Combat Sports

PFL 5 Main Event: Rory MacDonald vs. Gleison Tibau

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PFL 5 is upon us this Thursday night on ESPN+ and ESPN2 (inside the United States, check your local listings elsewhere). Thursday night’s card features the final chance for welterweight (170 lbs.) and light heavyweight (205 lbs.) competitors to score points in hopes of being part of the playoffs this August, including the PFL 5 main event.

Welterweight and light heavyweight playoff bouts will take place during the PFL 8 card on August 19th. All three playoff events will take place that month. Back to Thursday night’s card for right now, specifically the PFL 5 main event from Atlantic City’s Ocean Resort Casino.

The PFL 5 main event will feature a confrontation at welterweight, matching former Bellator MMA stalwart Rory MacDonald (22-6-1 MMA, 1-0 2021 PFL, six points in the standings) and Gleison Tibau (35-15 MMA, 0-1 2021 PFL, zero points in the standings) in a crucial bout for the latter.

Going into the PFL 5 main event, Gleison Tibau will need to score a win via stoppage in the first round if he is to have any hope of advancing to the postseason in two months.

Physical Comparison

Heading into the PFL 5 main event on Thursday night, Rory MacDonald is the taller combatant, standing six feet even, with adversary Gleison Tibau standing 5-foot-8.

In addition, MacDonald owns a five-inch (76 inches to 71 inches) reach advantage, as well as a two-inch leg reach advantage (42 inches to 40 inches) over Tibau in the PFL 5 main event this week from New Jersey.

MacDonald’s Recent Form and Delayed PFL Debut

MacDonald enters this headlining bout at PFL 5 on the strength of a 3-1-1 record in his last five MMA appearances, including a first-round submission (rear-naked choke) during the headliner of PFL 2 on April 29 against Curtis Millender for six points in the standings.

As you’ll recall, Rory MacDonald initially signed to the PFL in late 2019 as a competitor in its welterweight tournament in 2020 before the promotion optioned to cancel the season entirely the following April due to coronavirus concerns.

The former Bellator competitor currently stakes claim to first place in the standings of the PFL’s welterweight division going into the PFL 5 main event on Thursday night.

MacDonald Looks for More

However, he’s not going to be satisfied with just a PFL championship at season’s end, as a few weeks back, he mentioned in an interview in the run-up to the PFL 5 main event:

“I feel like I’m re-motivated. I’ve set new goals for myself that I’m passionate to accomplish. The past few years kind of after I won the title in Bellator, I kind of let myself get comfortable. I lost focus on what I even want to achieve so I was fighting more for the lifestyle outside of fighting and not really hungry to accomplish anything inside the sport. I think I lost my focus there and unknowingly led me down a trail of not even knowing if I want to do this sport anymore. A bit of time off gave me a chance to address those issues and get back to hard work and chasing down my goals.”

During the same interview ahead of the fight on Thursday evening, MacDonald added:

“I feel like its been in my heart since I first found mixed martial arts to be the best in the world. I’m hunting that position down.”

Tibau Is at a Crossroads

In the other corner, Gleison Tibau enters the PFL 5 main event having gone 2-3 in his last five MMA appearances, most recently dropping a unanimous decision to Joao Zeferino in PFL 2 on April 29, and currently finds himself dead last in the standings, but has harkened back to brighter days in recent times, recalling his successful run in a one-night tournament sponsored by a rap group in an interview ahead of PFL 2:

“It reminded me of the old days in Brazil, the tournaments I fought, getting called on short notice. It’s not like I’m fighting for five or 10 years. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and have fought for all kinds of promotions.”

Being exhibition fights, these bouts did not count toward Tibau’s overall record over 50 career MMA appearances.

Tibau in Career Twilight

Both men in the PFL 5 main event are on the wrong side of 30 years old (Macdonald at age 31, Tibau at age 37.) Tibau is showing obvious signs of wear and tear at this point in his MMA career, as he’s already dropped one bout in the PFL this season and has not scored a victory in a sanctioned MMA bout in over two and a half years, besting Efrain Escudero in Golden Boy Promotions’ one and only MMA card just after Thanksgiving in 2018.

A rear-naked choke submission win for Tibau in 2015 against Abel Trujillo was later overturned to disqualification. Tibau had tested positive for a banned substance and had his win taken away. Before that, Tibau had not won a fight in over three years.

He’ll need to win this one, especially by stoppage on Thursday, but given this fight’s position as the PFL 5 main event, this one could be academic in terms of the playoff scenario before both men even get to the PFL cage this week. Not even his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu can potentially save Tibau in this main event.

MacDonald’s Stoppage Prowess

One constant throughout Rory MacDonald’s storied MMA career has been his proclivity to win by finish. Going into the PFL 5 main event, MacDonald has stopped his opponent 15 times, including that submission vs. Millender in April.

Much like Tibau, MacDonald is also a black belt in BJJ and has been known to lock in a submission in his career, having won by that method seven times. This bout could be done pretty early, depending on MacDonald’s execution. All he has to do is get himself to the top position and score some control time.

Prediction: Rory MacDonald by First Round Submission


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Featured Image Credits to: Embed from Getty Images

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