Some might say that this event is lacking in star power or without the intrigue of the last Ultimate Fighter Finale. Where is the Kimbo Slice? Where is the Roy Nelson? Where is the Frankie Edgar-type who is one fight away from a title shot?
None of those elements are here, but really, are we missing anything? The Kimbo fight was kind of a flop, Roy Nelson proved he was a cut above the competition like we all knew, and while none of these competitors will be walking into a title shot like Frankie Edgar, we’ve still got plenty of interesting encounters on the eleventh Ultimate Fighter Finale.
How we’re at #11 already is another article for another day…
James McSweeney (4-4-0) vs. Travis Browne (9-0-0)
McSweeney is a maddening fighter to me. He presents great potential on his feet with his kickboxing background, but is too slow, too small and usually has too poor cardio to put it all together into something impressive. Maybe he’s got some of those flaws fixed this time around.
Travis Browne debuts with a perfect record and a win over Michael Westbrook. I think its former NFL wide receiver Michael Westbrook, but I can’t be sure. Either way, he’s the only name of note on Browne’s resume, so this one really is a crap shoot.
Chris Camozzi (12-3-0) vs. James Hammortree (5-1-0)
Camozzi had to leave the show due to injury early on, and Hammortree stepped up for an injured Nick Ring to get choked out by finalist Court McGee. Basically, this is one of those “we need a couple more guys to fill out the card” type fights that line each TUF Finale.
Outside of the Reality TV series, Camozzi is best known for losses to a pair of former TUF contestants named Jesse; Taylor and Forbes. When your most memorable performances are losses, something is clearly missing. Hammortree fits the same type of void, a tough enough kid who hasn’t done anything major to this point in his career.
Camozzi coming back from injury could be the swing factor.
Brad Tavares (4-0-0) vs. Seth Baczynski (11-5-0)
As soon as Tavares dropped his semifinal fight with Court McGee, you knew Baczynski would be his opponent here on the finale. Soccer kicks have that kind of impact on things.
They were fairly closely matched then and should remain that way in this meeting, Baczynski having the edge in experience, while Tavares is the more athletic and energetic of the two. Tavares’s coach, Shawn Tompkins, speaks very highly of this young man, and he looks like a kid who could put it together and have a promising career.
Kyle Noke (16-4-1) vs. Josh Bryant (10-0-0)
The former bodyguard for the late Crocodile Hunter was one of the favorites heading into season 11 and rolled into the quarters against Kris McCray. That’s when Noke’s allergy to wrestling kicked in, as the Aussie was unable to stop McCray from taking him down, eventually losing a unanimous decision.
Facing Bryant might not be much better, as the unbeaten member of Team Liddell has a strong wrestling game of his own, as well as good hands in close. While Bryant has the clean sheet, he hasn’t faced the same level of competition as Noke. Training at Jackson’s in Albuquerque can’t hurt the Aussie’s chances either.
John Gunderson (22-8-0) vs.s Mark Holst (8-1-0)
While the names are far from familiar, this is actually a pretty interesting fight.
Holst is a Canadian fighter who failed to make the cut for TUF 12, but managed to secure his first fight in the UFC nonetheless based on the strength of his most recent win, a second round submission over former UFC fighter Corey Hill.
Gunderson has one UFC bout under his belt, a unanimous decision loss to Rafaello Oliveira back in January, but has shifted his training to the TapouT Training Center with Shawn Tompkins and his team. The submission specialist has faced some tough competition in his career, having dropped fights to Bart Palaszewski, Wagnney Fabiano and Ryan Schultz among others.
The two newcomers will be looking to make a lasting impression on their bosses, so expect them to go hard for as long as it takes.