Another season of The Ultimate Fighter comes to an end as season 11 finalists prepare to do battle. This is a card loaded with present and past TUF alumni. It should be a good night of fights. Who will be the next Ultimate Fighter? The time has come to find out.
I encourage you to read my breakdowns to see why I made the predictions that I made. At the end of the breakdowns, I will have my official picks listed. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the fights!
Court McGee Vs. Kris McCray
Key Victories :
McGee (DaMarques Johnson)
McCray (Igor Almeida)
Disappointing is an understatement when The Ultimate Fighter Season 11 comes to mind. The show is starting to feel like a perpetual pump of reality induced television without any true new talent to show for it. Seasons 1-3 have given us more authentic talent than all other seasons combined.
I understand people want “great TV personalities”. Maybe I was mistaken in thinking this show was about the fighters and producing new MMA talent. Anything else is basically a rendition of MTV’s Real World or Jersey Shore. During the season, I fully expected Jamie Yager (Kid Goku) to turn Super Saiyan and destroy the competition. My assumption was quickly proven wrong as even Jamie’s massive fro couldn’t cushion the fists of Josh Bryant.
When the dust settled, we were left with two unlikely finalists. Whether either guy becomes the next breakout MMA star remains to be seen. Who will win a six figure UFC contract and become The Ultimate Fighter? Well, that question will be answered this Saturday night when Court McGee takes on Kris McCray.
Fighting out of Layton, Utah, Court McGee was the dark horse of this season. People often joked about him not fitting the mold of a “modern day warrior”. At first glance, McGee may resemble a lad who’s experienced the Rumspringa and never looked back.
His appearance proved to be deceptive on TUF 11. McGee defeated three other opponents to make it to the finals. He was selected on the show as Chuck Liddell’s sixth pick. After the show, McGee has continued training with Liddell and John Hackleman at The Pit.
Kris McCray was selected by Tito Ortiz as his third overall pick. McCray is a member of Team Gold Medal Grappling. He is primarily a wrestler. On the show, it was revealed that he set the record for total fights competed in during a TUF season (5). According to Dana White, McCray fought every Tuesday in the house.
Keys to Victory :
McCray will have the size advantage in this fight. McGee has to avoid getting caught under the bigger man. He needs to establish a good distance. Stay on the outside and work McCray with short combinations and kicks. He has to wear McCray down and force him to make a mistake. As the fight wears on, McCray tends to get really sloppy with his punches and takedown defense.
McGee is a solid grappler in his own right. He has to take advantage of what McCray gives him. McGee has to be scrappy in his defense. If pressed against the cage, he has to fight for the underhooks. If taken down, he has to keep an active guard by creating space and looking to explode to his feet.
Kris McCray has to be the aggressor in this bout. During the TUF season, he did a great job of using his superior size to wear on opponents and secure takedowns. This fight should be no different. McCray needs to use his size to wear McGee down. He should try to push McGee against the fence, work short strikes, and snag the takedown.
Stamina was a huge issue for McCray on the show. That could be attributed to having to adapt to the crazy TUF experience. Whatever the reasoning, McCray has to avoid getting wild and conserve his stamina. There is no shame in losing to the better man. There is shame in losing because of poor conditioning.
It’s hard to judge these new guys coming off the show. The whole TUF experience can be overwhelming and actually hurt a fighter’s performance. Mixed Martial Arts is a sport that requires full dedication and preparation.
In the house, fighters have to overcome the following: alcohol in a party-like environment, reality TV cameras and late night antics, living with opponents, staying injury free, adjusting to a new coach in a short period of time, and little rest between fights.
The fighters who show up on the finale are a better indication of where these guys are actually at in their MMA careers. With that said, I have to go with what I’ve seen so far. When the fight begins, the Billy Goat Gruff mean muggin’ will be on.
McGee will get the better of the exchanges on the feet and avoid the majority of McCray’s initial takedown attempts. A desperate McCray will overextend on a combination and get dropped in the second. I expect both fighters to look better than they did on the show.
Matt “The Hammer” Hamill Vs. “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine
Key Victories :
Hamill (Mark Munoz, Tim Boetsch, Reese Andy)
Jardine (Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Brandon Vera, Wilson Gouveia)
While Matt Hamill hasn’t lost a bout since 2008, Keith Jardine hasn’t won one either. It’s becoming hard not to go into every Jardine fight expecting him to get dropped violently and go into exorcism-like convulsions. He’s extremely lucky to still be headlining a UFC event. We’ll see what happens in this battle of TUF alumni.
Matt Hamill is a member of Team Punishment. The team features fighters like Tito Ortiz, Rob McCullough, and Justin McCully. Hamill’s style consists of Freestyle Wrestling, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Boxing, and BJJ. In the 2001 Summer Deaflympics, he took home a gold medal in Freestyle Wrestling and a silver medal in Greco-Roman.
At the Rochester Institute of Technology, he was a three-time NCAA Division III National Wrestling Champion. In his last bout, he was awarded the victory over Jon Jones after a disqualification for illegal elbows. That fight wasn’t going anywhere near Hamill’s way from the beginning.
Keith Jardine is a black belt in Gaidojutsu (Wrestling and Judo combination) under Greg Jackson. He trains at Jackson’s MMA with GSP, Rashad Evans, Jon Jones, Shane Carwin, Nate Marquardt, and Andrei Arlovski. Out of his last five bouts, Jardine is 1-4. Inconsistency has been a problem for him in the past, but this is the first time we’ve seen him rack up consistent losses. Jardine’s style consists of Boxing, Kickboxing, and Gaidojutsu.
Keys to Victory :
Matt Hamill has to stick to what he’s good at. Jardine’s primary weakness is his chin versus explosive fighters willing to aggressively engage. Hamill doesn’t possess the punching power of a Thiago Silva or Wanderlei Silva. That doesn’t mean he lacks power completely. Hamill is very good at cinching the clinch and wearing down opponents with his dirty boxing. Instead of aimlessly throwing punches, he needs to close the distance and do some clinch work.
Jardine has nasty leg kicks. Defense will be very important for Hamill. He can’t sit there and take kick after kick. He has to be ready to check them. With Jardine being the better striker, Hamill may struggle in the exchanges and snagging the clinch. If this happens, he may have to revert to his Freestyle roots and initiate outside takedown attempts. This could throw Jardine off his game as this is something we don’t see often from Hamill.
Distance, kicks, and clinch defense should be Jardine’s motto heading into this bout. He doesn’t want to give Hamill any hope of grabbing a leg or utilizing the clinch. He needs to stay on the outside and work Hamill with kicks and punches. There has to be snap behind everything that is thrown. Hamill doesn’t mind eating punches to clinch his opponents and begin the dirty boxing onslaught.
Jardine has to be careful in the exchanges. The time has come for him to get back to the basics in his boxing defense. Like “The Running Man” and “The Cabbage Patch”, Jardine’s “Old Man Houseshoe Shuffle” is played out. There should be no more talk about his “unorthodox” standup. That “unorthodox” standup has gotten him KTFO’d four times in the UFC. Come on now…He has Greg Jackson behind him. Let’s see some improvements.
Jardine will stick to a sound gameplan. He will batter Hamill on the outside with kicks and punches. Hamill’s inability to check the kicks will be his downfall in this fight. In the third round, Hamill will be unable to continue from the multiple leg kicks. Jardine can rest easy. He should escape being highlighted in the next Ultimate Knockouts DVD...for now…
Chris “The Crippler” Leben Vs. Aaron “A-Train” Simpson
Key Victories :
Leben (Mike Swick, Patrick Cote, Jorge Rivera, Jorge Santiago, Alessio Sakara)
Simpson (Ed Herman, Tom Lawlor)
Fighting out of Oahu, Hawaii, Chris Leben trains at Icon Fitness MMA. He is a Boxer, Wrestler, and BJJ artist. Out of his nineteen wins, ten have come by KO. Before losing to Anderson Silva, Leben had racked up five straight victories and was on the verge of a title shot. Since the brutal loss, he has been an inconsistent 4-4 in the UFC.
Leben is quickly finding himself being pushed by mid-carders to the bottom of the Middleweight totem pole. If not careful, his inconsistency and problems outside of the cage could soon land him his walking papers. At UFC Fight Night 20, Leben defeated Jay Silva by unanimous decision.
Aaron Simpson won four wrestling state championships at Antelope Union High School in Wellton, Arizona. He went on to compete at Arizona State and was a two-time NCAA All-American. When the WEC dropped its Middleweight and Light Heavyweight divisions, Simpson made his UFC debut in April 2009.
With a perfect 7-0 record, he has finished six of those bouts by KO or TKO stoppage. In his last bout, he took fight of the night honors and a split decision over Tom Lawlor.
Keys to Victory :
We need to see a more methodical Chris Leben in this fight. It was interesting seeing him choose wrestling over brawling in his bout with Jay Silva. While he isn’t the better wrestler, he can confuse Simpson by mixing up his offense. Leben has to keep a low base. Simpson will undoubtedly be looking for takedowns of his own.
On the feet, Leben needs to work his boxing and avoid getting greedy. It’s almost a reflexive action for a reeling wrestler to shoot in for a takedown. Unless Simpson is seriously hurt, Leben should land what he can and get out. If taken down, Leben needs to be aggressive in his search for submissions and opportunities to explode back to his feet.
Aaron Simpson has to avoid being baited into a battle of “rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots”. He needs to be patient in every aspect of this fight. Leben tends to overextend and throw slow combinations and kicks. If patient, Simpson may get a gift takedown courtesy of an overaggressive Chris Leben.
On the ground, Simpson shouldn’t underestimate Leben’s submission skills. Leben isn’t anywhere near a Demian Maia, but he still has competent ground skills. Simpson should use his ground and pound to chip away at his opponent. This could be a grinder. Leben is as tough as they come.
Stylistically, this isn’t a good fight for Chris Leben. Aaron Simpson is the better athlete and stronger grappler. Look for Simpson to repeatedly drag a frustrated Leben to the ground. This won’t make for the most exciting fight as Leben’s underrated guard will keep Simpson from transitioning. Simpson will control and grind out a unanimous decision.
Spencer “The King” Fisher Vs. Dennis Siver
Key Victories :
Fisher (Thiago Alves, Sam Stout, Jeremy Stephens, Caol Uno, Matt Wiman, Aaron Riley)
Siver (Paul Kelly)
Spencer Fisher is known for his explosive standup and putting on exciting performances. I can’t remember a boring Spencer Fisher fight. Sporting a style of Boxing, BJJ, and Muay Thai, Fisher is a natural southpaw. He currently trains at Team Sityodtong. The MMA school is known for fighters like Jorge Rivera, Marcus Davis, Stephan Bonnar, and Patrick Cote. At UFC 104, Fisher was stopped in the second round by Joe Stevenson.
Fighting out of Mannheim, Germany, Dennis Siver is a Sambo, Kickboxer, and BJJ artist. He is a purple belt in BJJ and currently a member of OC Fight Team. Like Fisher, Siver is also known for good standup and putting on exciting performances. Who could ever forget Siver’s TKO victory over Paul Kelly via spinning back kick. In his last bout, he was soundly picked apart by Ross Pearson in a unanimous decision loss.
Keys to Victory :
Fisher needs to be the aggressor in this fight. Siver really struggles against boxers who are efficient and aggressive in their standup. Despite possessing solid offensive standup, Siver is severely lacking in the countering department. Fisher should exploit this weakness by pushing the pace and extending on his combinations. He has to be weary of takedowns and submissions. Siver has a ground game that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Siver has to stand his ground in this fight. When pressed, he needs to counter or look for the takedown. With Fisher being the better boxer, Siver will have to set up his offense. He should use his kicks and feints to open up his standup and takedown opportunities. For Siver to win, he will have to put on a well-rounded performance. He has to keep Fisher guessing.
Spencer Fisher and Ross Pearson have similar styles. This is somewhat of an advantage for Siver. It gives him an opportunity to dissect his mistakes and try to rectify them against a similar opponent.
This fight should mimic Siver’s bout with Ross Pearson. Fisher will avoid takedowns while getting the better of the exchanges. This should be a fight of the night candidate as Fisher takes the unanimous decision.
Court McGee By Round 2 KO
Keith Jardine By Round 3 TKO Stoppage (Leg Kicks)
Aaron Simpson By Unanimous Decision
Spencer Fisher By Unanimous Decision