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By: Dan Wyatt, MMATorch Contributor
Name: Matt "The Hammer" Hamill
Height: 6 ft 1 in
Reach: 76 in
Career Summary: Matt Hamill never had it easy. Growing up deaf, nobody would have blamed him for being cautious and focusing on his studies. But instead, he fought back. Hamill proved himself as an immensely talented wrestler and became the first ever deaf person to win a national championship in wrestling, accomplishing the feat three times. So when Rich Franklin was looking for a wrestling partner to round out his game, a mutual friend recommended him. The two hit it off and Franklin persuaded Hamill to try MMA and attempt to get on The Ultimate Fighter.
After handling Robert Hitte in his first fight, he was given his chance on the UFC's reality show. Hamill was an immediate favorite of his coach Tito Ortiz, and it didn't take long before he began separating himself from the pack. He defeated Mike Nickels by unanimous decision in his first fight in the house, but strangely he chose to stand with his opponent instead of going to the ground where he was strongest. It turned out that he was suffering from an arm injury and didn't believe he could hold his opponent down, so instead he decided to just strike with him.
Unfortunately the arm injury proved too much to continue on in the competition, and he had to pull out. He was given another chance in the UFC itself, however, as he took on fellow contestant Jesse Forbes. Matt was able to overpower Forbes in the clinch and on the ground and eventually won by TKO by pounding Forbes in his guard.
Hamill was tabbed again by the UFC, this time on the Spike TV broadcast of Ortiz vs. Shamrock 3 – The Final Chapter. He fought fellow TUF alumni Seth Petruzelli, and Hamill pounded out a unanimous decision over the Silverback.
When Hamill pulled out of TUF, it set a clear path for Michael Bisping to win it all. So it didn’t take long for the UFC to put together a fight between the two. The fight was set in London, and Bisping received by far the loudest cheers entering the cage. When the fight started though their hero didn't give them much to cheer about as Hamill dismantled the Brit in the first round, bloodying him and sending him to the canvas. The next two rounds were much closer, though. Instead of trying to take the fight to the ground Hamill decided to stand and trade with Bisping and it unleashed a war. After the third round it appeared that Hamill may have won the third and possibly the second round, but two of the Judges scored the fight 29-28 for Bisping, the other scored it 30-27. The fight stirred up a lot of controversy and many people called for a rematch, the calls were answered and the fight was set for UFC 78. Unfortunately Hamill required knee surgery and couldn't take the fight, and not long after Bisping dropped to middleweight making the rematch unlikely.
Hamill rebounded well by defeating Tim Boetsch in the second round by TKO, and the win put him in line to fight the man who originally got him into MMA, former Middleweight Champ Rich Franklin.
The fight consisted of Franklin picking Hamill apart and dominating him in the striking game. Hamill tried going for takedowns in the second round but Franklin defended them easily. The fight ended in the third after Franklin knocked Hamill down with a body kick and finished him with punches.
Hamill didn't stay down for long, as he won two more fights before taking on up and comer Jon Jones. Jones was known for what can only be called unorthodox-ness. Employing strikes like spinning elbows and having an 84.5 inch reach, you will not find another fighter like him. The fight started with Jones picking Hamill apart standing, then moving to the ground and pounding away. However, Jones was called for using illegal twelve-to-six elbows and was initially docked a point. But when Hamill couldn't continue due to a dislocated shoulder the fight was called and Hamill was given the win via disqualification. Even though he had won this marked the first time that Hamill had been thoroughly dominated in a fight, and many people thought that Hamill should have lost or the match made a no contest because the injury wasn't from the illegal elbows.
Hamill, trying to make up for a poor performance, fought Keith Jardine next. Jardine, though not being the best fighter in the world, had a big name and gave Hamill a chance to redeem himself, which he did as he squeaked out a majority decision over the fellow TUF alumni.
His next fight by far was his most personal, as he was set up against mentor and good friend Tito Ortiz. Ortiz had been Hamill's coach on TUF and had brought Hamill out to Team Punishment to train with him after the show. They had stayed in contact and remained good friends. Ortiz was known for talking down his opponents before fights, and didn't let the friendship stop that.
Perhaps the worst thing Ortiz said was when he remarked, "He's deaf so he has a soft head. You people don't know this. Watch how Franklin knocked him out quick. You hit him with soft shots because their equilibrium...they don't have no equilibrium. You hit them with small shots, I'm not looking for big shots, I'm looking for small shots. By the second, middle of the third round you're going to see someone go to sleep." (Now my major is communications, so far be it from me to call what Ortiz said stupid and incredibly offensive, but it was not smart and it did not make the deaf community happy whatsoever. Hey check it out, I'm politically correct).
Hamill beat Ortiz standing and took him down in each of the three rounds, winning the fight by unanimous decision over his former mentor. Dana White said in the post-fight press conference that Hamill will fight a top 10 opponent next to see if he’s ready for a shot at the big leagues.
On a human interest note, Hamill has a movie that has been made detailing his life, aptly named "Hamill". It shows the struggles that Hamill went through growing up deaf and trying to compete in wrestling and other life ventures. His coach at Purdue is played by none other than former opponent and close friend Rich Franklin. It opened at the AFI film festival and has received great reviews.
Strengths: Though he isn't given credit for it often, Hamill has developed a strong striking game. He shows great ability to stand in the pocket and trade with opponents as opposed to retreating when being thrown at. However, his strikes go from good to great when he gets his opponent in the clinch. Hamill is able to get incredible torque on his punches and knees when he can lock his opponent up and control his body. Also, as a wrestler he has great control from the top, He controls his opponents with his arms keeping them flat on their back and making it difficult to escape.
Weaknesses: Though it feels bad just saying it, no matter how hard Matt Hamill works being deaf will always be a huge disadvantage. Hamill has to constantly take his eyes off his opponent to look at his corner to see what they are saying to him, and if his back is to his corner he is all alone and has nobody but himself to lean on.
Where he stands in the division: Hamill is a rising contender in the 205 pound division. He has all the tools to be great, but when he's faced top competition he has been beaten soundly. So if his next opponent can also beat him than it may mean that Hamill just isn't cut out to be in the elite.
What the future holds: Hamill has been promised a top ten opponent in his next fight, but the only two top ten opponents in the UFC who don't already have other obligations are Rampage Jackson and Lyoto Machida. One could say that both are out of Hamill's league and giving him a fight with either would be feeding him to the wolves. However, Machida is a fighter who the UFC has a lot invested in and has lost two straight, so giving a guy like Hamill could be a win-win for the UFC. If Machida wins he goes back to his winning ways and he can keep being considered a top guy, and if Hamill wins then they can call him a new star in the division and he could become a top draw himself. Outside of those two, another option could be Randy Couture. Couture is currently busy acting and contemplating retirement, and he has said that the next time he could fight is mid-2011. While Couture is arguably not in the top ten, he is possibly the biggest legend in UFC history and beating him could propel almost anybody to a near title shot.
How close he is to a title shot: Hamill is at least three fights from a title fight and that's best case scenario. That scenario being Hamill beats Machida, wins one more fight and then takes on a #1 contender fight. More realistically, he would need about four or five more fights before getting a shot at the title.
On deck for next week: Next week I'll be looking into The Ultimate Fighter coach and welterweight #1 contender Josh Koscheck.
Dan Wyatt is a communications major in college looking at a career in sports radio and sports writing. Outside of sports you can find him doing stand up comedy or acting in the upcoming independent film, Company of the Damned.
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