“Each of the Five Points is a finger,” said Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in the film Gangs of New York. “When I close my hand it becomes a fist. And, if I wish, I can turn it against you.
Twenty of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s mixed martial artists will enter The Pearl at The Palms on Dec. 5 for The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale, make fists, and turn them against each other. Here are five points to watch for on Saturday night.
(Jones upends Stephen Bonnar.)
Rarely is there a prospect like Jon Jones. “Bones” has only been training for roughly two years and fighting for 18 months yet he’s being hailed as the future of the of the light heavyweight class. No trophies, belts or rankings give him his heralded status—just three impressive victories over Andre Gusmao, Stephan Bonnar and Jake O’Brien in the UFC. The New Yorker’s flashy strikes and catapult throws demonstrate abilities that far outstrip his experience.
In Matt Hamill, he faces an experienced, rugged boxer-wrestler who has fallen short of the lofty expectations of Tito Ortiz, Hammill’s coach on Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter. Hammill stumbled in controversial UFC 75 loss to Michael Bisping and a demoralizing KO defeat to former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin followed. But he notched one in win column when “The Hammer” nailed Mark Munoz at UFC 96 with an unexpected head kick.
Hamill’s steady progress contrasts Jones’ meteoric rise nicely. With Jones having a marked athletic edge and both boasting solid wrestling credentials, the bout hinges on strikes-to-takedowns. Jones must reign-in his overeager striking and employ his reach advantage – “Bones’” reach is 84.5 inches, the longest in the UFC – to counter Hamill’s boxing from the outside. The Greg Jackson-trained fighter must explode only after damaging Hamill to avoid being double legged and ending up on his back.
Hamill isn’t suffocating from top, but he’s proficient and bruising. Jones’ inexperience on his back will be his downfall as even the most advanced prospect runs into walls on the mat. Hamill has the tall task of cutting through the hype on the way to the takedown, though.
Roy Nelson may have, as Dana White said, the worst physique in sports, but he was the favorite to win the heavyweight edition of TUF for a reason. If the Renzo Gracie black belt and former International Fight League titlist wants to take what he believes to be his against Brendan Schuab, he must play his patent stand-up-to-takedown attack. On the mat, Nelson can negate the undefeated Coloradoan’s athleticism, which is the biggest asset the former NFL player brings to the bout. A crisp boxer, a much taller Schuab can stun a stationary Nelson if he challenges the Las Vegas-based fighter consistently. If Schuab has picked up any tricks since the show’s conclusion, an upset should be in order.
Kimbo Slice GDB (Gettin’ Dat Bread)
Kimbo Slice won the most viewed mixed martial arts bout of all-time, an EliteXC tilt with James Thompson on CBS. Kevin Ferguson, whose Slice persona captivated the nation on YouTube, has a perfect style fight awaiting him when he meets Houston Alexander.
Since it’s been made clear that neither of these guys is really committed to developing his ground game, whoever gets hit on the chin first loses. Alexander has the advantage of leg kicks, though, and if he tries to chop Slice down, he can cut off the cage and coast through the bout. However, Slice will be the larger combatant and working with American Top Team and Ricardo Liborio, he may even have a mat advantage. If Slice was hungry for bread during training, he will get to eat in his UFC debut.
Edgar Paid in Patience
Frankie Edgar tore into the UFC in his February 2007 debut at UFC 67, a unanimous decision victory over highly regarded prospect Tyson Griffin. He’s been in title talks since, but a heartbreaking loss to Gray Maynard forced “The Answer” back to the drawing board, where he sketched out two great wins over former title challenger and former UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk. Originally slated to emerging contender Kurt Pellegrino, Edgar gets a relative newcomer instead in Matt Veach. The Hit Squad member is a resilient, undefeated fighter. Edgar’s slick adaptation of the boxer-wrestler, though, likely keeps him on track.
Big Baby or Darkness?
Marcus Jones has every edge over fellow former NFL player Matt Mitrione. If he can leave the sensitivity that characterized his reality TV show stint aside and take on his “Darkness” mindset via ground and pound, a slow-n-steady run in a mean heavyweight class could be in order.