Rory MacDonald’s victory over Che Mills didn’t announce his entrance into the title picture, but instead, just solidified his position at the highest ranks of the division.
MacDonald put on an absolute clinic, avoiding the stand-up game when necessary, landing every takedown and beating Mills with ease as he passed his guard like a hot knife through butter. A solid victory that should have quelled any doubts about the 22-year-old Canadian’s skills.
Next, comes his true test. Sure he brought Carlos Condit within ten seconds of defeat, but that was a different Condit. Now, MacDonald is only fighting elites from here on out, starting years before the average fighter’s prime sets in.
He will face challenge after challenge, by fighters who not only carry different skills, but who have mastered a base discipline along with several others like Josh Koscheck’s wrestling and striking, or Nick Diaz’s boxing and cardio.
Unfortunately for all of the contenders ahead of MacDonald, he has near perfect wrestling. He’s extremely agile and his equally powerful strikes make him a menace all around.
He looks very similar to a pre-Matt Serra Georges St-Pierre, who, although very technical, can throw caution to the wind once in a while and unload on his opponent. MacDonald will prove over his next three fights why he deserves a title shot with that third fight possibly being a title shot.
As for his next opponent. A shot against the winner of Johny Hendricks and Josh Koscheck from the UFC on Fox 3 event would be ideal in determining his place in the division as well as whoever his opponent would be.
If he doesn’t feel like waiting, Dana White should offer Nick Diaz a hefty reward for returning to the Octagon to face MacDonald and attempt to avenge his brother’s one sided loss to the Canadian last April at UFC 129. Diaz has the cardio to hang with MacDonald, and a dangerous enough guard to keep MacDonald guessing.
Regardless, MacDonald should take his career slow. He has over ten years of peak-performance fighting in him and shouldn’t let that go to waste by taking fights above his league just yet. The UFC should slow-cook this future champion while marinading him in tough, but on-par fights that will test his metal in such a deep and talent rich division.
To break away from the grilling analogies, MacDonald has endless potential and more talent than we have seen in a long time from someone so young, on the cusp of a potentially legendary career.