The co-main-event billing on a card with the magnitude of UFC 145 is no easy task to carry, but 22-year-old wunderkind Rory MacDonald made it look like another day in the office. Of course, his office is a physically taxing proving ground where careers can be accelerated or halted in a flash, and on Saturday night, MacDonald continued to prove why the hype surrounding him is legit.
After taking a hard shot from Che Mills in the early moments of the first round, MacDonald was able to get the fight to the canvas, where he put his unique brand of ground and pound on display. Once the fight hit the mat, Mills found himself in MacDonald's world and never was able to recover from the damage he absorbed throughout the first round.
While some fighters use ground work to bide time, MacDonald switches gears and looks to put his opposition away. Judging from his past two outings, his mixture of accuracy and brutal power is difficult for his opposition to handle.
"I believe I have a massive edge when a fight gets to the ground and I'm on top," MacDonald told HeavyMMA at Philips Arena in Atlanta after his win. "I've trained that weapon in my game since I was 14, and it comes naturally to me. I have a lot of power there, and while some of it comes naturally, technique definitely adds to it. Even if it is a subtle technique, I'm dangerous there.
"There is a time to relax and there is a time to explode, and you have to pinpoint your timing. If you fail to do this, you are in danger of overexerting yourself and spending all of your energy in the wrong areas. Experience, training and many other things make a difference. I work on that facet of my game a lot."
Since breaking into the sport's biggest promotion, MacDonald has steadily picked up momentum as he has carved his way through the welterweight division. When the UFC tapped him to fill the co-main-event slot on one of the year's biggest cards, he was excited for the opportunity. While his personal critique may not be 100 percent, MacDonald believes it was a strong showing in Atlanta.
"I feel like I delivered," he said. "I made some mistakes, but I'm happy with the victory because even though I made those mistakes, I didn't lose because of them. I can go back to the gym, check what mistakes I made and learn from them. I can still be happy with the victory and a good performance."
After a dominant effort against Mills, MacDonald believes a statement has been made. There is little doubt his future is extremely bright. Not only is he looking forward to facing the best fighters in the welterweight division, but he believes in time he will be recognized as one of the best in the sport.
"I feel like I've broken into the top 10, and in the next three years I'm going to be the pound-for-pound king," said MacDonald, who is No. 9 in HeavyMMA's welterweight top 10 rankings. "I'm open to all comers, and right now it's just about gaining experience."