The Ultimate Fighter 19: Team Edgar v. Team Penn – Week 12 Recap

An all fight episode always leaves me feeling a mixture of disappointment and happiness.  At this point we’ve learned everything we’re going to learn about the fighters and the majority of the episode is in-cage action.  It doesn’t give me a lot to write about.

On second thought, that makes it about the same as every other episode this season.

Team Colours

Team Edgar
Team Penn

Cathal Pendred starts us off with a philosophical question: would performing in the competition be easier if the fighters weren’t distracted by emotional ties?  It’s a topic that has come up in the past, with some guys saying that the personal stakes are what drive them to compete at such a high level while other guys thrive without the weight of friends or family depending on them.

More specifically, he asks Roger Zapata how the TUF experience would be different if it weren’t for his girlfriend waiting for him back home.  The way it’s phrased and the way they shoot the scene, it kind of feels like Pendred is coming on to him.

BJ Penn’s talk with him is less flirtatious.  His staff is predicting that Dhiego Lima will try to take the action to the ground.  All Zapata has to do is stay patient and “sit him down”, as he puts it.  John Hackleman responds with a “that’s what she said”.  I’m not sure that one works.

Because both fighters have shown strong striking skills (well, Lima anyway), Zapata predicts that this could be the fight of the season.  Why would you predict something like that?  I recall Joe Lauzon saying that he never aimed to get any of his “Fight of the Night” awards because that usually meant that he got f**ked up in some capacity (I’m paraphrasing).  How about guaranteeing a good performance first and let your opponent worry about what they’ll decide to do, huh?

In another episode, Tim Williams did everyone a favour by informing us that he needed to take a dump.  Following in that grand tradition is Lima:

What I’m gonna do here is just get a bunch of vegetables, put it on the juicer and then juice it.  Drink that.  Eat some protein, like some eggs and then a piece of toast and I should be ready to go.  That way I got plenty of time to digest.  The only thing is the toilet in the morning, you know…the toilet feels it. (laughs)

What is with these guys telling us about their bowel movements?  Is it at all related to everyone sleeping all the time?  Who thought all these shots of human beings in their most inert state would make for good television?  It’s a good thing I’m past the point of caring since these questions will never be answered.

Zapata RestingZapata: “For all my fights I stay in bed for as long as possible…”

Sleeping MattMatt doing a spot-on impression of people watching this show.

Roger Zapata v. Dhiego Lima

Lima’s leg kicks are on point early on, but it’s Zapata who lands the first big blow.  He lands a right hand just as Lima throws a body kick.  It puts Lima on his butt, much to the excitement of Team Penn.  He’s careless going in though and Lima catches him with an arm bar.  Just thirty seconds in, this one is over!  Zapata definitely suffered some sort of arm injury.

Lima Arm BarHerb Dean getting some Tim Sylvia flashbacks here.

In the locker room, Lima’s team celebrates how much money he’s in for since he’s the most likely candidate for the Knockout and Submission of the Season.  Up until that point he was the only fighter to win by either method.

Lima Advances“The Iceman” Chuck Liddell pops in to give Daniel Spohn some pointers on how to keep the action where he wants it to go.  I miss Liddell.  Still, I’m glad he retired.  Maybe it’s just because I haven’t seen him in a while, but he seems much cheerier and more eloquent since he stopped having his brain shut down by concussive force.  Funny how that works.

Matt Van Buren says the personal beef he had with Chris Fields made him fight too aggressive and…wait, that was him fighting aggressive?  Speaking of delusional comments, Zapata takes a moment during the season ending celebration dinner to declare the cast to be the future of the UFC.  There’s a terrifying thought.  Van Buren is upstairs trying to relax before fight day and he gets in one last good line: “Don’t eat my pizza you mark ass tricks!

Daniel Spohn v. Matt Van Buren

I’ll give Spohn credit.  He looks like he knows what he’s doing in there.  More specifically, he is good at executing a game plan.  Van Buren is more of a “go with the flow” type and Spohn is all over him to start.  The problem is that much like in the quarterfinals, Spohn prioritizes control over doing damage or finishing the fight.  Van Buren gets out.  You can’t help but feel that Spohn’s lack of activity is going to cost him.  He does get another takedown, sealing a 10-9 first.

Spohn connects with a counter left to start round two that causes either a knockdown or a slip.  Either way (surprise, surprise), he doesn’t capitalize.  Van Buren rocks Spohn with a flurry and then slices his head up with elbows after stuffing a desperation takedown attempt.  Much respect to both men who start throwing hay out there.  Even Dana White is pleased.  He anoints it the Fight of the Season.  Van Buren smacks Spohn with a straight right and he’s had enough.

Van Buren KOThat’s right, I have actual finishes to gif!  FINISHES!

Mark Coleman does his best to console Spohn right after.  Spohn thinks it might have been an early stoppage, but it wasn’t going anywhere good for him.  He’s a smart, thoughtful guy.  Stoppages like that will keep him that way.

Van Buren Advances

For those of you keeping score at home, your finals are:

Middleweight – Eddie Gordon (6-1) v. Dhiego Lima (9-1)

Light Heavyweight – Corey Anderson (2-0) v. Matt Van Buren (6-2)

That’s four Team Edgar fighters!  That’s only the second time this has happened in a two-tournament season (TUF Nations: Canada vs. Australia had an all Canuck finale) and the first time on an American version of TUF.  Congratulations Frankie Edgar, you join the illustrious ranks of all time great coaches Chael Sonnen, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Matt Serra.

Sunday, July 6, 2014: Matt Van Buren v. Corey Anderson!  Dhiego Lima v. Eddie Gordon!  BJ Penn v. Frankie Edgar!  Penn and Edgar fought each other on two PPVs, once as the headliner.  Now it’s being given away for free on a Sunday evening.  Think about that for a second.

My picks are Anderson, Lima and Edgar.  Always Edgar.

As for the season itself, there’s no reason to continue to kick dirt all over it.  From the lacklustre cast to the over the top promos (“critics agree it’s the best season yet!”) that included a commercial telling viewers to tune in for an eye poke, everything just reeked of going through the motions.  I confess that writing these recaps and trying to critique the show was a slog especially when you could read a one paragraph summary of the show and come to the same conclusion I did: TUF 19 was a pointless waste of time.

I expect the discussion over the necessity of TUF to continue even though I doubt it will ever be cancelled due to its value to the FOX Sports network.  Just as the atrocious TUF 16 set the stage for an overhaul of the series, the weakness of TUF 19 will only make TUF 20 shine brighter.  The ratings are going to spike next season with two fresh and relevant coaches and the first exclusively female cast.  Add in the intrigue of the tournament winner also becoming an instant UFC champion and you have the recipe for the biggest comeback since TUF 4.  From the buzz I’ve seen, it sounds like everyone is planning to catch at least a few episodes.

None of that justifies the UFC having to crank out mediocre seasons like this one.  They need to become more adventurous with the format, especially when it had to be obvious from the first day of filming that this cast didn’t have much to offer.  Take advantage of the fact that this is a reality television show and not documentary programming.  Manufacture situations that allow the fighters to show their true personalities for better or for worse.  Make the show fun again.  It might not be real, but if this season was an honest in-depth look at how fighters live day to day, then give me fantasy anytime.

The Ultimate Fighter 19: Team Edgar v. Team Penn – Week 11 Recap

Entering this season, I knew little about Cathal Pendred besides the fact that he held a title in Cage Warriors, he’s Irish, and his name is difficult for us North Americans to pronounce.

Eleven episodes in, all I know about Cathal Pendred is that he held a title in Cage Warriors, he’s Irish, and his name is difficult for us North Americans to pronounce.  Oh, I think he said something about having studied to be an engineer or a doctor or some such thing.  I can’t remember.

Not only has this season failed to entertain or produce a potential star, it hasn’t even been able to help in promoting a fighter like Pendred who already had considerable buzz before appearing on the show.  Even knowing that he would eventually lose to Eddie Gordon in the semi-finals, the makers of the show have to be aware that Pendred still projects as a valuable commodity in the future especially when he returns to his natural weight class.  As it stands, I’ve been given no reason to care about him or Gordon or any of the other fighters for that matter.  The Ultimate Fighter has long been one of the UFC’s last reliable and controllable outlets for manufacturing personalities and now it can’t even seem to get that right.

Team Colours

Team Edgar
Team Penn

Pat Walsh wants more practice time so he decides to talk to Mike King about working with Team Penn.  This isn’t going to cause any problems whatsoever.  You may recall back in season 5 when Nate Diaz went to train with Team Penn prior to his match-up with Corey Hill, his teammate at the time.  And that didn’t…oh wait, Diaz was ostracized by his teammates and called a traitor.  But you have to think Fat Pat is easier to get along with than him.

I like that Walsh isn’t intimidated by the technical acumen of Corey Anderson.  Once you get in that cage, there are so many variables that sometimes the advantage goes not to the man who prepares to do everything right, but the man who is ready when the action goes haywire.

If I were Team Penn, I wouldn’t Walsh training with my guys.  Daniel Spohn is still in the competition.  What if he faces Walsh in the finals?  Team Edgar’s worst fears are realized as they show us clips of Walsh telling the other team about his training partners.  You know you’re on camera!  It goes to show you that even the people on TUF 19 don’t care about TUF 19.

Anderson has no choice to confront Walsh about it the next day while Gordon and Ian Stephens look on.

ObserversDon’t mind us.  This is getting good.

Putting the format of the show aside, I’m with Walsh.  We say it all the time: MMA is not a team sport.  He has to look out for himself.  You can see Anderson back off when Walsh starts to get upset, which is lame.  Especially when you consider that he and the others tattle on him to Frankie Edgar later.  I would have liked to have seen Walsh tell his teammates to screw off.  Diplomacy does not make for exciting television.

TenseAwkwaaaaaard.

The confrontation carries over into the locker room.  Walsh is forced into the humiliating position of getting dressed down in front of everyone, though I’m not sure that was the intention.  Everything Ricardo Almeida says sounds like he’s angry because he’s Brazilian.  It’s too much for Walsh and he has to take a powder.

Exit WalshF**k this I’m leaving!

Nobody wants to see the fat kid getting teased to the point of crying.  Edgar and Almeida calm him down, though he’s not allowed to train with the other team anymore.  I’m not sure Edgar did the right thing there by accommodating his team’s complaints.  Sounds like the squeaky wheels got the oil.  Stephens says he can see both sides of the argument.  He’s always offering a reasonable viewpoint, which is probably why he’s not featured on the show all that much.

The fight

About a minute into the fight, Walsh does that thing where a guy gets clipped and then smiles.  That’s the universal sign for “you got me now please don’t hit me again because I’m kind of f**ked up right now.”  His Keith Jardine-esque countering style doesn’t stop Anderson from landing.  Walsh is in all kinds of trouble.

The first is a clear 10-9 for Anderson.  Walsh actually starts the 2nd round off strong, tagging Anderson with some wacky hooks.  It’s…kind of fun to watch?  He’s either driven by creativity or a concussion.  Either way, Anderson sticks to the gameplan and turns things back in his favour.

Swing & A MissThis makes me laugh.  I don’t know why.

The story of all three rounds is Walsh flailing around and Anderson doing enough to win without endangering himself.  Look, nobody wants to be the guy who rushes in and gets caught at the last second (*cough* Pat Barry *cough*), but…damn, do you want this or not?  Anderson’s utter lack of finishing ability is not going to ingratiate him with Dana White.  Going into the third, his own corner yelled at him to finish the fight and he was up two rounds!

Walsh is rocked badly by a knee.  It looks like he doesn’t know where he is.  Anderson refuses to go for the finish.  Refuses.  I should be impressed by his dominance.  I’m not.  White isn’t.  Even Anderson is subdued when his hand is raised.  Congratulations on making it to the finals.  Good luck convincing anyone to care.

I know I’m being too harsh.  I’m defending Walsh’s selfish actions while condemning Anderson for fighting smart to guarantee his spot at the finale.  But I really feel that Walsh did everything in his power to prepare himself against a bigger, more highly regarded opponent (Anderson was the top light heavyweight pick).  Anderson, on the other hand, fought well enough to make Walsh look bad, but not well enough to make himself look good.

It goes back to what I was saying at the beginning.  The show hasn’t been showcasing the fighters.  At the same time, the fighters haven’t been giving them much to work with.

Just one episode left.

Anderson Moves OnNext week: Roger Zapata v. Dhiego Lima & Daniel Spohn v. Matt Van Buren.

The Ultimate Fighter 19: Team Edgar v. Team Penn – Week 10 Recap

Since the comments section is clearly composed of readers who take pleasure in seeing a man break down week by week in service of an increasingly irrelevant reality television program, I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for the continued support that motivates me to keep doing these posts.  I also want to take this opportunity to tell you how much I hate you all for the continued support that motivates me to keep doing these posts.

I believe it was Herman Melville who wrote: …from hell’s heart I stab at thee.

Team Colours

Team Edgar
Team Penn

Time to get drunk!  No, not time for me to get drunk.  I mean, I probably should.  You can if you want.  I can’t stop you.  Whatever helps you get through this.  But what I’m talking about here is the quarterfinal round being over and now that half the cast is out of the competition (barring some sort of injury or disqualification) that means everyone can let loose.  Heck, it looks like the guys are still in the competition are indulging.  One of the benefits of fighting at a heavier weight class than normal is that you can you do some s**t that is terrible for your body and still be a pound under when you hit the scale.

Spoon!Cathal: “I was up there trying to sleep, get my rest up.  I got a fight comin’ up.  The lights go on, I pop my head up and I just see Hector.  I don’t know what he was doin’.  He was just makin’ a lot of noise.

Amidst the drinking, there’s more discussion and dispute about everyone’s strategy.  Matt Van Buren agrees with Daniel Spohn: It’s about winning a competition, not necessarily showing what a good fighter you are.  He’s not wrong.  The problem lies with the format of the show, not necessarily the fighters themselves.

Van Buren: At least he wasn’t just pissed about my fight.  He’s pissed about all of ‘em.

Chris Fields and Hector Urbina get into it over Cathal Pendred beating Urbina with wrestling.  I can’t believe in the year of our Lord 2014 fighters are still using “he just laid on top of me” as an excuse for not winning a fight.  It’s your job to get up from the mat.  Yes, it’s incredibly hard but it’s also hard for the offensive fighter to get into that position in the first place.  You were on the bottom.  You lost.  Now can we please stop arguing about this before things get ugly?

More SlappingBest stand-up we’ve seen all season.

In the spirit of great TUF dialogue, Tim Williams tries to get “Let’s get busy!” going.  I’m sure we can all agree that it’s no “Just let me bang, bro!” but what is?  Also, bum rape.

Strangler AttacksChris: “My wife…ah…she’s going to be disappointed about that one.  But it won’t be the first time I’ve disappointed her so we’re okay.”

SpankingGod help me, it loops perfectly.

The Morning AfterAnd he didn’t even stay in bed with him.

With five of his eight fighters advancing, there’s a funny moment in training where Frankie Edgar tells Pat Walsh and Corey Anderson to spar lightly and Walsh fakes throwing a haymaker.  It’s a good way to break the tension since they’re actually matched up in the semi-finals!  Walsh says he couldn’t find a better partner to simulate his upcoming opponent.

Stuff like that gives me hope for this cast.  I also like Eddie Gordon’s attitude regarding Pendred.  The Irishman is a big name and rather than be intimidated, Gordon knows that a win over him (even in an exhibition) would do wonders for his career.

Dana White takes the guys down to the MGM Grand Arena to fire them up.  This would have meant a lot more in the past.

MotivationThat’s right boys.  Play your cards right and you could one day be in the co-main event of a Fight Pass exclusive card in Bolivia.

Pendred and Gordon both talk about the options they had outside of fighting.  Yeah!  That’s what we want to see!  A fight between two guys who could be doing something else.  Feel it!

The fight

They certainly come out with more energy than we’ve seen in previous episodes even if the results are less than ideal.  A couple of scrambles result in neither man gaining much of an advantage.  Pendred throws a terrible wheel kick…and it actually connects!

Wheel KickEat your heart out Edson Barboza!

Pendred stays aggressive.  He ducks in and gets a huge takedown.  As I said above, it’s hard to blame the guys on top for measuring their ground and pound and not taking risks to advance.  There isn’t a single fighter on this show who is any sort of threat from their backs.  I feel the impetus is on the guy losing to change things up.  A second takedown all but guarantees a 10-9 round for Pendred.  BJ Penn tries to get an “Eeeeeelboooooow” chant going to little success.  Pendred almost gets a rear naked choke at the close of the round.

Just when I think Gordon has nothing to offer, he actually manages to get Pendred down with a pretty nice looking shot.  Prior to that, Gordon had been on the defensive almost the entire fight.  He’s less active on the top than Pendred, though it’s likely that he’s in control long enough to even the score at one round a piece.

Entering the final frame, both guys are exhausted.  The output is much greater than we’ve become accustomed to seeing on this show.  Penn does a great job of riling his team up to get behind Pendred.  There’s a lot less to score in the third round and the fight could go either way.  I lean towards Pendred who seemed crisper and cleaner.  Gordon gets the split, which doesn’t cause much controversy.  It was that close.

Pendred is too emotional to do the testimonial after and I don’t blame him.  He was the man to beat entering this competition.  I’m comfortable saying that he showed enough to get himself a multi-fight contract with the UFC, which he would have got based on his reputation alone without any help from TUF.  Gordon is completely respectful to Pendred afterwards.

Huh.  That wasn’t a bad fight.  That wasn’t even bad episode.  It wasn’t particularly good either.  I feel like…I might have enjoyed myself?  Ha!  Take that, commenters!

Gordon Moves OnNext week: Pat Walsh v. Corey Anderson.  Also, I consider quitting while I’m ahead.

The Ultimate Fighter 19: Team Edgar v. Team Penn – Week 9 Recap

I just got a great idea for the next edition of TUF: Nations.  USA v. Brazil.  Obvious, I know.  What’s changed is that we now have the perfect person to act as a coach for the Brazilians who is also comfortable with American television.

The recently retired Chael P. Sonnen.

Now that he’s more popular than Neymar (obligatory World Cup reference) over in Brazil, what better person to bridge the gap than our favourite fighter/broadcaster/hype man/coach/cheat?  In my dream scenario, he puts together a team with some of my favourites from the three TUF: Brazil seasons and other unsigned Brazilians for a second shot at UFC glory.  They’d go head to head with eight Americans and the winners would get two guaranteed fights in the UFC.  The losers are entered into a Bellator tournament.

Mr. CharismaWho doesn’t want to see more of this?

Sound strange?  I’ll do anything to shake up the format at this point.  Or maybe I’m just fantasizing too much about the TUF 19 cast getting their asses whipped.  Dana White joins me in the love fest this episode.

Team Colours

Team Edgar
Team Penn

Matt Van Buren (Team Edgar, 5th overall) starts us off by airing a list of grievances he has with his opponent Chris Fields (Team Penn, 8th overall).  Nobody is happy this season!  He even goes as far as to crib Sonnen’s anti-Anderson Silva boasts: “It’s going to be a one-sided pounding and I’m the one swingin’ the hammer.”  If you’re going to steal, steal from the best.

His rival Fields has been underutilized on the show despite having some interesting hooks.  Fluky win to get into the house.  Irish.  Bad teeth.  Okay, maybe not so interesting.  He believes all fighters are selfish, a comment that could extend to athletes in general.  BJ Penn says that he picked Fields due to his heart and mindset.  He neglects to mention that Fields was the last fighter left.

A comment from Fields about how he’s been fighting “elite level guys” prompts me to take a quick glance at his record.  No surprise he’s competing a weight up for the show.  Some of his name opponents include Jack Mason (Won), Pavel Kusch (W), Jesse Taylor (L), and Norman Paraisy (Draw).  Better than I expected, I’ll admit.

Van Buren’s past is unfortunately not littered with big name MMA competition.  No, his upbringing was spent avoiding falling into the trap of his drug using friends.

Gutter CrazyDrugs, you say?

He trains at Alliance MMA, which provides some frame of reference for us North Americans.  Amongst the list of names that he regularly spars with is Chris Leben so that means he’s guaranteed to win.

Cathal Pendred is worried that Fields’s emotions will get in the way of his performance.  It doesn’t help when they overhear Van Buren planning an elaborate victory celebration.  He plans to climb over the cage after he finishes Fields.  Fields tells Pendred that he’s going to come out as aggressive as possible.  Ha!  I’ll believe it when I see it.  Fields says Ireland will “lose their s**t” if he and Pendred make the finals.  Again, I’ll believe it when I see it.

They are not making it easy to love these guys.  Van Buren thinks that his willingness to openly express his dislike for people makes him a “grown ass man”.  There’s something to be said about utilizing discretion and carrying yourself with dignity, but what do I know?  Fields doesn’t fare much better in the congeniality department, believing that “sob stories” are a dumb reason for a person to become a fighter.  Yeah, how dare these guys use fighting as a way to triumph over tragedy and adversity?

The other day when I was at the cinema I caught the trailer for the new Transformers movie.  My brain shut down completely as it was going on.  It was just a blank screen and white noise.  I’m that numb to the sights and sounds of that franchise.  I feel the same way during the pre-fight hype on TUF.  I couldn’t even tell you if these guys were speaking English.

Ireland v. AmericaIs there anything on this show that doesn’t feel contrived?

The fight

Oh yeah, Fields really comes out swinging like a mad man…

WhiffMirko Cro “Crap”.

Van Buren and Fields are content to trade shots in the clinch and I do mean “trade”.  They make no effort to stop each other’s attacks, Fields going with uppercuts and Van Buren attacking with knees.  Van Buren’s corner is shouting at him to pummel but he completely ignores them.  When they separate, Fields is able to connect on some kicks.  It’s impossible for him to capitalize on the range though since he has no counter striking whatsoever.  Whenever Van Buren gets close, Fields just keeps backing up until he hits the fence.  If Van Buren had any hands he’d be able to knock Fields out cold.

In between rounds, Van Buren says he feels flat.  I doubt Fields is doing too well either since his corner proceeds to slap the s**t out of him.

Corner EncouragementI wouldn’t mind doing this to the people who put this season together.

The two fighters exchange lacklustre takedowns with neither managing to gain control for any significant period of time.  They are determined not to listen to a word from their respective corners.  Hell, even after the fight they don’t listen!  Mark Coleman implores Fields to stay standing and look strong for the judges.  Fields immediately responds by sitting on the stool and not getting up.

Van Buren scored a couple more takedowns than Fields and that’s enough to give him a majority decision win.  I notice that he’s not climbing over any cages.

The one good thing I’ll say about this episode is that it put Dana White and the fans in complete agreement on something for once.

White: Nothing interesting or exciting happened.  You guys had to sit through it and watch it.  The last thing you want to do is hear me remind you of how f**king uneventful it was.  I feel like this is the season of guys that just don’t give a s**t.

That about sums it up.  The only point I’d argue is that we didn’t have to sit through it if they’d just reduced it to a highlight (or in this case, lowlight) package and fill up the rest of the program with more human interest stuff or stupid reality show challenges.  Do something!  White has even made a point not to shake hands with several of the winners this season.  He just reads the result and stomps off.

The TUF mindset is that they think that they’re going to get around the same number of viewers every year so it doesn’t matter what they do; I’ll counter by saying that’s how shows get cancelled.  If you assume the audience will always be around, you will find yourself sorely mistaken and out of a job some day.

White wants to cut through the crap for the semi-final picks.  He goes as far as tell Frankie Edgar and Penn to not even bother to give their suggestions because he’ll make the fights.  The match-ups are secondary to his search for an answer regarding the dull performances by these fighters.  It is awful that we’re in the 19th season of this show and White still has to yell at people to motivate them.

It was Daniel Spohn who got this boring bandwagon rolling.  He says his next fight will be exciting.  The tone of his voice doesn’t change in the slightest the whole time.  This cast is atrocious.

Middleweight

Cathal Pendred v. Eddie Gordon
Roger Zapata v. Dhiego Lima

You can tell that they love Lima and not just for his effervescent personality.  He was the only guy to get a finish in the quarterfinals.  If Zapata beats Lima, I might throw something.

Light Heavyweights

Corey Anderson v. Pat Walsh
Daniel Spohn v. Matt Van Buren

White says he’s just going to erase everything that he’s seen and move on to enjoy some new fights.  If only we could all do the same.

Van Buren VictoriousNext week: Pendred v. Gordon.  Also, I try and give myself a head injury.

The Ultimate Fighter 19: Team Edgar v. Team Penn – Week 8 Recap

How about that TUF: Brazil 3 finale, eh?  Okay, I’ll admit that the card kind of stunk.  The ratings were in the toilet.  The main event was an absolute farce.  But hey, for those of us who had been watching the whole season it was really just the after party of what was otherwise an entertaining edition of this never ending series.  I enjoyed seeing Warlley Alves live up to the high standards coach Chael Sonnen had set for him.  Demente and Pezão had strong showings on the undercard.  Demian Maia was doing Demian Maia s**t.  We even got to witness the mere mention of Wanderlei Silva’s name cause a torrent of boos, something I never thought possible much less in Brazil.  It wasn’t a great event by any stretch but you know what?  It wasn’t for you.

And yes, I’m finding new ways every week to put off actually writing about TUF 19.

Team Colours

Team Edgar
Team Penn

Credit to whoever put together this week’s show, they actually took the time to make us care about the match-up between Eddie Gordon (Team Edgar, 5th overall) and Mike King (Team Penn, 2nd overall).  It’s certainly not the most interesting feud, but at least it’s something.

The conflict starts when King becomes aggravated by the unsanitary kitchen.  Complaining about the house being dirty is the lowest common denominator of TUF programming; it’s like starting a conversation by talking about the weather.  King says if the red team guys were his kids he’d “beat the s**t” out of them.  In a testimonial, Gordon declares that King is “the woman in the house”.  Nice, politically correct attitudes all around.

Towel MessageTelling kids everywhere how to respond when asked to do chores.

Gordon is an ex-football player, which might one day be as solid a base as wrestling or Brazilian jiu-jitsu.  I guess it makes sense since it involves discipline, athleticism and a predilection towards hurting people.  It helps that Gordon just so happens to be good friends with some guy named Chris Weidman.  Gordon is jazzed to be facing Team Penn’s top middleweight pick.

It seems like ages ago, but King made a name for himself in the elimination round with his rousing performance against future TUF: Nations competitor Nordine Taleb.  He’s a meat and potatoes fighter with good cardio and wrestling.  BJ Penn and Mark Coleman are confident he can control Gordon with his wrestling.  Much to their chagrin, King posits that he might be able to beat Gordon with his striking.  OMFG please tell me King is planning to “Stand and Wang”.

Penn says that Gordon can knock King down, but King can’t knock Gordon down.  That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.  Coleman is once again the voice of reason on the show (what am I saying?!?) and he suggests that they lay off on the advice so as to avoid accountability.  Thanks for being here, Mark!

The Coaches’ Challenge is a kayak course, which is about as unfair as it sounds considering one guy is from New Jersey and the other is from Hawaii.

Frankie Edgar: How we picked water sports when this dude visits his buddy down the street on a kayak?

They confirm a cash prize of $10,000 for the coaches and $1,500 for each of the fighters.  Not to be overly negative yet again, but even this challenge sucks.  It’s just a race around some buoys and that’s it.  Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones got to operate friggin’ bulldozers!  The course has a terrible design.  Once you get past the first few turns, it’s just a straight shot to the finish line.  Edgar falls behind and never catches up.  Yippee.

BJ RowPenn: “Hey, this is how my ancestors got to Hawaii!  Don’t feel bad.”

The fight

Neither the domestic disturbance nor King’s insistence on showing off his striking acumen resulted in much to write about as far as the fight goes.  The match had that awful sparring feel to it, like both men were afraid to lose.  The most intensity came from the Team Edgar corner who were constantly shouting combo codes in the form of Battleship coordinates (B3!  B3!).

Remember the eye poke that was featured so prominently in the commercials for this episode?  The one that could allegedly jeopardize the whole fight?  It looks bad, but it takes about one minute for King to recover and it’s never brought up again.  F**k off TUF 19.

After three rounds (they needed the extra), it’s Gordon’s takedowns that end up making the difference.  He earns a tepid decision.  As much as I respect both guys for their effort (Gordon especially since it looked like he was starting to gas out in the second round), this was a classic case of copious trash talk followed by a whole lotta nothin’.

King's Eye ViewI ain’t gonna hate too much on a guy who fights through this.

They even resort to showing a nice shot of Chrissy Blair during Dana White’s review of the fight as if…that will…distract us…

Chrissy BlairHey, stop that!

For those of you keeping score at home, both Edgar and Penn’s top middleweights have bowed out in the quarterfinals and Penn’s top light heavyweight is also out.  Only Corey Anderson was able to back up his high selection.

The last match-up is Matt Van Buren v. Chris Fields.  I’m actually looking forward to this one since Van Buren has developed a decent reputation for mudslinging and Fields has a lot to prove since he just scraped by the elimination round.  They don’t get along either.  Unfortunately, what should have been an intense stare-down became completely inexplicable instead.

Van Buren & FieldsMonaghan: “Van Buren vs. Fields.  The most awkward face-off that I’ve ever seen.  Both their hands were up, they looked like they were ready to fly away.  They genuinely don’t like each other so that’s going to be the grudgiest fight in the house.  I’m really looking forward to it.”

And if King talking about beating children and Gordon expressing his opinion on the woman’s role in the kitchen weren’t enough, we end with someone yelling about Van Buren and Fields being like two pitbulls on a leash.  Dogfighting.

Gordon VictoriousNext week: The last quarterfinal match-up and the semi-final selections.  Also, I take a moment to ponder whether this season is even worse than TUF 16.

The Ultimate Fighter 19: Team Edgar v. Team Penn – Week 7 Recap

I’m an optimist.  That’s how I choose to live my life.  I’m disappointed in myself that this season of TUF has brought out the worst in me.  I should be dwelling on the positives.  Like how nice the show looks.  How contestants now come off as human beings as opposed to cartoonish frat boys.  How Mark Coleman seems to genuinely be enjoying himself even though he’s been in the fight business since the early 1900s.

I know I’m reaching.  The fact of the matter is that only the most loyal TUF fans could picture any of these guys coming close to resembling a contender in the UFC.  I am one of the most loyal TUF fans and I’m still not predicting great success!

There’s good to be found here.   You just have to look a lot harder than usual.

Team Colours

Team Edgar
Team Penn

Fat Pat!  That’s the lighthearted nickname Patrick Walsh has been given by his teammates.  Tim Williams even makes fun of the jolly way he walks, which is kind of f**ked up.  Walsh (Team Edgar, 3rd overall) faces Anton Berzin (Team Penn, 1st overall).  Even though they were both high picks, the buzz on the show is mostly for Berzin.  He’s a sleeker looking fighter and his elite grappling is expected to carry him to an easy victory.

As expected, the bizarre result of the last fight has made things in the house akwaaaaaard…Eddie Gordon is perturbed.  Dhiego Lima is disgusted.  Matt Van Buren says not a single person could have watched that fight and thought that Roger Zapata won.  Well, I can think of at least two judges…and Dana White actually.

Berzin tells the tale of his family’s hardships coming to America.  When his mother tells him he should have been a doctor, Berzin says that now he sees doctors.  The rough upbringing has left him bristling with self-confidence, maybe too much so.  BJ Penn notes that he’s so sure of his skills that he doesn’t always pick up new things.

Penn: I still don’t have my finger on Anton yet.  I know he’s our first pick but listen to your coach every once in a while.  I should take that advice too. (laughs)

The fighters are treated to a viewing of UFC Fight Night: Belfort v. Henderson.  One of the fights goes to a close decision so Van Buren jumps at the opportunity to call out Zapata.  Zapata just laughs it off like he always does.  To Ian Stephens’s credit, he does his best to defuse the situation by telling everyone to accept that Zapata won and that’s that.  The tension escalates when Gordon and Chris Fields jump in.  Ironically, they both tell each other to mind their own business.

Coleman ApprovesGood.  Kill each other.

The real heat is between Gordon and Daniel Spohn, though I use the word “heat” in the loosest sense of the word.  It’s a mild simmer at worst.  They both think they’re terribly clever, but in actuality they stumble over their insults and desperately try to come off as cooler than the other guy when they’re both clearly flustered.  I wouldn’t be doing anybody any favours by transcribing the conversation.  These guys are boring even when they’re s**t talking each other.

Van Buren says “This is definitely a ticking time bomb.”  His trademark dull monotone delivery has never been more fitting.

Conversation By The FireAnton and Tim moments before Tim was engulfed in flames.

In a curious choice, we don’t get to see the weigh-ins.  I’m sure this has happened before and it’s an example of a little tweak they should make more often: If nothing interesting happens, don’t bother showing it.  Then again, if they’d stuck to that policy, we wouldn’t have TUF 19 at all.

The fight

An early body lock allows Berzin to take Walsh down right away.  He advances to back control just thirty seconds into the bout.  Walsh’s wrestling background gets him back to his feet, though he can’t quite shake Berzin.  The Russian briefly goes for a 10 finger guillotine before moving to the back again.  Then Walsh hits a phenomenal judo throw.

Judo TossHai-yah!

Post-fight, Penn says that the throw might have taken something out of Berzin.  He certainly doesn’t look like he’s used to being on the defensive.  We also find out that Berzin had never fought past the first round before.  This one goes well enough for him after he recovers.  Walsh’s stand-up approach is mystifying.  His hands are really low.  He goes for a trip near the end, but Berzin just falls on him.  Round 1 to Berzin.

Walsh takes the second round and the third.  He does a great job defending himself against Berzin’s submissions while staying in top control.  The entirety of the third round is just Walsh chipping away from half guard.  Despite the hype, it’s Walsh who outlasts Penn’s top pick.  Not bad for a fat boy.

Sit DownMaybe he’s been learning escapes from Josh.

Sorry, but that was a boring ass fight.  Berzin faded and Walsh did what he had to do.  That’s really all there is to say about it.  There’s a twinkle in Walsh’s eye when Coleman approaches him after to compliment him on their similar styles.  This is me dwelling on the positives.

Walsh VictoriousNext week: Eddie Gordon v. Mike King.  If you’ve caught any of the commercials for the next episode, you’ll see that they’re building all of the intrigue around an eye poke.  AN EYE POKE!  TUF 19!!!

The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3: Team Wanderlei v. Team Sonnen – Week 12 Recap

The_Vortex: This is it. The final episode. We’ve got two exciting fights here, and a whole lot of emotion (from us, the episode’s kinda straightforward). Whilst the winners of the fights might be apparent to those of you that have seen the main card for this Saturday’s fights, it’s still a fun couple of fights, and a solid season finale.

We hit the ground running here, straight into the weigh-ins for the Lyoto-Demente fight. There’s very little in the way of extraneous interviews or training montages, which is fair enough; we know the guys, we know what they’re gonna do. Lyoto says he’s going to sprawl and brawl, and Demente wants to drag it down to the ground, where he can work his superior jiu-jitsu.

Weigh-ins go off without a hitch, both guys weighing in at 184lbs. Eric is there, looking as fabulous as ever.

Eric's GlassesEric is the gift that keeps on giving.

Well, NewChallenger? You ready to bear the final witness to the fitness of these modern warriors?

NewChallenger: I am not ready.  If we don’t recap it, it can go on forever.  Right?  Right?

*sigh*

Thank you for those beautiful lyrics though, that made me feel better.

As you mentioned, this is a prototypical striker v. grappler match-up.  Lyoto is moving a lot and striking from distance, Demente is doing everything he can to get in close.  According to the subtitles, someone calls for a “Twizzler collar choke”.  Eddie Bravo in the house?  There is some interesting, uh, foot fighting as Demente presses Lyoto against the cage.  Lyoto makes expert use of a whizzer to avoid being taken down, even getting a trip of his own to set up some punches.  That failed attempt seemed to take a lot out of Demente or maybe it’s the snapping body kicks that Lyoto keeps connecting with.  You can see Demente visibly wince.  I know I did.

Demente looks so heavy, I’m blown away by Lyoto’s ability to stop the takedowns.  I gave Lyoto the first round 10-9, but the second was a different story.  It’s dirtier and uglier and Demente takes full advantage of it.  Lyoto said he had trouble making weight and I think we see the effects of that here.  How’d you see the fight?

The_Vortex:  I think the first round was definitely won by Lyoto for using Demente’s aggression against him. Demente’s a very strong dude, and he’s pretty relentless in pursuing takedowns. Whilst he did lose the first round, he sapped a fair chunk of Lyoto’s energy. Maybe we didn’t notice in his last fight, because Borrachinha gassed way, way harder than Lyoto did, but there is a very noticeable slowdown in Lyoto’s movements, and way less pop to his punches. Demente lands some nice clean strikes in the second, and is able to bully him a little as well.

Because we’re in the semi-finals, we go straight into the third round. The third round not the prettiest. Lyoto moves well, and apart from a few seconds where Demente connects with some big swinging hooks, is able to stay out of range, and nail him with jabs and high kicks. Demente was definitely more aggressive, but it didn’t always work out.

NewChallenger: I actually had Demente taking the last round with his berserker style.  Making Wanderlei Silva proud!  Lyoto was running out of gas.  He should be fine once he hooks up with a top shelf nutritionist.  Good, gutty performance from both guys.

The_Vortex: The pre-score recap is pretty interesting. Once again, Lyoto hurt his foot during the fight. FFS. Wandy mentions that the huge body kick in the first round nearly knocked Demente out, and yeah, I was very impressed at his toughness. It really, really looked like it hurt.

Lyoto wins in a split decision, and funnily enough, every three round fight so far has ended in a split decision.

FFVEh, it’d be worse in Texas.

Demente is tough, and he’s fighting Wagnão this weekend. That’s a winnable fight, and hopefully he’ll be able to hang in the UFC for a while. I’m pretty excited for the all Green Team middleweight finale, they’re both solid fighters.

NewChallenger: You’re not the only one who’s excited about it!

Teammate LoveSuch a great reaction from Warlley.  That’s respect, right there.

Lyoto Moves OnI believe I can fly…

Lyoto & WarlleyWarlley:  “I’d like to apologize because I’ll be smashing your face.”

The_Vortex: Ready for the next fight?

NewChallenger: Almost.  I realize that we don’t put enough emphasis on the ladies sometimes   With that in mind, here’s a shower scene with Demente…

Demente ShowersYou’re welcome.

…followed by the guys deciding to get TUF tattoos.  It’s Jollyson Francino’s first.  No regrets!

The_Vortex: Oh man, how great was the tattoo artist segment? Chael Sonnen goes into this later, but everyone here is pretty united and supportive, and getting tattoos really cements that.

Unique ExerciseNow this is rolling!

NewChallenger: I was really disappointed that they had to explain the tension caused by Lex Luthor calling out Rick Monstro instead of having it unfold on the show.  The beef is completely squashed by the time the Nogueira brothers show up (both Lex Luthor and Rick Monstro train with them).  With all that out of the way, the two friends are free to concentrate on the fight.

You know Lex Luthor is focused because he enters doing his best Triple H impression.

Water SpitOr Kwang if you’re so inclined.

This one didn’t go to a decision.  Hell of a round though, don’t you think?

The_Vortex:  That was a fantastic fight.  Both guys just went at it in search of a finish, and Lex Luthor walks out with his hand raised. He looks very well rounded, and man does it seem like he hits hard. Even though he survived into the second round, Rick was done. He shoots at the start of the second round, gets stuffed, and GnP’d out.

NewChallenger: It bears mentioning that at one point Rick Monstro was straight windmilling punches like Bart Simpson.  The way these two went at it, it is hard to believe they are friends!

I was thrilled by Lex Luthor’s performance.  He has a natural killer instinct.  Rick Monstro was coming at him hard and he weathered the storm until the other man gassed out and then he went in for the kill.  That’s the kind of thing Dana White likes to see.

Lex Luthor Moves OnHe could work on showing some emotion though.

The_Vortex: Rick Monstro has probably the most gracious approach to defeat I’ve ever seen. He says to anyone listening, that they should be happy, because he’s happy, and he did his best (praise God). He says he’ll come back stronger, and I believe him.

Wow.

I am just blown away by that, way to be a man about it. He’s fighting Pezão on the finale card, so he might end up in the UFC. Best of luck to him, lotta respect there.

Rick Monstro & Lex LuthorNewChallenger: And much respect to Sonnen who has now coached five out of a possible six finalists in his two TUF gigs.  They should bring him back every year.  Here he is doing a beautiful job of summing up the class and character of the TUF: Brazil 3 cast:

These guys looked after one another…and it’s really easy to do in victory but you find out who your friends are in defeat.  The support on both sides of the aisle was incredible.  It’s not something I’m used to.  It’s not done like this in America.  They look after one another in Brazil.  They take care of one another.  They care about one another.

The_Vortex: Big emotions coming now. Isabel and Hortência are giving goodbye speeches. It’s amazing how much of a presence they’ve been. Over the last few episodes, Hortência is easily the loudest voice heard cheering for her team. All the guys talk about the advice they’ve been given. I’m gonna miss this side of TUF.

NewChallenger: Honestly, if you watched that fond farewell and didn’t feel anything I don’t even want to know you!  I’m not sure if there is actually a closer connection between these people or they just don’t show us these gushy moments in the American versions.  Regardless, it’s always a welcome sight.

Group HugGet in here ya big lugs!

All four guys deserve the lavish Vegas vacation they are treated to.  Cara de Sapato describes the experience as “presidential”.  Lots of good stuff here.  Cirque du Soleil and the UFC (there’s something I never thought I’d type), a shopping trip and the guys getting flown around in fighter planes.  This could have been an entire episode.  I feel robbed that we only get about 10 minutes of footage.  This is the kind of stuff they should put on Fight Pass.  Just 24 hour coverage of these Brazilian monsters romping around the strip.  What was your favourite part?

The_Vortex: That was just fantastic. The Cirque du Soleil section involved the heavyweights learning fight choreography, and was just brilliant to watch, but easily the funniest moment is watching the guys go on a fighter jet ride. Not only is it great to watch them having so much fun, but Lyoto legit passes out, just straight up faints. I can’t imagine the jokery he had to endure after that.

KaPreview of the finale.

Air Up ThereShould he be doing this before the biggest fight of his career?!?

After all of this, we get the standard promo talk for the card this weekend. “I’m hungry for the win”, “He’s never fought anyone like me” yadda yadda yadda. The finals fights should be interesting, and I think Sapato and Lyoto will walk away with the titles. I know, Warlley Alves is the best pizza, but he’s just been too dominant for me to trust that he’ll do the same thing again.

NewChallenger: Damn, you’re picking Cara de Sapato and Lyoto too?  This is a bad sign for you.  I am one of the worst people in the world at picking fights in general, but particularly TUF finals.  Chris Holdsworth broke a streak of incorrect picks for me (and yes, that includes me picking Jessica Rakoczy to beat Julianna Peña).  Nevertheless, Cara de Sapato has been dominant and Lyoto has found a way to eke out decisions.  Lock it in!

(to anyone actually putting money down, this definitely means you should pick Lex Luthor and Alves)

The_Vortex: Augh, yes, people should definitely pick other winners, I got BOTH TUF: Nations winners wrong.

Now, we have to talk about the coaches’ fight.

Oh, what? It’s not happening? After Chael hinting at this for the entire season? Really? Colour me shocked.

I dunno man. Either Wandy is too injured, or too substanced up for the fight to go ahead. I’m leaning on the former (be funny if he broke his hand during that s**t stupid brawl in the hall), mostly just because. Anyway, it’s a really bad look for Wanderlei, who has effectively lost his entire home crowd support (and the support of like, all 15 foreigners watching this show). Not a good look.

Thoughts and summary NewChallenger?

NewChallenger: I still love Wandy.  I don’t know what the hell has been going on with him for the last few years, but I’ll never turn on the guy.  That said, Sonnen won me over during his first TUF coaching gig and this second one was even better.  I want a reality show of him just training and bonding with Brazilian fighters.  Or any fighters for that matter.  When it comes to television, Sonnen rules.

It sucks that we won’t get to see these guys throw down.  It joins an infamous list of coaches’ fights that will likely never happen.  This was easily one of the most anticipated even before they appeared on this show.  The UFC injury bug cares not for justice or entertainment.

Overall, this was an incredibly enjoyable season and as much as I’m harping on TUF 19 in my other reviews, TUF: Brazil 3 actually continued a decent trend of entertaining TUFs.  TUF 17 and 18 were both really good, TUF: Brazils are always fun to watch and even TUF: Smashes and TUF Nations: Canada v. Australia had their moments…though we might be biased on that last front.  Even the guys who didn’t make it past the first round left an indelible mark…Peregrino, Borrachinha, Bomba…I love ‘em all.  It’s going to be hard to let these guys go.  I hope they all get signed.  I really do.

And thank you Mr. Vortex for agreeing to do this collaboration.  For a minute there, it looked like we’d have to continue the TUF Nations feud, which would have torn the Bloody Elbow community apart!  Somehow, through cultural differences, time zone issues, and faulty Australian internet, we managed to put this series together.  I can say without question that it made this awesome show even better.  Now play us out before I start bawling like Hortência.

The_Vortex: This has been an excellent way to look at an Ultimate Fighter season, and, in all honesty, I’d place it as one of the best I’ve watched. Being a part of this definitely made the season a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

I’m really hoping we see more of these guys in the UFC. Chael keeps mentioning how good these guys are, and it’s not all hyperbole. There was some good talent there that might end up as stalwarts anywhere from welterweight to heavyweight. We’ve just recently gotten a TUF winner as champion, so anything is possible.

Thanks to everyone for reading these recaps, they’ve been heaps of fun to work on. Seriously, everyone should watch this show. It’s been fantastically entertaining, some of the fights were great, especially Monstro-Lex Luthor. It was an experience.

Saturday, May 31st: The TUF: Brazil 3 finale featuring Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva Stipe Miocic and Fabio Maldonado!

The Ultimate Fighter 19: Team Edgar v. Team Penn – Week 6 Recap

You’re really making me watch an episode with Matt Hughes in it, eh?  That’s what’s up?  Okay, TUF, okay.  In the interest of full disclosure, let me say a few words first.

I’m not playing the contrarian by saying I don’t like Hughes.  There are a large majority of fight fans who recognize that he’s one of the twenty greatest professional mixed martial artists of all time and also one of the biggest douche bags in any sport.  My opinion of Hughes might be unfairly skewed by how he was portrayed as a coach on TUF 6, Sean McCorkle’s review of his biography, and his long time rivalry with my fellow Canadian Georges St-Pierre.

Obviously I’ve never met the man, but there’s no shaking the feeling that he’s this holier than thou art prima donna who still probably can’t resist dishing out a good wedgie.  I don’t know.  Maybe he’s grown up.  Maybe, like BJ Penn, he’s an older, wiser man than when he was on top of the UFC.  Maybe.

I’m going to assume he’s the same old piece of s**t he’s always been though.  Just remember, I’m doing this because I love you guys (and I hate myself apparently).

Team Colours

Team Edgar
Team Penn

All everyone is talking about this week is what happened in the fight and for good reason: I’ve never seen anything like it in MMA, much less TUF.  The fight and the aftermath take up about 80% of the episode.  There are a few other things worth mentioning.

This week’s competitors, Ian Stephens (Team Edgar, 1st overall) and Roger Zapata (Team Penn, 8th overall) are driven by familial dedication, albeit for different reasons.  Stephens’s father was in the air conditioner business.  He was involved in an electrical accident that, unfortunately, did not make him become all blue like Jamie Foxx.  Stephens was only six years old.  He prides himself on making something from nothing.

Zapata is on the other side of things, having had to leave his daughter just days after she was born so he could be on the show.  He talks to Tim Williams about how he can’t wait to see what colour her eyes changed and how she peed on him while taking a picture.  It’s a sweet moment.  Williams caps off the heartfelt conversation by letting us all know that he “has to take a fat s**t”.  Well alright then.  Maybe I should have just skipped to the fight.  Ah, I’m sure it can’t get any worse…

Guest HughesF**k you, ya f**kin’ f**k.

As disappointed as I was that Penn and Frankie Edgar were friends, it’s nothing compared to finding out that Penn and Hughes get along too.  Damn it.  I always imagined that Penn enjoyed choking the life out of Hughes and punching his fool head in.  Subdued, gracious Penn is not doing it for me at all.  He sounds…retired.

Somehow we don’t get the magic of Hughes and Todd Monaghan in the same room.  A missed opportunity if there ever was one.  Hughes is complimentary of Zapata’s wrestling.  I’m guessing nobody told him about how Zapata dissed the sport last time.  Overall, it’s not an unbearable guest appearance, probably because they didn’t let Hughes say much.

Bird's EyeArtsy-fartsy.

Other than that there’s a ton of stock footage and generic tough talk (TUF talk?) from Stephens and Zapata.  There doesn’t seem to be any sort of grudge; in fact, I’m not sure these two have met based on their testimonials.  You can almost see the editors digging their fingers into the footage to stretch it out as much as possible.  They don’t even bother with a #HowDoYouKFC segment this week.  Such a shame.

The fight

News flash: Stephens wants a takedown.  The first shot comes a minute in and Zapata defends it surprisingly well.  Stephens has a waist lock for a while and it isn’t until he executes an unorthodox slam that he actually scores:

Back ThrowAny wrestlers out there looking for a new finishing move?

Now there were two ways to judge this fight and neither is 100% correct or incorrect.  One way is to reward control and submission attempts, which would have given Stephens both rounds in a landslide.  He was locked on to Zapata like a remora, taking his back at will.  He was always going for a submission or at least attempting to improve his position.  He definitely could have mixed in more strikes and maybe committed more to his sub attempts.  As it was, he was focused on maintaining position.  It’s hard to blame Stephens when dominant positions usually win fights.

The other way is to reward Zapata for his non-stop activity.  Post-fight, he described his strategy of throwing punches and elbows from any position as “freestyle striking”.  While it usually bothers me to see a fighter rewarded for attacks that do minimal damage, I’m not sure you can completely ignore what Zapata was doing either.  Sure, Stephens was all over him, but Zapata was definitely hitting him even if he wasn’t hurting him.

Muddying up the picture even more is the fact that neither fighter came particularly close to finishing.  Stephens could never flatten Zapata out enough to properly go after his neck; Zapata’s most effective elbow was ruled as illegal and it almost ended the fight in his opponent’s favour.  Let’s talk about that more for anyone who hasn’t seen this episode or heard about the incident.

For the majority of the fight, Zapata’s preferred tactic to counter takedown attempts were elbows angled at the side of Stephens’s head (exactly like Travis Browne has been doing).  Referee Steve Mazzagatti mentioned the potential infraction many times (in addition to Zapata’s cage grabbing), but at no point does he actually stop the fight to issue a warning.  This is a key aspect of contention later on.

The fight ends up going to an extra period.  I had Stephens winning the first two rounds (though the second was much closer than the first).  He did fade in the latter stages of regulation and Zapata’s pitter-patter defence proved to be enough to earn him five more minutes of cage time.  He continued to throw elbows until out of nowhere, Mazzagatti docks him a point for the illegal manoeuvre.  Dana White freaks out.

The Commish accuses Stephens of milking the infraction, a mere appetizer for the ensuing rant against his favourite referee.  The lack of an official warning drives him nuts.  It’s especially crucial since they’re in the extra period and that means there’s almost no way for Zapata to win the fight.  After a third round that is similar to the first and second, Zapata wins the fight.

Wait what…

It gets worse when Mazzagatti raises Zapata’s hand while calling him “Ian Zapata”.  He brings them back to announce the winner again, expecting that they’ll use the magic of editing to fix his flub.  No such luck.  As I was watching, I had no clue what was going on.  Two of the three judges would have had to reward Zapata a 10-8 (9-8 after the deduction) for him to have beaten Stephens and he did absolutely nothing to warrant a score like that.

Pandemonium erupts in the TUF gym, understandably so.  White is barking at the judges, pointing out that there’s no way that score makes any sense.  The winning team look just as confused as everybody else.  Penn instructs Zapata on how to proceed.

GetawayPenn: “Walk!  Please, leave so they can’t reverse the decision!  That’s what I would do!  I would leave!”

Based on math alone, we have a new candidate for the biggest robbery in MMA history.  This is not even a subjective call, there’s literally no way that Zapata could have won that final round.  Nam Phan/Leonard Garcia, Matt Hamill/Michael Bisping, Murilo Rua/Rampage Jackson, everyone…lay down your crowns.  That said, I wouldn’t call this a tragedy since both guys were kind of terrible.

Elbow Exhibition“12-6” THIS!

Penn says the right man won anyway.  “It should always be judged like that: look at his face and look at mine!”  Remember kids: Submission attempts mean nothing.  Just bleed.

White finally gets an explanation that he relays to the two teams: One judge scored it 10-8 for Stephens, the other two 9-9.  Because it was a majority draw, they were asked to circle who they thought won the fight and everyone chose Zapata.  So the point deduction was meaningless.  Since it was also somewhat unwarranted, I guess…everything worked out…?

Did the guy who scored the round 10-8 for Stephens also pick Zapata?  White must be mistaken.  I hope he is anyway.  Regardless, as much as I hate people saying to never leaving it in the hands of the judges…they really shouldn’t have left this one in the hands of the judges.

This kind of fight only adds credence to my suggestions to give some match-ups the montage treatment.  This is a television show, not a live event.  You’re allowed to play around with your product.  It’s not like you’ll be threatening the sanctity of TUF.  It’s TUF.  This whole operation reeks of laziness.  The more fight footage they have, the less work they have to do on the rest of the episode.  Would anything have been lost by slicing this fight up and interspersing commentary from White, the cast and the coaches?  It would have cleared up the situation and spared us an ugly contest.

Let’s just blame Matt Hughes for everything bad that happened and move on with our lives.

Next week: Team Penn’s Anton Berzin v. Team Edgar’s Matt Walsh.  Also, an update on Tim Williams’s bowel movements!

The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3: Team Wanderlei v. Team Sonnen – Week 11 Recap

Hair DidWe’ve come a long way from the days of Willa Ford.

NewChallenger: Alright, time for another exciting installment of the best TUF series around.  I…wait…what’s that…could it be…

The_Vortex: That’s right, I’m back! Hold your applause, please. Still no internet at home, but it’s important to prioritise some things in your life, and TUF: Brazil is clearly one of those things. Very excited here, we’ve got two fights in an episode, and, we start this episode with the most important thing first: that’s right, we’re deciding the finalists of Miss Ring Girl TUF: Brazil 3 2014!

Big DecisionAnd poor Lex is still petrified.

Because the guys might have been paying attention to other things at the fights (like, say the fights), they get to watch a highlight reel of the girls shaking it. Probably the best afternoon that anyone on this show has ever had, ever.

Any thoughts? Any early predictors of ring girl glory?

Also: please hold your celebration of my return until the end of the episodes. Don’t forget to go by the gift shop on the way out.

NewChallenger: Being a professional fighter is hard work, no?

Rafaela is not one of the two finalists so this whole competition is invalid.  Ana Cecília is the first finalist.  No lesser authority than Rick Monstro himself proclaimed her to be the prettiest, so I guess I can’t argue with that.  The second finalist is Fernanda Hernandes, a curvy blonde.  Magrão justifies the selection by saying she’s curvier than the American ring girls.  He put way more thought into that than he had to.

Fernanda And Ana CeciliaI guess this makes them the Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez of TUF: Ring Girl.

The weird thing is that neither Fernanda or Ana Cecília are on octagon duty later in the show; instead, we get the pros Camila Oliveira and Jhenny Andrade.  Maybe they already flew the finalists out to Las Vegas?  We should probably stop thinking about this and just move on.

In addition to the ring girl competition, I’m going to miss Chael Sonnen’s speeches.  I could be mistaken, but I think he gives Warlley Alves a variation of a speech he gave on TUF 17:

Sonnen: I know you get scared and I know you get nervous and I know you get excited and I know you feel every emotion that a human feels.  Not one of those emotions is going to help you in there.  The only thing that matters in sports or in life are your actions.  Actions is what wins fights.  This is the only thing that matters.  It is not the best fighter that wins, it’s whoever fights the best.

Blink

But who cares about that because we get possibly the best guest star of the season: TUF: Brazil 2 assistant coach Eric Albarracin!  I just love this guy.  Are you familiar with his work?

The_Vortex: Eric Albarracin: Team Nogueira wrestling coach.

Eric Albarracin: Former US Army Captain.

Eric Albarracin: Jumps one hell of a jump rope.

Eric Albarracin: Completely bonkers.

Size DifferentialOne of these men is an army captain.

Eric is fantastic. He was a key part of the best moment of TUF: Brazil 2, when Fabrício Werdum legitimately kidnapped him, and bombarded the house like an invading army.

Eric being here softens the blow of Rafaela losing the ring girl contest.

Eric brings a lighter side to Team Sonnen training (once again), with a jump rope exercise.

NewChallenger: An insane jump rope exercise.

Eric Shows OffI can barely double dutch.

The_Vortex: Team Silva, on the other hand, are taking no prisoners. They’re beating each other up, to simulate fight training.

NewChallenger: No kidding.  It’s in sharp contrast to Team Sonnen who are focusing on their cardio.  Wanderlei Silva even has Rick Monstro and Cara de Sapato going at it, which is interesting because they could potentially face each other in the finals.

The_Vortex: Both Warlley and Wagnão are ready for this fight, but we go to weigh-ins, and another surprise guest…

NewChallenger: You might say it’s tiiiiiiiime for another surprise guest.  Get it?  Get it?

It’s Bruce Buffer.

The fighters are over the moon that the voice of the octagon is at the facility.  In all these editions of TUF, he’s never made an appearance on the show.  It’s crazy what a legend he is in the fight business for someone who doesn’t actually compete.  I’ve always loved his enthusiasm for the sport and you can tell he’s having a great time on the show.  He handles the weigh-in commentary, referring to Wagnão as “Wagner”.  I’d make a Das Nibelung joke here, but my Portuguese pronunciation is suspect so maybe he’s doing it right.

They announce that the finalists will get an all expense paid trip to Las Vegas to see a UFC event.  Please have them travel with the ring girls and film it!  I will watch this!

The_Vortex: You’re forgetting the most important part of the weigh-ins. Eric brings Team Sonnen mustaches to wear, because “it’s a symbol of manly respect”. Brilliant.

NewChallenger: I feel like we should explain this further for the readers but…just watch the gif, folks:

Let's DanceNo further explanation needed.

TUF: Brazil…it’s so good.  As for the fight, I expected it to be a close one.  My prediction was slightly off.

The_Vortex: Whoah yeah it was. I thought we’d get a bit of a grinder of a fight. Instead, flash submission, They come out, exchange leg kicks, and Wagnão charges in. Warlley catches him in a guillotine, and sinks it. Wagnão can’t get his head back outside, and can’t get rid of Warlley. He taps within 25 seconds.

Warlley GuillotineOw ow ow ow ow ow…

Warlley’s stoked, and breaks out into a chorus of Viva Las Vegas.

Warlley Moves OnNo self-respecting bookie would take action on the winner not singing Viva Las Vegas afterwards.

NewChallenger: Lex Luthor points out that Wagnão is considered one of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in the house and he got subbed by Alves who is primarily a striker.

The_Vortex: Chael can’t stop extolling Warlley’s speed and techniques. The last time Chael was this excited about a middleweight prospect was Uriah Hall. Hmmm.

Chael even calls out 2015 Weidman. Hey, gotta aim high.

NewChallenger: You just had to bring up Uriah Hall, didn’t you?  Sonnen’s exact words are: Chris Weidman, you better get in the gym ‘cause somebody’s’ comin’ for ya!  Vintage.

The_Vortex: So, straight onto preparation for the next fight.

NewChallenger: The separation from family and personal issues with Pezão are taking their toll on Cara de Sapato.  He feels like his sense of humour has been misinterpreted.  The situation brings him to tears.  I look at it as Pezão just motivating himself, finding a reason to dislike Cara de Sapato.  Or maybe Cara de Sapato needs to stop touching him so much.  A call from Junior dos Santos lifts Cara de Sapato’s spirits just in time for him to get into the cage with Pezão.

His spirits might have been lifted a little too high.  Pezão has a considerable weight advantage, which doesn’t stop Cara de Sapato from throwing heavy leather with him!  Cara de Sapato goes for a takedown against the cage.  He’s able to avoid the guillotine choke that felled his teammate earlier.  To nobody’s surprise, Cara de Sapato has the superior cardio and he doesn’t give Pezão a second to rest.  He scores a takedown from behind then goes for a rear naked choke!  Pezão taps, but still goes unconscious.  Damn, another quick finish!

The_Vortex: Pezão going out was pretty crazy. It’s not like Sapato torqued the submission after the tap, or even held it awhile. Delayed reaction naptime.

Sapato looked good, and he’ll be a solid light heavyweight in the UFC. He weighed in at 212, so I don’t think there’s any chance he’s going to stay with the fat boys in the big show. Team Wanderlei is going bonkers at having snapped a five fight losing streak, but, continuing the good sportsmanship we’ve seen this week, Sapato still finds the time to speak to Pezão.

Pezão is understandably distraught, even saying that he needs to rethink his life. He seems to have calmed down in the confessional, and gives a great speech to Chael about what a fantastic dude Chael is, negative perceptions be damned. I think this bit is quite legit, as friendly Chael seems able to win anyone over, as well as coming across as really genuine.

NewChallenger: Loved, loved, loved Pezão’s reconciliation with Cara de Sapato and the heart to heart with Sonnen after.  It got real MTV up in there for a minute.  I don’t know if Pezão has a future in MMA to be honest, but I’ll remember him as a solid cast member.  As he said himself, just making it onto the show was a miracle for a guy whose life was going down a dark path just a few years ago.

The_Vortex: This was a great episode, entertaining as hell, some good action, and great guests. Robbery of the year goes to anyone not named Rafaela Machado continuing in TUF: Ring Girl, but I might, MIGHT be over it by next week.  Any thoughts NewChallenger?

NewChallenger: This was a great episode, wasn’t it?  Let us appreciate the show now while it’s still relatively fresh, before it goes the way of its over-saturated American brethren.  There is such a wonderful liveliness to the characters and a lack of cynicism, I’d recommend any of the three seasons for anyone who still likes the concept of TUF but is tired of what the original show has become.  I’m already sad inside that next week is the finale.

Cap off your triumphant return with some closing words, Australia.

The_Vortex: That was one hell of an episode to return for. We’re getting two fights again next week, and it’ll be sad to see everyone go. I’m definitely looking forward to whatever inspiring speech Chael has stored away for the season end, it’s going to be something else!

Cara de Sapato Moves OnNext week: Lyoto v. Demente and Lex Luthor v. Rick Monstro!

The Ultimate Fighter 19 – Team Edgar v. Team Penn – Week 5 Recap

It’s possible that I’ve been too harsh in my appraisal of the 19th edition of The Ultimate Fighter.  This is not the most boring season, nor does it have the least talented cast or the worst coaches.  But you can’t escape the feeling that this is a lame duck, wedged in between the historical TUF 18 (first season with female fighters and coaches) and the intriguing TUF 20 (introduction of the women strawweights with the tournament winner becoming an instant UFC champion, coaches who will battle for a title at the end of the season).  You’d have to go back to TUF 14 (Team Bisping v. Team Miller) to find a coaches’ fight where there was so little on the line (even Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin were not far removed from the title picture) and that season had the distinction of showcasing the bantamweight and featherweight divisions.

The UFC has to regularly provide TUF related programming so this is what we get.  It’s a shame too because I love Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn and the light heavyweight division could certainly use an influx of fresh faces.  If only they were willing to make changes to the format or come up with a new kind of vehicle entirely, we might not feel so worn out by what was once an illustrious television show.  The machine rolls on.

Team Colours

Team Edgar
Team Penn

I thought last week’s “bedroom time lapse” clip was as symptomatic of this show’s ennui as you could get, but Team Penn’s training takes the cake.  The last thing anyone expected was for Tim Williams to have to deal with his body shutting down on him so Penn stresses finding the balance between work and rest.  His men need to have the right “recipe” as he puts it.  I don’t want to hear anyone making jokes about how Penn knows all about taking it easy in training.  I don’t want to hear it!

You know how every episode shows quick cuts of gym action?  It turns out the only thing more exciting than stock footage of fighters training is stock footage of fighters training at half speed.

Going HardTHIS IS THE ULTIMATE

On the bright side, I just realized that André Pederneiras was on both TUF 19 and TUF: Brazil 3 this week.  It’s Dedé-mania!  If you’re a fan of Dedé, you’re in heaven right now.

With this week’s competitors (Corey Anderson and Josh Clark) playing the “I have no problem with my opponent” card this week, it’s up to the production team to drum up something for the viewers to sink their teeth into.  How about some Halloween for ya?  They bring them costumes!  Thank you production team!

Costume PartyHello ladies.

Seeing Clark and Mike King dressed in women’s costumes makes Anton Berzin uncomfortable.  Maybe he’s afraid it will awaken something in him.

Berzin: How am I gonna…when the other team makes fun of us, how am I gonna…
King: There is no defence for this.

An exciting finish last week, playful shenanigans this week…am I…am I actually enjoying myself?

Backing Berzin on team buzz kill is Matt Van Buren.  He’s not impressed by Team Penn skipping night practice to carve pumpkins and eat candy.  Van Buren’s attitude makes for good television, though I doubt it will be able to carry over into his career after the show.  Dry cynicism does not make for a thrilling pre-fight promo.

To cap it off, we have Edgar bringing his kids by the house for trick-or-treat.  D’awww…I cannot hate on this episode now.  It’s too charming.

Edgar ClanNo Donatello?

The next day, Edgar takes the team to Mount Charleston to enjoy a beautiful view at the top.  Not everyone is having it.  Todd Monaghan is lagging badly.  Along with Van Buren, Monaghan has emerged as an early favourite for the show’s editors.  He just keeps giving them material to make him look bad.  Edgar says everyone had fun but all I heard was a lot of bitching.

Clark plays up the “aw shucks, Hillbilly Heartthrob” image in his interviews.  He grew up in a small town in Kentucky, he loves his wife, and he only got into MMA after winning a free membership at a nearby gym.  He’s a big soft-spoken guy with confidence issues.  We see him struggling against Berzin (Team Penn’s best grappler), getting caught with a flying arm bar at one point.  A Team Penn assistant wonders if he is just “happy to be there”.  Penn describes him as a “game-time player”.  That’s like when I’m throwing up bricks before a pick-up run and I tell everyone I make them when it matters.

He’s in tough against Anderson, Team Edgar’s top light heavyweight pick.  Anderson is an NCAA finalist who trained with Ben Askren in college.  He had no interest in fighting until Askren coerced him into working with Duke Roufus.  Anderson is 24 years old with just 7 months of professional MMA experience.  Most aspiring fighters would kill to be able to learn from Roufus and then get six weeks of dedicated training from Edgar and his team.

Guard TrainingThere’s nothing like a good ol’ fashioned knee to the scrotes to open up a dude’s guard.

Roger Zapata gets under Anderson’s skin when says that wrestling is simple.  Eddie Gordon says it’s the dumbest thing someone could say.

Zapata: All my boys that wrestled D-I that I train with, they all hit the air just like you about to hit the air.

I look at it as Zapata trying to get under Anderson’s skin to help out his teammate.  Everyone knows what Anderson wants to do and if they can throw off his timing by even a fraction of a second, it could do wonders for Clark’s chances.

The fight

There isn’t much action in the early going.  Anderson reminds me of early Phil Davis, hands up strictly for protection and not much else.  He takes some punches that don’t do much to change his strategy.  Clark manages to avoid a single leg takedown by doing some sort of crazy flip that somehow doesn’t result in him breaking his own neck.

Single Leg CounterTextbook.

Anderson is able to stay close to work for a trip.  Eventually, he eases Clark down onto his back…score that a takedown?  Clark is able to recover leading to a couple more minutes of tentative stand-up.  Anderson gets low and just powers Clark up for a slam.  He stays on top with good activity.  More than Daniel Spohn did anyway.  Anderson nearly gets caught by a heel hook.  He has no idea how to free his leg; luckily, Clark doesn’t quite know how to attack it either.  It should be a 10-9 first for Anderson, though Clark was definitely ahead in the striking.

Less than a minute into the second, Clark gives up another takedown.  Dana White can be heard saying that he “has got no takedown defence at all”.  Anderson is content to work from half guard.  The referee does Clark a favour ordering a stand-up…though maybe he shouldn’t have because a checked leg kick causes Clark to trip and fall.

Wayward KickTextbook.

Anderson is all too happy to get on top and not do much, though he does throw the occasional punch.  He really is unable to advance from half guard without endangering his leg.  A scramble ends with Clark giving up his back.  Anderson is able to roll him over and end up in full mount to close out the round.

White speculates that Penn’s fighter ran out of steam again.  He announces Anderson as the winner with an obvious lack of gusto.  A flat ending to what was an otherwise not-terrible episode.

Anderson VictoriousNext week: Ian Stephens v. Roger Zapata.  Also…oh f**k me it’s Matt Hughes.