(That’s just mean, Tim)
The first time I met Tim Boetsch was one day before he took on Vladimir Matyushenko in the IFL semi-finals last summer. Boetsch had been called on as a late replacement and, despite having fought just five days earlier, he accepted a match with arguably the league’s toughest pound-for-pound fighter.
Here, I thought as I looked at him from across the room at the weigh-in, is a man who doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into.
Imagine my surprise when Boetsch not only went the distance with Matyushenko, but even had “The Janitor” in trouble once or twice. This is why I wasn’t surprised when, at UFC 81, Boetsch spiked David Heath like football in the first round and then finished him moments later.
The betting line on this match has Hamill as a comfortable favorite (-200 for Hamill, +160 for Boetsch, according to Bodog), but when you take a moment to analyze this matchup, you’ll see that could very easily turn out to be a mistake.
Hamill gets a lot of praise for his raw strength and wrestling ability, and that’s fair. But Boetsch was a top-notch college wrestler himself, and he’s shown the ability to translate that power and explosiveness into MMA.
When you examine their records, it’s hard to see why Boetsch wouldn’t get the edge in terms of experience. Boetsch is 7-1 since turning pro after his wrestling career at Lock Haven University. Hamill is 3-1, all in the UFC. Boetsch may not have as many UFC fights, but he did rack up eight fights in a year and a half, only one of which (his lone loss to Matyushenko) went the distance.
When you consider how little we’ve seen of Hamill – aside from his performance on TUF, the true significance of which is always difficult to gauge – it’s hard for me to understand why Boetsch should be the underdog here. If he’s a good enough wrestler to hang with Matyushenko, who is world class, it makes you wonder if Hamill’s greatest strength won’t be canceled out.
The strongest argument you can make in Hamill’s favor is to cite the showing he had against Micheal Bisping in his controversial decision loss. But other than that, this smacks of what I’ll go ahead and term exposure bias.
Hamill got built up into a deaf Superman by Tito Ortiz and the producers of The Ultimate Fighter, and since he’s been on TV more we might have a tendency to assume that he’s a better fighter. This, my friends, is crazy talk.
I’m not saying Hamill isn’t good — clearly, he is — but remember that he had zero fights when he went on TUF. That lends credence to the theory that he was selected for the show, at least in part, for his interesting story. While he seems to have improved dramatically since then, Boetsch will still be a true test. He may not be as familiar to fans or oddsmakers, but his credentials suggest that he deserves to be taken seriously.
Just the fact that he took that fight with Matyushenko should say something about his character. As Vladdy himself admitted after fighting Boetsch, “One thing I can say, he’s got balls.”
Keep your eye on this one. Boetsch is an underdog with a lot of ways to win.