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T.U.F. 11 Finale: What we learned

Matt Hamill gutted out a majority decision victory over Keith Jardine Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Matt Hamill gutted out a majority decision victory over Keith Jardine Saturday night in Las Vegas.
(Photo by Terry Goodlad, Sherdog.com)

“The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale” is in the books after an exciting night of fights from The Pearl at the Palms Arena in Las Vegas. The main event crowned a new "Ultimate Fighter," while a pair of "T.U.F." veterans came out on top in their bouts. Now that we know who wants to be the next ultimate fighter, we now ask the question: What did we learn?

Rich Attonito may not have won T.U.F., but he may have won a spot in the UFC

Rich Attonito’s "The Ultimate Fighter" experience had a bittersweet ending when he had to withdraw from the tournament with a broken hand. Obviously the promotion saw something in Attonito; after his abbreviated stint on the show he garnered a fight on the televised card of “The Ultimate Fighter Finale" against the vilified, but wildly athletic, Jamie Yager.

In the first round Yager looked to be the aggressor, stalking Attonito and impressively avoiding the takedowns of the former Hofstra wrestler. He used his reach and speed advantage to keep Attonito off-balance to win the opening round.

However, the fight shifted in the second frame. Attonito pressed forward, and once he got inside he began to land strikes of his own. Yager seemed to tire, holding his hands very low. After an Attonito flurry that pressed Yager against the cage, Yager attempted an ill-advised takedown that initiated his demise. Attonito took Yager’s back, and then flattened out his opponent, trapping his left arm with slick wrist control. From there the American Top Team fighter unloaded a series of strikes on Yager with his right hand that forced referee Steve Mazzagatti to stop the fight and award him a TKO victory at the 4:25 mark.

Both fighters had a lot to gain from the fight. Yager prompted cheers and jeers as he entered the Octagon, and a win could have proved a launching pad for the raw and dynamic fighter. Instead the spotlight would shine on the underrated Attonito, who probably secured himself a spot in the UFC’s middleweight division with the impressive victory. Yager will hope he is lucky enough to get an opportunity as well.

Dennis Siver has quietly amassed a strong UFC record

In a bout that never saw the two fighters employ any sort of ground game, Spencer Fisher and Dennis Siver boxed to a judges’ decision that fell Siver’s way. The German survived a gash over his left eye that came in the first round, when the two fighters stepped in and butted heads.

Fisher’s best work came in the first round, where he seemed light on his feet and the faster fighter. But in the second and third Siver seemed fresher, especially after his corner worked on his eye, which did not cause him any more problems during the bout. While he only threw his dangerous spinning back kick a handful of times, he mixed in a variety of quick kicks and punches that seemed to wear down Fisher as the fight progressed. Fisher went from the stalker to the stalked.

Though a close fight, Siver earned the unanimous decision from the judges. Fisher has now lost consecutive fights for the first time in his career, even after making a training camp change and joining Mark Dellagrotte at the Sityodtong Gym.

Siver is now 6-3 in the Octagon, and has won four of his past five fights. In his last bout he was on the losing end of a tight battle with Ross Pearson, where he dropped a unanimous decision. With his other two losses coming against notable fighters in Melvin Guillard and Gray Maynard, Siver’s Octagon record is impressive, and the win over another name in Fisher keeps him in the mix in the competitive lightweight division.

Sometimes Octagon experience trumps athleticism

Aaron Simpson looked strong in the first round of his fight against Chris Leben, scoring two takedowns. The first was a vicious slam, but the wily Leben was able to scramble back to his feet while also avoiding a guillotine choke. Following the second takedown Simpson also landed a series of shots to a downed Leben, but again the veteran was able to recover and keep the fight standing. Between the takedowns and controlling Leben against the cage, Simpson looked to have won the round on the judges’ score cards.

In between rounds, Simpson’s corner implored him not to get into a slugfest—a strategy he definitely should have listened to.

When action resumed in the second round, Leben stuffed several takedown attempts and began landing flush punches. Simpson looked gassed, standing right in front of Leben with his hands lowered, which is never a good idea. The key exchange occurred when Simpson, obviously hurt by a Leben flurry, dropped to all fours. Leben then sprawled atop him and pounded away with his left fist. Though Simpson rose from the turtle position Leben followed and landed another crushing left hand that sent Simpson staggering across the Octagon, equilibrium lost. Ultimately he crashed down into the cage, and referee Josh Rosenthal halted the bout at 4:17 of the round, giving Leben the TKO triumph.

Leben now has won back-to-back fights. The powerful middleweight marred Simpson’s formerly pristine record, giving the Arizona Combat Sports fighter his first MMA loss. And Leben did it in typical fashion—by baiting yet another fighter into another brawl.

Matt Hamill notched the biggest win of his career

Two "The Ultimate Fighter" veterans faced off when Matt Hamill took on Keith Jardine Saturday night. Early on, Jardine looked sharp. Though Hamill staked claim to the center of the cage, Jardine circled and peppered Hamill with leg kicks and punches, easily winning the opening round. Strangely, Hamill did not attempt to take Jardine down, where the wrestler would have had an obvious advantage.

But the tide turned in the second after a strange sequence. Hamill landed a clean left head kick and then followed with a series of punches that left Jardine’s mouthpiece on the floor. Shortly thereafter an eye-poke from Jardine left Hamill on all fours. Referee Herb Dean deducted a point from Jardine for a damaging blow, even though it was accidental.

After a brief stoppage the fight resumed, and Jardine attacked with aggression. After a Hamill flurry Jardine found himself briefly on the canvas, on his knees, with Hamill holding a headlock and landing right hands. Though Jardine climbed back to his feet, his face was a bloody mess and Hamill had stolen the round, point deduction aside.

In the third frame a weary Jardine looked to survive, while Hamill kept the pressure on him. Hamill notched a takedown, and when the fighters rose again Dean called for a stoppage for the doctor to check the gash between Jardine’s eyes that was still gushing blood. The fight ended with sluggish boxing from both fighters, but in the end Hamill walked away with a majority decision, with scores of 29-27, 29-27, 28-28 from the judges.

Hamill continues to beat the odds inside the Octagon. The win over Jardine represents the biggest victory of his career, and he came from behind to do so. His only losses are to Michael Bisping, in what was a controversial decision, and to Rich Franklin after a TKO from a kick to the body. Now Hamill may get to step up against one of the elites at 205 pounds. His dirty boxing, strong chin, and huge heart will always make him dangerous. But the fighter often makes things tough on himself by refusing to utilize his superior wrestling. Hamill normally does the bulk of his damage via ground-and-pound. If he continues to stay on his feet and plod forward with his hands down against the best light heavyweights, he’s going to wake up in the center of the Octagon wondering what happened.

Court McGee is the next Ultimate Fighter

Court McGee dominated Kris McCray to become the latest winner of The Ultimate Fighter.

The popular reality show has spawned many great fighters and champions, and McGee will hope to follow in their footsteps.

In the first round McGee used trips to take McCray to the canvas. Always on top, McGee mixed in ground-and-pound with his wrestling to keep McCray playing defense for most of the round.

The second frame saw McGee become even more assertive on the ground. He took McCray back to the canvas and quickly attained the mount, where he worked for a head-and-arm choke. In a scramble McGee tried to take McCray’s back, but the fighters separated—for the last time. A perfect and powerful double-leg takedown from McGee put McCray on his back again, and he would not recover. Slowly McGee sunk in a rear-naked choke with only one hook in. When he finally got the second hook in he flattened out McCray, who was finally forced to tap out at 3:41 in the second round.

For his part, McCray deserves kudos for winning the first-ever wild card bout to stay alive in the tournament, and more importantly, for fighting five times in six weeks to end up in the finals. But the feel-good story belongs to McGee, who had an even happier ending now that he’s the T.U.F. Season 11 champion. The former heroin addict became emotional in his post-fight interview, and it is easy to understand why after beating the odds and earning the coveted UFC contract, closing yet another season of the popular reality show.

This article originally appeared on MMA Spot.

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