Flying under the radar on such a stacked card for UFC FS1 was the Michael McDonald and Brad Pickett fight. After this fight that should not happen for McDonald in the future. This was a dominating performance over one the toughest fighters in the UFC bantamweight division. He is not going to get another title shot right away because of the line in front of him but another two or three wins like this and he will be back at the front.
Here are three young stars (two of which fought on tonight's card) entering into this night:
Fighter X. 13-2, 1 win the UFC. All 13 wins by stoppage, 12 TKO/KOs and 1 submission, age 25.
Fighter Y. 15-1, 6 wins in the UFC. 12 wins by stoppage, 6 TKO/KOs and 6 submissions, age 24.
Fighter Z. 15-2 4 wins in the UFC. 13 of the 15 wins by stoppage, 9 TKO/KOs and 4 submissions, age 22.
Fighter X is of course Conor McGregor, Fighter Y is Rory MacDonald, and Fighter Z is McDonald. Now let me be clear when I say McGregor deserves the hype. If it were not for our own Sean Sheehan I would be driving the McGregor hype train, as it is I am happy to shovel some coal while he drives it. This is about McDonald and how he should have his own hype train rolling. Let's start one now because he is special in his own way. He just steamrolled a fighter in Pickett, that many were picking to win this fight and catapult himself into the title picture. He shares several similarities with McGregor, and MacDonald in that they all are talented young fighters who could very well be wearing title belts in the future. All three have good all around games and are capable of finishing their opponents in many different ways.
This fight with Pickett illustrated how special McDonald is as a fighter. There was some hype behind McDonald leading up to his title fight with Renan Barao back in February of this year. McDonald lost that fight via a fourth round Arm-Triangle Choke submission. It was a tough fight that McDonald had a couple of moments in but Barao was too much for him on that night. What you saw in that fight though was the possibility of his specialness. Barao is a beast and McDonald did not look outclassed in that fight. It was a tough loss and the next test for McDonald was to see how he responded to the disappointment of that loss. Tonight we got that answer. He is special and could very well be wearing the belt very soon.
This fight was like a check list for greatness in the UFC for a young fighter. One of those things is poise within the chaos of the cage. It is one thing to talk about poise and composure, but it is something different to actually exhibit in the moment. Tonight McDonald was able to do just that in this fight. He also displayed different sides of that coin.
In the first round he got Pickett in trouble early and many fighters would have lost this fight trying to get the finish right there. Rushing or swarming in can work sometimes when a fighter is hurt. If you do that against a fighter like Pickett you will often end up knocked out. He is truly dangerous when he is hurt and has a history of getting knocked around and coming back. At the same time you have to be able to seize the opportunity, at least do damage and try to get the finish. McDonald did a great job of dancing upon that razor's edge in the first round.
They spent about forty five seconds exchanging with nothing of consequence landing when McDonald staggered him with a quick short straight right and left hook combo meal. This sent Pickett staggering backwards. McDonald did move in quickly but not recklessly. He also maintained a balanced stance while keeping himself at a safe distance. This allowed him to avoid a couple of wild punches Pickett threw that would have altered the fight. While at the same time he inflicted damage of his own landing several shots during the ensuing scramble. This sequence ended with Pickett getting sent to canvas again, courtesy of two right uppercuts and another left hook. It was just under a minute into the round and Pickett had already gone down twice. They scrambled some more with McDonald staying measured and sending Pickett backwards to the canvas again. They exchanged a little more with McDonald landing before they finally separated. There was three minutes and thirty seconds left in the round and Pickett's face was already swollen and bleeding.
At this point in the fight Pickett was hurt but not done. McDonald recognized the situation and took a beat and a step back. Right now he did not want to get caught up in a brawl or gas himself out. He is the quicker, taller fighter and he can just pick him apart from distance without putting himself in danger. He did not force the fight, he let it come to him but remained aggressive. Moments later a body kick, right hand combination sent Pickett down again. This time McDonald followed him to the ground into Pickett's guard. He landed a couple of shots and then just let Pickett up. It was clear that McDonald felt comfortable on his feet. He peppered Pickett's face the rest of the round. This caused Pickett to start to shake in some kind enraged way and come forward harder throwing wildly. By the end of the round McDonald had Elephant Manned Pickett's face up with his laser like striking.
The second round started like the first with McDonald using his speed, timing, sense of distance and reach advantage. Pickett would land one or two but he could not put together a combination of his own. To his credit Pickett kept coming forward and shot in for a takedown after a little over a minute into the round. He put McDonald on his back. They were in McDonald's guard. From there Pickett landed some shots and did do some damage but nothing major. Meanwhile, McDonald was subtly setting up the submission, displaying his composure in a bad situation. He never panicked but patiently worked until the moment happened. Again, he did not force the situation but he did create it through his work and perseverance. When the moment happened he moved quickly and locked in the submission.
Video: UFC on FOX Sports 1: McDonald/Pickett
The kid is something special. That is exactly the response you want after a tough loss in a title fight. A hard fought, dominating decisive win over a gritty tough veteran. There was a lot of talk about Pickett getting a title shot with an impressive win over McDonald. Despite this performance there is the Eddie Wineland fight and then hopefully Barao and Dominick Cruz. There is no reason to keep a young fighter like this on the shelf and I propose a title eliminator with Urijah Faber. That would be a fight filled with fireworks and action. The winner would clearly be the man in line to take on the winner of Barao vs Cruz.