Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight veterans Court McGee and Ben Saunders dueled last night (Jan. 15, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 103 inside Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
A classic pairing of Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veterans, last night’s battle was one of those fights that seems like it has already happened at least once. McGee’s position in the middle of the division has been secure for some time, as “Crusher” has largely alternated wins and losses inside the Octagon. Similarly, Saunders has mixed some impressive wins and rough losses without building much momentum.
As Jesse Holland mentioned in his predictions post, the real goal here was to win a post-fight bonus. It may not have been quite that compelling, but the two veterans turned in 15 minutes of competitive action.
Saunders made his game plan pretty apparent early on. From the outside, Saunder was looking to jam McGee up with hard left kicks, and he immediately sought the double-collar tie whenever McGee attempted to close distance.
For the most part, it worked pretty well. McGee threw his usual large amount of volume, but Saunders landed the better shots and generally maintained his distance. Thanks to his jab and counter right hook, Saunders was able to cut his opponent.
Considering the additional damage done to the body and legs via kicks, Saunders was rather effective in the opening frame.
McGee adjusted in the second by upping the aggression and extending his combinations. He also looked to score his first takedown of the fight, but Saunders was able to grab underhooks and defend.
While McGee’s extra pressure made the round closer, it didn’t definitively win it for him either. Saunders landed the harder shots and defended takedowns well, so McGee was really relying on his volume steal a scorecard.
Things were very much up in the air heading into the final round.
Saunders began the round with a great series of left kicks and crosses, but McGee stunned him moments later with a right hand. McGee level changed into a double leg against the fence, and he was able to finish the takedown this time.
From his back, Saunders attempted to use his rubber guard to threaten with submissions. McGee defended admirably and generally controlled his foe, securing the third round of a very close fight.
However, it didn’t matter, as the judges awarded Saunders the unanimous decision win.
Ultimately, Saunders won this bout because he was the more effective fighter in the first two rounds. The only real reason that it was so close is because of McGee’s insane gas tank and durability, as McGee walked through some very hard shots and kept a high pace despite it.
The fight followed a clear path, as Saunders clearly took the opening round, the second was rather competitive, and McGee ran away with the third.
In that pivotal second round, Saunders’ body kicks likely won him the fight. In a close fight, they were far and away the most memorable moments, as they really slammed into McGee with a ton of force and obvious impact.
Overall, this was a pretty strong showing for Saunders. He maintained distance quite well and followed his strategy. He couldn’t really match McGee’s gas tank, but few can, and landing the harder shots is always the solution to a high-volume athlete.
Next up for Saunders should be another veteran in the middle of the division.
As for McGee, his own strategy worked well. He was able to wear Saunders down and take over, but he simply wasn’t able to do it early enough to earn the decision victory.
If I have one criticism, it’s my opinion that McGee should have pushed his wrestling game earlier in the bout. McGee showed that he can handle grappling with Saunders in the third, and more early wrestling likely would’ve resulted in fewer body kicks and more exhaustion on the part of his opponent.
Still, it’s hard to complain too much when there is an argument that McGee won the bout.
At UFC Fight Night 103, Ben Saunders earned the decision win opposite Court McGee in a fun bout. Where should “Killa B” head from here?
For complete UFC Fight Night 103 “Penn vs. Rodriguez” results and play-by-play, click HERE!