Rory MacDonald and Stephen Thompson are the number one and two ranked welterweights respectively and they are set to go to war on June 18 in Ottawa, Canada.
Physically the two fighters are relatively even. At first glance MacDonald seems to be the heavier fighter, but they share an almost identical reach – MacDonald longer by an inch – and look eye to eye at six feet. Macdonald is the younger man by more than 6 years, but has a lot more octagon experience. Thompson isn’t new to the fight game though, he has 13 MMA fights, a 57-0 kickboxing record (combining both amateur and professional experience) and 5 world titles under his belt.
MacDonald is the more well-rounded mixed martial artist, but Thompson is a specialist, a world class striker. Let’s take a closer look at the stats and some other variables to see where the advantages and disadvantages lie.
MacDonald is a competent striker, but is in no way on the same level as Thompson. MacDonald has a laser beam left jab and most of his offence runs through it. His strong jab is accompanied by a great straight right. It’s MacDonalds go to combo. He uses his length well, often throwing a front kick to the body like a jab. However, I don’t know how often we will see that particular technique as that range could be a real danger zone for MacDonald. Thompson’s kicks are deadly accurate and with no windup.
Both men throw about the same volume, 19 strikes per round. Both throw about the same number of Significant strikes; 17 for Thompson and 16 for MacDonald and they spread them out across the body at roughly the same percentage as well. There isn’t any real advantage for either fighter in volume or landing percentage.
For me, the gap between the two from a striking perspective is going to be most evident in their striking defence. This is where Thompson outclasses MacDonald. MacDonald averages 12 of his 16 significant strikes to the head. Thompson however has great head movement making it very difficult to land anything significant.
Thompson’s opponents average a dismal 3.5 significant head strikes per round. On top of that he is a great counter puncher. He made that quite clear against Johny Hendricks. Hendricks a predominantly north/south fighter was repeatedly punished for pushing forward with no head movement. Thompson dispatched of the former champ within a round. MacDonald similarly doesn’t exercise much head movement.
When MacDonald was able to close the distance against Lawler he made him pay. If he can force Thompson – who is more comfortable at a kickboxing range – to fight in a phone booth or push him up against the cage the advantage may tip in his favour. Cote did a great job of that during his fight with Thompson. Easier said than done though, Thompson has great movement; he leaves on angles, comes in on angles and uses every inch of the cage.
There’s a lot more fluidity to Thompson’s striking. MacDonald will have to be mindful of Thompson’s kicks they come from all sorts of angles and are never telegraphed. MacDonald could run into problems lingering in the pocket for too long. Lawler was able to catch him numerous times and he isn’t as technical a striker as Thompson. MacDonald’s straight right could lead to problems for him. Thompson slips shots very well. He will have to keep his hands up and be mindful of what Thompson is capable of, or he could find himself on the wrong end of a KO.
Rory should have a clear advantage on the ground. Although Thompson hasn’t been taken down in his last six fights Matt Brown did have a great deal of success when he was able to put Thompson on his back. Thompson’s never lost a fight that took place at a strikers range, his only loss in combat sport was to Matt Brown who took him down five times and was able to control him on the ground.
MacDoanld should be competent enough on the feet to give himself a few opportunities to get this fight to the mat. If he can do that this could turn into a lob-sided affair. MacDonald’s control and ground and pound is some of the best in the division. Scoring a successful takedown early is going to be important because it will give Thompson something to think about and force him to take some of the diversity out of his attack.
I would imagine that at no point is Thompson going to want this fight on the ground, but throwing in a few takedown attempts early may throw MacDonald off and mess with his timing, allowing Thompson to get into his grove and start letting his hands go.
My prediction Thompson’s fluidity and head movement will open up opportunities for him to counter strike and with great success. I am not sure if he can finish MacDobnald as he has shown to have an incredible chin, but believe his superior striking will lead to a unanimous decision.