SPORTS

MacDonald, Saffiedine make weight ahead of UFC main event showdown in Halifax

10/03/2014 05:07 EDT | Updated 12/03/2014 05:59 EST
HALIFAX - Canadian Rory (Ares) MacDonald and former Strikeforce champion Tarec (Sponge) Saffiedine both weighed in at 170 pounds Friday ahead of their welterweight main event Saturday on a televised UFC card.

MacDonald, ranked No. 2 among 170-pound contenders, and Saffiedine, ranked No. 9, did not shake hands or exchange words when they squared off after making weight. Saffiedine, an experienced Belgian kickboxer who fights out of California, gave MacDonald a brief nod before leaving the stage at the Scotiabank Centre.

After beating Tyron (The Chosen One) Woodley last time out, at UFC 174 in Vancouver in June, MacDonald (17-2) planted his flag in the sand.

"One day, very soon the belt will be mine," he said in the post-fight interview.

He can make it sooner than later with a win Saturday night.

Welterweight champion Johny (Bigg Rigg) Hendricks faces top contender (Ruthless) Robbie Lawler at UFC 181 in December in a rematch of their UFC 171 meeting to decide a successor to Montreal's Georges St-Pierre.

It's the first five-round main event for the 25-year-old MacDonald in 11 UFC fights. A native of Kelowna, B.C., who fights out of Montreal, he is a 5-1 or 6-1 favourite to win.

Saffiedine (15-3), in his UFC debut last time out, won a decision over Hyun Gyu Lim in the main event of a televised card in Singapore in January. The 28-year-old Belgian used punishing leg kicks to chop away at the big South Korean, as he did in winning the Strikeforce title against Nate (The Great) Marquardt in January 2012.

The card is one of two UFC shows Saturday. Iceland welterweight Gunnar Nelsen takes on Rick (The Horror) Story in the main event of a Stockholm card earlier in the day.

There were no fireworks at Friday's Halifax weigh-in, although there was still some drama.

Local flyweight Chris (The Greek Assassin) Kelades had just five days to make weight as a late injury replacement against Ireland's Patrick (The Hooligan) Holohan.

The five-foot-six Kelades towelled down thoroughly, wiping off every bead of sweat, before stripping down and getting on the scales behind a towel. He weighed in at the flyweight non-title limit of 126 pounds, punching his fist in the air and drawing cheers from the crowd when the weight was announced.

Holohan, who weighed in at 125, looked like an Irish tourism commercial. He entered brandishing an Irish flag, wearing an Irish jersey and underwear in Irish colours.

The two fighters, both of whom looked like they could use a good meal, exchanged words as they squared off.

Toronto middleweight Elias (The Spartan) Theodorou, as befitting a man who has served as a model for a Harlequin romance cover, paused to take a selfie on stage before stepping on the scales. He faces stocky Brazilian Bruno Santos.

Perhaps the happiest man to weigh in was Cuban-born Yosdenis (The Pink Panther) Cedeno. The Miami-based lightweight stepped on the scales wearing sunglasses and holding a baby ultrasound picture.

The proud soon-to-be father faces Chad (The Disciple) Laprise, a native of Chatham, Ont., fighting out of Montreal.

China's Li (The Leech) Jingliang also made the most of his time on the scales, smiling and flexing. He meets Nordine Taleb, a French-born welterweight who fights out of Montreal.

The 12-fight Halifax card features nine Canadian fighters, as well as athletes from 10 different birth countries: Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, France, Ireland, Nigeria, Russia and the U.S.

The other Canadians on the card are bantamweight Mitch Gagnon of Sudbury, Ont., welterweight Matt Dwyer of Kelowna, B.C., lightweight Jason Saggo of Charlottetown and lightweight Olivier Aubin-Mercier of Montreal.

Halifax is the seventh Canadian city to host a UFC show, joining Calgary, Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. Saturday will mark the UFC's 17th Canadian show since 2008.

The card is expected to be a sellout.

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