By the Numbers
If you ever need proof that Joe Silva is still an excellent matchmaker, a fight like this is exactly where you need to turn. The UFCs Welterweight division has become one of the most chaotic and exciting weight classes in all of MMA within the last year. It's a division where the top seven or eight guys could all beat one another on any given night. Rory MacDonald (16-2) and Tyron Woodley (15-2), two of those men, stand to square off this weekend in a fight that is running about as close to the numbers as one could go.
For starters, MacDonald and Woodley are about as well-rounded as it gets when it comes to win statistics. For victory by KO, MacDonald has six and Tyron has four. Switch to submissions and you have MacDonald with six and Woodley with five. On judges score cards, again the same range with each fighter at four. So not only are these guys winning in every category, they are also carrying near equal numbers compared to each other as well. One guy has 18 pro fights, the other holds 17. However, a deeper look reveals quite another story.
MacDonald holds nearly a 4" reach advantage, and mixed with his high striking output and his jab work in past fights, I think it's safe to say this will be one of the more influential numbers in the fight. FightMetric puts Rory's SLpM (Strikes Landed per Minute) at a ratio of over 4.0 to further accent this, and compared to Woodley's SLpM of 2.67, we can see that MacDonald will no doubt be the busier fighter. With each guy having only ever been knocked out once, this is good news for "Ares" fans but doesn't write the whole story.
Flipping the angle back to how even these guys are by the numbers, Woodley and MacDonald match up pretty similarly everywhere else. They hold very close numbers in defense, takedown accuracy, strikes absorbed, takedown defense, and submission attempts across the board. As with the earlier figures, Rory tends to hold a very slight edge on "The Chosen One", but no man holds a chasm over the other really anywhere. Again, that reach advantage remains as one of he largest "tells" on paper.
What's at Stake
I think its safe to say by now that this fight has title implications written all over it. Since both fighters are so elite, do not expect a whole lot of falling off the radar or rankings for the loser. The biggest drawback for whoever catches the L in this one is getting back in line for a title shot within a division that is absolutely stacked with beasts. Tyron Woodley and Rory MacDonald are going to be right there in the mix for the next good while. In fact, the lack of any "do or die" situations in this fight will most likely end up allowing "The Chosen One" and "Ares" to really get in there and throw down.
The Road to Victory
One occurrence the numbers revealed in the slight variations that were present is the wrestling part of this whole ordeal. MacDonald tended to take the lead in these fields, however slight, and I think this may end up being the gateway to victory on Saturday night for him. Couple this with the fact that Woodley's only two losses come from very elite grapplers (Jake Shields and Nate Marquardt), and I think a GSP inspired game plan may be what we see from Rory's camp. Jab, move, wrestle.
Now, here's perhaps the largest variable in the entire fight; Woodleys power and team. Right now ATT in Coconut Creek houses some of the most impressive MMA fighters in the game, many of whom are on the rise towards titles or recently fought for one. Guys like Glover Teixiera, Mark Hunt, Nik Lentz, Robbie Lawler, Justin Scoggins, Mark Hunt, Thiago Alves, the list goes on and on. When a fighter is constantly surrounded by warriors of this caliber, nothing can happen but vast improvement. I cant help but expect ATT to have Tyron Woodley ready to stuff out MacDonald's takedown game and to bring in that power factor.
That will be The Chosen One's road to victory, and I think he actually stands a better chance of landing that dynamite shot than Rory does of jabbing and holding for the entire fight. Same goes for the submission. Both fighters play a dangerous game if they run it to the score cards, but Woodley's power and what some may call a more "out of nowhere" submission game, he may just be able to flip MacDonald's wrestling into one hell of a statement via left field sub. Rory's route to winning is safer and more predictable, and that could very well backfire on him against a more explosive fighter like Woodley.
In the end, only Saturday night knows, so don't miss this truly exciting fight, and stick around with Rough Copy for all the live and post fight goodness this weekend at UFC174!