there’s another intriguing fight in the #3 slot that we shouldn’t sleep on. Demian Maia and Rory MacDonald will square off in a welterweight fight that will determine which of these former top contenders will reemerge as a legitimate championship threat.

Both fighters are coming off very disappointing losses, but that doesn’t concern me too much. MacDonald was bested by a white-hot Robbie Lawler who quite frankly is capable of doing that to anyone in the division. Maia, I’m especially forgiving of. Jake Shields is the absolute worst matchup for almost anyone at welterweight. It’s just impossible to look good against him—unless you’re Jake Ellenberger.

So let’s take a look at how these guys rose to prominence before those mishaps, so we can remember just how good they are. MacDonald had a five fight winning streak up until the Lawler fight. In fact, his only previous loss was to Carlos Condit—and we know exactly how that one went. With wins over Ellenberger (meh), Nate Diaz and BJ Penn, one loss won’t change my mind about him being a serious threat to hold the welterweight title in the near future.

Since dropping to 170, Maia was quite possibly the most impressive fighter in the entire weight class. First round finishes of Dong Hyun Kim and Rick Story tipped everyone off that he was the real deal. Then a huge win over Jon Fitch—a rag-dolling that sent Fitch packing his bags—got everyone talking about the new Maia. He was just a win away from earning a shot at the champ.

Make no mistake, this is an important matchup. It’s easy for fans to get down on these guys for what appeared to be subpar performances, but they are still that good. In MacDonald’s case, he’s still just 24 years old. It’s not at all crazy to think that this guy could hold the title for a long time. Maia isn’t quite as young, but we all know his ground game continues to be the strongest in the weight class—and perhaps the whole UFC.

Before you decide to show up late for this PPV and just watch the main event, think about Maia and MacDonald. To me it looks like a pretty good indication of how the top of the welterweight rankings will shape up for 2014.

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