It's been almost one year since Rory MacDonald engaged in a fight for the ages against Robbie Lawler although in the end, he came away with a second loss to the current welterweight champion.
MacDonald has fought Lawler tooth and nail through two fights, but he still hasn't conquered the veteran champion as of yet. While it's rare for fighters who have lost to an opponent on two previous occasions to get a third shot, MacDonald still believes he's the best candidate to take the title from Lawler in the end.
So as MacDonald prepares for his upcoming fight against Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson this Saturday night in Ottawa, he knows that a win will likely propel him back into another fight with Lawler.
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The way MacDonald sees it, he'll be attached with Lawler the same way Micky Ward always found himself back in fights against Arturo Gatti -- it's a matchup fans will always want to see no matter how many times it happens.
The last fight with Lawler ended with MacDonald suffering a severely broken nose after a war of attrition that nearly went all five rounds.
MacDonald took some time off to recover from the grueling battle, but then his goal shifted to getting better to ensure he never had another loss like that again.
So the last year of MacDonald's life has been spent training and preparing for his return to action, while also improving so much that by the time he faces Thompson on Saturday night, he'll be the best he's ever been.
"Basically it's just been getting better at martial arts. I've been working at a lot of my weaknesses and making a lot of improvements and I think that's really going to show in this next fight," MacDonald said about his year off when speaking to FOX Sports recently.
"Things that I learned and I addressed in my training. I think that's what's going to make the difference going forward. I feel that I've made the corrections in training from that fight and I also gained a lot of experience in that fight so I feel that's going to pay off as well."
MacDonald is very familiar with Thompson after the two of them trained together on several occasions in the past.
Thompson was actually brought into Georges St-Pierre's camp a few years ago to help the former UFC champion prepare for a fight against Carlos Condit. Thompson enjoyed training at the Tri-Star facility so much that he ended up returning there a few more times, which eventually led to time on the mats and in the cage with MacDonald as well.
While that level of camaraderie will often times force two training partners to avoid each other for a real fight, MacDonald showed no hesitation accepting a bout with Thompson.
"Right away, I thought it was an exciting fight. I was happy to accept," MacDonald said. "I know we go back a bit and have been friendly over the years, but when you get into the top five of a division, it's to be expected the possibility that you're going to fight each other. So I wasn't really surprised. I think it's a great matchup and it's going to be exciting for the fans and it's going to be a great fight for me and my career."
The biggest reason for MacDonald's excitement comes from Thompson's current standing in the division where he's now ranked No. 2 in the world following a first round knockout over former champion Johny Hendricks.
That coupled with Thompson's six fight win streak and this is a fight that MacDonald believes not only gets him a win over another top ranked opponent, but should put him right back in the crosshairs of a title shot.
"This is a perfect opportunity to put my name up there again against probably the biggest prospect coming into the top five right now. I put him away with a good show, I think it forces everyone's hand to recognize me as the No. 1 guy," MacDonald said.
"Besides Stephen, there's not many other guys in the division that are available to fight right now. This was kind of the ideal matchup for me. He's coming off a lot of wins and he's got a lot of hype right now. So he's another win in the hat for a title shot."
Thanks to their previous training sessions together, MacDonald feels like he has a leg up on the competition when it comes to dealing with Thompson's unorthodox attacks on the feet where he's racked up four knockouts in his last six fights.
MacDonald doesn't discount that Thompson is dangerous when he's standing, but he also believes he's got the answer where so many past opponents got stuck on the question of what to do when facing a fighter like "Wonderboy".
"I think he's a vicious striker but I don't think a lot of the competition he's faced really understand his striking the way that I do," MacDonald explained. "So I think that's where I'm going to have the advantage versus the guys that he's fought. He's made them look pretty bad. I don't feel that I'm going to be put in the same boat as his last few fights.
"I believe that this fight could go many different directions. I feel confident dragging him into deep waters in the fifth round, but I also feel confident in the first few rounds as well. I prepared myself for every scenario this fight could go. I really don't feel I've been prepared for any other fight in my career. If I don't have the best performance of my life then kudos to Stephen for shutting me down."
UFC Fight Night: MacDonald vs. Thompson airs live on FS1 this Saturday night with the main card kicking off at 10:30pm ET.