I like this matchup a lot. Rory MacDonald vs. Tyron Woodley is a great representation of precision vs. power in MMA. MacDonald represents precision, a fighter who lacks knockout power but makes up for it with excellent distance control, volume striking, and effective takedown defense. Woodley represents power, both in the form of the ability to knock out his opponents and in the form of the ability to land takedowns.
I firmly believe the onus is on Woodley to find a way to finish MacDonald in this fight. That’s because I believe MacDonald is going to win this fight if it goes the distance. There are two reasons for this. First is that MacDonald’s takedown defense is outstanding at 88 percent, so it’s unlikely that Woodley will win at least two rounds with takedowns and top control. The second is that MacDonald is an excellent volume striker while Woodley is more of a slugger. I have to think that MacDonald would land more significant strikes than Woodley over the course of three rounds, and that would make MacDonald the clear favorite on the judges’ scorecards.
Consider that Woodley has actually absorbed more significant strikes than he’s landed in his UFC/Strikeforce career, 313 to 320. Now, welterweight champion Johny Hendricks has also absorbed more strikes than he’s landed, so it is possible to overcome mediocrity in that category. However, it’s also worth bringing up Woodley’s loss to Jake Shields as a word of warning. A lot of people thought Woodley deserved to win that fight based on more effective striking, but when the fight actually went to the judges, Shields won based on superior volume (82 to 60 significant strikes).
Unfortunately for MacDonald, he’s landed 424 significant strikes in the UFC and has yet to record a single knockdown. Even Demian Maia managed to knock down Alexander Yakovlev in his last fight, leaving Court McGee as the only UFC welterweight to have landed more significant strikes without a knockdown. That’s the biggest area where Woodley has the advantage over MacDonald, as Woodley has landed six knockdowns total for a ratio of 52.2 strikes per knockdown.
That makes Woodley a power puncher, and MacDonald hasn’t looked overly impressive against power punchers recently. MacDonald’s recent strategy has been to keep this type of fighter at the end of his jab, control distance and try to limit damage as much as possible. That worked against Jake Ellenberger, who looked tentative and hesitant. It didn’t work against Robbie Lawler, who looked relaxed and confident, defeating MacDonald by split decision and making me look stupid. My guess is that Woodley is more inclined to be relaxed and confident like Lawler, so I hope for MacDonald’s sake that he’s willing to be more aggressive with his volume striking in this one.
I say that to set up my thoughts for who is more likely to win. I believe that if Rory MacDonald is at his best, he’s a favorite to beat Tyron Woodley based on his blend of takedown defense and volume striking. However, if we see the same Rory MacDonald we saw against Lawler, then I would have to consider Woodley a favorite to win. After considering both possibilities, I see MacDonald as the slight favorite overall as I tend to side with the fighter I believe is genuinely better.
Just know that I won’t be surprised at all if the threat of a knockout prompts MacDonald to go into a super cautious shell of himself, opening the door for Woodley to blast MacDonald with some power punches and eventually win by knockout or decision. I think and hope we won’t see that Rory MacDonald, but I can’t be too confident because we’ve seen it before.
Pick: Rory MacDonald by decision