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UFC: Ultimate Fighter XI Finale
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on November 5, 2010, 7:24 AM

UFC: Ultimate Fighter XI Finale

Las Vegas, Nevada

-It was clear that after two lacklustre seasons (one in terms of drama, one in terms of decent fights) something needed to be done to freshen up TUF, and for Season 11 – AKA Team Liddell vs. Team Ortiz the brass at Zuffa and Spike came up with the idea of a Wild Card format – rather than have a straight sixteen-man elimination tournament as before, this time they’d only have fourteen initial entrants, with the final place it the Quarter-Finals being decided by a fight between two of the already-eliminated competitors. On paper, it sounded like a good idea – not only did it allow a talented fighter back into the competition if the matchmaking hadn’t especially been smart, but because there was always the chance of a return into the tournament, the eliminated first round fighters (hopefully) wouldn’t drink themselves silly and cause havoc in the house. Of course, it didn’t actually work that well.

Kris McCray ended up being the recipient of the Wild Card and did make it through to the finals. But there was farce throughout the tournament as various guys dropped out through injury (Chris Camozzi, Rich Attonito, Nick Ring) and this meant that other losing fighters such as Court McGee and James Hammortree were given second chances, pretty much rendering the Wild Card system irrelevant from the get-go. In the end, we ended up with two finalists (McCray and McGee) who had lost in the first round! Personally I thought the tournament was Nick Ring’s for the taking as not only did he have the best record coming in, but he looked very good in his two fights too. Of course he ended up pulling out with a knee injury and hasn’t fought since. The fights were all so-so, with nothing outstanding but nothing on the levels of sloppiness seen in the previous season. As for drama, we had an antagonist who was pretty much a poor man’s Chris Leben in Jamie Yager, and the coaching rivalry seemed tame after the fireworks of Rampage and Rashad, with the biggest issue being Tito pulling out of the scheduled fight with Liddell and being replaced on the show by Rich Franklin and an all-star team. Overall then, not the best season. Could the Finale deliver where the season had fallen short?

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Kenny Florian.

Heavyweight Fight: Travis Browne vs James McSweeney

TUF 10 contestant McSweeney had apparently been planning to drop to his more natural 205lbs after his finale win over Darrill Schoonover, but for whatever reason he ended up staying at HW and was matched with giant Hawaiian newcomer Browne, who was unbeaten in his career thus far at 9-0.

Fight begins and Browne immediately pushes forward as McSweeney looks to circle on the outside. Couple of wild swings miss for the newcomer. Rushing leg kick into the clinch from Browne and he forces the Brit into the cage. Quick break follows and McSweeney gets back on his bike. Solid counter right hand lands for McSweeney as Browne comes forward. Leg kick follows. More kicks from McSweeney and he lands another counter right hand. Rushing combo from Browne sees McSweeney go down off a left hand, and Browne quickly takes advantage by landing a flurry of elbows that open the Brit up. More shots land for Browne from half-guard and he looks to pass, doing a good job of keeping McSweeney pinned to the ground. One minute to go and Browne looks for a keylock before abandoning it to attempt a guard pass. This time he works into full mount, where he OPENS UP with a hard flurry of punches until referee Kim Winslow stops it.

Browne looked like a pretty solid prospect there; how good he really is I’m not sure as McSweeney’s a blown up 205lber and isn’t that great to begin with, but everyone has to start somewhere. Decent little opener that thankfully never got sloppy.

Middleweight Fight: Chris Camozzi vs James Hammortree

Camozzi had made it into the house with a win in the preliminary round of the TUF tournament, but ended up being removed when a post-fight test revealed that a toothache was actually a broken jaw (!). He was given a chance at redemption here against Hammortree, who was eliminated in both the first round and the Quarter-Finals, the second fight being given to him by Dana White because he chased Dana on his way out of the house to ask him for it. Really.

Round One and Camozzi opens with a leg kick that Hammortree immediately answers with one of his own. Two more leg kicks from Camozzi before Hammortree blocks a high kick. Good stiff jab lands for Camozzi. Right hand into a leg kick knocks Hammortree down for a second but he pops right back up before Camozzi grabs the clinch and forces him into the fence. They exchange some strikes inside before breaking off, and Camozzi lands another leg kick. Body kick follows for Camozzi. He tries another leg kick but this time Hammortree catches it and gets a takedown. He postures up and stands over him, but Camozzi hits a foot sweep to escape and pops up to his feet. Another good leg kick lands for Camozzi. Hammortree seems to be struggling with the range here. They clinch and Hammortree muscles him into the fence, before shrugging off a takedown attempt. Good one-two from Camozzi before the round comes to an end in the clinch. 10-9 Camozzi as he largely picked Hammortree apart.

Round Two and Hammortree counters a kick with a hard right hand before Camozzi grabs a clinch and forces him back to the fence. They muscle for position and Camozzi looks for a trip takedown, but Hammortree blocks it. Camozzi lands a couple of good knees to the body but Hammortree manages to break free and then apparently has some Vaseline in his eye, so the ref calls time. He quickly sorts it out and they exchange punches off the restart. Takedown attempt from Camozzi but Hammortree stuffs it and lands a knee to counter. They trade for a moment before Camozzi breaks off, and from there he lands a nasty knee to the body and follows with two more from the clinch. Hammortree immediately tries a takedown, but Camozzi stuffs it and then comes in with another hard knee to the midsection! Hammortree looks to be in trouble as he takes some more knees, but then he answers with a right hand that slows Camozzi down! He goes for a takedown, but Hammortree blocks it and then gets a takedown of his own, landing in half-guard where he drops some elbows. Good right from Hammortree and then he stands over Camozzi and throws some kicks to the legs. Ref calls Camozzi up and he lands a couple of leg kicks before Hammortree looks for the takedown again. Camozzi blocks it and then opens up with the knees again, doing a really good job, and Hammortree ends up covering up along the fence! Camozzi can’t finish him though and they end up clinched again, before Camozzi grabs a rear waistlock. Hammortree blocks the takedown and the round ends there. 10-9 Camozzi for those knees.

Third and final round and Camozzi eats a right hand counter early on off a leg kick. They exchange knees before Camozzi lands a leg kick slightly low, and the ref calls time. Hammortree takes a moment to recover and they restart before Camozzi drops for a single leg. Hammortree works to defend it, and blocks well, breaking off. Pair of solid right hands from Hammortree but Camozzi clinches and forces him back into the cage. They exchange some knees to the legs before breaking off. Stiff jab lands for Camozzi. Flurry from Hammotree but Camozzi gets a clinch and lands a knee again. Hammortree really begins to push forward, but he eats another big knee that wobbles him. Camozzi pushes forward now, but Hammortree swings right back and they wind up clinched again. Takedown attempt from Hammortree but Camozzi blocks it and breaks away. Hammortree lunges in with a superman punch, but Camozzi avoids and lands another knee to the body before missing a high kick. They muscle into the fence and Hammortree grabs a guillotine and drops to guard, but he can’t finish it in time as the round ends!

I’ve got this 30-27 for Chris Camozzi, and the judges agree, unanimous decision for Camozzi, 29-28, 30-27, 30-27. This was a decent fight actually, exciting throughout with a torrid pace, and Camozzi showed solid skills on his feet, particularly with the knees from the clinch. I think he’s got some potential, but to me he looks a little undersized at 185lbs so his future might best be suited at 170lbs.

Middleweight Fight: Kyle Noke vs Josh Bryant

Australian Noke was one of the initial favourites to take the competition as he had far more experience than the majority of the other fighters, but he was upset in the Quarter-Finals by Wild Card Kris McCray. His opponent Bryant made it as far as the Semi-Finals, where he was eliminated by McCray too – despite initially eliminating McCray in the first round! Confusing, I know.

First round begins and Noke opens with a quick flurry and a knee to the head. Good leg kick from Noke. Bryant appears to be struggling with the reach of the Aussie here. Another heavy leg kick lands for Noke. Right hand follows into a clinch, but Bryant muscles off. Wild hooks miss for Bryant. Another leg kick lands for the Aussie and they look to be taking their toll now. Body kick follows. Right hand stuns Bryant and Noke avoids his counter swings and blocks a takedown. Noke is just picking him apart now. Leg kick into a left hand from Noke. More strikes from the outside from Noke, still no real answer from Bryant. Couple more leg kicks end the round. Totally one-sided round in favour of Kyle Noke.

Into the 2nd and Bryant tries to push forward a little more, but he eats a big left hand and Noke follows with a hard body kick. Bryant takes it and keeps coming, but he looks out of his depth. Brutal leg kick lands for Noke and causes Bryant to limp. Body kick from Noke lands too. Another leg kick causes Bryant to switch stance, but he ends up covering up as Noke throws a flurry at him and almost drops him with a leg kick. Takedown attempt is easily avoided by the Aussie and he continues to punish Bryant with strikes. Right hand stuns him badly and Noke follows with a front kick to the chest that drops Bryant next to the fence. Bryant turtles up, and Noke follows with more punches for the stoppage.

Excellent, excellent performance from Kyle Noke as he refused to be dragged into a brawl by Bryant and just picked him apart from the outside with some sick Muay Thai, particularly the leg kicks that did a lot of damage right from the beginning. Bryant just couldn’t deal with the range of the Aussie and looked out of his depth. I can definitely see Noke settling into a role as a gatekeeper/mid-level guy now in the UFC and it should be interesting to see how far he can go. Vicious stuff.

Middleweight Fight: Brad Tavares vs Seth Baczynski

This was a rematch of one of the better fights in the tournament – the Quarter-Final that saw Tavares awarded the win after taking an illegal soccer kick to the head from Baczynski (who coincidentally, was Chris Camozzi’s replacement when the broken jaw was discovered). Tavares was one of the few fighters from this series that I saw potential in, so I was hoping he’d get a more decisive win this time around.

We get underway and Baczynski comes out aggressively throwing kicks. They clinch and Tavares gets a hip throw down into guard. He pins Seth into the fence before he works back to his feet, and manages to break free. They exchange punches and Seth gets a takedown off a caught kick, but Brad pops back up and they clinch against the fence. Baczynski looks for a takedown again, then grabs a guillotine and drops for the submission, but Tavares pops his head free only to get caught in a triangle! It looks pretty tight, but Brad remains calm and works his way free before passing into side mount. Good job from the Hawaiian. Seth rolls and gives his back, and Tavares lands a couple of punches before looking to sink the hooks. Both hooks in for Tavares and he looks to work for the choke. Seth’s visibly cut somewhere on his forehead too. Body triangle now from Tavares and he controls Baczynski nicely, but can’t finish him off. Round ends in the same position. 10-9 Brad Tavares.

2nd round and Baczynski walks into a nasty combination right away before Brad gets a standing guillotine and then chooses to let it go. BIG SLAM follows for Tavares and he lands right in side mount. He looks to mount, but Baczynski manages to sneak in a butterfly hook and transitions to full guard from there. Seth goes for a leglock from there, but Tavares works free and then postures up above the guard before dropping back into half-guard. Couple of solid shots land for Brad and then he slips past the legs and looks to take the back again. No hooks this time but he’s got an over/under, and uses it to land some knees to the body. Seth tries to scramble free, but gives up the hooks and Tavares almost gets an armbar, but slips off and winds up on the bottom. Quick scramble allows him to dump Seth onto his back again, but now he’s cut too. Into half-guard for Tavares with Baczynski pinned right into the cage, and there’s a lot of blood on both men now. Short hammer fists from Tavares and then he works the Hughes crucifix to deliver some hard punches. Seth works free and gets back to full guard, where the round ends. 10-9 Tavares again. Cut looks pretty nasty though.

Round Three and Tavares opens with some kicks before Baczynski closes the distance and looks for the takedown. Tavares works to defend, and manages to pummel back to a regular clinch before going for a takedown of his own. Seth stuffs it and grabs a front headlock to deliver some knees, but Brad works a single leg and gets him down to guard. Couple of elbows from the bottom land for Baczynski before Brad answers with a couple of his own. Triangle attempt from Baczynski and it looks pretty tight, as Tavares stands to try to escape. He falls to his back and the triangle is still locked in, and it looks all over, but somehow Brad keeps wriggling and finally pops his head free to a MASSIVE crowd pop! Brad gets the back again and slaps both hooks in, and it looks like Baczynski might be out of gas. Tavares begins to work for the choke, but Seth manages to slip free and gets to his feet. One minute to go and Brad drops for a takedown again, but Baczynski sprawls out to avoid it and gets on top in the guard. Punches from Seth land from the top and he shrugs off a triangle attempt to finish the fight on top. 10-9 Baczynski but I have this 29-28 overall for Brad Tavares.

All three judges have it 29-28 for Brad Tavares. That was a really, really good fight with very few slow spots, and Tavares looked good throughout aside from the triangle attempt from Baczynski, but even there he showed some unbelievable heart to avoid it and get free. Given that he’s only 22 and looked much improved from the TV tapings here, I think the Hawaiian might have a bright future ahead of him in the UFC.

Lightweight Fight: John Gunderson vs Mark Holst

Like at UFC 112, Gunderson was initially set to fight Paul Taylor here, but Taylor pulled out with injury again and Holst – a Canadian fighter whose last fight was a win over TUF 5 veteran Corey Hill – stepped in to take the fight. Not knowing a thing about Holst I had no idea who would take this one.

First round and they circle before Gunderson closes the distance and forces Holst into the fence. They muscle for position with Gunderson trying to get him down, and sure enough Gunderson locks his hands together and gets a slam from a single leg. Holst works back to guard and stays active from his back, quickly working back to full guard when Gunderson passes. Couple of short elbows land for Gunderson but there’s little action really. He passes into half-guard, but again Holst scrambles back to full guard. Gunderson passes again and gets to side mount, before sliding his knee onto the belly. Holst uses the fence to spin out and gets back to guard, but Gunderson quickly passes to half-guard again. Mini-slam from Gunderson as Holst gets back to full guard. Solid ground-and-pound ends the round for Gunderson.

Second round and Gunderson throws a right hand into a takedown and gets him down instantly. Holst gets full guard and tries to tie him up, but Gunderson postures up and works to pass again. He works into half-guard and lands some punches before sliding into side mount. Holst scrambles back to guard, where he tries to get his legs up for a submission, but he eats a stiff right from Gunderson. Into half-guard again before Holst gets back to full guard, where he eats some more chopping shots. Ref calls a stand-up with 1:30 remaining and Holst gets a trip takedown off a high kick attempt. He lands in half-guard and tries to pass, but Gunderson reverses and gets to his feet, where he swings his way into another clinch. Holst drops to his back looking for a kimura, but ends up in full guard again, and Gunderson passes to half-guard to end the round. 10-9 Gunderson and he has to be up two rounds now.

Third and final round and Gunderson comes out swinging power hooks, but he doesn’t land anything of note. Takedown attempt from Gunderson and he forces Holst into the cage, but this time Holst breaks off. Gunderson comes forward with a big one-two, and from there he drops for a takedown and gets him in the air for a slam, but a guillotine attempt stops him from delivering it and they end up going down gently into Holst’s guard. Holst tries for a kimura, but he can’t lock it up although it does prevent any ground-and-pound damage. This is a dull fight. Less than a minute to go and Holst tries for an armbar, but he can’t get it and that’s the fight. I’d be tempted to go 10-9 Holst for that round because Gunderson did nothing from the top, but let’s be honest, who cares?

Judges all score it for John Gunderson although they don’t read the actual scores. Fight was boring as hell though even if it wasn’t technically bad, and both guys have since washed out of the UFC, so it is what it is.

Middleweight Fight: Rich Attonito vs Jamie Yager

This was the opener of the televised card and it was no surprise that Yager was involved given he’d been the primary antagonist throughout the series, despite showing late on that his bark was likely bigger than his bite. To be fair to him though despite gassing out and giving up in his Quarter-Final against Josh Bryant, he had looked pretty explosive with his strikes in his previous fights and was at least exciting. Attonito meanwhile had surprisingly dominated veteran Kyacey Uscola in their first round meeting before taking an illegal knee to give him the DQ win. He’d pulled out with a hand injury though so we didn’t get to see how far he could’ve gone. I was pulling for Yager here surprisingly enough as I thought he could make for a decent undercard villain on future shows.

Round One begins and they circle around and Yager comes forward aggressively, landing an early low kick. They throw some punches that miss before Yager lands a left hook coming forward. Attonito gets a clinch and muscles him into the fence, looking for the takedown, but Yager manages to defend using raw strength before Rich drags him down. Yager quickly scrambles back to his feet, but Attonito gets on him with the clinch again. Knee from Yager breaks off and he follows with a couple of leg kicks and a superman punch that misses. Good counter right off a low kick lands for Attonito. Combo answers for Yager followed by a right to the body. Lunging left hook from Attonito. Low kick from Yager is caught and Attonito lands a right to back him up, before dropping for a takedown. Yager works to defend and does a good job landing elbows in the process, causing Attonito to break off. Yager pushes forward with a flurry but a hard counter right slows him down. High kick glances off Attonito’s head. Round ends shortly after. 10-9 Yager in a relatively close round.

Round Two and Yager comes out swinging, but Attonito manages to avoid the brunt of it, staying on the outside and moving around. Lunging right hook misses for Attonito. Attonito begins to push forward a little more now as Yager seems to be slowing down, and he begins to land some nice counters including a good left hook. Exchange continues and Attonito begins to take over, landing punches and backing Yager up. Good body shot from Attonito and he follows with a glancing high kick. Weak jumping knee misses for Yager. Hard right from Attonito and he’s walking Yager down. Big combo rocks Yager and forces him to shoot, but Attonito stuffs it and switches to take the back with both hooks! Attonito looks for the rear naked choke, and for a second it looks sunk before Yager slips free. Attonito loses a hook but still has the back, and with less than a minute to go he gets the hook back, flattens him out and bombs at the head with punches for the stoppage!

Decent fight but really, Yager is the definition of a front runner in that he’ll put guys away early if they go down, but if they don’t go away he ends up running out of steam and when he’s put in trouble himself he has a tendency to wilt – very Sokoudjou-esque, in fact. Attonito has a lot of experience and skill but whether he’ll be able to make any true noise at 185lbs is still a question mark to me as he looked to be struggling to deal with Yager’s athleticism early on, while Yager needs to re-evaluate his whole game if he wants to make it back into the big show.

Lightweight Fight: Dennis Siver vs Spencer Fisher

When this fight was announced I was pretty excited, as despite having some losses on their records in the UFC both of these guys are pretty exciting to watch, particularly in the striking department. I expected a mainly stand-up affair with Fisher probably taking the win on the ground in the later rounds.

Fight begins and they exchange leg kicks early on before Fisher lands one to the groin. Referee Kim Winslow calls time to let him recover but he seems alright and they quickly restart. Good counter left by Spencer as Siver throws a kick. Beautiful front kick lands right to Fisher’s face and backs him up. They exchange into a clinch but Siver breaks off with a right hand. Good leg kick from Siver. Striking exchange continues and Siver lands with a left hook. Siver has a cut over his left eye. Neither man is really asserting themselves at this point. Hard kick to the body from Fisher. Lot of blood coming from Siver’s eye now. Front kick again lands for the German. Crescent kick misses for Fisher. Spinning back kick misses for Siver, luckily for Fisher! Round ends just after. Really even round so I’ll go 10-10, particularly when a replay reveals an accidental headbutt caused the cut on Siver’s eye.

Into the 2nd and Fisher pushes forward and lands a nice left head kick. They continue to circle and exchange with Siver taking the center of the Octagon. Both men land some decent leg kicks. This fight is really hard to score as they’re practically going strike-for-strike. Finally Siver lands something of note and drops Fisher with a right hook to counter a low kick. Fisher pops right back up though and continues to fire off with low kicks. Both men continue to land strikes but nothing really major. Siver begins to take over late in the round, landing slightly more shots. Hard body kick lands for Siver. Seconds to go in the round. Fisher pushes forward but misses with a spinning backfist. Spinning back kick glances for Siver right before the round ends. Close round again but I’d lean towards Siver this time.

Third and final round and Fisher opens with the head kick again, though it doesn’t seem to have much effect. Low kick lands in the groin this time on Fisher, and he has to take time to recover. They restart and exchange right away with both men swinging for the fences. Both land but Fisher seems to be the aggressor here, really pushing the action. Couple of counters land for Siver as Fisher seems to be circling into the German’s power hand. Nice left hook lands for Siver. Head kick from Fisher is partially blocked. Good knee from Fisher coming forward. Siver answers with a combo. Fisher appears to be slowing down now and Siver pushes in with another combo. Both men swing combinations that miss. This is going to be a very difficult decision to call as they’re literally going shot-for-shot at this point. Exchange continues to the end of the fight and I have no idea which way I’d go for this one.

Judges have it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Dennis Siver. Very close fight but I think the right man probably took it, just about. Wasn’t the most exciting fight, surprisingly enough, as while both men were active throughout neither did really enough to take the fight convincingly and it got dull after a while just seeing them kickbox. Fisher particularly seems to have stagnated a little in terms of his style as when he first came into the UFC in 2005 he was seen as an all-rounder and now he’s basically a pure kickboxer. He did look better in the fight after this one though so maybe he’s looking to change it up again, who knows.

Middleweight Fight: Chris Leben vs Aaron Simpson

After a very close decision win over Tom Lawlor in January, the undefeated Simpson was faced here with his toughest test to date against Leben, who had bounced back from a steroid suspension and two losses in a row to outpoint Jay Silva in his last fight. Based on him looking pretty bad against another great wrestler in Jake Rosholt, I took Simpson to use his explosive takedowns and ground game to outpoint the Crippler.

Round One gets underway and Leben circles on the outside, opening with a leg kick. Simpson throws a combo into a takedown attempt, and follows with a big slam to the ground. He lands in side mount, but Leben quickly scrambles back to half-guard. Leben immediately works to get to his feet, but Simpson grabs a guillotine and attempts to crank it. Leben pops free and lands some uppercuts and a left hand to break, then follows with more punches from the clinch as Simpson looks to grab the plum to deliver some knees. Foot stomps from Leben before Simpson ducks for another takedown. They muscle for position along the fence before Leben breaks off. Wild hooks miss for both men before Simpson lands a right hand. Clinch from Simpson and he forces Leben into the cage. He looks for a single leg and throws Leben down, then follows with some big punches, but Leben eats them right up and works to his feet. Simpson grabs a front facelock and holds him before letting go. Leben pushes forward now and lands the left hand to slow Simpson up, causing him to shoot for a takedown that Leben stuffs. They trade some punches with both landing, but unsurprisingly Leben just takes them. Good knee and a left hand from Simpson in the clinch and he looks to take Leben down again, but this time Leben defends it well and the round ends there.

Second round and Leben pushes forward with a head kick that Simpson counters with a combo. They trade off into a clinch again and Simpson again looks to take it to the ground. Left hand breaks off for Simpson but Leben begins to push forward, hurting him with punches during a wild exchange. Simpson tries to fire back, but eats a big left that stuns him and forces him to go for the clinch. Simpson tries to trip him down, but Leben blocks again and breaks off. Crowd begin to chant for Leben as he pushes forward with a leg kick. Left hand lands again for Leben and he stuffs a takedown. Simpson throws a head kick that misses and then Leben walks him down again. Clinch is easily broken by Leben and Simpson is looking a bit tired. Both men land punches again in an exchange but once more Leben’s left is the biggest weapon, hurting Simpson. Couple of leg kicks from Leben and he looks the fresher man. Left hand lands again and causes Simpson to drop for a takedown, but Leben stuffs it and follows with a flurry that puts Simpson on queer street, causing him to STUMBLE ACROSS THE CAGE OUT OF CONTROL!~! Ref calls it off before Leben even has a chance to follow up in one of the funniest looking TKOs in UFC history.

Exciting fight and the story of it was Simpson attempting to trade with Leben and of course as usual when that happens, Leben’s chin held up while Simpson’s didn’t. Simpson also looked gassed towards the end, but I think that might’ve been more because he was stunned by the punches than anything else. Leben’s style hasn’t really evolved per say, but unless you fight him smartly you’re always going to be in trouble and Simpson just didn’t come out with the greatest gameplan here. Good win for the Crippler.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Matt Hamill vs Keith Jardine

Going in the word was that this was probably the last chance saloon for Jardine, as he’d lost his previous three fights to Rampage Jackson, Thiago Silva and Ryan Bader, and with different judges, could easily have been a paltry 1-6 since his win over Forrest Griffin in 2006. Hamill on the other hand was unbeaten in three, although his last win was arguably the most questionable in UFC history – a shitty DQ against Jon Jones in a fight that should’ve been stopped on a TKO for Jones. My pick here, after seeing Hamill picked apart by Rich Franklin, was actually Jardine, despite his shady chin.

We get underway and they exchange left hooks early on as they circle around. Hamill pushes forward and wades into a clinch with some uppercuts before Jardine breaks off. Good leg kick from Jardine as Hamill continues to come forward. Neither man really opening up just yet. Good counter right from Jardine as Hamill tries a leg kick. Leg kick for Jardine follows and then a body kick after that. Uppercut lands glancingly for Hamill. Nice combination for Jardine and Hamill is forced to cover up along the fence. Hard leg kick to follow it up for the Dean of Mean. Into the clinch but Keith breaks quickly. Another good combination lands for Jardine. Body kick follows. Hamill continues to push forward but he hasn’t landed much of note yet. Less than a minute to go and Jardine almost walks into an uppercut. Round ends with a couple more combinations from Jardine. Excellent opening round for the Dean of Mean.

Round Two and Hamill looks to grab him for a takedown, but Jardine quickly avoids and circles out. Good body kick from Jardine. Leg kick again lands for Jardine and he follows with another right away. High kick is blocked by Hamill. Hamill catches a kick and almost gets him down, but Jardine manages to slip free. Combo from Jardine backs Hamill up. Hamill comes forward some more and lands some jabs but ends up backed up by another body kick and a leg kick. Decent combo from Hamill coming forward. Looks like Jardine is cut. Exchange follows and both men land, and Hamill hits him with a high kick! Jardine looks to fire right back and they trade wildly, both men landing, but Hamill turns away and goes down off an eye poke. Ouch. Lot of blood coming from under Jardine’s left eye now too. Doctor checks Hamill’s eye over and allows him to continue, while Herb Dean gives Jardine his mouthpiece back as it was knocked out in the exchange. He then decides to take a point from Jardine which is a bit surprising given it was an accidental poke. Fight continues and Jardine comes out swinging, but Hamill fires back and stuns him with a left hand! Hamill really comes forward and catches him with more shots before dragging him to the ground. Jardine looks to work his way back to his feet, but takes some shots inside the clinch along the way. Lot of blood coming from both men. Big knee from Hamill as Jardine stands, and he’s taking over in the exchanges now. Crowd go wild as Hamill continues to push the action, landing a big uppercut to end the round. Hamill’s round but it’s a 10-8 due to the point deduction.

Third and final round! Hamill quickly comes out looking to clinch, but this time Jardine back out and avoids. Jardine is sporting the full crimson mask. Leg kick from Hamill and he follows with an uppercut. Good combination from Jardine. Hamill looks for the takedown and manages to get him down, then almost takes the back as Jardine looks to scramble up. One hook in for Hamill and he cranks on the neck, then lands some left hands before dragging him down fully. Jardine looks to wall-walk up the fence to escape and does so, and then backs out. He’s taking some deep breaths now. Ref calls time to check Jardine over as he’s literally covered in blood. Doctor allows it to continue and Hamill walks into a hard right uppercut. Takedown attempt from Hamill but Jardine stuffs it. Stiff left jab from Hamill. Leg kick from Hamill, answered by a combo from Jardine. This is a hell of a fight. Exchange continues but Hamill is the aggressor. Herb Dean calls time again to replace Jardine’s mouthpiece, and on the restart Hamill has a takedown stuffed but manages to land a knee. One minute to go. Another takedown is stuffed by Jardine but I think he needs a finish here after that second round. Hamill wades forward into another exchange. Good leg kick from Jardine. Round ends with another exchange. Close round to call but even if you give it to Jardine then you’d end up with a draw. I think it goes to Hamill 29-27.

Judges have it 29-27, 29-27 and 28-28 for a majority decision for Matt Hamill. Well, that turned into a real trench war with both men getting hurt and cut and both men landing some serious shots, but once Hamill found his range in the second he did appear to land the more meaningful blows and after the point deduction Jardine was always going to be in trouble. Indeed, he was released from the UFC following this fight, and while it’s sad to see a guy cut after such a great fight, it’s hard to justify keeping anyone who’s on a four-fight losing streak, you know? On the flip side Hamill is almost unrecognizable from the guy who first appeared on TUF 3 these days, and you could probably argue a top ten ranking for him even which is almost unbelievable when you remember his shitty fight with Mike Nickels! Quite clearly the fight of the night thus far.

Ultimate Fighter XI: Finals: Court McGee vs Kris McCray

Alright, so no offense to either man, but this was probably, on paper, the weakest TUF final ever, as both men had been eliminated in the tournament before returning to action. McCray we touched on earlier as he was the Wild Card, but McGee was beaten by Nick Ring in a decision some saw as controversial (not me!) and came back in after Rich Attonito got hurt. On the plus side, McGee at least had a marketable and interesting back story, as he was a former drug addict who’d almost died from overdoses a couple of times before finding MMA. McCray on the other hand had one of the most annoying TUF gimmicks ever – ‘The Savage’, complete with ludicrous animal pose upon introduction. As McGee had looked generally solid in all areas on the show while McCray was a horribly undersized 185lbs, I took the former junkie to come away with the TUF crown.

First round and they exchange some strikes into the clinch before McGee breaks off. Another exchange leads to McCray looking for a takedown, but McGee reverses him and puts him on his back in guard. Court moves him to the fence, landing a couple of short elbows, before McCray turns and works back to his feet, taking a shot on the way up. McGee quickly drops for a single leg though and puts the Savage on his back again. Good left hand over the top for McGee and he uses it to drop into half-guard. Court uses the forearm to grind into McCray’s face, but the Savage manages to scramble back to his feet. Wild swings from McCray but they don’t land and he eats a couple of counters from McGee en route to the clinch. Trip attempt is blocked by McCray but they clinch again and McGee forces him into the fence. It must be said that this crowd SUCKS, barely even pulling off a chant for the Savage. Trip takedown puts McGee on top in half-guard and this time he hits a nice pass to mount, but McCray manages to explode to his feet nicely. Flurry from McCray but it’s too sloppy to hurt McGee and he seems fine. Good counter right from McGee as McCray pushes forward, and they clinch again before Court ends the round by landing some crisper strikes in an exchange. 10-9 Court McGee.

Second round and they exchange combinations before McCray clinches. They trade shots to the body before Court gets another takedown and this time drops right into full mount. McCray looks in trouble as Court sets up for an arm triangle, but the Savage pops free. High mount now from McGee before McCray gives his back. He slips in an attempt to put both hooks in though and it allows McCray to escape to his feet. They exchange some punches before Court hits another takedown and lands in half-guard. Looks like McCray is cut, too. McGee works to pass and manages to take the back again, and this time he’s got both hooks in. Rear naked choke follows and McGee locks it up tightly to force the tapout, becoming the seventeenth winner of The Ultimate Fighter.

Post-fight Dana White and Chuck Liddell present McGee with his winner’s trophy, although unfortunately for McGee the days of wild side prizes (even the watch!) are long gone. Pretty one-sided fight in the end, as in the same way that we found on the TV tapings, McCray isn’t great when he can’t get the takedown and he was unable to outwrestle McGee here. Where both guys go from here is questionable – McGee on paper shouldn’t do that well but he’s shown so much heart and determination thus far that you can’t help but support him, and I have a feeling that he might surprise everyone yet. McCray on the other hand really needs to drop to 170lbs and unless he does so ASAP I don’t see him lasting long in the UFC.

-Highlight reel of the night’s action ends the show for us.

Final Thoughts....

As a stand-alone show I guess the TUF XI Finale isn’t too bad – there’s one crap fight in the form of Gunderson-Holst, but everything else is either solid or really good, with the best fight being Jardine-Hamill. With that said though, a dead crowd for the most part and a lack of really memorable fights make it a largely forgettable show, and in terms of the TUF pantheon, Court McGee, no offense meant, doesn’t really stand out alongside Forrest Griffin, Diego Sanchez, Rashad Evans and Ryan Bader, you know? Is it better than the preceding Heavyweight season? Well, I guess so, but then that season gave us Brendan Schaub and Roy Nelson, so I’m not sure. Overall then, thumbs in the middle, leaning slightly down.

Best Fight: Jardine-Hamill
Worst Fight: Gunderson-Holst

Overall Rating: **1/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 116-121, Versus 2, Fight Night 22
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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