Rory MacDonald and Tyron Woodley both entered UFC 174 on Saturday night in Vancouver knowing that a victory didn’t necessarily land the winner in a title fight next, but they both knew that the winner would be as close as you could get to a title shot without a guarantee.
Knowing he had to watch out for Woodley’s athleticism and superior takedowns, MacDonald utilized a much more aggressive approach than normal, constantly pressuring Woodley and forcing him backwards.
As the opening stanza played out, MacDonald got more and more comfortable with his striking, landing his jab and a plethora of kicks to the body and head. He didn’t mount a lot of visible damage, but effectively slowed Woodley and gained a tremendous amount of confidence.
The confidence gained in round one paid huge dividends in round two. MacDonald showed no hesitation in engaging with Woodley in the second stanza, constantly flicking his jab in Woodley’s face and then assaulting him with a variety of kicks and flurries of punches.
Woodley was on the back foot the entire time, the superior athlete, but not the superior tactician.
Woodley opened the final round swinging wildly, the desperation showing in his punches. He clipped MacDonald early in the round, but it was a pace he couldn’t maintain. MacDonald’s flurries weren’t nearly as explosive, but his was a relentless, albeit metered pace that he could keep up throughout the fight… and he did.
MacDonald kept sticking the jab in Woodley’s face, and even set up a takedown of his own just before the midway point of the final stanza. Woodley defended off his back, but couldn’t find a way to mount any offense.
MacDonald eventually gained full mount and then slid into side control in the final minute, keeping the fight fully in his control, capturing a lop-sided decision victory.
“It went really, really well. Everything we worked on came out in the fight,” said MacDonald.
As far as the title shot goes, MacDonald didn’t demand one. He knows that with Matt Brown and Robbie Lawler soon locking horns, he may have to wait for the smoke to clear before he gets a shot… but he’s ready for it when the day comes.
“I think I’m ready,” he said. “I know there’s a big fight with Brown and Robbie. I respect UFC’s decision and whatever they plan to do, and I just want them to know that I’m ready.”