UFC 130 Prelim Prospect – Michael McDonaldAuthor : Jack Barrington
There is a satisfying feeling about following a fighter from obscurity to greatness; about knowing a fighter before they make it onto the big show and then watching them advance right to the top of their division. This series doesn’t quite go to that extreme, the fighters it will focus on are already fighting on the biggest stage, but it will highlight a promising fighter on the undercard of each event, bringing them to your attention and making sure you don’t miss out on the prospects fighting on the prelims.
It feels almost unnecessary to draw attention to Michael McDonald, who, at just 20 years old, has racked up two impressive wins under the Zuffa banner already. People are sleeping on the young bantamweight, though, and his name is often mistakenly missing from discussions about the sport’s best young prospects.
Fighting as a professional since he was just 16 years old, McDonald is a part of the new breed of well rounded young fighters in the sport. While he does have his own stylistic preferences, he is not trying to adapt an already polished striking or grappling game to the sport of MMA. Instead he is a true mixed martial artist who has been training all aspects of the game for the last six years.
An experienced striker with a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, McDonald has made an effort over the last year to improve his wrestling game and it shows with how much his assertiveness in the ring has improved. No longer willing to be pushed around, as he has said himself in several interviews, McDonald has added a steely resolve to his already dangerous striking and grappling.
On the feet, the most unappreciated part of his game may be his defense. While he is hardly Willie Pep reincarnate, McDonald has shown a good understanding of range that is lacking from most other 20 year old MMA fighters. He won’t be wowing crowds by slipping punches at will and making his opponents look silly, but once he settles into a fight it does become clear that he is not an easy man to hit cleanly. Offensively, his straight right is his money punch; he throws it with intent, often catching fighters stepping in or throwing it over the top after a jab or left hook. He has shown a good kicking game, too, but the right hand is still where his confidence is.
On the ground McDonald is a strong offensive grappler. He looks to improve position quickly when on top, as shown in his win over Manny Tapia, and pursues submissions from his back with a composed aggression, as he did in his impressive WEC debut with a submission win over Clint Godfrey.
Tomorrow he takes on Chris Cariaso, a tricky southpaw with a strong kicking game and power in both hands. From what I have seen of him Cariaso is a decent grappler, but gets overaggressive and leaves holes on the ground that a fighter of McDonald’s quality should exploit.
Cariaso is a dangerous opponent to be facing on short notice—McDonald stepped in on around one month’s notice after Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto was injured in training—but the difference in quality on the ground is big enough that McDonald should impress again. If things stay standing then we could be in for a fun striking battle, but I think McDonald plays to his relative strength here, gets on top early and finishes things.
If you aren’t already (and, really, you should be), make sure to keep an eye on Michael McDonald’s fight tomorrow. He is a prospect worth watching.