After the coaches faced off in UFC 115, and Rich Franklin hammered Chuck Liddell, it is now time to find out who will come out on top out of their teams. The fight between the coaches looked to be a close one with both fighters landing some good punches and kicks and Liddell scoring an early take-down. However, Franklin ended the fight with a big right to Liddell’s head with seconds to go in the first round.
While Tito Ortiz was coach for the majority of the season – after all the season was called Team Ortiz vs. Team Liddell – Franklin replaced the original coach after Ortiz’s neck surgery.
In the finale to determine the next Ultimate fighter, we will see the unlikely matchup between Court McGee (Team Liddell) and Kris McCray (Team Ortiz/Franklin). Liddell ranked McGee as his sixth pick going into the season, and Ortiz ranked McCray at No. 3.
The winner of the fight will be crowned the new Ultimate Fighter and will receive a six-figure contract with the UFC. Here is a preview of the three main fights with odds and picks.
Court McGee vs. Kris McCray
McCray (6-0-0) comes into the fight with the size-advantage. His strength lies in the ground-game as he is primarily a wrestler. He favors the ground and pound and will be looking for an early takedown. If he manages to get McGee on the ground, he can use his size to pin his opponent to the ground and pound him with heavy blows.
McCray is sloppy at times in his stand-up game and that might be McGee’s chance. McCray tends to neglect his takedown defense when the fight goes into the second and third rounds. This can be attributed to issues with his stamina, which could be costly in this bout.
McGee (10-1-0) is a well rounded fighter and isn’t bad in the ground game either. While he might be a little inferior to McCray in grappling, McGee has the clear advantage in the stand-up game. Plus, he has better stamina.
I can see him avoiding the early takedown and get the better of McCray in the stand-up game. McCray will most likely react to this by getting too eager and wasting his energy early. I think McGee will use this in the later stages of the fight and come out on top.
The books have McGee as the favorite as well and Bodog’s -200 line is the best you can get for him. If you think McCray can pull off the upset, go to Bookmaker for +175 odds.
Matt Hamill vs. Keith Jardine
The 34-year-old Jardine (14-8-1) has been featured on TUF before and won his bout in the Ultimate Fighter 2 Finale against Mike Whitehead as well as his fight in the Ultimate Fighter 3 Finale against Wilson Gouveia.
He comes into the bout on a three fight losing streak, and has lost four out of his last five. It looks like his age is catching up with him a little bit, but he will try to rebound against Hamill here. Jardine is well rounded and is known for his strong kicks.
He is a black belt in Gaidojutso which gives him a good ground-game as well. His background in professional boxing helps him in the stand-up portion of the sport. He has recorded wins over Liddell and Forrest Griffin, but he hasn’t looked great lately.
Matt Hamill (9-2-0) uses a combination of boxing and wrestling and will match up well against Jardine. He came out on top in both of his appearances in TUF Finales. He recorded a win against Jon Jones last December (TUF Heavyweights) and beat Jesse Forbes in 2006 (TUF 3).
He comes into the fight on a win streak, and hasn’t lost since September 2008. He is the slight favorite with the books. He will look for the takedown to avoid Jardine’s leg kicks and use his wrestling background to control the fight.
I think the favorite will come through in this one, but Jardine does have a definite shot at winning. If you are with me, go to Pinnacle (-138) or 5Dimes (-140) for the best odds. If you think Jardine will bounce back and take this one, go to the same books for the most value. Pinnacle has the underdog at +125, 5Dimes has him at +120.
Chris Leben vs. Aaron Simpson
Simpson (7-0-0) comes in as the far superior wrestler and that will be his key to victory Saturday. He has shown that he can throw a punch too, winning three of his four UFC fights by KO or TKO. He might not want to engage in a boxing match with Leben, who has a strong chin and can land some heavy blows.
Simpson will look to take Leben down early and use his wrestling skills to end the fight. He is the heavy favorite for this fight and I think the bookies got it right.
Leben (19-6-0) has shown that he can take a punch and isn’t terrible on the mat either. He has shown some submission skills, but will be looking for a stand-up fight against Simpson. He has been inconsistent in his fights, and compiled a 4-4 record in his last eight fights.
This fight doesn’t offer great value, as the heavy favorite should take it. The best line for Simpson is -320 at Pinnacle, a high investment for low reward. Most books offer a +275 line for Leben.