(McGee celebrates his win. Check out the full TUF 11 Finale gallery here.)
Winning The Ultimate Fighter is a huge accomplishment for any mixed martial artist. Living in a house for six weeks isolated from everything and everyone that you know and having a camera crew following you around and documenting everything you do and every word that comes out of your mouth can be a stressful experience for the toughest that walk among us. Now add in sharing that experience with 13-15 other guys who all want the exact same prize that you do…a six-figure contract with the biggest, baddest MMA promotion in the world and some would call that a pressure cooker on a mega-dose of steroids. It’s no wonder that the fighter who holds up that Ultimate Fighter glass trophy at the end of the season gets mad respect in the MMA community and a home in the UFC for at least three fights.
The ten previous seasons of TUF have yielded sixteen champions that all had unique pasts, stories and a multitude of reasons to root for them. But perhaps no TUF contestant, let alone winner, has come back from more adversity to stand atop the TUF heap than the man who was crowned this season’s champion on Saturday night, Court McGee. Just over four years ago, McGee was a full-blown black tar heroin addict who had been pronounced clinically dead of an overdose in an emergency room. Tonight he is an example of sobriety and redemption who was pronounced The Ultimate Fighter Season 11 Champion at an upscale hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Court had to beat a very tough Kris McCray to take the title. “The Savage”, who set the record with five fights in one season of TUF as well as becoming the first fighter to win the newly created wild card fight, showed solid wrestling and submissions in the house with a questionable gas tank. The common wisdom was the McCray was the stronger fighter and would have to use that strength and wrestling to beat the mildly favored McGee. McGee told me after the weigh ins in an interview right here on FightMagazine.com that he was better than McCray everywhere and that he would absolutely beat him in the final. He made good on his promise by beating Kris at his own game and taking him down repeatedly in the first and second rounds. It became clear early on that McGee was the stronger athlete as he was able to drag McCray to the ground and control the fight but he had a hard time inflicting any serious punishment. Then McGee seized the opportunity of a lifetime when he got McCray’s back and sunk in a fight-ending rear naked choke at 3:41 of the second round. In the post-fight interview, a tearful McGee dedicated the fight to “anybody who’s struggling today”, mindful of the place from which he has come and recognizing that the place where he now resides can serve as motivation to others currently on a bad path.
• Don’t Call Me, I’ll Call You When he main-evented the TUF 10 Finale, Matt Hamill took a beating from Jon Jones and only escaped with a win by a controversial disqualification. Hamill left the cage bloody, battered and injured, complete with a serious shoulder injury. Hamill walked into his co-main event fight against Keith Jardine with staph infection and left the cage with a broken hand suffered in the first round and a majority decision victory. Something tells me that Matt may not be too anxious to headline the TUF 12 Finale!
Jardine had the early edge, winning the first round with a barrage of leg kicks and taking the early portion of round two. Then je inadvertently poked Hamill in the eye, causing referee Herb Dean to take a point from the Dean of Mean, much to the surprise of all in attendance. Sensing the need for urgency, Jardine abandoned the leg kick strategy that had served him so well and ended up in more of a slugfest for the remainder of the fight. Hamill bloodied Jardine badly and got enough takedowns to earn a majority decision.
• The Crippler Hangs First Loss on A-Train Chris Leben looked lost against wrestler Jake Rosholt just two fights ago and the oddsmakers couldn’t be blamed for installing another wrestling phenom, undefeated Aaron Simpson, as a heavy favorite. Simpson made the wise guys look wise in the first round, dominating Leben with several strong takedowns. The A-Train ran out of steam in the second round as Leben started to avoid the takedowns and find his range. Chris caught Aaron with a few big shots on the ground and when Simpson stumbled across the cage referee Josh Rosenthal stopped it at 4:17 of the round. While momentum suggests that Simpson was well on his way to losing the fight, the stoppage was a little premature as it was unclear whether Simpson was really rocked or more off balance when he stumbled. Simpson has a world of potential but should make the move south to 170. He walks around at 195-200 pounds, the same range that top welterweights tip the scale at in the off season.
• Yager Silenced TUF 11 lightening rod Jamie Yager showed great athleticism with dynamic striking while successfully fending off takedowns to take the first round of his fight with housemate Rich Attonito. Then Rich started to come alive as Jamie started to run out of gas and the tide turned quickly for the “Chosyn 1”. (Still think Fro-Cop is a much better nickname). Yager got sloppy, giving up his back as Attonito worked for a rear naked choke and then flattened Yager out and rained down punches until the fight was stopped at 4:25.
• Siver Dethrones the King Dennis Siver may be the most experienced UFC fighter most fans couldn’t pick out of a lineup. The German lightweight came into the biggest fight of his career against veteran Spencer “The King” Fisher with a 4-4 UFC record and overcame a bad cut over his right eye from an inadvertent clash of heads to take a unanimous decision and move to 4-1 in his last five fights.