QUEBEC CITY – Rory MacDonald is beaming with confidence as he prepares for his UFC 174 meeting with Tyron Woodley this summer.
The UFC welterweight contender has been in the thick of the hunt for a title shot over the past few years, but after some unfortunate setbacks, MacDonald believes now is his time to finally get over the hump.
“I definitely feel like I’m hitting my stride now this year,” MacDonald told MMAjunkie. “My focus is at an all-time high, and I couldn’t be happier. Ranked as the No. 2 contender or whatever in the world, it’s very exciting for me.”
MacDonald (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) is set to fight Woodley (13-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) in UFC 174’s pay-per-view co-main event slot on June 14 at Vancouver’s Rogers Centre.
Woodley’s combination of speed and power could provide the sternest test of MacDonald’s 18-fight career. The 24-year-old has never faced an opponent with Woodley’s skillset, but the Canadian feels he has an answer.
“I have a handful of techniques that will work really well against that style of fighter,” MacDonald said. “I’m very pleased to be matched up with him, and I’m very confident in winning that fight.
“I’ll be in good shape for that fight, very focused and very hungry for the victory.”
Tristar head coach Firas Zahabi is equally confident in MacDonald’s ability to neutralize Woodley’s power, saying it’s a matter of surviving the initial flurry before putting “The Chosen One” on his heels.
“Guy’s who are just very fast aren’t very fast for super long,” Zahabi said. “Explosive guys – it’s a give and take. If you’re slow you usually have great gas. If you’re fast, usually you don’t. The first round is the most dangerous, so we have to get Rory into the second and third round and really let Rory push the pace.
“You got to hurt a guy like Woodley. If you don’t hurt him, he’s going to hurt you. You got to be the first one to hurt him and put him on defense. Tyron’s offense is so strong that you have to keep him on defense.”
Should MacDonald get past Woodley, he could be the first to challenge recently crowned champion Johny Hendricks once he recovers from recent bicep surgery.
Hendricks told MMAjunkie this past month that he hopes to return to the cage between September and November. While MacDonald isn’t looking past next opponent, he thinks the timing would be perfect for a title fight at one of the UFC’s upcoming shows in Canada.
“When I beat Woodley, hopefully [I get a title shot] in the fall or winter in Toronto or Montreal,” MacDonald said. “Hendricks is a great fighter. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s definitely a good fighter, and I’m excited to see him in the future.”
MacDonald has long been pegged as the heir to the throne of former welterweight champion and fellow Canadian Georges St-Pierre. With St-Pierre’s recent hiatus and surgery, the pressure on MacDonald to follow in the footsteps of his training partner has softened.
While he claims he never truly felt much of the pressure, he’s grateful for the opportunity to build his own legacy with a 2014 campaign that could include wins over Woodley and Hendricks.
“I’m striving to be a champion in the welterweight division,” MacDonald said. “I don’t want to fill Georges’ shoes. That’s an impossible task. I don’t want to be Georges. I want to be myself. I want to represent my style of martial arts and my own personality.
“Georges was probably the greatest champion ever, and he’s been a great person for me to learn from, train beside and watch fight over the years. He’s a model for Canadian fighters, and I just hope I can be as dominant as him in the cage.”
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