Kevin Casey (5-2, Rickson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, Team Sonnen Pick No. 6) vs. Collin Hart (4-1, Nor-Cal Fighting Alliance, Team Jones Pick No. 5)
Conditioning and wrestling were prominent themes in this week’s fight as Team Jones’ Hart was physically stronger than Team Sonnen’s Casey, pressuring the Rickson Gracie student over the course of 10 minutes.
Casey’s inability to adapt to adversity was ultimately his Achilles’ heel. His game plan was obviously to take the fight to the canvas where he would attempt to put his submission repertoire to good use.
However, an early takedown from Hart should have opened Casey’s eyes to his opponent’s strength and grappling skills. Hart was hardly a sacrificial lamb on the ground, as Casey might have expected.
Still, Casey managed to return to a vertical base, where Hart wasted little time closing the distance and overpowering him in the clinch.
Casey had moments of success standing, landing virtually every time he let his hands go. By then, however, he was already fading.
A lack of conditioning at this level is a death sentence and Casey simply wasn’t prepared. If Casey had more gas in the tank, he could have averted Hart’s predictable takedown attempts and broken free from his clinch.
If Casey had it in him, he could have won this fight. His hands were obviously better, but they never had a chance to run free.
Hart will move on, but his rudimentary striking will be exposed sooner or later.
Robert “Bubba” McDaniel (20-6, Jackson’s MMA, Team Jones Pick No. 3) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (4-0, Arizona Athletic Club, Team Sonnen Pick No. 7)
The most accomplished fighter on Team Jones and quite possibly the team’s most vocal member, McDaniel has been matched up with the Arizona Athletic Club product Gastelum, Sonnen’s last overall pick.
McDaniel is no stranger to Jones as they both train at Greg Jackson’s New Mexico-based academy. Unlike Rashad Evans opting to pick his friend and teammate James McSweeney first overall on the 10th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Jones picked up McDaniel third, citing a concern about which “Bubba” would show up, a sign of potential mental weakness.
A veteran of the sport since 2005, McDaniel made his presence known in June 2008, submitting Kala Hose under the EliteXC banner following Hose’s memorable victory over Phil Baroni.
The 29-year-old Texas native is now more disciplined than ever, entering the “TUF” season on a six-fight winning streak, including victories over Kyacey Uscola and Eric Schambari. He earned a second-round TKO over Ryan Bigler in his elimination fight.
Gastelum is undefeated, but his four professional bouts pail in comparison to McDaniel’s 26. He defeated Kito Andrews by decision to advance into the house.
“Bubba” is a well-rounded veteran with a strong core group of training partners. He’s earned 15 of his 20 career wins by submission.
Armed with a strong wrestling base, Gastelum has actually finished his four professional opponents.
McDaniel’s ability to score points wherever the fight takes place coupled with his significant experience advantage should give him an edge to even up the score for Team Jones.