Taking place on UFC 195’s Fox Sports 1 televised preliminary card is a bantamweight contest between former number one contender Michael “Mayday” McDonald and Masanori Kanehara. McDonald, once one of the most promising young fighters in the sport, makes his return to the cage after a two year layoff. Kanehara, meanwhile, will make his third appearance under the UFC umbrella after a 1-1 start. Michael McDonald (16-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC, -600 favorite) The heavy-handed McDonald has been around for quite a while but he is still only 24 years old. The amount of success he had at a very young age is very impressive, but he is likely still a few years away from his prime. After coming over from the WEC, McDonald started his UFC career by winning four straight fights. Those wins earned him a shot at UFC Interim Bantamweight Champion Renan Barao. McDonald had some success in the fight early, but ultimately succumbed to a fourth round submission. After splitting his next two contests, he was forced to undergo surgeries on his hand and wrist. Those injuries have kept him out of action since a loss to Urijah Faber in December of 2013. McDonald is primarily a striker that has big power in both hands and feet. While he excels as a counter-striker, “Mayday” is also effective when moving forward and throwing combinations. His right hand is likely his best weapon and he throws it well as an overhand, hook, straight, and uppercut. Further, McDonald also has a powerful left hook and right head kick. One problem with his striking attack is that he tends to get a little wild in exchanges. That makes him quite hittable at times. Additionally, McDonald also tends to become inactive at times. His refusal to let his hands go can result in him losing rounds on the judge’s scorecards. Grappling is not McDonald’s best area, but he is nevertheless a capable fighter on the canvas. When placed on his back he utilizes an active guard and can lock in the occasional submission. From top position McDonald looks to posture up and drop bombs on his opponent. “Mayday” is also a decent offensive wrestler that has pretty good timing on his double-leg. The California native’s takedown defense is usually up to the task, but it is by no means infallible. Masanori Kanehara (25-12-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC, +450 underdog) It took Kanehara 40 fights and several promotions, but he ultimately made it to the UFC in 2014. The Japanese fighter made his UFC debut in his home country and picked up a dominant decision victory over Alex Cacares. His next outing against Rani Yahya was a forgettable contest that saw a lot of inactivity and a questionable judge’s decision that did not go Kanehara’s way. Nevertheless, he will look to earn the biggest win of his career by defeating McDonald on Saturday night. The 33-year old has an awkward style on the feet, as he utilizes a very tall and squared-up stance. He has decent power in his right hand, but he also tends to rely on it far too much. Footwork, defense, and fundamentals are all areas that Kanehara could use some improvement. Kanehara’s poor striking defense and shaky chin are likely his biggest issues on the feet. Kanehara’s wheelhouse is undoubtedly his grappling. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt has a strong base, crafty submissions, and a tendency to take his opponent’s back. Wrestling is not a huge strength for Kanehara, but he can hit the occasional double-leg and can also find trip takedowns from the clinch. Out of his 25 career wins, 10 have come via submission. Thoughts This should be a good fight for McDonald to get back on track. He will have a sizeable edge on the feet because of his superior power, technique, and speed. Kanehara’s poor striking defense and questionable chin give McDonald an even bigger advantage. Kanehara will have to get this fight to the ground if he is going to come away with the victory, but I am not confident that he will be able to do that. McDonald should be able to stuff enough of Kanehara’s takedown attempts until he can land a fight-ending shot on the feet. The Prediction: Michael McDonald defeats Masanori Kanehara by knockout (round 1)
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