Two light heavyweights with vast differences in UFC experience will duke it out this Saturday night (Sept. 22, 2012) as veteran Matt Hamill comes out of retirement to welcome Canadian Roger Hollett to the Octagon on the UFC 152 main card in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Hamill called it quits last summer after a two-fight losing streak to "Rampage" Jackson and Alexander Gustafsson but the Octagon called him back. He'll be returning from well over a year layoff when he takes on a UFC newcomer in Hollett.
Roger Hollett is a very strong and powerful striker who possesses some solid submission skills. "The Hulk" had his initial attempt to join the UFC denied by Bellator, but after a big of a legal scuffle, he's finally in the UFC and has an opportunity to make a big splash on the main card.
Will Hamill return to form after such a long time out of action? Can Hollett make a good impression against a well-known light heavyweight commodity? What's the key to victory for both men on Saturday night?
Let's find out.
Record: 10-4 overall, 9-4 in the UFC
Key Wins: Mark Munoz (UFC 96), Keith Jardine (TUF 11 Finale), Tito Ortiz (UFC 116)
Key Losses: Alexander Gustafsson (UFC 133), Quinton Jackson (UFC 130), Rich Franklin (UFC 88)
How he got here: Matt Hamill is definitely one of the most inspirational stories in MMA. He was born deaf but that didn't stop him from earning massive accolades in wrestling. Once his wrestling career was over, he switched to mixed martial arts, originally training under Rich Franklin.
Hamill was a contestant on season three of TUF, but had to leave the show due to an injury despite winning his first round fight. He posted a 9-2 mark in the UFC over three years, defeating Keith Jardine and Tito Ortiz via decision in back to back fights to begin a run at contention.
Hamill lucked into a fight with Quinton Jackson after Thiago Silva was suspended but he couldn't make the most of his opportunity, losing a boring decision. In an effort to stay active, he accepted a fight against Alexander Gustafsson on short notice at UFC 133 and was beaten soundly in the second round, losing via technical knockout. Afterwards, "The Hammer" retired from MMA.
After well over a year off, Hamill announced he was coming back and after a few shake-ups, he'll be taking on UFC newcomer Roger Hollett this Saturday night.
How he gets it done: Hamill's striking has come a long way since he debuted on season three of TUF, but he's still not the most dangerous stand-up fighter. Hamill is aggressive, but not very fast and he's not afraid to get tagged in order to land something of his own. He'll likely test the waters against Hollett, a fighter with some pretty respectable striking credentials of his own.
Hamill should look for his kicks as he's got some serious power there. If he can keep Hollett guessing, he could open the door for a takedown.
A potential big advantage for Hamill is wrestling and the clinch. He's got plenty of experience there and while Hollett is very powerful, he likely lacks the experience with elite wrestlers to be able to stifle Hamill if he's persistent. If "The Hammer" can put Hollett on the ground and keep him there (or in the clinch), he'll be on his way to at least a decision victory.
Record: 13-3 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
Key Wins: John Hawk (Bellator 57)
Key Losses: Emanuel Newton (MFC 19), David Heath (MFC 20)
How he got here: Roger Hollett was born with fighting in his blood. His father, Ralph, was a champion boxer and kickboxer in Canada so the Halifax native made an easy transition into combat. After taking a liking to wrestling, muay thai and jiu-jitsu, the switch to mixed martial arts was a very easy step for him.
Hollett started his professional MMA career with seven straight wins including being crowned the MFC Light Heavyweight Champion by defeating Victor Valimaki via first round submission due to strikes. Unfortunately for Roger, his career took a nasty turn. He tore his ACL in his next fight and lost three of his next four bouts, his career in a tailspin.
After finally getting healthy again, he went back to work, winning four straight and gaining a shot in Bellator Fighting Championships. After defeating John Hawk at Bellator 57, he was expected to gain entrance into the "Summer Series" light heavyweight tournament but a heart complication got in the way.
Bellator eventually released him and after some drama with the promotion, he was signed by the UFC to face Matt Hamill. 'The Hulk" will make his UFC debut this Saturday night.
How he gets it done: While most of Hollett's career victories have come by way of submission, he's not going to be able to tap out Hamill. He should focus on his footwork and spacing, trying to take advantage of Hamill's lack of speed with his striking.
If Hamill leaves his hand out a millisecond too long, Hollett should make him pay with heavy strikes. Hamill's been stopped before by Rich Franklin, Jon Jones (that totally counts) and Alexander Gustafsson so it's not out of the realm of possibility that a heavy shot could end his night.
The key for Hollett is to be cautiously aggressive, looking to land the big blow without leaving himself too exposed to a clinch or a takedown.
Fight X-Factor: The X-Factor for this bout has to be Hamill's physical condition. He retired last year due to severe wear and tear on his body and the accumulation of injuries he's suffered throughout his career. Who knows how much he's been able to let his body naturally heal and recover in the last 15 months? If he's not back to the Matt Hamill that was competitive against top competition, doesn't have that explosion he used to a few years back, he could be walking into a minefield.
Bottom Line: I'm going to temper my expectations for this fight. Hollett's bout against John Hawk for Bellator was not pretty, being a pretty boring affair that was filled with clinches and a lack of action. Who knows where Hamill's at right now. There's potential for entertainment if both guys slug it out, but that's not a guarantee. This could definitely be an ugly clinchfest too. Let's hope not.
Who will come out on top at UFC 152? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!