Before turning in subpar performances during their most recent fights, both MacDonald and Maia were on trajectories that would have placed them as contenders in the welterweight division. After each lost decisions, however, they're now facing each other to maintain their positions at the top of the division. The major difference, though, is that while Maia has made terrific strides since dropping down to welterweight, he'll be taking on a young fighter who has only grown stronger following his past defeats, which weren't very sound defeats at all.
Considering he's just 24, MacDonald has had quite an MMA career, with eight UFC fights under his belt, six of which he has won in impressive fashion. And outside of a recent split decision that went against him, and a fight in which he had arguably won on the cards only to lose in the final seconds, falling victim to an inopportune flurry, MacDonald has appeared to be one of the best young talents in the organization. He has maintained a high 3.15 takedowns per 15 minutes and implemented some of the sport's best ground and pound, with a very high average of 3.85 strikes landed per minute (SLPM). MacDonald has one of the most efficient and effective skill sets in the sport.
But against former ADCC champion Maia, the challenge will be avoiding his high-level grappling and submission game. Maia lands a high 3.14 takedowns and 1.37 submissions per 15 minutes. However, the key difference between the two is in their styles, with MacDonald's wrestling ability allowing him to successfully defend 89 percent of takedown attempts as opposed to Maia, who defends just 69 percent.
While it might seem like that number is artificially lower due to Maia's willingness to fight off of his back, consider that he has successfully finished only one fight by submission since 2009, having far less effectiveness in his submission game against high-level competition. And with Maia being at a severe disadvantage standing, with a low 1.7 SLPM as well as giving up a large 4.5-inch reach advantage to MacDonald, Maia will have a very difficult time if he can't get MacDonald to the ground.
Indeed, Maia's pathways to win this fight are severely limited. Most important to note: MacDonald has never been submitted before in his career. So you can see why he's a great value as just a minus-300 favorite.
Insider value pick: MacDonald
At 38, Pyle has been keeping an incredible pace, having won four out of his last five fights. Against 25-year-old Waldburger, however, Pyle will face a big challenge in trying to avoid his second loss in a row, as Waldburger is one of the most statistically impressive young fighters in the sport.
The most apparent strength for Waldburger is his grappling game, in which he is able to implement a staggering rate of production after getting opponents to the ground. With a rate of 3.96 takedowns and a record 5.94 submission attempts per 15 minutes, Waldburger has made a career of submitting opponents, with 13 out of 16 victories coming in this manner. Given that Pyle has a 69 percent takedown defense along with four career losses by submission, it's extremely possible that Waldburger could win this fight if he is able to implement his game plan.