MCGEE MORE THAN JUST A FEEL-GOOD STORY
I’ve never met Court McGee—never talked to him, either. I’ve never seen him compete prior to watching the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter. But I’ll admit that I was pulling for him on Saturday’s finale card.
That isn’t meant as a knock on Kris McCray. I’m sure he is a great guy, and he is certainly a very talented mixed martial artist. I wasn’t, by any means, hoping for him to come up short. It’s just that the human element of McGee’s story is something that tugs at the heart strings of just about anyone.
McGee was very honest during TUF filming about his former life as a drug abuser. That level of honesty and vulnerability is rare in sports, which is why watching him completely turn his life around feels good to the soul.
With that said, there is more to McGee than just his past. This guy is a real talent. I recently spoke with John Hackleman, and out of nowhere he said that, in his opinion, McGee was someone to watch out for going forward. That was before McGee completely undressed McCray.
Now, I suspect that everyone is taking notice of the Chuck Liddell team member. My guess is that McGee’s management team will look to bring him along slowly for the next year, but after that, I suspect that we will see the bearded wonder step up and face some of the middleweight division’s known commodities.
HAMILL RISES IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY
Matt Hamill has a couple losses on his professional record. Michael Bisping outpointed him in a close battle. Former 185-lb champion Rich Franklin stopped him in two rounds with a brilliant display of striking. Yet, neither of those guys physically dominated Hamill like Jon Jones did back in December (though Hamill got the win via disqualification).
Jones gave Hamill the kind of beating that can permanently damage a fighter’s confidence. More often than not, fighters like Hamill who rely heavily on dominating opponents with power and pressure, rather than precision and technique, are especially vulnerable following an utter domination. Thus, I was extremely curious to see how Hamill would respond in his fight against Keith Jardine.
Hamill’s performance solidified my suspicion that he is very strong mentally. Indeed, there was no hesitation in his attack, as Hamill stalked Jardine no differently than he did opponents back when he was undefeated. And, of course, he survived moments of adversity, including breaking his hand during the opening round.
Hamill’s continued improvement is noteworthy. This guy is really starting to come into his own as a mixed martial artist. I’m still not sure if he has championship ability, but he certainly has the goods to beat some very tough guys.
JARDINE CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE
This is going to shock many readers, but Keith Jardine hasn’t scored an emphatic win in nearly four years.
Yes, you read that correctly. The last guy the “Dean of Mean” hammered was Forrest Griffin way back on December 30, 2006. Since that technical knockout win, he is 2-6, and both of his wins were by razor-thin split decisions. The loss to Hamill at the TUF 11 finale brings his current losing streak to four fights.
The Greg Jackson-trained former contender is a much better fighter than his recent lack of success suggests. He is a handful to deal with on the feet, with genuine fight-stopping power in his right hand. And he is better than most give him credit for on the ground.
So, what is the problem?
I honestly don’t know. It is difficult to marry the facts that Jardine was able to defeat two of the best light heavies in the world in Chuck Liddell and Brandon Vera and at the same time follow up those wins with four-straight defeats.
Jardine has the skills to be a contender in the UFC’s glamour division, but he needs to right the ship as soon as possible, if he is going to be anything but a gatekeeper going forward. My guess is that his problem is equal parts confidence and bad luck. Jackson has his work cut out for him going forward.
SIMPSON’S LOSS DOESN’T CHANGE MUCH
Nobody at the top of the sport remains undefeated forever. Cain Velasquez and Shane Carwin may take umbrage with that statement, but history strongly suggests that there is simply too much parity in the sport for a guy to continue winning indefinitely. And that is particularly true in the ultra competitive UFC.
Aaron Simpson is a legitimate 185-lb star prospect. His loss to Chris Leben doesn’t change that fact. If anything, Simpson should learn a very valuable lesson from his mistakes in the fight. He now knows that he is not invincible on the feet and should never engage in a slugfest with guys carrying sledgehammers for fists. That epiphany will serve him well going forward.
ATTONITO CAPITALIZED ON THE OPPORTUNITY SO MANY OTHERS WISHED FOR, BUT BIGGER GOALS REMAIN
I don’t know if Jamie Yager purposely played the role of heel during TUF 11 or if that was just his natural personality. What I do know is that the Southern California fighter got under the skin of several of his housemates during the taping of the reality show. While that made him an interesting personality to watch on television, it placed a massive target on his head.
Lots of guys badly wanted the opportunity to fight him in the finale, just so they could prove a point to the brash young striker. Rich Attonito got the opportunity, and he certainly made the most of it by scoring a second-round technical knockout.
Attonito is now 3-0 since the taping of TUF 11 began. Remember that a broken hand forced him out of the reality show tournament, not a loss. A win over Yager probably gave him a bit of personal satisfaction, but the bigger picture for him was certainly putting on a great show to support his quest to become a full-fledged UFC regular and then a 185-lb contender. He took a very big step in that direction on Saturday night.