UFC Doubleheader Preview: MacDonald vs. Saffiedine, Nelson vs. Story
The UFC runs a mediocre doubleheader this weekend with mediocre cards taking place in Stockholm, Sweden, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. It’s prudent and necessary to illustrate what the UFC could have put together if they melded these two cards together:
Rory MacDonald vs. Tarec Saffiedine
Gunnar Nelson vs. Rick Story
Raphael Assuncao vs. Bryan Caraway
Akira Corassani vs. Max Holloway
Niklas Backstrom vs. Mike Wilkinson
Now, that’s not a “skip grandma’s funeral to watch some fights” kind of event, but that’s a solid Fox Sports 1/Fight Pass offering that’ll sate your base urges on a Saturday afternoon/evening. Instead we’re left with two scoopfuls of slop with some tasty morsels thrown in.
RORY MAC’S SILK ROAD SHOPPING CART
Rory MacDonald arguably earned a title shot when he emasculated Tyron Woodley at UFC 174. The UFC, however, chose Robbie Lawler to set up a half-immediate rematch against Johny Hendricks. (Hendricks hasn’t fought since their fight of the year contender in march; Lawler’s beaten both Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown in the interim.) With Hendricks off the table, MacDonald accepted a fight with Tarec Saffiedine.
It’s an interesting decision. For as fresh as welterweight has been since Georges St-Pierre retired (or “retired”), no one past Lawler and MacDonald has a good argument to fight for the title, and MacDonald could have taken some time off and waited for the winner. He would risk sitting out of action for upwards (if not more than) a year, however, which might be OK when you’re 35 and waiting for big paydays, but may not be the most sound career decision at 25. (Which is a great reminder: Rory MacDonald is only 25 years old.)
And Saffiedine makes for the classic high-risk/little-reward opponent. He’s ranked in the top ten, though his lone UFC fight took place on the debut Fight Pass show in Singapore, and he’s a skilled-enough kickboxer to beat MacDonald standing if MacDonald can’t or won’t take him down (or threaten to take him down). A loss here is devasting for MacDonald, who already suffered two big set backs against Carlos Condit (a fight that the UFC should never have put him in a month before his 21st birthday) and Lawler. It’s not a career killer – did I mention he’s only 25? – but it sets him back at least another year.
GUNNAR NELSON IS SO [RELAXED/TIRED/BORED] THAT HE [PUNCHLINE]
Over in Sweden, Gunnar Nelson fights Rick Story, and we should talk about Rick Story for a second.
Story made his UFC debut in 2009, losing to John Hathaway. He rebounded with six straight wins, including wins over Johny Hendricks and Thiago Alves. He dropped a decision to Charlie Brenneman (!?!) and dropped another decision to Martin Kampmann. Since then, he’s alternated wins and losses with the wins coming against guys he should beat (Brock Jardine, Quinn Mulhern, Brian Ebersole) and the losses against guys that you’d hope he could beat (Demian Maia, Mike Pyle, Kevin Gastelum).
It’s one of the stranger career arcs in the UFC. Guy makes solid run through tough division, probably on the precipice of a title shot, then, in his prime years, can’t beat mid-level competition. And it’s not as if he has a lot of miles on him: Saturday night will mark his 26th pro fight.
Anyway, the books have Nelson as a 3-1 favorite, so there you go.
-Dominick Cruz returned last week, beat up Takeya Mizguaki in a fashion that Takeya Mizugaki does not get beat up, and earned a shot at the title he never lost. That leaves Raphael Assuncao on the outside looking in once again. He’ll fight Bryan Caraway in what should be a placeholder fight, though who knows given Assuncao’s luck this past year.
-Dennis Siver returns for the first time since a positive test for hCG back in December of last year. We’ll be waiting with bated breath to see if Siver still looks like a cross between Brock Lesnar and Daniel Craig.
-It wouldn’t be a Swedish UFC card without the talents of Ilir Latifi, who I’m proud to announce finally has his own Wikipedia page. Congratulations go out to Latifi and Wikipedia user Yankeesfan0130 for all their hard work.
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter.