Court McGee (15-3, 4-2 UFC) vs. Robert Whittaker (11-2, 2-0 UFC)
Two former winners of “The Ultimate Fighter” square off on the night’s main card as McGee and Whittaker will do battle in a welterweight bout. McGee will be fighting as a welterweight for the second time and looks to build on a decision win over Josh Neer at UFC 157 in February. The winner of “TUF 11” is 3-2 over his last five fights. Whittaker will be fighting for the third time as a member of the UFC roster, and the winner of “TUF: The Smashes” looks to remain undefeated as a UFC fighter. He is coming off a TKO win over Colton Smith at UFC 160 in May, and is 4-1 over his last five fights.
Fight Breakdown- McGee won a very tough season eleven of “The Ultimate Fighter”, one that despite it not being one of the most viewed seasons of the show, actually had an underrated cast, and three years later, seven of the fighters that participated at some point during the season find themselves on the UFC’s roster. McGee has seen some tough luck during his tenure in the UFC, and a July 2012 loss to Nick Ring at UFC 149 was very controversial and likely should have been awarded to him. McGee shook that loss off, though, and after making the decision to move down and try his hand in the welterweight division, he has the chance to establish himself as a threat in the UFC. He is in a tough division, but his win over Josh Neer in February showed he can fair with tough fighters, and on the plus-side, he set the welterweight record for most significant strikes landed in a fight, a pretty big accomplishment.
Whittaker is the top guy when it comes to welterweights coming off the United Kingdom vs. Australia season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, and his run to the finals was quite impressive. His two knockout wins showed he can be a threat with his hands, but his win in the finals over Brad Scott showed a more well-rounded approach, and Whittaker has a shot at becoming a viable contender at 170 pounds. He defeated another former winner of “TUF” in his first post-TUF fight when he scored a third-round knockout win over Colton Smith in May. Whittaker dominated that fight, and while Smith doesn’t have the highest experience level, he put up a good fight, but Whittaker convincingly won that fight. Whittaker is a finisher, as he has five knockout wins and five submission wins over his eleven total wins, and training with the Tristar Camp in Canada alongside two of the best 170-pounders in the world in Georges St. Pierre and Rory MacDonald should have him well prepared to take on McGee.
McGee is a tough and gritty fighter who likes to grind his way to a win, and while he was an undersized middleweight, he is now a big welterweight and has the size to compete in the division. He has solid striking and mixes in takedowns well, and he is a tough fight for anyone. He has outstruck all of his UFC opponents except for Costa Philippou, and he was barely outstruck by Philippou, and he is a takedown artist, but when he can’t get that takedown, he definitely is not afraid to strike with his opponents. Whittaker packs power in his punches and has a good submission game, but he can’t match McGee in the experience department. It will be important for Whittaker to dictate the pace of the fight and force McGee out of a comfort zone early in the fight.
McGee will be looking to set up some nice combinations that will help him make smooth transitions to the takedown game. Whittaker is skilled on the ground, but McGee comes with a lot of top pressure and makes the fight a grind. McGee has good ground-and-pound, and with the slight size advantage over Whittaker, he should be able to outmuscle Whittaker on the ground. Whittaker was dropped by Colton Smith in their bout, and McGee has better power as a 170-pounder. While Whittaker may be the slight betting favorite, McGee is undervalued in this fight. McGee really should be the favorite in this fight, and he will show why on Wednesday night. Whittaker will put up a fight, and this could be a very entertaining brawl on the feet, but McGee’s underrated striking and wrestling will be just a tad too much for Whittaker to overcome. McGee may not score a flashy win, but it will be a workmanlike performance as he looks to move to 2-0 at 170 pounds.
Why It Matters- McGee, while he is a former winner of “TUF”, was never expected to be a top-level title contender, but someone who would provide a good action fight on any fight card. McGee will be looking to change that outlook and carve a name for himself in a very tough welterweight division. He realistically should be 5-1 in the UFC, but the unfortunate loss to Nick Ring is still on the record. A fifth UFC win would move McGee back into solid ground in the UFC and set him up for some more fun fights in the future.
At 22-years-old, Whittaker is a youngster in the sport and has a lot of time and room for growth and improvement. Working alongside the likes of St. Pierre and MacDonald will help him progress nicely, and the UFC has a real chance for an Australian star in Whittaker. Whittaker has been impressive in his career, and this is a true test to see if he is ready to face the grinders that the welterweight division is full of. He has the chance to show if he is for real, or if it is time to take a small step back in competition.