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Rory MacDonald’s career has carried him to yet another destination.
The former Bellator MMA titleholder and Ultimate Fighting Championship contender will make his Professional Fighters League debut when he confronts Curtis Millender in the 2021 PFL 2 headliner on Thursday at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. MacDonald, 31, enters the promotion’s welterweight field and the chase for $1 million as one of its most accomplished competitors. He has delivered 14 of his 21 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission, his stellar resume highlighted by wins over Paul Daley, Tarec Saffiedine, Demian Maia, Tyron Woodley, B.J. Penn and Nate Diaz.
As MacDonald prepares for his battle with Millender, a look at some of the rivalries that have helped steer his mixed martial arts journey:
The former World Extreme Cagefighting welterweight champion, perhaps down two rounds on the scorecards, brutalized and stopped MacDonald with a poisonous ground-and-pound blend of elbows, hammerfists and punches in the third round of their UFC 115 welterweight showcase on June 12, 2010 at GM Place in Vancouver, British Columbia. Condit drew the curtain 4:53 into Round 3. MacDonald pressured “The Natural Born Killer” for much of the first two rounds, as he worked effectively from the outside and from the clinch. A British Columbia native, he scored with three takedowns in the opening period but failed to keep Condit grounded and never threatened to finish. Condit took a tongue-lashing from trainer Greg Jackson prior to the third round and stormed off his stool with a sense of desperation and purpose. He tagged MacDonald with a right hand, swarmed him to the ground and unleashed a devastating series of blows that carved up the ex-King of the Cage titleholder in the waning seconds. MacDonald was the youngest fighter on the UFC roster at the time.
It was a jaw-dropping display of violence. Lawler retained the welterweight championship with a fifth-round technical knockout of MacDonald in the UFC 189 co-main event on July 11, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. “Ruthless Robbie” closed out the Canadian 60 seconds into Round 5, brining a decisive conclusion to an instant classic. MacDonald forced the American Top Team standout to rally to keep his title. He withstood a ghoulish onslaught from Lawler in the second round, where the champion left his face mangled with a seemingly endless volley of punches down the pike. Straight lefts followed digging jabs, as Lawler slammed one fist after another into his face. MacDonald shifted the momentum in a blink, as the Tristar Gym ace wrapped a head kick around his opponent’s defenses. Lawler staggered and absorbed a barrage of punches, standing elbows and knees from the challenger but refused to wilt. Round 4 provided more of the same from the two welterweights, who stood and traded. MacDonald seemed to get the better of the exchanges, especially early in the frame. However, the damage to his face left him vulnerable. Less than a minute into the fifth round, Lawler sent a straight left crashing directly into MacDonald’s nose. He crumbled to his back in visible distress, and Lawler finished him with follow-up punches. It marked MacDonald’s second loss to Lawler in as many tries, as he had wound up on the wrong side of a split decision at UFC 167 in November 2013.
MacDonald walked through considerable fire to capture his first major mixed marital arts championship. The Firas Zahabi protégé withstood a grotesque hematoma on his left shin and significant damage to his nose, as he took a unanimous decision from Douglas Lima and laid claim to the undisputed Bellator MMA welterweight crown in the Bellator 192 co-headliner on Jan. 20, 2018 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. All three cageside judges scored it for MacDonald: 48-47, 49-45 and 49-46. Lima piled up points and made life difficult for the Canadian with a sustained barrage of leg kicks. However, MacDonald managed to dictate the terms of their engagement on multiple fronts through clinches and takedowns, suffocating the Atlanta-based Brazilian with pressure while refusing to allow him to operate in open space. The “Red King” iced the most significant win of his career in Round 5, where he completed a takedown inside the first period, applied his ground-and-pound and bled the remaining time off the clock. The two men faced one another in a Bellator 232 rematch some 19 months later, with Lima emerging as a unanimous decision victor.
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