The penny has finally dropped for Canadian middleweight Jason (The Athlete) MacDonald. His standup game is not his bread and butter.
Getting knocked out by Wilson Gouveia last time out in December helped get that message across. ''A real eye-opener,'' said MacDonald.
''I think prior to the Gouveia fight I got it into my head that I was going to try really, really hard to become a standup fighter and we've seen where that got me against Gouveia,'' the 33-year-old from Red Deer, Alta., said wistfully. ''I kind of just jumped in with my chin in the air and got knocked out.''
MacDonald (22-11) walked into a left and was dropped. Gouveia then split his head open with a string of punches and elbows until the fight was stopped after just two minutes 18 seconds.
As he prepares to meet Nate (Rock) Quarry on Saturday at UFC 97 in Montreal, MacDonald says he will rely on what got him to the UFC rather than push his standup luck.
''Why am I trying so hard to be something that I'm not?'' he asked.
''I think what happened with me is you start to listen to all the talk,'' MacDonald added by way of explanation. ''I've been working tremendously hard on my standup, trying to bring it up to a level to where my ground game is and my clinch fighting is. . . . I think I was trying to force myself to be more of a standup fighter instead of reverting back to what got me to the UFC and what got me the success in the UFC.''
At six foot three, MacDonald is an awkward opponent with good grappling skills. His size makes him hard to control in the clinch. And once on the ground, he knows what he's doing - with 17 submissions to his credit.
He showed that side of his game to great effect in a losing cause against Demian Maia at UFC 87, holding his own on the ground with the jiu-jitsu ace until midway through the third round.
In contrast, Maia made short work of the six-foot Quarry in his next fight at UFC 91, submitting him in short order after taking him down. So MacDonald likes the matchup.
''Nate's weakness is his ground game,'' he said.
Quarry (16-3) says he's ready to go wherever.
''Every time I go in with a strict game plan, then I overthink things and find myself waiting for that perfect moment to execute the game plan.'' he said. ''So from my perspective, I'm looking just to go in and fight. From his perspective, he would most likely look to take me down and get the tapout quickly.''
With both men coming off losses, there is pressure to reverse the slide.
''Two guys in need of a win,'' summarized UFC president Dana White.
MacDonald is also looking for some consistency after a UFC run that reads win-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss. The Gouveia loss followed an impressive submission victory over Jason (The Punisher) Lambert at UFC 88, which MacDonald considered his best performance to date in the UFC.
''Jason MacDonald is one of those guys who will come in and look incredibly impressive and blow you away with his performance and then come in and lose his next fight. Come back and be incredibly impressive and lose his next fight.'' said White. ''The problem with Jason is he's never consistent. He's a tough guy, always comes to fight but doesn't consistently keep winning.''