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Rory MacDonald v Stephen Thompson Is The Most Exciting Matchup You Will See All Year

Rory MacDonald v Stephen Thompson Is The Most Exciting Matchup You Will See All Year
By David Clarke
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It is the oldest cliche in mixed-martial-arts, but styles do make fights - and fight fans will be treated to what will almost certainly be the most intriguing match-up of the year when top welterweight contenders, Rory MacDonald and Stephen Thompson come face to face tonight.

Perhaps the biggest prospect to emerge from Canada since the legendary Georges St-Pierre - Rory MacDonald returns after almost a year out of the octagon - and will meet one of the most exciting strikers in the UFC on his return.

Thompson's nickname couldn't do him anymore justice, 'Wonderboy's' unpredictable style makes him one of most dangerous strikers in the UFC. With a kickboxing record of 57-0, including a staggering 40 knockouts - Thompson floats around the octagon with a karate-like wide open stance, and makes it incredibly difficult for his opponent to close the distance.

For MacDonald, it will be interesting to see how he bounces back from that war with champion Robbie Lawler at UFC 189. MacDonald was leading Lawler 39-37 on all three judges score card (although he wouldn't have known that at the time), before Lawler found the shot he needed - shattering MacDonald's nose in the fifth and final round.

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What's on the line?

This has shades of last year's fight between hometown boy Alexander Gustafsson and Anthony Johnson, the former a well-rounded fighter and the latter a pure knockout artist. Most people assumed that Gustafsson would find a way to stifle Johnson's offence, but just over 2 minutes later - Gustafsson was picking himself off the canvas after being brutally knocked out.

For MacDonald, one wrong and could find himself in a very difficult place. Already confirming he's going to test the free-agency market with this the last fight remaining on his contract. A defeat, and he will lost a great deal of bargaining power, and maybe the opportunity to complete the trilogy with Robbie Lawler could follow it too.

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But he is the natural heir to Georges St-Pierre's welterweight throne - and the golden boy of Canadian MMA, so it's highly unfeasible to think that the UFC would let MacDonald join one of the promotion's rivals such as Bellator.

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This is being billed as a title-eliminator and it's easy to see why -  MacDonald and Thompson are the number one and two ranked fighters at 170 pounds. But despite this being an obvious title eliminator, both fighters will still remain very relevant within the welterweight division regardless of result.

Prediction:

It's extremely difficult to call, and is quite literally a toss of a coin. If MacDonald can impose his game, use his effective jab and utilise his effective wrestling - he will do enough to win. But all of that is a very big IF.

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Similar circumstances existed in Thompson's last fight where he met former UFC welterweight champion, Johnny Hendrick -but 'Wonderboy' bemused Hendricks with his unorthodox style, knocking him out in the first round.

But MacDonald is a much smarter fighter than Hendricks, and won't invite Thompson to brawl with him - the Canadian will probably outclass 'Wonderboy' en-route to a victory by unanimous decision. But don't be surprised if Thompson catches him flush, marching onto set up a fight with the winner of the Lawler and Woodley fight.

More close fights tonight but I'm going with McDonald, Cote and Theodorou. Don't know the rest enough to predict. Whats ur FOTN?

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Familiar foe:

Conor McGregor fans will be all to familiar with the the name Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone - as the latter looks to make his mark in the UFC's welterweight division.

With his only defeat in his previous 10 bouts coming to another name McGregor fans will know, Rafael Dos Anjos - 'Cowboy's' laid back mentality has seen him become one of the most likable faces in the game today.

But he faces a tough test in Canadian hometown boy, Patrick Cote - Cote has fought as high as light-heavyweight, and Cerrone is about to find out whether or not he can deal with the more physical opponent that will be present at 170 pounds.

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But behind all the bravado, Donald Cerrone is an excellent fighter - his dangerous kickboxing, and underrated submission game make him a very dangerous opponent. He has a tendency to crumble when the pressure is on him, but he is technically much better than Cote - if he stays away from that big right hand, he will win by unanimous decision.

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