When Stephen Thompson dismantled former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks in spectacular KO fashion, the title shot whispers began to permeate.
But like most great championship stories, “Wonderboy” must overcome one final challenge to reach the top of the mountain for the chance at his storybook ending. And Rory MacDonald will be his toughest test to date.
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When it comes to exciting fighters in the UFC, no two men or women fit the bill more than MacDonald and Thompson.
Coming off one of the greatest title fights in MMA history, “The Red King” is more determined than ever to reclaim his No. 1 contender status. MacDonald fell to champion Robbie Lawler in a
war for the ages, but a win against Wonderboy puts him right back at the front of the line for a rematch.
With one of the most shocking domination jobs in recent memory, Thompson’s first-round finish against Hendricks made everybody in the MMA world take a step back and recognize. Now eight fights into his UFC career, Thompson, a former undefeated (57-0) professional kickboxer, has evolved into an all-around MMA fighter with some of the most devastating striking on the roster.
MacDonald vs. Thompson is a Fight of the Year candidate and the No. 1 reason to watch Fight Night Ottawa this Saturday night.
Rest of the main card
In the co-main event, fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone takes on UFC veteran Patrick Cote as both fighters look to continue to climb in their second weight class in the UFC.
Cote has won three in a row and has stopped his last two opponents (Ben Saunders and Josh Burkman) by TKO. The 36-year-old Canadian has found new life at welterweight eight years removed
from fighting for the middleweight title.
For Cowboy, he’s always game for a fight and he’s going to get a tough one in Cote, who will be one of the bigger foes (size wise) he’s had once the Octagon door shuts. This will be a true test to see if Cerrone has staying power in the welterweight division.
Opening the main card is a huge matchup between strawweights who have agreed to meet at a 125-pound catchweight in this one.
Valerie Letourneau takes on Joanne Calderwood in her first appearance since losing a five-round decision to Joanna Jedrzejczyk last year. Letourneau is a heavy striker and has the perfect opponent to demonstrate her skills in Calderwood.
The year 2015 was a strange one for JoJo, who split a pair of fights but never really looked like herself. After getting past some personal issues, Calderwood said she’s feeling great and looking to get back on track against Letourneau.
All Misha Cirkunov has done since entering the UFC is take out two opponents in devastating fashion. After a knockout in his first fight, the Latvian product came back in his second Octagon outing to submit Alex Nicholson – and that was after battering him for the first five minutes.
Cirkunov takes on UFC debutant Ion Cutelaba, who comes to the UFC with an 11-1 record and nine career knockouts. Don’t blink in this one.
UFC FIGHT PASS prelims
In the featured bout on UFC FIGHT PASS, The Ultimate Fighter: Nations winner Elias Theodorou takes on the returning “Smilin’” Sam Alvey, who has made a full recovery after a broken jaw.
This will be an interesting stylistic match up. Theodorou likes to grapple and get the fight to the mat, while Alvey is a banger with heavy hands.
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC