Before beginning this article, I will say that I think that Rory MacDonald is a good fighter. However, I do not think that Rory MacDonald is a great fighter. In MMA and sports in general, fans tend to fetishize over the idea of youth. When a fighter like Rory MacDonald breaks into the UFC at such a young age, people see their growth as linear. Fans assume that fighters will grow at a constant rate and when they enter the UFC at a young age, their potential seems limitless.
Unfortunately, guys like Dan Lauzon have showed us that youth does not guarantee success. He made his UFC debut at age 18 and is no longer employed by the UFC. Melvin Guillard seemed to have so much time and athleticism that fans thought he could develop into a dominant lightweight. But, as we’ve seen over the past few years, the same problems that Guillard had in terms of submission defense are still there. Guillard had mental lapses during his early fighters and now, over seven years after his initial debut, his problems still persist.
MacDonald is exceptionally good for his age, no doubt. However, Welterweight has always been an extremely strong division when it comes to wrestlers. Georges St. Pierre has dominated the division while guys like Jon Fitch, Johny Hendricks, and Jake Ellenberger have been viewed as the top contenders in the division. Each of them are strong offensive wrestlers and while MacDonald has shown the type of striking that can help him avoid many takedowns, we’ve seen from Carlos Condit what can happen when a top-level striker meets a top-level wrestler. Condit was taken down at will by St. Pierre. MacDonald will have his chance to prove doubters wrong at UFC on FOX 8 on July 27 when he takes on Jake Ellenberger. But even if he can beat Ellenberger, I don’t think he get stop takedowns from top-level fighters consistently enough to be a dominant champion.
Can he improve his defensive wrestling? Sure. At the same time, I think Condit is a good doppelganger of MacDonald; Condit has been working on his takedown defense for his entire career, but against the best of the best, it still wasn’t enough.