Canadian welterweight Rory (Ares) MacDonald waged a technical fight in winning a unanimous if unappreciated decision over Jake (The Juggernaut) Ellenberger in the co-main event of a televised UFC card Saturday.
Ellenberger could not find a way to close the distance and the taller MacDonald punched away from the outside. It was effective if not entertaining and the crowd of 7,816 at KeyArena booed loudly for much of the fight.
The bout may go down as one of the worst received UFC co-main events, judging from the fan response throughout. The 30-27, 29-28, 30-27 decision was greeted by even more boos.
“That fight sucked so bad,” said UFC president Dana White, who was frustrated earlier in the card by inconsistent judging.
One could argue it was smart strategy by MacDonald. It forced Ellenberger into facing the risk/reward of closing the gap. And MacDonald is trained by Firas Zahabi, a master of the jab.
Champion Georges St-Pierre, who also works under Zahabi in the same Montreal gym as MacDonald, was likely nodding in appreciation from his viewing position. St-Pierre — who takes on No 1 contender Johny Hendricks in November — and MacDonald have said they won’t fight each other but the day of reckoning is approaching.
Carlos (Natural Born Killer) Condit and Martin (The Hitman) Kampman meet next month in another welterweight fight with title contender implications.
“I think I did exactly what I was supposed to do. I kept up my end,” MacDonald said. “He’s a counter-puncher, and a very powerful puncher. I was waiting for my opportunities and he wasn’t coming in at the right times.”
In Saturday’s main event, flyweight champion Demetrious (Mighty Mouse) Johnson put on a show in submitting challenger John Moraga via armbar at 3:43 of the fifth round. The champ transitioned slickly from kimura to armbar in forcing Moraga to tap with his arm bent at an ugly angle.
The move earned Johnson US$50,000 for submission of the night.
It was a dominant display, with Johnson’s superior grappling and speed winning the day. It was also the latest stoppage in the history of the UFC.
In the aftermath of MacDonald-Ellenberger, White said he hoped the 125-pound title bout would “slap the bad taste out of everyone’s mouth.”
The little men did their best with the five-foot-three Johnson, who makes his home in nearby Parkland, taking the upper hand with his takedowns of the five-foot-six Moraga.
The challenger, a relative unknown in the fledgling division, showed his teeth with a triangle attempt in the second round but Johnson (18-2-1) outmanoeuvred him and Moraga (13-2) went back to his stool frustrated. Off another takedown, Johnson almost locked in a kimura in the third round.
It was more of the same in the fourth and fifth with Johnson controlling the fight — and Moraga.
MacDonald, a native of Kelowna, B.C., who fights out of Montreal, came into his bout ranked No. 3 in the 170-pound ranks while Ellenberger, a former U.S. marine who had done a lot of trash-talking at MacDonald’s expense, was No. 4.
The two fighters did shake hands after the decision, which stretched MacDonald’s win streak to five.
Ellenberger (29-7) was clearly feeling confident going into the evening, tweeting a picture of himself in the Hugo Boss suit he planned to wear at the post-fight news conference.
Ellenberger came out first to “Bleed it out” by Linkin Park. MacDonald followed to Rihanna and a mixture of boos and cheers. The Canadian looked like he couldn’t wait to fight, staring at Ellenberger as he entered the cage.
Ellenberger had trouble closing the distance in the first round and MacDonald’s stinging jab didn’t help. The crowd didn’t like the round but MacDonald (15-1) probably did.
There were more boos in the second as MacDonald waited for Ellenberger to try to come in. Ellenberger’s face began to show damage.
MacDonald used kicks and jabs to keep Ellenberger away. But he couldn’t stop everything and was bleeding from the face in the third round. Ellenberger also managed a late takedown, winning cheers for his effort.
“It just wasn’t my night,” said Ellenberger. “I didn’t have a good night. I didn’t pull the trigger.”
“I’m very disappointed in myself,” he added.
White thought both co-main event fighters failed to impress — Ellenberger because he froze and MacDonald because he didn’t press his advantage.