Say what you will about Jamie Yager (2-1, 0-0 UFC), but his campaign to become the "hated" fighter among fellow housemates and fans during the taping of The Ultimate Fighter has earned him a spot in the first main card match-up at The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale. Instead of battling nemesis Kyacey Uscola however, he'll take on Rich Attonito (7-3, 0-0 UFC) in a middleweight contest that will give both guys the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of countless UFC fans.
Yager is relatively green in his professional fighting career with only three bouts under his belt, one of those taking place during the first season of that terribly annoying show called Iron Ring on BET. Yager's lone loss came in his most recent bout before his stint in the TUF house as he was disqualified for an illegal head kick at an event one year ago. In the house however, Yager busted up Ben Stark to earn his spot in the show and defeated Charles Blanchard in his second fight, winning via TKO in the first round.
Yager's quarterfinal match-up with Josh Bryant earned him more criticism from teammates as they fought to a draw over two rounds. Instead of battling it out for a shot at the semifinals, Yager didn't answer the bell and claimed one of the shots he took late in the second stunned him enough to affect his vision. After coming back from the hospital, tensions between himself and several housemates... leading to a stand-off with Kyacey Uscola, who challenged him to a fight outside. Yager didn't accept, but his legacy as "that guy" on season eleven was cemented.
Attonito isn't as well known due to the fact he broke his hand in a battle with Kyacey Uscola, a fight he won via DQ due to two illegal strikes that Uscola landed. Some have said Attonito milked it as replays apparently didn't show the second knee landing flush, but since I'm relatively annoyed with The Ultimate Fighter in general... I hardly remember the actual action. In any case, it's irrelevant now. Attonito was able to get the nod.
Yager seems to be much more of a striker who believes he can pull off some crazy Wing Chun striking in a fight whereas Attonito has some skills in his arsenal in both the ground and striking department. I think Yager is ultimately a better puncher, but he has weaknesses in his defense and can be taken down and controlled on the ground.
This fight really comes down to how each fighter has progressed in their time away from the house. Yager's ground game has to improve, and if he wants to be some sort of dynamic striker with knockout abilities -- he cannot be so susceptible to be taken down. I'm sure American Top Team will be stressing the fact that Yager is a bit wild in his striking, and Attonito's gameplan will more than likely revolve around that aggression.
I'm going with Rich Attonito in this fight. While I think it's a toss-up as to who will actually win, Attonito has the skills on the ground to smother Yager, gas him out, and make him quit over three rounds.