Opening the UFC 115 main card on Saturday evening, youthful British Columbia-born talent Rory MacDonald (10-0, 1-0 UFC) will hope to put on an impressive performance in front of his hometown crowd as he battles former WEC welterweight champion Carlos Condit (24-5, 1-1 UFC). MacDonald, who entered the UFC at age 20 back in January, won his debut with the promotion as he submitted Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter Michael Guymon at UFN 20 in the first round. Condit's move to the UFC was set off by the disbanding of the WEC's welterweight division, but as a representative of the theory that the WEC's champions were as good as the UFC's very best -- Condit hasn't done a bad job. Condit narrowly dropped a split decision to Martin Kampmann in his debut with the promotion, but he rebounded with a split decision victory over Jake Ellenberger at UFN 19 in September.
As with any match-up in which a prospect gets his shot at a middle-of-the-road fighter, questions are asked and normally answered in the aftermath. In this case, both fighters are somewhat in the same position, yet at different stages in their careers. Many fans asked if Condit could perform against the UFC's best in his debut, and he just fell short. That same question will be asked of MacDonald on Saturday night, and we're still awaiting a true answer to that same question for Condit as he obviously has the talent to be a mid-echelon fighter in the UFC. But can he improve and become a real threat at the top of the division?
MacDonald is entering new ground as he's inexperienced in comparison to Condit and only 20 years of age, but he's performed impressively enough for the UFC to give him a chance to prove he can hang with the better athletes in the division. Condit is still relatively young at 26 years of age, but he's amassed nearly 30 professional fights, attained some fame as the WEC welterweight champion, and is now looking to prove he can also hang with the top fighters in the UFC. Similar goals, but Condit has been trying to pave his path for years while MacDonald has been fast-tracked.
Stylistically, I think Carlos Condit has the advantage in this match-up. MacDonald showed good recovery ability and solid positional skills on the ground against Michael Guymon, but he is open defensively on the feet. While MacDonald has produced some knockout power in the past, there is no historical evidence that suggests Condit will buckle at the knees if he's hit flush. Furthermore, Condit's grappling skills are formidable and threatening to anyone engulfed in a grappling match with him.
I do think MacDonald can surprise Condit on the ground as he's shown very quick transitions to his submissions, but I think the stand-up portion of this fight is the real difference maker. MacDonald could probably be a positional nightmare for Condit on the ground, but I think Condit's experience comes into play in that sort of grind.
MacDonald's strength of record concerns me as well. While Canada is easily one of the better countries in the world at producing talent, quality is an issue in the level of competition scattered throughout the regional circuit. Kajan Johnson and Michael Guymon are MacDonald's best wins, and I think Condit's experience against tougher competition over the course of his career absolutely matters here.
MacDonald is probably a name we'll be hearing for a number of years as he'll be one of the faces of the UFC welterweight division in the future. But for right now, like many of the greats of today, MacDonald will hit the wall that will eventually help him progress as a fighter. Condit's experience and well-roundedness should be good enough to edge out MacDonald via decision.