(Glory days / Well they’ll pass you by / Glory days / In the wink of a young girl’s eye / Glory days …)
Considering what we know now, the scene in this picture feels almost quaint. Remember back when we all thought Tito and Chuck were going to settle their differences in the cage for an unbelievable third time? Remember when Nick Ring and Kyle Noke were the favorites to win “TUF 11”? Remember the days before Rich Franklin was morally conflicted over ending Chuck’s career while he had a broken frickin’ arm? God, what dupes we were back then.
Tonight, in one of the most anticipated finale events in the history of television, we find out how it all really ends. We find out if the UFC has the balls to name either Court McGee or Kris McCray the winner of “The Ultimate Fighter,” or if Dana White will just call a “do-over” on this whole crappy season. We find out who wins the “co-main event” – Seriously, guys. What did I just say about that? – and who (probably) gets fired. We might even find out if Jamie Yager has more to offer than cool hair and neat jump-kicks.
The action roars out of the gate at 9 p.m. EST, 6 p.m. PST. We’ll be live shortly thereafter. Say it with me: Be sure to hit refresh early and often to keep up with the latest updates.
The camera holds a little too long on a couple in matching Tapout shirts as we go live to the Palms and things get a little awkward as they stop cheering and stare uneasily into the lens. Cut to: Mike Goldberg and Kenny Florian cageside and decked out it matching snazzy black. Joe Rogan must be “on assignment.” They highlight the upcoming action and quickly segue to a commercial break leading into the first fight …
Jamie Yager vs. Rich Attonito
But, not yet. They come back from break to let the fighters do their pre-fight hype-age – during which Yager seems oddly humble and mature – only to head to another commercial …
Finally, Round 1
Yager starts with a leg kick that misses. Rich comes forward with a two-punch combo that also misses and then Yager lands a couple of wild ones. Yager lands a hard overhand right, but Rich seems unfazed. Rich shoots for a take down with 3:45 in the clock and they and up clinched against the fence. He finally lands it after 20 seconds of trying, but Yager pops right back to his feet. Yager throws a low kick and catches a straight right for his trouble. Things are slowing down in the second half of the round. Rich lands a left hook. Another low kick from Yager is countered with a right that stumbles him and then Rich goes back to digging for the takedown against the cage. A low kick from Yager as the separate. Another right from Attonito. High kick and low kick from Yager in the final 10 seconds. A close round. Possibly 10-9 Yager.
Yager swings wildly in the opening moments of the second, but isn’t landing the biggest shots. Attonito storms forward with a combo that whiffs. Yager launches a combo that is countered nicely by a right hand. Then Rich lands a nice left hook that might have hurt Yager a bit. He shakes it off and lands a low kick. Attonito with another left. A body shot from Attonito at the halfway point of the round. Yager tries a jumping knee, but he’s definitely starting to drag a bit. A big right hand from Attonito has Yager shooting for the takedown, but Attonito slips behind him and looks for the rear naked choke. He can’t get it, so he sinks both hooks and lands hard hammerfists and punches until Steve Mazzagatti steps in to stop it.
Rich Attonito def. Jamie Yager by TKO, 4:25, round 2.
In the post-fight with Florian, Attonito says he’s the happiest guy in the world while he looks thoroughly stone-faced and joyless. And, back to commercial break.
Spencer Fisher vs. Dennis Siver
Goldy calls Siver’s spinning back kick the most devastating weapon in the lightweight division. Wha? Fisher blatantly violates the CagePotato ban on claiming that “the old Spencer Fisher” is back.
Fisher tosses out an inside leg kick early. Then another. And another, but this one catches Siver low and he takes just a moment to collect himself. Fisher with a body kick and blocks the counter. Obviously, he’s really working the kicks. Siver catches Fisher with a push kick to the face. Siver is cut over the left eye somehow, but catches Fisher with a left hook as he looks unaffected. Siver lands a one-two, but he’s missing most of his power punches. They trade low kicks with two minutes on the clock. Fisher lands a right hook and Siver comes back with a left. Siver tries the spinning back kick, but misses. He’s bleeding pretty good as they go to the break. 10-9 Fisher
Fisher lands a high kick to the face in the opening seconds, but it barely stumbles Siver. Fisher lands an winging left, but gets countered by Siver on his way out. Florian notes that Fisher is circling into Siver’s power. Another head kick from Fisher. Inside leg kick from Fisher. Siver is really trying to counter with the right hand. Siver catches a kick and puts Fisher on his ass with a punch, but allows him to get back up. Push kick and a low kick from Siver. High kick and a one-two from Fisher lands. Low kick from Siver. Fisher lands a body shot with 30 on the clock, but Siver answers with a body kick. Fisher tries a spinning backfist. Siver tries the spinning kick again just before the horn. He might’ve stolen that round, 10-9.
Siver opens this frame with a leg kick, but then gets kicked in the face again. After another exchange, it’s Fisher who comes away complaining of a low blow. After the restart, Siver looks to capitalize with a stiff combo, but Fisher may have gotten the better of it. Fisher with a good hook and straight follow-up. Siver lands a body kick. Then a left hook. Fisher with that high kick again. And again. Gets blocked both times. Siver throws his own high kick. Siver is trying to push the pace as we move into the second half of the round. Fisher lands a left hook, then a right hook. Fisher also scores with an uppercut. It’s a very close fight with one minute remaining. Siver is opened up again, with blood flowing down the left side of his face. Another backfist try by Fisher. Siver shoots for a leg as the final bell sounds. Tough fight to call. I might give the final round to Siver, 10-9.
The judges agree. Dennis Siver def. Spencer Fisher by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28 x 2)
We get treated to a lengthy recap of how both Court McGee and Kris McCray advanced to the finals of this season of “TUF.” It’s full of second-chances and redemption and all that. Then a lengthy promo for the upcoming Guys’ Choice Awards on Spike. Be sure to mark your calendar for that one.
Chris Leben vs. Aaron Simpson
Leben has ditched the cornrows in favor of the old-school red dye job. He looks to be in good shape. Just not, you know, too good of shape. If you know what I mean. Simpson says he’s going to let his fists fly. Technically speaking, that may not be the best strategy for a world class wrestler, but who am I to judge?
Leben looks uncharacteristically light on his feet early on, but Simpson lands the fight’s first few punches. Simpson scores a good takedown after just 30 seconds on the feet. Leben works his way back to a knee, then his feet in short order. Leben lands an uppercut and a foot stomp against the cage before Simpson reverses the position. Leben tries a ponderous left, but eats a couple more hard shots from Simpson. Another takedown from Simpson leads to some solid shots on the ground before Leben gets back up. Leben throws three straight left hooks and lands one of them. Simpson continues to pepper Leben’s face with punches and the Crippler simply doesn’t give a damn. They end the round with Simpson pushing Leben against the chain link. 10-9 Simpson.
Leben lands a low kick to open the second and Simpson lands a right to the body, left hook to the head. Simpson pressures him against the fence again and lands another strike as they separate. Things devolve into a brawl for a few seconds, with both guys swinging. Leben manages to land some hard shots before Simpson puts him back into the cage. Back at center, Leben with a low kick and then tries to load up the left again. Simpson looks to be huffing and puffing a bit. He lands a good straight left. Leben hits him with an inside leg kick. Leben finally finds a home for his left, dropping Simpson to the canvas. He tries to follow with more strikes and Simpson attempts to literally run away. In the process, he stumbles and falls down, clearly dazed, and Josh Rosenthall stops the fight.
Chris Leben def. Aaron Simpson by TKO, 4:17, round 2.
Leben dedicates the fight to Ed Herman, who was injured in a loss to Simpson earlier. When they show the replay of the knock down Leben says, "Well Kenny, that’s what I do. I hit people in the face. I don’t think about it too much." Indeed.
Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar go split-screen with Goldberg to talk about their upcoming heavyweight tilt. Lesnar appears to be in the gym right now, filming the interview in front of a stack of weights. Carwin has the interim belt positioned prominently in his home. Can’t blame him there. Both guys say all the right things: Training is good, they can’t wait to get to fight night, etc., etc.
Matt Hamill vs. Keith Jardine
It’s “co-main event” time. Jardine says he’s restarting his career with this fight, calling it his “rebirth.” Hamill says to be considered among the Top 10 fighters in the world, he has to beat Jardine. Yep, that’d be a good start.
Jardine pops a jab immediately. He looks like he wants to stick and move, which would be smart. They trade leg kicks. Hamill wants to land his power shots, but Jardine is doing a decent job keeping him at range. It makes for a pretty slow first half of the round. Jardine suddenly comes forward with a barrage of punches and might have hurt Hamill with a couple of them. Hamill shoots for a takedown with 1:50 left, but Jardine shucks him off. Jardine lands a flicking high kick. The round ends with Jardine continuing out-pointing Hamill. The Dean wins it, 10-9.
Jardine comes forward with his jab and stuffs another takedown attempt in the first 30 seconds. Jardine lands a body kick. Hamill misses a hook and eats a couple of leg kicks. Hamill catches a kick with 3:15 left, but Jardine jerks away. Hamill lands a nice low kick. Another low kick from Jardine at the halfway point. Jardine is bleeding under the eye and Hamill is starting to catch him a bit. Then Hamill lands a head kick and uses the opportunity to try to turn it on. Jardine loses his mouth piece. Hamill comes away complaining of an eye-poke. Looks like a thumb caught him. In comes the doctor, but Hamill is OK. Herb Dean takes a point away from Jardine for what he calls a “damaging blow.” On the restart, Jardine looks pissed. This thing is turning into a slugfest and Hamill stumbles Jardine with a punch. They go to the ground and Hamill lands a knee as Jardine gets back up. Jardine is a bloody mess in the final moments. And some blood spatters on the camera. Beautiful. With the deduction, that could’ve been a 10-8 round for Hamill.
Jardine is still grinning at the start of the last round. He’s got an ugly cut, though. They trade leg kicks and Hamill lands an uppercut. Now it’s Hamill who is working the jab. Hamill scores a takedown with 3:40 left and takes Jardine’s back. Jardine is pouring blood on the canvas. As they work back to the feet, Herb Dean calls a timeout to have the doctor check the cut. It’s spitting blood down his face, but Jardine is allowed to continue. Jardine pops Hamill with an uppercut. With 2:30 on the clock Hamill tries another shot, but Jardine avoids it. Good inside low kick from Jardine. Both guys look tried. Jardine sticks him with another jab. Jardine lost his mouthpiece again, so they have to pause to put it back in. Hamill shoots for a takedown on the restart and lands a knee when Jardine stuffs it. Another unsuccessful takedown attempt with 40 seconds left from Hamill. Jardine keeps peppering him until the horn. I think Jardine took that round 10-9, but the scoring of this one is going to be interesting.
The judges see it for The Hammer. Matt Hamill def. Keith Jardine via majority decision (29-27 x2, 28-28)
I think these two dudes have “Fight of the Night” bonuses coming their way.
Court McGee vs. Kris McCray
Who will win the “six figure” contract as “TUF 11” champion? What is more, who will care? McGee’s been focusing on his conditioning at home in Orem, Utah. He credits his wife and child as being his inspiration. McCray has a top-quality beard trim going on. He’s been working hard too and says when he gets in the cage, The Savage will come out.
They start fast with a couple of punching exchanges. McCray throws a body kick and a probing jab. McGee pushes him against the cage and gets a takedown with 4:10 left. Lands a good elbow and stuffs McCray against the fence. McCray works his way up, but gets taken down again. McGee throws a big right and uses it to pass to half guard. From there he lands a pair of elbows, but McCray is able to stand up. McCray is winging punches on the feet, but they don’t look too effective. McGee lands a good knee from the clinch and gets another trip takedown, this time straight into half guard. McCray battles up again and lands a couple of hooks. McGee landsa a nice right hand and presses him into the cage again. McCray ends the round with another flurry, but mostly misses. 10-9 McGee.
Star-studded corners in this fight, with John Hackleman and Chuck Liddell working with McGee and Rich Franklin and Lloyd Irvin working with McCray. McCray is still throwing wide punches as the round begins. McGee works him back to the ground with 4:10 on the clock and passes straight to mount. He flirts with an arm triangle, but gives up on it. After a minute with very little action, McCray rolls and gives up the back, but is able to stand up. No matter, McGee puts him back down in short order. Back to half guard, 2 minutes on the clock. McCray is cut over the left eye. McGee works to McCray’s back and starts looking for the rear naked choke. He secures it. McCray taps.
Court McGee def. Kris McCray via submission (choke), 3:41, round 2.
Florian tries to preempt Dana White’s presentation of the “TUF” trophy with his questions, but White ain’t having it. McGee says taking McCray down wasn’t necessarily the game plan, but it was there. McGee dedicates the fight to “anybody who is struggling” and breaks down in tears. As an afterthought, he also dedicates the fight to Chuck Liddell.
From the prelims, they’re going to show us James McSweeney vs. Travis Browne. I smell a knockout coming …
McSweeney seems to be outclassing Browne on the feet, until Browne catches him with a punch and drops him. McSweeney is cut and Browne lands a big elbow. He tries an Americana but can’t get it. He does get to mount however and rains down punches until he gets the stoppage with just 26 seconds left in the round. Browne takes a page from BJ Penn’s book by licking the blood off his gloves.
So, that’s that. Let’s take a few hours to sleep on this one and reconvene tomorrow morning. We’ll talk then.