SALT LAKE CITY — Court McGee had one mission Saturday night: win. It was the first time his two sons got to see him fight live, and with the home crowd behind him McGee did just that while fighting in the welterweight bout.
“There are no words to describe it. I’ve been fighting for the UFC for a little over six years now since I won the Ultimate Fighter," he said. "The dream is to make it to the UFC and compete at the highest level.”
The win, however, didn’t come easy.
McGee fought Dominique Steele who was coming into the bout off a win. In Round 1, Steele got slammed to the ground by McGee, but he was able to get up. With the crowd chanting “Utah,” McGee used the cheers to his advantage and eventually won the round.
In Round 2, Steele looked loose and ready to fight. After strikes were thrown between the two McGee got a takedown, but Steele got up quickly ready to go again.
“I was real close. I sat him down and got really good position on him. I got the Rear Naked (choke), but I couldn’t sink the Rear Naked because he had good hand control," McGee said. "I was switching back and forth and moving it, and I used the Freedom Rock. His will to keep fighting was a little more each time."
Round 3 started with Steele throwing lots of punches, but McGee used his body to force a body kick, and Steele started to fight harder. A bloodied McGee started his takedown approach to get Steele backed into the cage as the fight came to a close. McGee won each round according to the judges score sheet 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28.
“The drive I got from walking out, I feel the love especially here in Utah," McGee said. "To hear them, there are no words to describe how incredible it was. It was definitely a motivating factor to push harder."
The main bout on the card was between Yari Rodriguez and Alex Caceres. It was a battle from the beginning. Caceres and Rodriguez were coming off wins in their last fights. The quickness of Caceres and the ability that Rodriguez had to get out of being pinned made for five interesting and action-filled rounds.
By a split decision Rodriguez won the fight and remains undefeated in the UFC and got his first win being in the main bout.
In Round 1, Caceres was quick moving and Rodriguez had some strikes to help stop the quickness Caceres was bringing.
Round 2 also went in the favor of Rodriguez when he used the dancing of Caceres to his advantage. Rodriguez continued to throw punches and kicks Caceres way that threw Caceres off guard.
“I’m disappointed because I knew I could have done more," Rodriguez said. "I let him get off first. I was just giving him to much time to set up his stuff. There were a couple times in the fight where I would be standing in front of him and he wouldn’t be doing anything and I could of went.”
In Round 3, Caceres pinned Rodriguez on the ground, and the two exchanged jabs. Rodriguez used his coaches to help him get out of the pin.
“I was right next to my corner and my jiu-jitsu coach used me like I was a video game for him, Rodriguez said. "He was coaching me through the whole thing. I stayed calm, looked him in the eyes, and I was just listening to him telling me what to do."
In Round 4, the momentum had switched to Caceres, but Rodriguez quickly put an end to that. Rodriguez continued to attack Caceres with wild jabs and kicks.
The final round came and both Rodriguez and Caceres came out of their corners wanting to win. However, Rodriguez did more. Caceres landed a takedown, but Rodriguez quickly got to his feet and scored his own takedown. The fight ended with the two standing and throwing jabs until the final bell sounded.
“I’m in the UFC to be a champion. It’s not to make money, it’s not to be famous, it’s to be the champion,” said Rodriguez.
Carra McManamon is a native of Washington State and is attending the University of Utah. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter: @curramac22