Canadian Jason MacDonald meets "Filthy" Tom Lawlor event. The Fuel TV broadcast will deliver a half-dozen match ups beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET with 3Chan Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier forming the headliner.
For Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in MMA, black belts are more common nowadays and belt color doesn't translate to the cage as accurately as it used to. Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald (25-15), however, is a verifiable black belt in the gi or in the cage. 19 of his 25 wins are by submission and he's tapped out reputable opposition like Chris Leben, Ed Herman (a pair of wins that earned him the short-lived nickname "The TUF Killer") and Joe Doerksen.
Though he was defeated, MacDonald cemented his grappling prowess when he fearlessly engaged BJJ phenom Demian Maia on the ground at a time when that was considered sheer suicide, and MacDonald held his own quite impressively. After closing out his first 11-fight stint (5-6 overall) with consecutive losses in triplicate, MacDonald notched 3-straight outside the Octagon to earn another chance. Thus far, he's dropped 2 of 3 with losses to Alan Belcher and John Salter (in which MacDonald broke his leg pursuing a takedown) with a submission win over Ryan Jensen in between.
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Tom Lawlor (7-4) has gained just as much notoriety for his goofball persona and creative cage entrances as he has for his fighting prowess. That's not to say the scrappy wrestler and former light-heavyweight is absent skill, which is simply not the case. He first emerged on TUF 8 but was TKOd by eventual winner and current top 205er Ryan Bader in his first match.
Despite scoring a decision win over fellow cast member Kyle Kingsbury at the TUF 8 Finale, Lawlor dropped down to middleweight and started strong with authenticating performances over a pair of D1 All-American wrestlers in C.B. Dollaway (1st-round submission win) and veteran Aaron Simpson (contentious split-decision loss). Lawlor's momentum took a hit after he dropped 2 of his last 3, succumbing to submissions from Joe Doerksen and Chris Weidman but defeating Patrick Cote by decision.
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The fight styles of Lawlor and MacDonald represent a certain degree of Kryptonite to each other: Half of Lawlor's losses were dealt by submission purists and MacDonald has historically struggled with heavy-handed top players.
The key aspect of this match up might be outside of their respective grappling backgrounds. Lawlor has become a competent boxer with tight combinations and heavy hands where as MacDonald's striking is nothing to write home about. Lawlor excels at maintaining his balance and not over-committing on his punches; a trait that does not always come easy to wrestling-based fighters. Lawlor has a nice uppercut and he's used it effectively against opponents who aspire to take him down. He's clever in attacking the neck with a variety of chokes from the front headlock position as well, such as the guillotine and D'arce chokes, though MacDonald should be too savvy for those -- unless he penetrates too deep with his neck on takedown attempts.
Though Lawlor has the better striking technique, MacDonald's extremely long (80" reach) and tall frame (6'2") will present some challenges for Lawlor (6'0" tall, 74" reach) on the feet. Additionally, despite lacking the wrestling credentials of Lawlor's past competition, MacDonald is ultra-crafty in forcing a ground battle. He'll shoot takedowns from outside or after he's initiated a clinch tie-up, then sneak a hook in when his opponent sprawls and either pull guard or just latch on standing.
I expect Lawlor to use his wrestling in reverse and make MacDonald come to him, then pepper with short and controlled bursts while using evasive footwork or defensive clinch-work. Another option for Lawlor is to unload leather from the top cautiously and disengage quickly, but that only puts him closer to the danger of MacDonald's potent submission game. A catch by MacDonald is far from unlikely but I think Lawlor is smart enough to avoid grappling engagements at all costs. At age 36, time is not on MacDonald's side either and the 29-year-old Lawlor still has room to improve.
My Prediction: Tom Lawlor by TKO.