Although I was delayed for a day because of the stupid layout of the UFC on Demand service being all funky I can finally sit down and review all the preliminary action from the finale of The Ultimate Fighter: Liddell vs. Ortiz/Franklin. As we saw on the main card, McGee took out the title by choking out Savage while Hamill bested both his enemy in Keith Franklin and his innerme in that thing that was/is living in his back. But the preliminary card played host to some entertaining - albeit, highly irrelevant - matches.
To the fights!
Travis Browne vs. James McSweeney - Browne defs McSweeney via TKO (strikes) at 4:32 of round 1.
Not knowing who Browne was when this match-up was announced I immediately thought that they were giving the TUF veteran and Team Jackson fighter, McSweeney a nice lay-up to further entrench himself in the division. I was very, very wrong. Travis Browne is freaking huge and he packs a mean punch. The fight played out very similarly to Antonio Silva's EliteXC heavyweight championship about against the late Justin Eilers. While, McSweeney was the more technical of the strikers he was just squashed by the power and size of Browne. A left hook from Browne saw him put McSweeney on his arse, and after that it was just a one sided beatdown with Travis swinging the hammer.
Browne's also pretty quick for his size and he kind of reminds me of Dave Herman (by the way was I the only one who didn't know he fought Sokoudjou like a week ago?) in the relaxed way he moves about the cage. If Browne starts to refine his game he could be a force in the division. I'd very much like to see him matched up against Mike Russow next.
For McSweeney, this could very well be the end of his UFC career. While I wouldn't mind never hearing from him again, there's still a chance he could stick around based purely on his relationships with Rashad Evans and the Greg Jackson camp. If he does stick around I think we'll see him against another down-in-the-dumps heavyweight like Gilbert Yvel or Gabriel Gonzaga.
James Hammortree vs. Chris Camozzi - Camozzi defs. Hammortree via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27 x2).
Definitely not the most technical or highly skilled bout but this scrap between the twice eliminated, Hammortree and the medically evacuated, Camozzi was pretty entertaining. The fight played out for the most part on the feet with the exchanges being fairly even, with Camozzi getting the edge with his attacks to the body in the clinch. The three rounds were all tight but Camozzi was the clear winner in the end.
Camozzi is a scrapper with decent all around skills, and with this win he's certainly booked himself at least one more fight with the organization. That one more fight will almost certainly be all he gets though. Look for Camozzi to get the Shane Nelson treatment and be given to the middleweight equivalent of Aaron Riley. Someone like Joe Doerksen or Nate Quarry.
For Hammortree, that will be all she wrote for him in the UFC. Although he's got the will to fight he's subpar in all areas and wouldn't make it out of the first round against any decent UFC middleweight. If you listen close James, that's the MFC calling.
Kyle Noke vs. Josh Bryant - Noke defs. Bryant via TKO (strikes) at 3:12 of round 2.
This fight was a beatdown of epic proportions as semi-finalist, Josh Bryant had absolutely nothing for the Australian. Noke had completely destroyed Bryant's lead leg by the end of round one with some vicious leg kicks and had begun to work his way up the body. A desperate Bryant came out in the second round but was unable to do anything because of his stilted movement and was battered some more before a huge right hand by Noke was followed by a front kick to the stomach that sent him to the mat. From there it was only a matter of time before the referee (HOLY SHIT IT'S A GIRL) stopped Noke from pounding on the turtled Bryant.
Smoogy made a comment earlier this week regarding this season's TUF talent, that - to paraphrase - none of them would get out of the first round with Jorge Rivera. In regards to that hilariously scathing remark I put forth that I think out of all them, Noke would at least make it into the second. He looked really sharp in this fight, and although Bryant was really a tailor made opponent for him, I still believe he has the goods to stick around in the UFC for a while. Future bouts will probably include non-wrestlers that will help build the Aussie's stock for a return trip down under. They might even chance his arm against Chris Leben, but probably a fellow TUFer.
In regards to Bryant, another BE comment from earlier in the week stands out. Apologies for not remembering who it was, but they liked him to TUF 3's Josh Haynes, which I thought was a perfect comparison. Short, pudgy, talent-challenged, brawler who can take a beating. As per the custom with these finale TUFer bouts, I think we'll see Bryant return to the smaller shows after this.
Brad Tavares vs. Seth Baszynski - Tavares defs. Baszynski via unanimous decision (29-28 x3)
This fight really just picked off where there last fight picked off, sans the last five seconds where Baszynski went all Chute Boxe on Tavares. The fight was very tight for the whole three rounds with each fighter taking turns to dominate positionally on the ground throughout while threatening with submission attempts from time to time. Tavares edged the first round as he controlled Baszynski's back for a large portion of the round. He went on to take the second pretty convincingly as he did his best work with some damaging ground and pound and good positioning. The third almost saw Baszynski finish him with a triangle choke, but Tavares showed some great resiliency - ala Trigg vs. Verissimo - to eventually pop his head out and make it to the bell where he was unanimously declared the victor.
Tavares has shown he has the knack for all areas of the game, and his strength and athleticism has lent him to have good skills in those areas. However, I get the feeling with Tavares that he's just missing a gamebreaking ability in one area. He doesn't really have knockout power, great wrestling or a dangerous submission game. His well-roundedness (not sure if that's a word) keeps him competitive all the time but he's not going to win many fights in the UFC with such a limited arsenal. You'll probably next find Tavares on the undercard of a Fight Night against a newcomer.
With Baszynski, I'm actually a fan of his skillset and wouldn't mind seeing him stick around for another fight in the UFC. He probably won't get one, and if he did he probably wouldn't win it, but his ground work makes for exciting fights and I wouldn't mind seeing him matched up against someone like Tim Credeur just for funsies.
John Gunderson vs. Mark Holst - Gunderson defs. Holst via decision.
By the time this fight started, the preliminary card was running a little close to the scheduled broadcast time with a lot of the early fights making it into deeper waters. Ideally for the UFC, they would have liked for this fight to have a quick finish so they didn't have to rush, but if you match up Gunderson against someone with some resiliency that he can get top control against, waiting for a finish is like leaving the outside light on for Harold Holt. The crowd probably used the bout as a toilet or drinks break, which begs the question, if John Gunderson wins a unanimous decision by top control and no one is around to hear it, does it really matter?
All badmouthing this fight aside, Gunderson turned in a predictable and effective performance against a not-long-for-this-organization, Holst. He used wild telegraph punches to set up easily achieved takedowns for three rounds to take the decision. He probably would have done the same against the man Holst replaced, Paul Taylor, but the number of people Gunderson can beat in the division is pretty limited, and I doubt the UFC is going to do him any favours with matchmaking in his future bouts.
For Holst, his contract may get a reprieve from the UFC shredder as the UFC does often look kindly upon replacements, but short of that it's most definitely a return to the smaller shows sooner, rather than later.