The most important welterweight fight on the UFC 170 main card was between Canada's Rory MacDonald and Brazil's Demian Maia. Both men were on the wrong end of split decision losses in their last respective bouts, and there was a sense of urgency to get a win last night to remain in the thick of the GSP-less top of the title picture.
Maia immediately worked for the takedown in the early seconds and was able to get Rory on his back. From there, he advanced to full mount and appeared to have Rory in a world of trouble. MacDonald managed to get back to butterfly guard, then full guard, and eventually to his feet with a half-minute left in the opening round.
Surviving Maia's wicked top game was pivotal for Rory, as Maia noticeably tired and grew more desperate with each failed takedown attempt. MacDonald owned the stand-up in the 2nd round, and picked him apart with body kicks and hard, punishing jabs. Maia had virtually no offense over the course of the round, and needed to get back to the ground in round 3. MacDonald was indeed taken down midway through the 3rd, but Maia was swept and couldn't hold him down for even a minute. Rory continued to pepper away at Maia's face and body, all the while effectively sprawling on Maia's futile takedown attempts. The horn sounded with Rory the clear winner in a very good fight. Official Decision: Rory MacDonald def. Demian Maia via unanimous decision (29-28 across the board)
What was the high point of the fight?
Maia mounting Rory in the 1st round felt like curtains for MacDonald, and that a submission loss was definitely in the cards against a world-class grappler. Not only did Rory avoid any submissions, he fought his way back to full guard and returned to standing position. It was the unquestionable turning point of this bout.
Where do they go from here?
MacDonald (16-2) gets his 7th win in the UFC and his 2nd against a top 10 opponent. He was under fire for his less-than-exciting showing against Jake Ellenberger and the upset loss to Robbie Lawler, but he did well to overcome a slow start and win this one against a tough opponent. Another top 10 ranked fighter, such as Matt Brown, would be a great booking.
Maia (18-6) drops his 2nd straight at welterweight, and at 36 years old it probably is his last chance at another UFC title shot. At this point he's best suited as a high-level gatekeeper in the Mike Pyle mold. Someone who can beat just about anyone below the top 10, but cannot quite beat the best of the best at 170 lbs.
Watch it now, later, or never?
Now. Well deserved FOTN bonus for these men and a much-needed win for MacDonald.