UFC on Fox 9 keeps getting better and better. In a card already being headlined by newly-crowned Lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis in his first title defense against rightful challenger T.J. Grant, a barnburner in the bantamweight division has just been confirmed. Urijah Faber vs. Michael McDonald. If you view Renan Barao as the current champion, which many do, then Faber and McDonald are the #1 and #2 contenders in the division. Two of the best, not just in the bantamweight division, but in the UFC and the world, period.
Michael McDonald (16-2 overall, 5-1 in the UFC)
Strengths: Striking, KO power, underrated submissions
Weaknesses: Still very young and hasn’t fought many elite guys
Urijah Faber ( overall, in the UFC)
Strengths: Well-rounded as well-rounded gets, exceptionally versatile and capable
Weaknesses: Always good enough to beat anyone except the champion
The Date: Dec. 14, 2013 at UFC on FOX 9
Weight Class: Bantamweight
What led to it: It was only a matter of time until these two guys collided. Both elite fighters with good records, only recently losing to the current Interim champ Barao. Consider this fight the fight to determine who is the second best fighter in the bantamweight division.
Why it matters: This fight could very well give us the next title contender after Eddie Wineland. In fact, the only reason they aren’t fighting for the title now is because they both already lost to Barao recently.
McDonald was finished by Barao at UFC on FUEL TV (Barao vs. McDonald) in the fourth round. Faber lost a one-sided decision to Barao at UFC 149.
For McDonald, it’s a chance to avenge his sole loss in the UFC. That fight against Barao was very close up until that fourth round submission. He was more competitive in his fight against Barao than Faber was, having the build and length to present dangers to Barao. McDonald is like the Rory MacDonald of the bantamweight division. A young, talented fighter with tons of potential. McDonald is only 22 and he’s already had six fights in the UFC, one of them for the title. He’s fought good competition, but few names on his resume would raise a lot of eyebrows, even though he wins (and loses) in impressive fashion. Faber would be a great benchmark to see where he falls in terms of his skillset, as well as the bantamweight division. He’s got a chance to prove he’s the top dog in the division, besides the champion of course, and be the first guy to push Faber off of that “top of the mountain” spot. At 22 years of age, with his abilities and potential, he’s got an immensely bright future and you’d have to think there is going to be a championship somewhere in there.
Ah, Urijah Faber. Faber, Faber, Faber. What to do with this guy? He’s got a little bit of a love/hate thing going on in terms of matchmaking. He keeps losing in title fights, even though he’s competitive, he doesn’t really seem able to beat the champion. But put anyone else in front of him and he wins, usually handily. In his last six victories, scattered across losses to Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao, he’s finished four of them by submission and two were dominant decision wins. He’s going to beat pretty much everyone who doesn’t hold the strap, but he’s probably going to lose to the champ. So what do you do with him? Exactly what the UFC is doing now, throw every potential challenger in the division at him and see what he does. If he loses, the dilemma is solved. If he keeps winning in impressive fashion, the dilemma is solved: give him another crack at the title.
McDonald is the guy who can take Faber out of that zone. He can end Faber’s impressive three fight win streak and if he makes Faber look bad, he’d make a strong case to challenge for the title again, depending on how Cruz vs. Wineland and the situation with Dominick Cruz plays out. Faber has the same opportunity, if he can dominate McDonald like he’s been doing to everyone else in the division, who else could you throw at him as a legitimate opponent? There’s a lot riding on this one, keep your eyes peeled folks.
Tags: Michael McDonald, UFC on FOX 9, Urijah Faber