The UFC heads to Canada with some high-stakes fights, and potentially careers on the line.
It's certainly a turning point for Rory MacDonald. He needs a win to stay viable in the UFC title talk. Could this be the biggest night in Stephen Thompson's life? Will Donald Cerrone move closer to another title shot with a victory over Patrick Cote? We've also got the first women's flyweight fight, in what should be a barnburner for these striking women.
There are many reasons to watch UFC Fight Night: Ottawa. Here's six of them.
6. The Rise of Stephen Thompson
A few years ago Rory MacDonald was the sport's rising star, just waiting for Georges St-Pierre to retire or move up in weight so that he could assume his place as the new king. Life had other plans. MacDonald lost some fights and Thompson started handing people their backsides on a platter.
WIth recent knockouts of Jake Ellenberger and former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks, Thompson shook up the division and now looks like he is on path to become the heir apparent. Can he defeat MacDonald? Maybe. MacDonald has shown he's a killer, but he's also shown that he's beatable.
This may be Thompson's breakthrough moment. A victory puts him in line for a title shot against Robbie Lawler.
5. Donald Cerrone Fights Back
With victories over Eddie Alvarez and Benson Henderson, "The Cowboy" was on a winning streak to make Robbie Lawler proud. Then it all fell apart. He got his lightweight title shot against Rafael Dos Anjos and reality kicked Cerrone in the face. Or in this case a kick to the body just over a minute into the fight.
As good as Cerrone looked before his title shot, he looked terrible against Dos Anjos. He bounced back with a submission victory Alex Oliveira and is eyeing another title shot. Will Cerrone be the next Urijah Faber? Good against everyone except the guy who holds the strap? He'll have to go through a competitive Patrick Cote to get back in the title shot conversation.
Like a good cowboy, win or lose, he's always shown an ability to get right back on the horse.
4. Patrick Cote's Resilience
The French-Canadian Cote will undoubtedly be the fan favorite against Cerrone.
With a record of 23-9, Cote has never been considered one of the sport's rising stars or as a man destined for championship greatness. What he is, though, is a tough fighter who rises to the occasion and makes most of his bouts competitive. His past two losses were against Stephen Thompson and retired kickboxer Cung Le, but he is coming off impressive victories over Joe Riggs, Josh Burkman and Ben Saunders.
Cote fights tough and with the Canadian crowd behind him, Cerrone could be ripe for an upset. This could be the big fight that Cote wins.
3. Women's Flyweight Fight
It's a history-making UFC women's fight and it doesn't involve Ronda Rousey.
In the WWE, the "Divas" is over, in favor of women athletes such as Charlotte Flair. Now in the UFC, women's MMA does not just mean Rousey and Miesha Tate.
Valerie Letourneau vs. Joanne Calderwood will be the first women's flyweight fight in UFC history. Letourneau proved her mettle against Joanna Jędrzejczyk in a battle for the UFC Straweight championship. A puncher, Letourneau hung with the impressive Jędrzejczyk, although she lost by unanimous decision.
Calderwood too is an aggressive puncher. These two strikers will open the show and could steal it. This night, however, will probably belong to the Canadian, Letourneau, who will be a fan favorite. In close fights, that makes a huge difference.
2. Rory MacDonald
If there was ever a guy who learned the hard way that there's no such thing as "passing the torch" in MMA, it's MacDonald.
Georges St-Pierre's protege had everything going for him. Great striker. Great wrestler. Mean. A great killer look that conjured up memories of the film "American Psycho." But then he fought a guy named Robbie Lawler. Twice. And those two fights were the kind of fights where you leave it all in the cage, and you never get in pack.
MacDonald fought nine amazing rounds with Lawler. He lost the first fight by unanimous decision that was absolutely destroyed before getting knocked out in the fifth round in their second fight. It doesn't matter who you are. You can't ever truly recover from those kinds of fights (just ask Junior Dos Santos).
MacDonald has not fought since July of last year. He's still the No. 1 contender, but he's facing a guy that just might be the true future of the division.
MacDonald is a great, but he's probably not chomping at the bit to fight Lawler again. If he loses to Thompson, his future in the division doesn't look to have many paths. He may test free agency and the potentially richer pastures of Bellator. On the other hand, if MacDonald can defeat Thompson convincingly he will reassert himself, especially if Tyron Woodley can upset Lawler later this summer.
1. Canada vs. the World
We love Canada. Hockey. Free health care. Alanis Morissette. What's not to love?
There's nothing like the live Canadian crowd in MMA. Canadian fans are part of the show, and when the UFC stacks a card with nothing less than 72 (estimate) Canadian fighters, you know this will be a partisan crowd.
And what's even better than a partisan crowd? A partisan crowd seeing its fighters knocked out or submitted. There's nothing like seeing a Canadian hero get walloped in their home country. Not saying that's going to happen, but who doesn't like a good competitive contest between countries?