Late in the game, close to crunch time, the call came across the wire for someone to whip together a quick synopsis of the Josh Neer vs. Court McGee fight at UFC 157 ... and I stepped up. The bout takes place on the main card of the UFC 157 pay-per-view event on Saturday night, and will be McGee's virgin run as a welterweight.
Josh "The Dentist" Neer (33-12-1) gets some pay-per-view time despite being finished in his last two outings. The gangly 5'11" scrapper has a decade of solid experience, unparalleled natural toughness and he's one of the outright meanest mofos in the game. Preceding his 1st-round losses to Mike Pyle (KO) and Justin Edwards (guillotine choke), Neer had mounted a 6-fight win streak, a pair of which transpired in the Octagon (Keith Wisniewski by TKO, Duane Ludwig by submission).
Court "The Crusher" McGee (14-3) clenched the TUF 11 crown as a middleweight. He's a Pit-trained fighter under the great John Hackleman and a hard-nosed wrestler with a karate background and a rubbery chin. McGee is also fresh off consecutive losses (decisions to Costa Philippou and Nick Ring), though he did piece together a trio of wins to start his UFC career (Kris McCray and Ryan Jensen by submission, Dongi Yang by decision).
There's a reason that McGee is enjoying a substantial -248 edge on the betting lines. Several, actually.
- Decision: McGee has never been finished in MMA. Haymakers have bounced off his chin on occasion, and though he's absent grappling time with a high-level submissionist, he's also never been submitted. The likelihood that this match will go to the cards and the fact that McGee's a grinding wrestler tilt the scales toward McGee.
- Range: Neer has good power and legit boxing, but most of his damage is inflicted at phone-booth range with dirty boxing, slashing elbows and nasty knees. Even when he does form combinations from outside, he's usually following behind his punches to shrink the distance. An ideal style against McGee would be a rangy striker who cuts elusive angles and keeps opponents on the end of his punches, and Neer rarely adopts that strategy.
- Size: Neer is tall and skinny, and won't have the brute strength, low center of gravity or wrestling to physically out-muscle McGee. The catch is that the lanky Neer's reach length is 72" and the robust McGee clocks in at 76", meaning McGee will have the wrestling, reach and length advantage.
- Top Control: Neer is feisty as hell off his back with thorny elbows, busy hips that create nonstop angles and a fairly potent submission arsenal. However, I wouldn't call him a master technician from his guard, as the bulk of his voracity is comprised of creative and aggressive submission offense, whereas his positional knowledge and defensive emphasis is about average. While, again, McGee hasn't engaged a top-level grappler for prolonged periods, his base is heavy, his submission defense seems sound and he's well-versed in scrambling.
While that basic overall glance certainly favors McGee, Neer is the type of fighter you can never count out or overlook. Even though he's coming off 1st-round finish losses, I feel like it's safe to say that Neer is an easy fight for no one. He'll fight tooth and nail until you pull his plug with either punches or a submission, and, even at 185-pounds, McGee has slowed in pace and intensity late in the fight. Cardio and explosiveness are concerns anytime a fighter drops a weight class, but I think McGee just warrants a few more eyeballs in this category than your average chap.
McGee is not an elite striker by any means. The timing and rhythm he's shown on the feet, probably from his past karate competitions, have elevated him beyond a one-dimensional wrestler, but he's far from untouchable on the feet. In fact, Neer is the more talented and diverse striker by a good margin: from outside, he uses a boxing style and has good power and technique with both hands, and he'll mix in the occasional low or mid-range kick.
The closer in proximity he gets, the more Muay Thai you can see in Neer's arsenal. He's a vicious in-fighter who'll rip knees to the body and head, machine-gun sharp elbows while jockeying for position in the clinch and he also presents the threat of tying on submissions anytime he's entangled. Neer's length seems to complement his submission game more than his striking, as he's adept at threading his long limbs through in the clinch for guillotines and D'arce chokes.
Before he was dropped by Pyle, Neer had only a single TKO loss in over 40 fights, so his beard is far from brittle. And Since McGee isn't a big power puncher, a stoppage by TKO would probably have to result from a dominant position and cumulative damage rather than an errant blow on the feet. McGee best avenue toward a stoppage would be a submission, which accounts for 5 of Neer's 12 defeats (5 decisions, 2 TKOs).
Overall, the most likely outcome here is McGee by decision. Neer's takedown defense is rigid but not stellar, and McGee is durable enough to eat the spoonfuls of short elbows Neer might feed him in order to force a ground fight. Neer must also vigilantly protect his neck if and when he does defend takedowns, as Edwards slept him last time out with a jump-guard guillotine in a clinch tie-up. Since I'm picking for funsies now, I'm taking a chance that Neer can survive the first round or two and unleash a hurricane of elbows or time McGee's level drop with a knee, but my unbiased suggestion for motivated fight-pickers and bettors is ...
Court McGee by decision.