If Tyron Woodley is looking to prove to UFC brass that he deserves a future welterweight title shot, he’ll need to produce an explosive effort against Rory MacDonald at UFC 174. “The Chosen One” has expressed disappointment that the winner of this weekend’s clash in Vancouver won’t be getting the next crack at champion Johny Hendricks. The promotion elected to go instead with a title eliminator between Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown next month at UFC on FOX 12.
The message is certainly a clear one to both Woodley and MacDonald: they need to win fights and make them exciting. The no.3 ranked Woodley truly believed he would be next in line if he could knock off “Ares” on his home soil but it appears that won’t be the case.
Woodley is coming off a victory over Carlos Condit at UFC 171 but that win rang hollow because it was achieved because of an injury retirement. That didn’t take away from the fact that Woodley looked terrific against the former interim champion. He was able to land several hard right hands and leg kicks during the contest before the unfortunate ending in the second round.
He’s 3-1 during his Octagon tenure with first-round stoppages of Jay Hieron and Josh Koscheck. The lone setback was a decision loss to Jake Shields in a dull affair at UFC 161. Woodley, who possesses a stellar wrestling pedigree, has nine finishes by knockout or submission in his 13 career victories.
The no.2 rated MacDonald is essentially facing the same set of circumstances. The talented Canadian has long been hyped as the next big thing in the welterweight division. He was on the cusp of a title shot until he lost against Lawler at UFC 167. The Tristar Gym protégé rebounded from that setback by recording a unanimous decision victory over Demian Maia in a Fight of the Night performance at UFC 170. He maintained after that win that his killer instinct had returned.
“Ares” possesses a diverse striking attack and uses his length to good advantage with a stiff jab and leg kicks. He also has showcased a formidable ground-and-pound game although getting Woodley to the mat will likely be a difficult chore. MacDonald has a 7-2 Octagon record with other notable wins against Jake Ellenberger, B.J Penn, Mike Pyle and Nate Diaz.
There have been times, such as the highly disappointing bout against Ellenberger, where he’s been criticized for a “safety first” approach. A convincing win and exciting performance against Woodley would very likely earn the 24-year old MacDonald his title opportunity in 2015.
The stakes are high for what shapes up to be a standout clash between two legitimate title threats. Both men know that while a victory is critical to their title quest, they will also be judged by top UFC brass on the entertainment value that they deliver.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports