UFC Fight Night Ottawa roared through our world not quite with the force of a Steph Curry mouthpiece through the air, but at least with the power of one of Dustin Johnson chip shots.
We learned a lot: It was a bad night for Canada. The heir to the throne may be out to test free agency. The Cowboy is still the king of B-level fighters. And even in 2016, some MMA referees still bite.
As the UFC embarks on its busiest period of the year, let’s look at some of the takeaways from the night the lights went out in Ottawa for some Canadian fighters.
5. Joanne Calderwood is a Beast
Calderwood went to town on Valerie Letourneau like she was Ivan Drago fighting Apollo Creed. Not every women’s MMA fighter needs to look like Ronda Rousey or Miesha Tate. Sometimes, they can look like Calderwood and just kick ass. Or in this case, kick ribs.
Calderwood hammered Letourneau for three rounds, in a fight that was never competitive. Calderwood landed a vicious spinning back elbow that Letourneau, to her credit, somehow battled back from. In round three, the kick to the ribs disabled Letourneau, but unfortunately for the referee in the match let the fight go a few seconds too long.
Once a fighter turns their back, or goes flying across the cage, it’s time to step in (unless you get the Dan Henderson treatment, which means a few more seconds to take a beat-down, before you rally to defeat the other person). Calderwood, 11-1, showed that she is another entertaining female fighter to watch, which is good for women’s MMA. The sport must thrive post the Ronda-Miesha era.
4. Great Fights Matter
It wasn’t a totally bad night for Canadian fighters on the main card. Steve Bosse vs. Sean O’Connell delivered 15 minutes of mayhem, with Bosse emerging victorious by unanimous decision. Rory MacDonald, who we’ll mention soon, could learn a lot from both fighters.
Big punches, flurries, dramatic last stands. From start to finish, the fight was a slugfest, giving fans what they expect to see when they watch an MMA fight. O’Connell hung with Bosse, even though his face was bloodied and his nose was brutalized. Win or lose, hungry fighters who fight like their paychecks and careers depend on it, are a lot more entertaining to watch than tacticians trying to score a decision victory. The late Kimbo Slice reminded us of that. Leave it all in the cage, no matter what.
3. Donald Cerrone Could Be Heading for a Michael Bisping Moment
Can Cerrone win the big one? Who knows? He has lost just about every big fight he has been in. Nate Diaz, Benson Henderson (twice) Rafael Dos Anjos (twice) and Anthony Pettis. Those are some great fighters, but Cerrone has lost to all of them, with his biggest victory coming over Eddie Alvarez. Now that Cerrone is fighting at welterweight, he may find more success, but will he last very long against someone like Robbie Lawler?
Cerrone dominated Patrick Cote and then knocked him out in Round 3. Cote probably fought the wrong fight, but that’s just it; Cerrone can beat most B+ level fighters. Determined not to be the next Urijah Faber (a great fighter to never win a UFC title), Cerrone is still going strong and may be on the verge of his Michael Bisping-moment and unexpectedly win gold in his late stages.
2. Stephen Thompson Deserves a Title Shot
Thompson has beaten two of the top three best welterweights in the world. Who is next? The champion.
Thompson is an exciting fighter to watch, even if he is not brash on the microphone. But throughout his past seven fights, Thompson has showed a pattern of consistency. He takes time to figure out his opponent and exposes their weaknesses. With a TKO victory over Johny Hendricks and now MacDonald, Thompson has emerged as somewhat of a Chris Weidman-type of fighter. Quiet, yet dangerous.
Thompson fought his five-round battle against MacDonald and didn’t fold or tire out. He stayed aggressive, staying one step ahead of his opponent and dominating him. Even though MacDonald is the veteran, Thompson displayed the poise and finesse to beat a guy who is known for being a smart fighter. Can Thompson survive Robbie Lawler or Tyron Woodley? Probably not, but he deserves a title shot after disposing of the once-promising MacDonald. Speaking of…
1. What’s Wrong with Rory MacDonald?
I don’t care what MacDonald says. He did not give his best inside the cage against Thompson.
In 2013, MacDonald was 15-1, heading into a title shot against Robbie Lawler. He has not fought the same since. MacDonald was supposed to win the title and dominate the division after Georges St-Pierre stepped aside, but that has not happened.
Rory is not fighting with the same fire he once fought with. Maybe it’s because his fights with Lawler took so much out of him. Maybe MacDonald’s heart isn’t into it anymore. Maybe Rory wants out of the UFC.
MacDonald fights like a reserved tactician instead of a guy who really wants to win. Sure, you can be a great fighter trying to eek out a decision victory, but it’s not the best way to stand out. It sort of feels like Rory is lost in the vanilla sky — like he’s fighting inside of a dream. He’s there. It looks like him. But it’s not him. It’s not the guy who was once the future of the division.
There’s talk he might sign with Bellator, but that would be a mistake. MacDonald needs to find himself and earn another title shot, and figure out a way to unlock the greatness we all know exists inside him.
Follow Joshua Molina on Twitter: @JECMolina.