You may have missed the news, but a fighter whose record includes wins over several of the sport’s biggest names, including a few future residents of any MMA Hall of Fame imaginable, is making his return to MMA next week.
It only took this man one round to knock out current middleweight contender Mark Munoz with a nasty head kick. He ground out decision victories over the likes of Tito Ortiz and Keith Jardine. He was a cast member of The Ultimate Fighter back when it was, as Floyd Mayweather Jr might say, “You Must See TV.”
He retired after a 2011 loss, won in a return to MMA in 2012, and is now looking to make a last run for UFC glory.
He has one of MMA’s most compelling stories. In fact, a movie was made of his life, and he’s likely among the world’s most widely known deaf athletes.
Yet, his impending return to the cage has gone largely unnoticed, and he’s widely regarded cannon fodder at next week’s UFC Fight Night 29 — fighting against Thiago Silva in his home country of Brazil.
His name is Matt “The Hammer” Hamill, and it’s safe to say he has enjoyed an unusual MMA career.
That career was launched on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter after only one pro MMA bout to his credit.
There, Hamill proved a quick study, rapidly developing a ground-and-pound attack under the wing of Tito Ortiz. But after notching a win in his first bout, Hamill sustained injuries which kept him from continuing the show.
He won his first three bout for the UFC until suffering a controversial decision loss to Michael Bisping at UFC 75 in London.
At UFC Fight Night: Florian vs. Lauzon on April 2, 2008, Hamill scored one of his career’s signature wins in a bout with Tim Boetsch. After a tepid first round, Hamill would catch Boetsch in a sprawl and rain down strikes to the head, eventually moving to mount and getting the T/KO finish.
Boetsch would improve, and go on to become a top ten light heavyweight while Hamill would find himself a T/KO victim in his next bout, against former middleweight champion Rich Franklin. After struggling with Franklin’s standup skills and takedown defense all night, Hamill was seemingly folded in two by a hard kick to the body in round three.
A T/KO victory over Reese Andy would be followed by another signature win for Hamill: a viscous one-round knockout of then-prospect Mark Munoz. The two traded blows through a slow first round, when Munoz seemed to freeze with his back to the cage. Hamill, never known for his standup acumen, took advantage and blasted Munoz unconscious (and out of the rankings) with a roundhouse kick to the head.
In his next bout, Hamill was overwhelmed by Jon Jones, but took home victory anyway, as Jones was disqualified for his use of 12-6 elbows.
Next came decision victories over Tito Ortiz and Keith Jardine. The two struggled to avoid Hamill’s takedowns and ground control, but he hadn’t improved as much in standup as some had hoped.
Losses to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Alexander Gustafsson followed.
So, here we are. Hamill enters the cage with victories over Jon Jones (however odd), Keith Jardine, Tito Ortiz, Tim Boetsch, and Mark Munoz. But things always got odd, and he failed to generate real career momentum. Next week’s bout against Thiago Silva is likely his last chance to do so.