There’s a universal law in mixed martial arts that goes something like this: stand and trade with Nottingham welterweight Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley and you’re liable to get overwhelmed, hurt and knocked out. Few have managed to disprove this theory. Most have no interest in trying.
This Friday night (May 19), however, Rory MacDonald, a well-rounded former UFC welterweight title challenger, may decide to go where few have gone before. He might gamble, roll the dice. He might enter the eye of the storm. It’s the question, the key question, that lingers over the fascinating Bellator 179 main event at Wembley Arena.
Certainly, the Canadian has the talent to do it. Not many read a fight as well as MacDonald, nor boast his ability to measure range and carefully pick apart opponents on his feet. He has also hung with and often defeated big punchers with scary reputations and done so with confidence and a swagger. There’s a sense he likes to test himself, prove a point and take risks most wouldn’t consider.
It’s for this reason UFC welterweight, ‘Judo’ Jim Wallhead, worries for MacDonald and wonders whether he might take chances less cavalier 170-pounders wouldn’t dream of taking in the presence of a noted banger like Daley.
“I know a lot of people are picking Rory MacDonald in this one, but I don’t know,” says Wallhead, who fights Luan Chagas at UFC 212 on June 3. “I’ve seen a few interviews with him recently that have made me wonder whether he’s going to stand and have a punch-up with Paul. If he does, that would be a terrible mistake. Anyone who has a trade-up with Paul Daley is going to get knocked out. Rory MacDonald is no different. But that’s just the feeling I’ve been getting from him. Maybe he’s going to go out there to try and prove a point.
“The sensible approach for Rory is to keep his range and try to pick Paul off and go for takedowns. Whether he’ll do this on the night, though, I really don’t know. The feeling I’m getting is that he won’t. If he doesn’t, that makes things very, very interesting.”
Wallhead, a 12-year MMA veteran, speaks from experience, of course. He has, in the past, been too brave, too gung-ho and got the finer details of a game plan wrong. He has also, more importantly, seen Paul Daley develop and progress as part of Nottingham’s Team Rough House and, though Wallhead has since found a new home at London Shootfighters, the memories of Daley’s destruction remains.
“We haven’t spoken for a while,” said Jim, “but I still follow Paul’s progress and know what he can do. He is one of the hardest punchers in the world.”