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Having already clinched his playoff spot in the PFL’s welterweight division, former Bellator champion MacDonald (22-8-1) was a heavy favorite when he was matched up with fellow UFC veteran Tibau in the main event of 2021 PFL 5 in June.
Tibau (37-15) is undoubtedly a tough fighter that many opponents have had a hard time looking good against in the past. He even gave former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov one of his toughest tests when the two squared off in 2012. But MacDonald appeared to be a step ahead in all three rounds of his fight against Tibau – at least he thought so.
However the judges saw it differently, awarding Tibau a split-decision win. All three judges gave MacDonald Round 2 and Tibau Round 3, but it was the first round which they couldn’t agree on.
Round 1 saw Tibau swing for big punches, as he knew he needed an early finish to secure a playoff spot. An inadvertent eye poke by MacDonald caused a pause in the action, but Tibau was able to continue. MacDonald did a good job getting out of harm’s way by staying long and was able to drag Tibau down to the mat and transition to his back at the end of Round 1.
MacDonald’s strong finish to the first frame was only enough to give him the round on judge Eric Colon’s scorecard, while Cardo Urso and Dave Tirelli thought Tibau had the better moments in the round, despite MacDonald landing the cleaner shots and securing back position.
— PFL (@PFLMMA) June 18, 2021
Trying to mirror his success from Round 1, MacDonald landed an early takedown to open up Round 2 but wasn’t able to inflict much damage in top position. Tibau’s takedown defense held up for the rest of the round, but MacDonald was the far busier striker, blasting him with a big head kick, which Tibau ate.
In the final round, MacDonald remained the busier striker by continuing to attack Tibau’s body but accidentally poked him in the eye for a second time in one of their exchanges. Tibau tried to ramp up the aggression but couldn’t land anything of note, as he failed to secure the necessary finish.
Despite outstriking Tibau 3-1 in the contest, MacDonald lost the fight on both Urso and Tirelli’s scorecards, which cost him the result. MacDonald did not dominate the contest, but he appeared to be in control throughout, all without taking any significant damage. He both outstruck and got the better of Tibau in the grappling exchanges, which should have been enough to award him the decision.
MacDonald was visibly upset with the outcome and called it a “clear robbery.” He wanted the fight to get reviewed, but MacDonald never ended up officially appealing the decision.