Canadian MMA watch list: Rory MacDonald’s Bellator debut upcoming

Rory MacDonald signed with Bellator MMA in August 2016. (Justin Tang/CP)

With the UFC on hiatus for the next two weeks it’s a good opportunity to take a look at some of the notable Canadian matchups taking place in the next month.

Here are some bouts featuring Canadian fighters to watch out for in May.

Lenny Wheeler vs. Tristan Connelly
Elite 1: Collision Course, Fredericton, N.B. – May 6

It’s a battle between New Brunswick and British Columbia in the main event as Wheeler battles Unified MMA lightweight champion Connelly. Wheeler (9-5) looks to bounce back in his home province after losing two straight fights by stoppage to Kevin Croom and Mike Scarcello. Prior to those setbacks, the 30-year-old was on a three-fight winning streak including a 39-second victory over Bellator veteran Matt Bessette. Connelly (8-5) captured the Unified MMA lightweight title in his last fight, taking out former champion Garret Nybakken at Unified MMA 30 this past March. The 31-year-old heads into this matchup finishing his last three opponents and has only lost once since 2013.

Jamie Siraj vs. Adam MacDougall
Elite 1: Collision Course, Fredericton, N.B. – May 6

Chilliwack, B.C., native Siraj looks to bounce back from losing his Battlefield Fight League bantamweight title last year as he steps up on short notice against MacDougall. Siraj (3-2) is a protégé of UFC lightweight Kajan Johnson and splits his time training at Tristar Vancouver and Revolution MMA in Langley, B.C. The 22-year-old has only gone the distance once in his career and has won all of his fights by finish. MacDougall (1-1) fights out of Antigonish, N.S., and is coming off the first win of his professional career, knocking out Justin Saikley back at Elite 1 MMA’s show in January.

Rory MacDonald vs. Paul Daley
Bellator 179: MacDonald vs. Daley – May 19

MacDonald makes his anticipated Bellator debut in enemy territory as he faces UFC/Strikeforce veteran Daley. MacDonald (18-4) is coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in his career as he came up short against Robbie Lawler and most recently Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. The Quesnel, B.C.-born welterweight will be looking for his first win since October 2014 and is going back to his roots for this fight training at Toshido MMA.

A post shared by Rory Macdonald (@romac_gorilla) on

Daley (39-14-12) heads into this matchup off a highlight reel knockout over Brennan Ward and has won six of his last seven fights. The 34-year-old has amassed a 5-1 record under the Bellator banner. The winner of this matchup likely faces the winner of Douglas Lima vs. Lorenz Larkin, which takes place at Bellator 180 in June.

Kyle Nelson vs. Mike Hernandez
BTC 1: Genesis, Toronto – May 27

Top Canadian featherweight Nelson looks to inch a step closer to a UFC contract as he battles Michigan Top Team product Hernandez. The 25-year-old from Huntsville, Ont., holds wins over UFC veteran Jonathan Brookins and TKO MMA standout Maxime Dubois. Nelson trains at Parabellum MMA and will be looking for revenge in this matchup as Hernandez knocked out his teammate Lyndon Whitlock at Global Warriors 2 in 2015. Hernandez (11-4) moves up to featherweight for the first time since 2015 and has won seven of his last nine fights. His losses during that stretch were to UFC veteran Johnny Bedford and top Canadian bantamweight Jesse Arnett. The 31-year-old, who trains with the likes of UFC veteran Daron Cruickshank and top bantamweight Cody Stamann, will be competing for the second time this year.

Misha Cirkunov vs. Volkan Oezdemir
UFC Fight Night 109: Gustafsson vs. Teixeira – May 28

Toronto’s Cirkunov looks to continue his rise up the UFC’s light-heavyweight rankings when he battles Swiss standout Oezdemir. Cirkunov (13-2) is coming off the biggest victory of his career as he submitted Nikita Krylov in the first round at UFC 206 back in December. The 30-year-old is 4-0 in the UFC with all of his victories coming by stoppage. Oezdemir (13-1) emerged victorious in his UFC debut this past February taking home a split decision victory over Ovince Saint Preux. The 27-year-old, who trains out of Combat Club in Florida, has won three fights in a row and boasts nine wins by knockout.

Nordine Taleb vs. Emil Meek
UFC Fight Night 109: Gustafsson vs. Teixeira – May 28

Taleb looks to bounce back after his loss Santiago Ponzinibbio earlier this year when he faces off with Meek in a welterweight contest. Taleb (12-4) trains out of Montreal’s Tristar Gym and has gone 4-2 in the UFC. He will look to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in his career. Meek (9-2-1 NC) is coming off an impressive UFC debut against Jordan Mein at UFC 206, which pushed his winning streak to four straight. The 28-year-old has only gone the distance once in his career and has seven wins by knockout.


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