The Ultimate Fighter's eleventh season featured many of the top middleweights in the world, and surprisingly -- a good number of those fighters were left sulking after upset losses in the elimination round during the first episode of the series. We've already featured one of those fighters on our list in Victor O'Donnell, and ranked at #7 on our list was one of the show's more promising prospects, Jordan Smith (15-1-1). The twenty-six year old's knockout loss to Brad Tavares was shocking when we consider Smith's experience versus Tavares' novice standing in the sport, but Smith may be on track to return to the UFC in 2011.
Offensive Skills: Smith is one of the more well-rounded fighters on our list. He has an above average stand-up game that mostly hinges on him producing offense from range. That's a bit of a change from what we've seen from him in his earlier bouts. It could be that his knockout loss to Brad Tavares has had a profound impact on how he fights, or it may simply be that he's progressing on schedule with most fighters of his level. In any case, it has worked wonders in giving him opportunities to win, but does limit his chances of finishing off his opponents in the striking department.
On the ground, Smith has the skills he needs to escape dangerous positions and regain his foundation on the feet. He has an advanced knowledge of where he needs to be when involved in a positional chess match, but he isn't the type of fighter to reverse those positions and work his own grappling prowess offensively. He does, however, have that knowledge, and that may be something we see more of as he progresses.
Defensive Skills: As aforementioned, Smith's grappling acts as a deterrent to stronger wrestlers and grapplers who can work effective offense from the top. He has the know-how to counter whatever he's working against, and he's been effective in holding down opponents from passing his guard or taking advantage by quickly transitioning back to his feet when he sees an opportunity.
His stand-up defense needs a little bit of work, but I think his propensity to work from distance has allowed him to stay away from the dangers that come with trying to produce offense in the clinch. His battle with Tavares during The Ultimate Fighter was the perfect example of what can happen. Both Smith and Tavares fired off knees in the clinch, and Tavares' knee landed flush. Smith's knee didn't, and he dropped like a pile of bricks on pavement immediately. Smith now seems much more urgent in avoiding those close encounters.
Progression: As I stated before, I think Smith's reluctance to work inside is a strategic move to avoid damage. While some may think that this takes away from his abilities to finish fights, it's more effective in producing wins. And if you take one glance at Smith's fight results, you'll see that it hasn't affected his rate of finishes dramatically. As he runs into better and better competition, I think that will change.
Environment: Smith trains out of One Hit MMA in Utah, but he has made trips to Black House in California to train when he's in preparation for a fight. That partnership should allow him to progress his game to new levels, and I'm hoping we can see him develop more technique in his stand-up game while become much more dangerous on the ground.
|#1 - Thiago Michel
#2 - Ricardo Tirloni
#3 - Magno Almeida
#4 - Ui Cheol Nam
#5 - Henrique Mello
#6 - Reza Madadi
#7 - Alexander Sarnavskiy
#8 - Ole Laursen
#9 - Guillaume DeLorenzi
#10 - Al Iaquinta
|#1 - Yuri Villefort
#2 - Alex Garcia
#3 - Erick Silva
#4 - Douglas Lima
#5 - Luis "Sapo" Santos
#6 - Jesse Juarez
#7 - Gunnar Nelson
#8 - Quinn Mulhern
#9 - Alberto Mina
#10 - Joe Ray
|#7 - Jordan Smith
#8 - Uriah Hall
#9 - Victor O'Donnell
#10 - Assan Njie
Potential: Smith is in an interesting position right now. He's amassed a 4-1 record in his last five bouts since the taping of The Ultimate Fighter. His lone loss came in a hard fought battle with former UFC fighter Josh Burkman in September, but he rebounded with an inspiring performance at Bitetti Combat 5 on December 4th. Peppering Mario Sartori for most of the fight, Smith put together some solid combinations in the third round and eventually stunned Sartori to a point in which he was unable to defend a rear naked choke with only seconds left in the round.
While I don't think he has the chops to become a top ten talent in the UFC's middleweight division, he has enough knowledge and skill to be a solid mid-echelon fighter. My only concern is that his patience in the striking department may give more powerful opponents the opportunity to catch him over the course of three rounds. Fortunately for Smith, the middleweight division isn't exactly bursting with that type of talent.
Right now, his future is up in the air, but he's a fighter that we'll keep an eye on closely. He's in line for some tough fights, most likely against middleweight talent that is equally impressive. If he can win those match-ups, he's a shoe-in for a stint in the UFC.
Jordan Smith vs. Brad Tavares - The Ultimate Figher 11 Elimination round.
Jordan Smith vs. Brandon Melendez
Jordan Smith vs Mario Sartori
Jordan Smith vs. Nick Rossborough