Casually fielding questions less than two days after the biggest victory of his successful and still young career, Oakdale Mixed Martial Arts Academy fighter Michael McDonald recalled his favorite things about the city of Boston on Monday.
“It was a great, beautiful place,” McDonald said. “Very clean with nice people and the food there was amazing. It was a very pleasant experience to go to Boston.”
Of course, He has a 100,000 other reasons to recall Beantown with fondness.
McDonald, the No. 3-ranked bantamweight in the world by both ESPN and the UFC, finished No. 5-ranked Brad Pickett with a second-round triangle choke at UFC Fight Night 26 at Boston’s TD Garden. For his effort in the debut event on the new Fox Sports1 channel, McDonald was rewarded with a $50,000 Fight of the Night bonus and $50,000 Submission of the Night bonus, according to UFC.com.
“I went out and did my job, and I’m going to be able to pay my bills,” McDonald said. “That feels really good.”
McDonald battered Pickett with a flurry of heavy strikes in the opening round, but settled into a composed state after Pickett had eaten devastating punches, yet remained cognitive.
“He was very surprising,” McDonald said. “At the end of the round I came back and told my corner (Oakdale MMA instructor Tom Theofanopoulos and teammate/brother Justin Smitley) that I didn’t think I was able to finish him with my punches.
“I decided to pull back power and increase speed, pick him apart.”
According to ESPN, Pickett took McDonald down early into round No. 2, but couldn’t land heavy damage amidst McDonald’s guard. When he made a mistake, McDonald capitalized.
“There are two things that I was waiting for,” McDonald said. “One; I was waiting for the acid build-up in my arms and legs, because I wanted to make sure I could (execute submissions) fast and strong.
“Two; I was just waiting for when his body was in the right position. I knew I had the right opportunity when I felt him throw a really big punch and leave his hand down afterwards.”
With Pickett’s arm outstretched, McDonald quickly slipped his legs around Pickett’s neck and across his trapped arm. He locked his foot behind his own knee and squeezed to force a tap-out with a minute, 18 seconds remaining in the second round.
The victory showcased McDonald’s dazzling aptitude in both striking and jujitsu, while capitalizing on a great opportunity to advance his career on a huge stage of competition. McDonald said he was happy with the result, but not completely satisfied.
“When it comes to the actual fight I have mixed emotions,” McDonald said. “I feel like there will be a lot of highlight reels, it’s good for publicity, rankings, status, all that good stuff; but when it comes to what I know — I know I could have done better.
“There are a lot of ways I could have improved and I know what more things I can do.”