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UFC Fight Night 54 results: Rory MacDonald states case with nasty finish of Tarec Saffiedine

Esther Lin

The crowd at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, sat politely through a nondescript main card at UFC Fight Night 54 for one reason: Rory MacDonald was in the main event.

The Montreal resident didn't let his fellow Canadians down. MacDonald stated his case for a welterweight title shot with a wicked finish of the ultra-tough Tarec Saffiedine on Saturday night.

A huge left followed by a series of big right hands to the grounded Saffiedine led to the finish, as the bout was waved of at 1:28 of the third round.

With his third straight victory and eighth in his past nine fights, MacDonald (18-2) has made it difficult to put anyone else ahead of him in line for the winner of the title rematch between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler on Dec. 6.

"I think it goes without saying that I'm next for that title," MacDonald said. "I want that next title shot, i want the winner of the next fight."

Saffiedine (15-4), a Team Quest fighter and former Strikeforce champ, simply could never quite figure out MacDonald's range, as MacDonald used his reach advantage and awkward movement to keep Saffiedine from getting untracked. Meanwhile, MacDonald landed combos of punches and enough leg kicks to keep Saffiedine guessing.

In the third, Saffiedine came out swinging, but the quicker pace backfired as MacDonald soon found his opening for the brutal, fight-ending finish.

"I was just going with the flow, I was looking for an opening, and I found it," MacDonald said.

Bantamweight contender Rafael Assunaco justified his place in the title mix and ran his win streak to seven in the evening's co-main event, as he imposed his will on a tough Bryan Caraway to earn a unanimous decision. The judges' scores were 30-27 across the board.

Assuncao (23-4) was simply too fast and too crafty for Caraway, as he deftly countered Caraway's advances and mixed up a vast array of strikes, including a bevy of knees and a smattering of spinning kicks.

"He was hurt, I cut him below both eyes but he kept coming forward. He gave a very admirable performance," Assuncao said. "I would be lying I didn't mention I saw Dominick Cruz's performance at UFC 178 and was impressed by his dominating performance.  Of course I was thinking I need to do something as spectacular as him and I think that weighed down my performance. I'm ready for my chance at the belt, I think Ive proven that im ready for the chance."

The Atlanta-based Brazilian fighter's win streak is tied for the third-longest active streak in the UFC, behind light heavyweight champion Jon Jones (11) and middleweight champ Chris Weidman (8).

Both TUF: Nations Canada vs. Australia winners were victorious on the evening. Lightweight winner Chad Laprise moved to 9-0 with a unanimous decision victory over Yosdenis Cedeno.

In a relatively uneventful bout, Cedeno simply had no answer for the London, Ontario native, who dominated the matchup in all aspects. The judges' scores were 30-27 across the aboard, as the Miami-based Cedeno (10-4) lost for the second time in his last three fights.

"I was hoping for a more exciting fight tog ive the fans but Im happy with this win," said Laprise. "Cedeno is a very tough opponent and presents a number of unique dimensions.  I am happy I got to display my ground game because that wasn't something I've featured too much but now it gives my opponents another thing to worry about."

TUF: Nations middleweight winner Elias Theordorou remained unbeaten, as he gutted out a victory over game Brazilian Bruno Santos. The judges' scores were 29-28 across the board for a unanimous decision.

Theodorou (10-0) controlled the tempo in the opening round. But Santos (14-2) found a second gear in the second round and made a fight out of it, getting Theodorou's back and getting him into some trouble with a rear-naked choke. Theodorou regained his bearings in the final round, though, taking Santos down at will and wearing him down.

"Even after a win you have to go back to the drawing board," said Theodorou, who fights out of Toronto. "I was a little flat-footed but I got my second wind. After the second round I realized, I just continued to push forward."

In a back-and-forth welterweight bout mostly contested in the standup, Nordine Taleb scored a split decision of China's Li Jianliang. The judges' scores were 29-28, 28-29, and an interesting 30-27 in favor of the winner.

The 33-year old Taleb, (10-2) who fights with Montreal's TriStar and was a competitor on TUF: Nations, improved to 2-9 in the UFC.

Taleb was helped back to the dressing room by his cornermen; afterwards, UFC on FOX reported, TriStar coach Firas Zahabi reported that Taleb suffered a broken foot in the fight's first round.

"I know I belong, I know I am ready to compete at this level," Jianliang said. "I just feel so sad, having let down my friends, my family, my sponsors."

Ontario's Mitch Gagnon rolled to his fourth consecutive win in the bantamweight division, as he beat late replacement Roman Salazar via first-round rear naked choke i2:06) n the main-card opener. Jianliang (9-3) had a three-fight win streak snapped.

Gagnon was originally supposed to meet Aljamain Sterling, then Rob Font, both of whom had to drop out. Salazar (9-4), an Arizona native who fought and won just two weeks ago in his home state, took the bout on five days' notice.

"It's the fight game, it happens, injuries happen and you have to adapt," said Gagnon (12-2), who scored his third first-round submission in his past four fights. "I didn't really look at a lot of videos, in my head I was going to put the pressure on."

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