OTTAWA – Rory (Red King) MacDonald arrived at the post-fight news conference in the wee hours Sunday with an ice bag and a white towel that grew increasingly crimson every time he touched it to his battered face.
His face was a road map of abrasions above a stylish dark jacket and black shirt.
Prior to facing Stephen (Wonderboy) Thompson in a matchup of top UFC welterweight contenders, the 26-year-old MacDonald predicted a technical fight that featured bloodshed. He was right on both counts.
Thompson, a former world champion kickboxer light on his feet with a dizzying array of strikes, never allowed MacDonald to find his range. And in the fifth round, a Thompson attack smashed MacDonald’s nose. The battered beak, broken last time out in a punishing loss to champion (Ruthless) Robbie Lawler, gushed blood like a Texas oil strike.
“I don’t know what it was, I was just trying to throw combinations and tuck my head. But something landed,” MacDonald said of the moment his nose was breached by Thompson. “And then I felt the waterfall start, the familiar feeling.”
On the other side of the post-fight podium sat Thomson in a pristine white shirt. Aside from a slight mark around his eye, he looked as clean as his shirt.
For MacDonald (18-4-0), it’s back to the drawing board after a visit to a surgeon. The B.C. native, who trains out of Montreal, is out of contract with the UFC, having rejected their offer for a new deal and gambling that a good performance against Thompson would help the numbers.
For Thompson, the world is his oyster as the No. 2 welterweight contender – he will undoubtedly supplant MacDonald as No. 1 in the next rankings – awaits a July 30 bout between showdown between Lawler and No. 3 contender Tyron Woodley.
Thompson (13-1-0) continues his rise up the ranks. The 33-year-old South Carolina native has won seven straight since losing a unanimous decision to Matt (The Immortal) Brown at UFC 145 in April 2012.
Brown took him down five times that night, beating him up on the ground. Thompson has not been taken down since, stuffing all 14 attempts including two by MacDonald.
Changing stances while moving inside and out against MacDonald, Thompson connected on 110 of 259 significant strikes Saturday night. The Canadian, never finding his comfort zone, was good on just 61 of 152 and was outstruck each round.
The judges scored the bout 50-45, 50-45, 48-47 for Thompson.
The UFC will probably not shed a tear at Saturday’s outcome. With MacDonald having already lost twice to Lawler, there is likely little appetite for a third meeting even if the first fight was a split decision – which MacDonald thought he should have won – and the second was deemed fight of the year in 2015 by many.
Saturday’s loss also won’t help MacDonald’s contract demands, at least with the UFC.
MacDonald, who says the contract impasse was a motivating factor rather than a distraction, made no excuses for the loss.
“I really felt at my best… I felt in my best shape, technically and physically, mentally.”
But Saturday’s fight, before a sellout of 10,490 at The Arena at TD Place, was always going to be a tough ask.
MacDonald had been sidelined for 11 months, during which time Thompson had posted two impressive wins. And coming back against a unique fighter like Thompson was never going to be easy, even for a well-rounded veteran like MacDonald.
“The distance was very challenging,” he said of his 13th UFC bout. “I felt like I could have bridged that a little better. I’m going to work on that.”
He took solace from gritting a hard night out, especially how he absorbed shots to his broken nose.
“I got to push through some things that I felt I handled better than in the Robbie fight as a competitor,” he said.
That included “that voice in my head telling me ‘OK, go down,’ like I did in the Robbie fight.’”
Instead MacDonald said he relaxed, took a breath and told himself “You’re still in this.”
And on the plus side, there are more important things to life than fighting. He is expecting a baby daughter in July.