Ryan LaFlare (9-0, 2-0 UFC) vs. Court McGee (16-3, 5-2 UFC), at UFC on FOX 9
Finishing up the prelims on Saturday will be 2 hardnosed tough welterweights climbing the latter in the UFC. Very similar in style but in different spots career wise, these 2 fighters could conceivably be competing for McGee’s ranking. Will the more established McGee teach the youngster a lesson or will LaFlare make a big leap in the division?
Ryan LaFlare was a Long Island, NY wrestling big shot, winning a state title in high school and a national title in college (JUCO). After college he took up BJJ to satisfy his grappling craving and before he knew it he was making his MMA pro debut in 2008. He finished his first 7 opponents with relative ease, all under the Atlantic City, NJ, regional MMA powerhouse promotion Ring of Combat banner.
-With his impressive wrestling credentials, LaFlare makes very good use of this background in the cage. He has an aggressive and absolutely unrelenting style that oddly enough looks more like Greco roman than it does Collegiate/Folk style, putting his grips and body locks to work. He will throw in some singles and doubles for good measure mixing up his takedown attacks enough to keep foes guessing.
-One aspect of LaFlare’s game that is really impressive is his ability to almost always lands in side control or some other dominant position when he lands a takedown. He is probably as aggressive a grappler I’ve seen but is not at all reckless. His guard passing and ability to stay on top are also very impressive.
-All of this of course is tied together by the guys extreme work rate and pace. He leaves guys frustrated and tired and struggling to keep up and is always attacking. He is a true professional as well winning in Brazil and Sweden for his first 2 UFC fights, handling the extra work like a veteran.
With LaFlare being undefeated and pretty new to the UFC it is not the easiest thing to pick out his weaknesses, but in watching him fight you can see that if he were to take his current skill set into the cage with a top ranked fighter he may have some problems. When engaging on the feet he has a tendency to leave his chin way too exposed and a good boxer would love him for it. Also his offensive output may be high but his accuracy could be much better both on the feet and on the ground. Throwing some lazy or sloppy ground and pound is a good way to get arm barred or swept.
Tough as nails winner of TUF 11, Court was kind of a sleeper on the show because he had some good MMA experience but was quiet. Preferring to let his fights do the talking Court won the show and a spot on Coach Chuck Liddell’s longtime team in California, The Pit. Court came into the UFC 3-0 and did very well under Pit head trainer John Hackleman. A 2 fight skid led to a drop in division and now Court is 2-0 as a welterweight.
-Court’s biggest strength is probably his….strength. The man has been through some tough times and emotionally his tolerance for pain or discomfort must be much higher than most. This kind of perspective pays off big time when your opponent is struggling to maintain discipline and you’re barely breaking a sweat.
-As strong as Court may be he is at least as durable and has yet to be finished in his MMA career. And although his defense is stellar he has taken some big shots from a few heavy hitters, and has withstood some attacks that others would struggle to survive.
Impressively, Court seems to still be learning as he progresses into his UFC tenure. For his first 3 fights he used very solid wrestling and busy ground work to get the victory but in his most recent 2 wins and even in his questionable loss to Nick Ring has outworked his opponents on the feet by a good margin. This shows he is still learning, growing, and improving.
Courts struggles have often come in the form of powerful and/or athletic guys like Costa Philippou and Nick Ring but in Court’s last fight he did very well against hard hitter Robert Whittaker. His other problem is mainly inefficiency in his offense. Court has to expend a ton of energy to do good work in the cage and his takedown and striking accuracy are pretty bad.
This is an extremely hard fight to predict because Court is so hard to count out and LaFlare could be even better his next time out. I’m gona say that Court’s high level experience will carry him through to a decision win.