The Severe Spotlight: Marcus McGhee

In 2024 we should be spotlighting the likes of Marcus McGhee. He is not a fighter that is going to cause drastic waves in the title ramifications of his division, he is not a fighter that at 33 years of age is expected to catapult through the rankings and solidify himself with a single digit spot in said rankings before his career his out. But he is a gust of fresh and humble air, pushing back against the ever-growing tornado of ego filled, bravado based dark rhetoric that is chewing up the corners of the UFC’s broadcasts, marketing sheets and social media.

Coming into the promotion on short notice at a catchweight, there were no complaints. This is customary of a fighter earning their shot at the big show. He dispatched of Journey Newson with aplomb. JP Buys was removed from his consciousness within a round in the summer of last year before this performance against Gaston Bolaños made it 3 for 3 for the man from The MMA Lab.

The opening segment of the first round began with plenty of movement and feint exchanges. Understandable reactions given that Gaston Bolaños is a storied kickboxer and in equal measure McGhee holds dynamite in his hands, as we found out in the latter portions of the round.

The gameplan of McGhee in those opening minutes was very interesting. The gameplan was centred around hustle. Not hustle in terms of volume striking or wrestling, but hustle in the range play and in the footwork games being played. Lots of stance switches, lots of faking, lots of penetration steps to angle changes. The aim was to disrupt the more fundamental movement patterns of Bolaños. To try to ensure that a rhythm was not established by the Spaniard.

An interesting wrinkle of that range place was the use of the low hands as a bait. When outside of striking range McGhee would drop his hands toward his hips and continue motion if Bolaños made an entrance the hands came up and the counters were readied.

The first attack that truly lands is a spinning hook kick from McGhee. It is usually his counterpart that offers the spinning attacks. It’s unclear as to whether this was a tactical, mental battle that McGhee wanted to win, or whether it was intuitive in that he saw the pocket of space to spin and land and executed the movement. But it feels as though from a gym like The MMA Lab whereby game planning and execution is so poignant, that after getting comfortable in winning a rhythm battle it could be the next motion in the plan was to make it known that some of the best weapons in the arsenal are shared.

McGhee continues to switch stances and cut aggressive angles whilst looking for the overhand left. He catches Bolaños square with his feet and lands a clean left straight with a right hook just behind it. The next exchange stanzas followed shortly after with McGhee landing heat in quick succession. The next beat is the type of offering that makes an MMA fan smile. At no point was wrestling or grappling a thought in the fakes of either man – however after landing 2-3 successful striking combinations McGhee wades in and immediately level changes, grabbing a locked hands double and working to put Bolaños on the mat.  Smart fighting.

Bolaños to his credit defends very well with a right-hand stiff-arm post, working his hips and knees back under him before building back to standing. The subsequent clinch exchange saw McGhee land some short knees but nothing much more than that.

A call from the corner saw an outside trip attempt that whilst not ending in a successful takedown, did offer McGhee an opportunity to show off his physical attributes as he just throws Bolaños to the ground.

The round heats up quickly as both men sting each other after the throw. Bolaños catching McGhee with a clean and hurtful low kick and hook. McGhee, however, is so fast in the pocket and returns his own shots with venom. Clipping Bolaños with a couple of damaging, concussive hooks.

Bolaños does end the round on the ground after an attempted goading of McGhee saw him hurt and thrown to the mat once again immediately into side control. With heavy hips McGhee does an excellent job of scoping for hard ground and pound and lands a couple as Bolaños begins to re-guard.

Some gorgeously calculated ground and pound from the top as Bolaños furiously looks to create space. In his desperation to get back to his feet, he leaves himself open for a crushingly clean hook sends him crashing back to the mat. McGhee leans weight through the four point to keep Bolaños’ weight in his hands and with 30 left is looking to attack the back. Again, to the credit of Bolaños he fights well back to his feet.

The round ends with both exchanging damaging shots in the pocket, however McGhee wins those exchanges.

McGhee blows through this round with style and class.  The highlights prior to the finish were the matador-like footwork as he ironically sends Bolaños crashing into the cage after he overcommits to strikes in the pocket. The lancing overhand left to the rib bursting right hook rip to the body. Lastly the first two minutes of the round were capitalised by a gorgeous break through the pocket space with a double right jab to big right hand, and finally a right jab to up close spinning back kick.

The beginning of the end comes via a BEAUTIFUL combination from McGhee to drop Bolaños. He begins with left jab, into a right hand straight. The left high kick followed swiftly, landing flush behind the glove. As Bolaños begins to correct his wobble a dynamite check left hook detonates on the chin. As he collapses to the mat McGhee takes a couple of paces back with his hands up – not as a celebration, but as a message to the referee that he expects him to give mercy to Bolaños and he is unwilling to land more damage that he needs. That’s an insight into the 33-year-old’s nature.

Bolaños bounces back up and gestures that he is still in the fight, calling McGhee back in. McGhee obliges willingly – blasting Bolaños with a couple straights. Bolaños in panic mode begins to exit via the right-hand side, grazing the cage wall. A beautiful spinning hook kick meets him which straightens him up before some huge hooks brings a call to the fight, as referee Mark Smith had seen enough. Kudos to the referee also, its important that we continue to see stoppages like this, there is no need to see fighters sprawled unconscious on the floor to know when the fight is over.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.