Court McGee file photo courtesy: Spike TV
Court McGee went from second-to-last pick to “Ultimate Fighter” winner with a second-round rear-naked choke over Kris McCray at “The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale” on Saturday at the Pearl inside The Palms Casino and Resort in Las Vegas.
McGee, who'd been eliminated during the series' quarterfinals only to be resurrected by UFC President Dana White as a replacement for an injured Rich Attonito, found himself in McCray's clinch early. He tripped the Lloyd Irvin student and kept him grounded with two additional follow-up takedowns and a brief stint in full mount to earn the first round.
“The shot was open, and I took it,” McGee said. “Sometimes you just feel it when you’re in the cage, and I felt it.”
A recovered heroine addict who'd been coach Chuck Liddell's sixth choice for his squad on the reality TV show, McGee, 24, barreled his way to full mount again right away in the second round. He then attempted to take McCray's back when he flipped to his stomach. McGee abandoned the position when he couldn't secure his hooks, but McCray's demise was imminent. McGee swarmed McCray with another takedown and took his back again, forcing the previously undefeated fighter to tap out from the submission at 3:41 of the second round.
An emotional McGee, who earned a six-figure contract in the UFC's middleweight division, dedicated the fight to new trainer Chuck Liddell.
Hamill Edges Jardine
Matt Hamill rebounded from a disappointing outing* against Jon Jones last December to earn a majority decision victory (29-27, 29-27, 29-2 over fellow “Ultimate Fighter” alumnus Keith Jardine in a light heavyweight co-headliner.
Jardine's strategy worked well out of the gate, as the kickboxer kept the grappler in Hamill at bay with outside kicks and one-two combinations throughout an uneventful first round.
Hamill, a two-time Div. III wrestling champion who is hearing-impaired, attempted to set up his takedown attempts with strikes in the second round, but Jardine continued to find a home for his kicks. A frustrated Hamill picked up the pace and connected with a left high kick, which launched both into a fevered exchange before Jardine unintentionally thumbed him in the eye. Referee Herb Dean deducted Jardine a point for the damaging blow.
As the second round reconvened, the Greg Jackson-trained Jardine came out with urgency, but he found himself on the short end of Hamill's relentless punches, which hacked up the 34-year-old New Mexico fighter's face.
The 33-year-old Hamill found his first takedown at the top of the third round and kept a bloodied Jardine stalled along the fence. When Jardine found his feet again, it was a race against time to sway the judges into awarding him the last set, but it was not to be. Jardine has dropped four straight Octagon appearances.
Leben Outlasts Simpson
Chris Leben's experience proved too much for Aaron Simpson, as the veteran middleweight stopped the previously undefeated upstart with punches at 4:17 of the second round.
Simpson, a two-time All-American wrestler for Arizona State University, easily took Leben down in the opening minute. Leben bounced back up to his feet, and the pair battled for clinch control on the fence before separating. Simpson split his time tying Leben up on the cage to negate his winging punches and peppering him with his own rights to take the first round.
Leben found more success in the second frame. “The Ultimate Fighter 1” veteran trapped Simpson on the fence and tried to unload early. The 35-year-old Simpson circled out, but found himself stalled in front of the southpaw brawler much more than he should have been. Leben eventually stunned Simpson with a lead left, softened him up with ground punches and kept in pursuit as a dazed Simpson tumbled across the cage to find refuge. Referee Josh Rosenthal stepped in soon after.
“He’s definitely a better wrestler than me. I knew that going into the fight,” Leben said. “He was taking me down; he did a great job there. The second round, I felt him start to get tired with the standup. I knew he was real explosive in the first two minutes of all his fights -- I watched those. I knew, ‘Let’s get through the first round and then we’ll start to turn it up in the second and third.’ … That’s what I did, and it worked out.”
Siver Outpoints Fisher
Dennis Siver took a unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) over Octagon veteran Spencer Fisher in a lightweight tilt that never made it to the mat.
The 30-year-old German import wielded his trademark kicking arsenal, push-kicking Fisher's face in a competitive first-round of striking. Fisher drew first blood, cutting Siver over his left eye midway through the first frame when the pair accidentally collided heads.
In the second round, Siver caught Fisher's right leg and muscled him briefly to his backside. Fisher was far from out of the hunt, though, as both connected with measured punches and kicks. Siver turned up the heat in the final round, pushing forward with body kicks and overhand lefts and rights to outpoint the 34-year-old Fisher for his fourth Octagon victory.
“I knew this fight was very narrow,” Siver said through an interpreter. “My only chance to win was to make a lot of pressure.”
Attonito Stops Yager
Rich Attonito made the most of second chances with a second-round technical knockout via ground strikes over resident bad boy Jamie Yager.
Attonito, who trains with American Top Team and won his quarterfinal bout on “The Ultimate Fighter” but wasn't able to advance due to a broken hand, weathered Yager's early assault en route to his eighth career victory.
In the first round, the 6-foot-1 Yager used his reach and distance to score with straights and low kicks. Attonito attempted to tie up and take Yager down on two occasions -- once with a punch that shook Yager's balance -- but he couldn't keep the 26-year-old immobilized for long.
Attonito's striking caught up with his opponent's in the second round, as Yager's footwork and pacing began to slow down. Attonito found a home for one of his lefts, corralled Yager to the canvas off a failed shot and attempted to finish with a rear-naked choke. Attonito then flattened Yager onto his stomach and hammered away with shots until referee Steve Mazzagatti stepped in for the stoppage at 4:25 in the second round.
“He was doing a good job in the beginning, moving around,” Attonito said. “He’s very explosive and fast, so it was tough to time it, but I stuck to the game plan and stayed tight and then just started working my boxing and changing levels. I was able to get him.”
Edited at 7:15 p.m. ET to clarify that Hamill did not lose to Jones in December of last year.
TUF 11 Finale Prelim Results & Play-by-Play