By Adam Conklin:
Main events usually cast a shadow that covers most of the main card. However, this shadow should not block the talent on the undercard. This is unfortunately the case with this weekends UFC 145 event, headlined, of course, by Jon Jones defending his title against Rashad Evans. Before I travel to far down that road though, lets discuss the co-main event.
Canadian born welterweight powerhouse, Rory MacDonald (12-1) takes on the dangerous newcomer Che Mills (14-4, 1 NC).
MacDonald is an all around monster similar to that of teammate and fellow welterweight, Georges St Pierre. He made his professional debut at 16 years old and has been improving ever since. He has fast, crisp, and powerful striking that he employs effortlessly on his opponents. Quite possibly the best display of his striking was against Carlos Condit. He brought the interim champ to the brink of defeat and outclassed him for most of the fight. He was unfortunately stopped with around ten seconds left in the fight after Condit went on a warpath in the third.
Having trouble on his feet? No matter, MacDonald has incredible core strength mixed in with unbelievably beautiful takedown technique. It was really a joy to watch MacDonald perform a flawless leg trip from his back, bringing Condit to the ground, or throwing Nate Diaz upside-down with suplex after suplex.
Once on the ground, MacDonald has submission skills to round out his game. In fact, his first four professional fights were finished with submissions and his UFC debut was stopped with an armbar victory over Mike Guymon.
If Rory wants to win this fight and win it fast, he really can employ any type of game he wants as long as he sticks to it faithfully and remains patient on his feet, as Mills is a dangerous striker, and aggressive on the ground as Mills has dropped three out of his four losses with submissions.
If MacDonald comes out as the cold calculated fighter that we’ve come to expect from him, we may have a quick fight on our hands and another win for the 22 year old Canadian.
For Che Mills, he must come in prepared to be taken down. It is inevitable that, at some point during this fight, Mills will wind up on his back. Aside from working his takedown defense diligently, he should also look to employ quick intercept knees to make MacDonald think about shooting. After he is brought to the ground, he must run. Scooting out away from Rory will help keep him off-balance. Mills must go back to the cage and wall walk back up to a clinch position where his knees are powerful enough to break the clinch. If MacDonald gets a hold on him on the ground, Mills must threaten with submissions. Even if they are hollow threats, MacDonald’s technical brain will not leave him open to anything that can turn the tide of the fight. He will surely look to defend the submission, causing less punches to be thrown down towards Mills’ head.
Now, we’ve only seen Mills in the Octagon once, but in his debut against TUF veteran, Chris Cope, Mills showed why he deserves a step up in competition as he dismantled Cope in just 40 seconds with a series of brutal knees. A statement made at the right time against an opponent several rungs below him on the divisional ladder.
Mills must look to capitalize on a five fight win streak and a successful Octagon debut by putting an end to the meteoric rise of Rory MacDonald. This will put his name on the map and quell thoughts of him being considered an easy target for MacDonald.
To do this, Mills must rely on his power to really hurt MacDonald to get his mind racing. If Mills can accumulate strikes on MacDonald, he will help MacDonald lose sight of his game plan and become more prone to make mistakes. Mills is lethal and doesn’t need much of an opening to land. Condit showed that MacDonald could tire out if pressured and exposed some holes in MacDonald’s game that Mills can exploit.
This is an explosive welterweight fight that will determine the next contender down the line. Two technical fighters with talent and potential will come together in a fight that unfortunately has been forgotten about due to the blockbuster main event. While I can’t blame fans for overlooking this fight. I only wish that they admire two fantastic fighters who are looking to go to war.