The Ultimate The Ultimate Fighter: TUF 16 v. TUF: The Smashes – Week 4

Team Colours:

Team Carwin (actually yellow on the show, but brown for the purposes of this article)
Team Nelson
Team Pearson (actually blue on the show, but red for the purposes of this article)
Team Sotiropoulos

(TUF: The Smashes – October 10, 2012, TUF 16 – October 12, 2012)

The Cast

I’ll talk about Classic more in the “Drama” section, because there wasn’t much development outside of the featured fighters.  Nic Herron-Webb and Igor Araujo are chosen to fight and for the most part, it is a classic good v. evil match-up with Herron-Webb playing the irredeemable A-hole and Araujo as the affable Brazilian.  They’ve both got kids and while I respect both men for thinking of their children, Herron-Webb is a 22 year old who acts like he’s 12 and I feel kind of sorry for his offspring.  He’s also irrationally confident considering Araujo is a BJJ black belt while Herron-Webb specializes in “napjitsu” (because….*sigh*…he puts his opponents to sleep).

Araujo is a Greg Jackson guy who’s been grappling since 2000 (Matt Secor jokes that he “just started” doing jiu-jitsu) and he seems like a swell guy.  Carwin says that Araujo is “truly here to fight for bread and milk”, which I think is actually a really cool way to explain most fighters’ basic motivations.  Wait a minute, Carwin said something memorable?

Now it might sound like this category would be a shoo-in for Smashes this week, especially since they continue to do a good job of running short features on their fighters and their training sessions.  The Aussies head down to Cronulla to run up and down a set pair of sand dunes called “The Mexican”.  The setting is gorgeous.  On the other hand, the UK guys grind it out with the “Shark Tank” method, where one fighter stays in the centre of the octagon and runs a gauntlet of sparring partners, each one fresher than the last.  Sounds interesting, right?  Unfortunately, they automatically lose because of Norman Parke’s douchebag geisha tattoo.

G**dammit.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: 16, narrowly

The Coaches

Sotiropoulos continues to struggle with the funny, joking that last week’s knockout victim Luke Newman come train striking with them.  It doesn’t get much of a reaction and the UK Team make fun of the fact that his delivery sucks even though he probably spends hours working on his wisecracks.  Sotiropoulos comments on Parke hiding behind a pair of shades and Colin Fletcher says Sotiropoulos needs to get some new material.

Also, those are some sweet ass shades.

There seems to be a lot more interaction between the Smashes coaches and their charges.  Case in point, when Cameron Diffley politely asks Nelson to put more emphasis on cardio training, Nelson dismisses him:

Nelson: There’s a pool.
Diffley: Not everyone swims.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: The Smashes

Shenanigans

In what has to be one of the weakest pranks in TUF history, the Aussies leave some gym mats against the door of Team UK so that they’ll…fall slowly when the door is opened?  I have no idea what they were going for, but this somehow leads to escalation.  Team UK counters with the ol’ bucket full of crap (coffee, eggs, honey) tied to a door knob.  Xavier Lucas barely manages to avoid getting slimed…

This would make TUF a million times better.

…and the Aussies get their own dirty bucket and splash it around the UK war room.  Frankly, the exchange was more nauseating than amusing.

Smashes doubles up on the shenanigans when Fletcher decides to go streaking on the tennis court for literally no good reason.  He even does some naked hurdles, which makes me grateful for the digital blurring and the fact that I’m not watching in HD.

But does he put clown makeup on his penis?

Herron-Webb continues his dickish behaviour, taking Mike Ricci’s bed and throwing it on top of a gazebo.  There is an unwritten rule in the TUF series that contestants shouldn’t mess with each other’s sleeping arrangements and it rarely leads to anything good happening.  On the other hand, Herron-Webb is kind of growing on me if only for the fact that he never apologizes and tries to weasel his way out of everything.  That’s a true heel.

Araujo does his part too, engaging in some competitive…nuzzling…with Heron-Webb at the fight announcement.  James Chaney makes the great point that Araujo asserts his dominance by telling Herron-Webb not to touch his face and then giving him some light slaps on the cheek after.  Araujo then states that he’s “f**in’ crazy, man.  I want to eat some brains!”  Close round, but…

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: The Smashes for the Freakshow’s streak show

Drama

One thing I’ll say about the Classic crew, they ain’t taking no guff from coach Nelson.  His straw-drawing method from last week draws the ire of Michael Hill and even Julian Lane says he shouldn’t have been allowed to pick such a bad fight.  Speaking of losing control, we get to see the outburst that was teased last week as Secor awakens the beast within by wafting farts in Lane’s direction later that night.  Lane’s tantrum is incredibly contrived and I’m not sure if he’s quick to fly off the handle or if he just went to the Randy Savage school of acting.

He stopped short of accusing Secor of having “jealous eyes”.

So all in all, a disappointing scene that seemed blatantly put on for the cameras (even more so than usual).

Smashes doesn’t fare much better in this category as the main conflict revolves around the UK Team being slobs and the Aussies being none too pleased about it.  Somehow this show lasts almost an hour without commercials.

Advantage: 10-10 Draw

The Fights

TUF 16 Welterweight Bout: Igor Araujo d. Nic Herron-Webb via MD (19-18 x2, 19-19)

Araujo has a massive height and reach advantage (4 and 8 inches respectively).  He comes out with big kicks and follows up with a takedown that Herron-Webb is way too slow to stop.  The Alaskan shows a good rubber guard, but Araujo slips out and stands before dropping back down into half guard and moving to mount position.  He takes the back teases a choke before pounding on Herron-Webb relentlessly.  At first, I think he’s trying to teach him a lesson, but he soon struggles to finish.  Somehow, Herron-Webb is able to reach out and recover his lost mouthpiece even though Araujo is on him the whole time.

In the second round, Herron-Webb looks to have the cardio advantage and he manages o get top position.  He throws some damaging elbows, but he doesn’t stay busy enough and while he wins round 2, Araujo takes the lacklustre decision on account of his dominant first round.  Dana White thinks the judging was bogus (surprise, surprise), but Araujo pitched a shut-out in the first and a 10-8 made sense even if he didn’t do overwhelming damage.

TUF: The Smashes Lightweight Bout: Norman Parke d. Richie Vaculik via UD (20-18 x3)

Before and after the fight, everyone acknowledges that Parke’s size could be the difference (he’s the UK’s biggest lightweight while Vaculik, a natural featherweight, is Australia’s smallest) and that proves to be exactly the case.  “Vass” looks to have decent power for a small guy, but it’s just too easy for Parke to take him down and score points from the top.  Parke’s limited jiu-jitsu prevents him from maintaining or capitalizing on his positions, but he wins handily, maybe even taking the second round 10-8.  Vass showed a lot of heart and Sotiropoulos owes him an apology for picking this match-up.

Neither fight was particularly thrilling, with Araujo backing in for the win and Parke just being too damn big for Vaculik.  It’s worth mentioning that every fight on Classic has gone to a decision.

Advantage: 10-10 Draw

Final Score: 49-48 TUF: The Smashes

It was close, but Smashes takes week 4.  Overall, it’s just been more fun so far.  Classic really failed to deliver on the Lane outburst.  It was lame and lasted about three minutes.  However, the teaser for next week promises intrigue with Hill being accused of stealing chicken from the fridge!  How can you not watch this stuff?  In totally unrelated news, viewership fell to an all-time low last week (just 624,000 viewers).  I…just…please, just take us out, Kahili.

Return to Rio – An Analysis of UFC 153

I won’t bother rehashing the series of calamities that lead to Stephan Bonnar headlining a major UFC event in the year of our Lord two thousand and twelve because the end result turned out to be a night of blistering action.  The only major disappointment is that this is their second trip to Rio de Janeiro and there hasn’t been a single Duran Duran reference.  It’s a good thing that I’m around to fix this egregious omission.

Couldn’t one fighter come out to “Hungry Like The Wolf”?

Lightweight Bout: Cristiano Marcello d. Reza Madadi via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)

What you need to know: Marcello is a widely respected BJJ practitioner who finally got a shot at the big time with an appearance on TUF last season.  He was eliminated in by Justin Lawrence and then lost his official debut against Sam Sicilia at the finale.  Madadi came into the UFC with wins over Junie Browning, Carlo Prater and Rich Clementi before submitting Cuban prospect Yoislandy Izquierdo at UFC on Fuel TV 2.

How it went down: I didn’t actually watch, but from what I’ve read it sounds like Madadi was the aggressor the entire fight.  Counterstriking and a late takedown in the second appeared to be enough for Marcello to steal a decision.

What’s next for Madadi: (1-1 UFC, L1) At age 32, Madadi is tough to gauge.  He’s never been finished, but he’s also yet to make an impression.  Justin Salas has almost identical experience and his wrestling would be a good challenge for Madadi.  A match-up with Massaranduba (who fought later in the card) also makes sense.

What’s next for Marcello: (1-1 UFC, W1) Despite his vaunted ground game, all Marcello has shown me is mediocre kickboxing.  A match with Marcus LeVesseur could showcase his grappling or he could face TUF 15 housemate Myles Jury.

Middleweight Bout: Chris Camozzi d. Luis Cané via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

What you need to know: Camozzi has been under the radar in this division (I had him as my 22nd ranked middleweight going into this event) and looked to be a stiff test for Cané, who was dropping to 185 after a disastrous four fight stretch that included three first round TKOs.  Those outcomes tell me it’s more than a weight class issue.

How it went down: Cané showed off some of the power that made him a hot prospect at 205, but Camozzi out struck him with combinations in the 2nd and 3rd to win comfortably.

What’s next for Cané: (4-5 UFC, L2) A possible pink slip with his fourth loss in five appearances.

What’s next for Camozzi: (5-2 UFC, W3) A spot in the top 20 and a chance to increase his standing even further against the likes of Ronny Markes, Ed Herman or Rousimar Palhares.

Welterweight Bout: Sergio Moraes d. Renee Forte via Submission (3:10, R3)

What you need to know: “Serginho” was the most *ahem* adorable member of the TUF: Brazil cast, which says a lot considering how warm and fuzzy those guys were.  Forte didn’t show much on the program, earning criticism from coach Wanderlei Silva for a perceived lack of effort in his fight.

How it went down: Neither man looked impressive on the feet, but Forte did an excellent job defending Serginho’s takedowns and submission attempts.  Forte eventually tapped to a well earned rear naked choke in the third, at which point Serginho gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

What’s next for Forte: (0-1 UFC, L1) A ticket back to Fortaleza.

What’s next for Moraes: (2-0 UFC, W1) The popular Brazilian might never be a contender, but he should continue to entertain if given the opportunity.  He’d be a good opponent for scrappy TUF 11 contestant Justin Edwards, white hot Gunnar Nelson or striker Che Mills.

Featherweight Bout: Diego Brandao d. Joey Gambino via UD (30-27 x3)

What you need to know: Brandao was a fireball in his TUF season, blowing through the competition and taking the title with a stunning armbar finish of Dennis Bermudez.  Unfortunately, he fell flat losing a decision to Darren Elkins, putting him in dubious company with Joe Stevenson, Amir Sadollah, James Wilks and Jonathan Brookins as TUF winners who lost their first post-tournament matches.  Gambino is a TriStar product who was undefeated before being submitted by Steven Siler in his UFC debut.

How it went down: Brandao failed to finish, but he soundly won all three rounds and displayed the aggressive striking that had so many people talking about him on the show.

What’s next for Gambino: (0-2 UFC, L2) At 23, he has plenty of time to improve, but it will likely be in the minors for now.

What’s next for Brandao: (2-1 UFC, W1) A fight with Nam Phan or the Antonio Carvalho/Rodrigo Damm (UFC 154, November 17) winner would help his ranking and be tons of fun.

Lightweight Bout: Gleison Tibau d. Francisco Trinaldo via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

What you need to know: Tibau and “Massaranduba” are two of the biggest lightweights I’ve ever seen.  Straight diesel.  Massaranduba has been a rising star in Brazil for years, but as he explained on TUF: Brazil, there are times where he barely has enough money to eat much less train.  Amongst active fighters, Tibau is tied with Jim Miller for the most wins in the UFC lightweight division.

How it went down: Tibau won the first with his usual takedown heavy game plan.  However, Massaranduba rocked him with a left hook in the second and nearly earned a submission.  The fitness issues that plagued Massaranduba on TUF reared their ugly head and Tibau clinched the third with takedowns again.

What’s next for Trinaldo: (1-1 UFC, L1) Considering his situation, I have to wonder if he’ll remain a local attraction especially with the UFC’s plans to frequent Brazil more often.  As I mentioned above, he could fight Madadi, Salas or fellow TUF refugee Al Iaquinta.

What’s next for Tibau: (11-6 UFC, W1) A crack at the top 10?  That would likely mean going through TJ Grant (who has been phenomenal since dropping to 155), “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone or Matt Wiman (another veteran just short of greatness).

Featherweight Bout: Rony Jason d. Sam Sicilia via TKO (4:16, R2)

What you need to know: Jason won the inaugural season of TUF: Brazil, though he put on a poor showing at the finale.  He was looking to regain his reputation for exciting finishes against Sicilia, the best friend of TUF 15 winner Michael Chiesa.  Sicilia has devastating hands, having finished 6 straight opponents in the first round before TUF (the last 3 lasted less than 30 seconds each).  It took him all of 8 seconds to knock out his opponent to earn a spot in the house and though he fell short, he re-established himself with a KO of Marcello in June.

How it went down: Jason scored early with some incredibly crisp and quick jumping knees, but Sicilia just kept on coming.  It wasn’t the crispest striking I’ve seen, but you could see why the Sikjitsu product has such a ridiculous finishing rate.  He shoots to kill.  Jason’s solid chin and technical striking kept things from getting out of hand.  The finish came when he caught a wild kick and then splattered Sicilia with a standing elbow.

What’s next for Sicilia: (1-1 UFC, L1) A lucrative career filled with Fight of the Night bonuses.  Let’s throw him in there with Leonard Garcia, Maximo Blanco or Cody McKenzie and watch them make some money.

What’s next for Jason: (2-0 UFC, W7) His career is booming, but he’s still unknown in North America.  The time is now to fly him into Vegas and put him on a main card (either free TV or PPV) with countryman Felipe Arantes or Matt Grice, both fights that would be good for his development.

Welterweight Bout: Demian Maia d. Rick Story via Submission (2:30, R1)

What you need to know: Even though his first fight at 170 against Dong Hyun Kim ended with his opponent suffering a muscle spasm, Maia’s clinch takedown that caused the injury hinted at how effective his grappling could be at a new weight class.  Story recently defeated overmatched Brock Jardine, but previous losses to Charlie Brenneman and Martin Kampmann have left him in limbo.

How it went down: Story is as tough as they come and Maia ran right through him, dragging him to the mat before methodically taking the back.  When Story went to defend against the choke, Maia reversed polarity and turned it into a neck crank, causing blood to squeeze out of Story’s nose.  Yuck.  Story tapped, but I have to wonder why neck cranks aren’t illegal.  A choke can cause a fighter to pass out, an arm or leg lock could break a limb, but a neck crank could kill someone, couldn’t it?

What’s next for Story: (7-4 UFC, L1) Despite his 3rd loss in 4 fights, I still feel like Story is an elite welterweight.  I wouldn’t mind seeing him rematch Thiago Alves, though fresh pairings with Erick Silva, Brian Ebersole or the Kim/Paulo Thiago loser await.

What’s next for Maia: (11-4 UFC, W2) It’s a testament to his BJJ expertise that he was able to dominate much bigger fighters at middleweight, so imagine what he’s capable of now.  Welterweight is a division of wrestlers, but why would you even think of rolling with him?  I say give him Jon Fitch.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Phil Davis d. Wagner Prado via Submission (4:29, R2)

What you need to know: Davis was in dire need of a win after looking decidedly mediocre against Rashad Evans.  The UFC chose to feed him Prado, a powerful but completely unproven 24 year old from Sao Paulo.  This is actually their second encounter, after the first ended in an accidental eye poke.  At the weigh-ins, Prado previewed his new defence:

Nyuck nyuck nyuck.

How it went down: As expected, Davis dominated with his wrestling successfully landing all 4 of his takedown attempts.  If he’d been working on his stand-up, he didn’t get a chance to show it.  Prado escaped a tight arm triangle, but Davis transitioned flawlessly into an anaconda choke for the win.

What’s next for Prado: (0-1 UFC, L1) Cult stardom.  Seriously, the man is one of the most expressive fighters I’ve ever seen, wearing every possible emotion proudly on that fat face of his.  Roger Hollett and Fabio Maldonado are logical match-ups, but I’d love to see him fight Joey Beltran (should he defeat Anthony Perosh in December).

What’s next for Davis: (6-1 UFC, W1) Better competition.  This was a good confidence builder and a reminder of how dangerous his wrestling savvy can be when combined with his knack for submissions, but it doesn’t do a lot to improve his standing.  A fight with the Chad Griggs (who Prado replaced)/Cyrille Diabaté winner is a possibility, but if the UFC were willing to risk their prospects, the best possible opponent is Glover Teixeira.

Welterweight Bout: Jon Fitch d. Erick Silva via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

What you need to know: Nearly unbeatable for most of his career, it was shocking to see Fitch without a win since August 2010.  Silva is the hottest welterweight prospect in the business, having annihilated his first three UFC opponents (including a dubious disqualification loss to Carlo Prater).

How it went down: Silva seemed oblivious to his opponent’s reputation, refusing to get stuck to the mat and taking the fight to Fitch in the second round.  I was rooting for the Brazilian, but this encounter was a testament to Fitch’s skill and determination.  Even when Silva sank in a deep choke that would have finished any other fighter, Fitch stayed calm and eventually worked his way to a dominant position.  Fitch is rightfully criticized for playing it safe, but he did everything humanly possible to pound out Silva.  The man is tough.  These two earned every penny of their Fight of the Night bonus.

What’s next for Silva: (2-2 UFC, L1) Living and learning.  He has nothing to be ashamed of and from what I’ve seen a championship is still in his future.  He could face another prospect in Siyar Bahadurzada or the winner of the Seth Baczynski/Kyle Noke fight at UFC on FX 6.

What’s next for Fitch: (14-2-1 UFC, W1) John Hathaway, Mike Pierce or the loser of the St-Pierre/Carlos Condit title match.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Glover Teixeira d. Fabio Maldonado via Doctor Stoppage (5:00, R2)

What you need to know: With one win in the UFC, Teixeira quickly became the guy that nobody wanted to fight.  It probably has something to do with his 17 fight win streak that includes a litany of well known mixed martial artists.  Shogun ducked him and Rampage got injured, so Maldonado stepped up.

How it went down: Teixeira showed why he’s so highly regarded, effortlessly mixing up his striking and his wrestling.  He bludgeoned Maldonado on the ground, though he looked tired at the end of the first and was wobbled by a left hook.  Made painfully aware of Maldonado’s boxing prowess, Teixeira took him down again in the second and resumed the assault.  The referee could have called it on several occasions, but I was more disturbed by Maldonado’s corner not throwing in the towel.  Protect your fighter.

What’s next for Maldonado: (1-3 UFC, L3) He seriously needs to drop a weight class.  It’s just too easy for him to get taken down at 205.  He could be a force at middleweight.  I’m predicting he’ll drop and face someone like Brit Tom Watson.  Why?  Because it’s my blog, that’s why!

What’s next for Teixeira: (2-0 UFC, W17) A top ten opponent.  The UFC has to strike while the iron is hot and there’s enough mystique surrounding Teixeira to sustain his push.  Rampage remains an option when he recovers or they could pull the trigger with Davis.  If they want to play it safe, pair him up with Aussie slugger James Te-Huna.

Heavyweight Bout: Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira d. Dave Herman via Submission (4:31, R2)

What you need to know: The last time they were in Brazil, Big Nog rejuvenated his career with a knockout of Brendan Schaub.  He would then have his arm broken by Frank Mir, but after less than a year he made his emotional return.  Herman did a great job of hyping the fight, claiming that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu didn’t actually work.

How it went down: Herman used low kicks to stay at range but Minotauro was relentless in his pursuit, continually pressing forward with straight punches.  Eventually, the fight made its way to the ground and Herman showed his respect for Jiu-Jitsu by defending himself well.  In the second, Nogueira searched for multiple submissions before finally securing an inescapable armbar.

What’s next for Herman: (1-3 UFC, L3) A pink slip, normally…but every guy Herman lost to is either in or near the top 10 so can he really be blamed for that?  I say he gets another shot, likely against Shane del Rosario, Christian Morecraft (currently dealing with some legal issues) or Stipe Miocic.

What’s next for Nogueira: (5-3 UFC, W1) Am I the only one who would be happy seeing this guy fight forever?  Just a class act through and through.  I tweeted that he made an effort to shake the hands of everyone at the weigh-in, even Arianny, which struck me as something only he would do for some reason.  He has no interest in a title run as long as his boy Junior dos Santos has it, so the UFC is free to book him based on entertainment value.  Stefan Struve, anyone?

Light Heavyweight Bout: Anderson Silva d. Stephan Bonnar via TKO (4:40, R1)

What you need to know: Some fights are made for the sake of competition.  Some fights are made to sell PPVs.  Some fights are made for championships.  I have no idea why this fight was made, but as the date neared I inexplicably became more and more excited for it.  It helps that Bonnar is one of the most hard-working and endearing fighters in the MMA community and seeing him get one more big money fight is wonderful.  Add in the fact that it was made to save the card after a featherweight title fight was erased by injuries and how could you not appreciate this?

How it went down: Exactly as you’d expect.  Bonnar had the perfect strategy, charging Silva from the opening bell and holding him against the cage.  In my opinion, this was his only chance of winning this fight: pressure and neutralize.  Silva counter wrestled, fighting for underhooks and managing to push Bonnar away.  That’s when things got weird.  Rather than circling away from the cage, Silva dropped his hands and planted himself against the cage.  Bonnar started to wing punches and Silva went into Matrix mode.  At one point, he side-stepped a spinning back kick from Bonnar and then moved back to the spot where Bonnar’s foot landed.  That was some David Blaine s**t.  A trip had Bonnar scrambling and Silva hounded him like the Predator, launching a high knee that might have shattered The American Psycho’s sternum.  And yes, I’m aware I threw three allusions in there.  I regret nothing.

(click to enlarge)

What’s next for Bonnar: (8-7 UFC, L1) Before facing Silva, he was unofficially retired so could it be time for the real thing?  I hope not.  For whatever reason, Dana White seems to be against the idea of having Bonnar and Griffin coach a season of TUF (though they might not want to either), but I think it’s only fitting that they conclude their careers with one more meeting.

What’s next for Silva: (16-0 UFC, W17) Immortality.  Though he may have already achieved it.

The champ and Conan O’Brien fanatic Izabel Goulart.

The Ultimate The Ultimate Fighter: TUF 16 v. TUF: The Smashes – Week 3

Team Colours:

Team Carwin (actually yellow on the show, but brown for the purposes of this article)
Team Nelson
Team Pearson (actually blue on the show, but red for the purposes of this article)
Team Sotiropoulos

(TUF: The Smashes – October 3, 2012, TUF 16 – October 5, 2012)

The Cast

If any of these Smashes guys were competing in the US edition they’d need subtitles.  Being someone who watches the occasional BBC program and spends way too much time badly imitating accents, I quite enjoy the way these guys talk, but I can picture people having to rewind their DVRs to decipher the dialogue.  Throw in British and Australian slang and you have a recipe for disaster.

Smashes gives us spotlights on Bola Omoyele, Brad Scott, and Xavier Lucas (who lived in South Africa and had to deal with people giving him guff over his stammering; so Kenyon Martin basically).

The American Xavier Lucas

The stories aren’t thrilling, but it gives us some basic information until it’s their time to fight.  Speaking of which, the two contestants picked to fight this week are Luke Newman and Robert Whittaker.  Newman looks like the lovechild of John Turturro and Bret from Flight of the Conchords

Newman seems like an unassuming guy who isn’t looking for a fight, but is more than happy to punch your teeth out should it come to it.  He’s another former troublemaker who was deeply affected by the death of his Nan (“grandmother” and yes, I had to look that up).  He has a shirt dedicated to her and even though I shouldn’t, I must point out an egregious typo.

That’s right, everybody look at the insensitive and anal blogger.

Whittaker expresses how he feels he’s been overlooked.  The other Aussies confirm that he might be the best welterweight on the team.  He certainly thinks so, because when Sotiropoulos tells him he has a good chance of winning the fight, Whittaker says he has a 100% chance and that you “can’t get any more than that.”

While Smashes focuses on a tough morning training session that Pearson springs on Team UK, the Classic cast is taken out to a screening of the new MMA-themed Kevin James’ film “Here Comes The Boom”.  The whole segment is reminiscent of American Idol and that’s not something I ever wanted to write about The Ultimate Fighter.

I have to go after Julian Lane for a minute.  First, he flat out refuses to do a second round of cardio, uttering the two words every coach loves to hear: I can’t.  He admits that his cardio isn’t up to snuff and that he’ll be in trouble if the fight lasts longer than two minutes.  Two minutes!  Second, he ignores his corner’s instructions to stay away from the cage during the fight, though in his “defence” (for lack of a better term) he gets so blown up in the second round that I’m not sure he can even hear anything beyond a faint buzzing.  Thirdly, his whole sob story revolves around getting fired and his girlfriend having to work two jobs to support them and their child.  That sounds more like a deadbeat than a sympathetic figure.  He also mentions how he loves riding his Harley and wants to use the money to buy a Cruiser.

***** please.

*spoiler* He loses the fight and then starts crying about how he has nothing back home.  Sell your f***ing motorcycle!  Sell the jet-ski!

Michael Hill, kind-hearted Canuck that he is, offers some outstanding advice: Take these next four weeks and become a better man.  Lane just sobs, saying “I failed my daughter, man.”  You failed your daughter when you spent all that time taking care of that pink mohawk instead of holding down a job, motherf***er.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: The Smashes

The Coaches

Nelson decides to pick the next fight by drawing straws.  He clearly could not care less about this show, saying that he chose this method because it was less stressful.  He does show some signs of life when his fighters question whether Lane’s opponent, Bristol Marunde, actually made weight.  He has no actual evidence so when he asks Dana White about it, White is absolutely dumbfounded.

The Smashes coaches are far more lively this episode.  Pearson announces Robert Whittaker as “Richard” during the fight selection which was slightly disrespectful even though it was clearly an accident (he later says, “I can’t believe I f***ed up the first one”).  He makes up for it by asking Sotiropoulos “country or teammate?”  (Sotiropoulos and Newman train together with American Top Team).  He shows a lot of hesitation before declaring that Whittaker is his boy, but I can’t imagine anyone felt good about that.  Still, it was a nasty move on par with TUF 5 when BJ Penn told the contestants that if they didn’t want to have anything to do with Jens Pulver to just raise their hands and be honest about it.  Now that was nasty.

Sotiropoulos counters during the weigh-in by not acknowledging Colin Fletcher’s victory last week (he claims the score is “1-nil”) and pretending that he doesn’t know who Newman is.  I thought that was smart, but then realized what a dick move it was when you consider that they train together.  Damn, son!

Advantage: TUF: The Smashes 10-8

Shenanigans

The pranks this week revolve around the coaches…or at least they would if the fighters even realized that the TUF 16 coaches were alive.

The Aussies look to get back at Team UK for making a mockery of Sotiropoulos’ picture by taking an Arianny Celeste poster from the house and sticking Pearson’s face on it.  This leads to awkward out-of-context comments:

Benny Alloway: I guess we’re going to see Ross Pearson in some UFC ring girl clothes tomorrow.
Sotiropoulos: I thought a bikini would look great on Ross.

The whole procedure takes the Australian team many hours to set up and the end result is…kind of crappy.  Team UK doesn’t pretend to be amused or offended, noting that the other team must have spent way too much time on it.

When you look like this, everything seems boring.

 Smashes star “Freakshow” Fletcher continues to carry the comedic load, first constructing some weird, kind of phallic helmet to try and scare his mates…

“Kind of” might not be strong enough.

…then engaging in a juvenile contest with last week’s opponent, Ben Wall.  Wall says that “anything Fletcher can do, he can do better”, which I’m sure will be resolved in a mature and educational fashion.  They decide to snort lines of wasabi and Piri-piri sauce.  Wall throws up, so I guess…Fletcher wins?  He compares the experience to having “dirt smeared in me eyes…and kicked in the nuts…and me nose pulled nine inches off me face.”

Remember kids: Games like this never have a winner.

Of all things, this is what unites the two nations.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: The Smashes

Drama

You might have noticed that I didn’t mention Classic in the “Shenanigans” section.  I could easily have put Lane’s story there because hell, it made me laugh, but other than that there wasn’t much comedy.  As funny as these guys can be sometimes, this has to be the most boring cast since TUF 11 (Liddell/Ortiz).

However, both series’ decide to treat us to some weigh-in drama!  I know that it’s down to a science at this point, but the whole process still fascinates me.  Newman is dealing with the fact that he’s been sipping coconut water on the side (the sodium content retains water in the body) and Marunde is just dealing with being a large welterweight.  The Smashes ordeal is slightly more interesting, but only because he lies to his coaches about his diet.  Marunde, not the most electrifying character anyway, simply says how hard it will be to make weight and then…does it.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: The Smashes

The Fights

TUF 16 Welterweight Bout: Bristol Marunde d. Julian Lane via UD (20-18 x3)

Marunde is far more experienced than Lane and almost everyone was disappointed that he didn’t finish Lane off.  Lane shows some power, but his bad cardio was obvious to everyone and he was nearly defenceless in the second round.  Marunde could have been more aggressive with the leg kicks but he was controlling the fight and I can understand why he didn’t want to risk getting caught by a lucky punch especially in this tournament format.  Seriously though, Lane looked terrible, blinking a lot and taking deep breaths through his mouth.  If I saw someone like that at a club, I’d call a cab for him.

TUF: The Smashes Welterweight Bout: Robert Whittaker d. Luke Newman via KO (:19, R1)

Newman comes out throwing some scary hooks and he connects solidly at least once.  Whittaker has a good chin and he escapes.  When they get off the cage, Whittaker ducks under and connects with a lightning right directly on Newman’s chin that drops him.  The ref can’t get in there fast enough to call this one.

This fight comparison is actually closer than you might expect.  Marunde and Lane fought hard and even though Lane was tired, I never felt like he quit mentally.  Whittaker and Newman showed a lot in less than 20 seconds and it would have been great to get a couple of rounds out of them.

Advantage: 10-10 Draw

Final Score: 50-45 TUF: The Smashes

…and another thing!  Nelson’s straw drawing method looks doubly stupid right now because Lane could have used the extra time to get his cardio up to snuff.  I’m sorry, I can’t stop complaining about how much the US coaches suck.

Smashes gets the clear cut win, but both series showed a lot of improvement this week.  Even the ratings bounced back, with Classic cracking a million viewers again after plummeting below 800,000 the week before (an all-time low).  The TUF 16 preview promises to throw down the gauntlet with a Lane freak out next week so Smashes is going to need something special to extend their lead.

The Smashes victory means the attending ring girl gets the love.  Take us out, Kristie!

The Ultimate The Ultimate Fighter: TUF 16 v. TUF: The Smashes – Week 2

As my good friend Jermaine Dupri would say, I’ve been slackin’ on my pimpin’

…so I guess it’s time to turn it up.

Team Colours:

Team Carwin (actually yellow on the show, but brown for the purposes of this article)
Team Nelson
Team Pearson (actually blue on the show, but red for the purposes of this article)
Team Sotiropoulos

(TUF: The Smashes – September 26, 2012, TUF 16 – September 28, 2012)

The Cast

Things picked up last week as two genuinely entertaining personalities emerged: TUF 16’s Matt Secor (who made the remarkable comparison between a teammate’s hair and a vagina) and TUF: The SmashesColin Fletcher.  Secor administered some more sick burns, saying that he heard military man Colton Smith had to learn to walk when he was 3 months old because nobody wanted to hold him.  That is cold-blooded.  When habitual line stepper Nic Herron-Webb says he hopes Secor makes it to the quarter-finals, Secor shuts him down by saying “Why?  You’re not gonna be there, bud.”  This is after he quizzes Herron-Webb about his jiu-jitsu credentials.  Normally I hate a loud mouth, but not when the targets are asking for it.

Sam Alvey (Carwin’s #1 pick) is picked to fight Joey Rivera, who Nelson describes as a jack of all trades: in other words, he’s going to get smashed.  Both guys actually come off pretty well, with Alvey being a former band nerd who ended up marrying America’s Next Top Model cycle 11 winner, McKey Sullivan…

Now we know why he’s smiling all the time.

 …and Rivera explaining that he got into fighting to defend his mom from some bad boyfriends.  That’s a good son, right there.

Igor Araujo even scores some points for TUF 16 with his unique Brazilian/French accent!

The TUF: The Smashes cast get a visit from UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos and the results are…underwhelming.  I’m not surprised the contestants are star struck, but it doesn’t make for great television.

Otherwise, the spotlight is focused squarely on Fletcher aka “Freakshow”.  Like many fighters, Fletcher used to be bullied.  I wouldn’t have known from his, er, “unique” looks.  He starts talking about his wife and I’m thinking, “Oh, this should be good.”

That lady on the left is his wife.  No, seriously, his wife.

Holy s**t.  She looks like Bridgette Wilson-Sampras.  More highlights from Fletcher include referring to his fighting style as a giraffe cross-bred with an alligator, how his opponents can’t figure out what he’s going to do next because even he doesn’t know, and an exhibition of strikes designed to take his opponent’s eye out.  Fletcher is officially amazing.

Fletcher: “I feel like David Blaine’s rabbit.  I’m f***ing magic, son.”

His opponent, Ben Wall, is given the loving nickname “Fox Piss” and I’m not sure what that means but Team UK takes great pleasure in needling him for his sullen disposition.  He reminds me of another TUF veteran, Charles McCarthy (who also earned an endearing nickname, “Captain Miserable”).  His one quirk is that he likes to train to Japanese pop music, but there’s really not much to work with and Fox Piss might have cost The Smashes this round.  Freakshow and his freakishly hot wife aren’t enough to carry the day.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: 16

The Coaches

Pearson and Sotiropoulos seem to be on good terms, but there are finally some signs of tension between the two as they engage in some half-hearted trash talk capped off by this heated exchange:

We’ll see.
We will see.

Oh.  Snap.

I like Carwin, but he is a black hole of charisma and I’m not even sure Nelson even did anything this episode.  The coaches have not been a highlight of either of these shows.

Advantage: 10-10 Draw

Shenanigans

Team Nelson is up to no good again, taking Alvey’s bed and putting it on a flotation device in the pool.  Alvey feigns disappointment and crashes on the couch.  You can almost hear the production team shriveling at this dull turn of events.

Over in Australia, Team UK renews the recent tradition of defacing whatever image they have handy of the other team’s coach.  Fletcher climbs up on a support and places a mustache, an eye patch and a nipple ring on a giant banner featuring Sotiropoulos.  It’s not bad, but nothing is going to beat last season when Team Cruz made a thong for Urijah Faber’s butt chin.

So you’d think Smashes has this in the bag but as usual, Classic is tough to beat when it comes to unintentional comedy.  Alvey comes out wearing his favourite “Spartan” underwear, which causes him to come in super heavy at the weigh-in.  That alone would have been enough, but Rivera steals the show by sharing his philosophy on sex before a fight:

You’re not supposed to have sex before you fight, but having sex with my wife, it makes me feel proud.  I don’t always finish and I’m just doing it for her to make sure that she’s being taken care of properly.  Before I fight I try not to have, um, ejaculation…so I can keep my spiritual energy, keep it all in there.

Hey now!

Advantage: 10-8 TUF: 16 for the near-finish.

Drama

The injury storyline from episode 1 concludes with Michael Pastou (aka “UK Daryl”) being forced to withdraw from the competition.  Everyone is torn up about it and while we’ve seen this happen on TUF before, it never fails to resonate with me.  Win or lose, the program has proven to be such a valuable asset to a fighter’s career and I can’t imagine what it feels like to be so close to the next level only to be knocked back down.  My heart goes out to him.

The drama in the US house revolves around Herron-Webb’s inane attempts to “psyche out” the other team by staying up late whistling, playing pool and skipping rope.  Playing mind games is fine, but when you’re that overt about it you just end up alienating everyone and making yourself a huge target.  Even his teammates can’t stand him.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: The Smashes

The Fights

TUF 16 Welterweight Bout: Joey Rivera d. Sam Alvey via MD (20-18 x2, 19-19)

Almost everyone in the house discussed how much they liked Rivera and how they were going to hate seeing Alvey take him out.  He shocks everyone by coming out firing, throwing two head kicks that Alvey only narrowly blocks.  From there, Rivera gets in close and nearly locks in a standing arm triangle.  The two men trade takedowns, but Rivera is more active going for a guillotine and a triangle from his back.  The second round is similar to the first, but Rivera continually uses his strength advantage to avoid bad positions.  In the middle of the fight, Nelson grabs one of his corner men to demonstrate a proper guillotine choke.  I wonder why more coaches don’t do that.  Regardless, Rivera pulls off the upset and poor Alvey ain’t smilin’ no more.

TUF: The Smashes Lightweight Bout: Colin Fletcher d. Ben Wall via UD (20-18 x3)

Freakshow lives up to his name, coming out in a clown mask and stumbling around like a hammered Keith Jardine.  His gangly body gives him a unique advantage in the clinch as he’s able to land a lot of high knees from that position.  Wall scrambles for a takedown, but Fletcher twists around and starts to work ground and pound from guard.  Somehow, he gets Wall’s back and he locks in a dragon sleeper, which I don’t see too often in MMA (maybe for good reason because Wall doesn’t look close to tapping).  Fletcher may have stolen the 1st with the late activity.  In the 2nd, Fletcher starts to make Wall miss, using every inch of his reach.  When they get back into the clinch, Fletcher bloodies Wall’s face with more high knees.  Here’s how the referee announces the victor: “Unanimous points decision…winner by way of blue corner…Colin Fletcher!”  I have no idea what that means.

A rough translation.

Both fights were solid, but nothing to write home about.  I think we’re likely to see Rivera, Alvey and Fletcher all fighting in the UFC someday.  Sorry, Fox Piss.

Advantage: 10-10 Draw

Final Score: 49-46, TUF: 16

The old guard strikes back, which surprised me as I thought the show was already going downhill.  A couple of things I couldn’t fit in another section; first, after Alvey’s loss, Carwin comforted the team with a mind numbingly boring story about his visit to the Intrepid.  It was like Randy Couture’s monologue in The Expendables, but worse.  Second, the totally hetero comment of the week courtesy of Herron-Webb: “I’m just gonna lay in Sam’s bed.

Uh…did I mention that Arianny Celeste was on ring girl duty this week?  Take us out, Arianny!

UFC On Fuel TV: Struve v. Miocic Thoughts

The UFC’s first card in Nottingham, England turned out to be a night for the prospects.  When you think about it, that is ideally what these free cards should be for: exciting matchups and the promotion of future contenders.  The company’s television deals placed a spotlight on the ratings, but as time passes they’ll see that these cards will be invaluable for showcasing new talent, even if the numbers don’t show it right away.

Featherweight Bout: Robbie Peralta d. Jason Young via KO (:23, R1)

What you need to know: Peralta was coming off of a ten month layoff, but he’s riding a 9 fight win streak that stretches back to November 2009.  Young is an exciting striker who has had uneven results inside the octagon, going the distance in losing efforts against respected featherweights Dustin Poirier and Michihiro Omigawa.  I don’t know much about Peralta, but I’ve seen Young and I was certain his technical striking would give him the advantage in this one.

How it went down: Young might be nicknamed “Shotgun”, but it was Peralta who came out swinging like Smackwater Jack, eventually catching the Brit with a devastating right and following up with punches that left him stiff as a board.  I’m pretty sure that sentence made no sense and frankly I don’t care.

What’s next for Young: (1-3 UFC, Lost last 1) Young is a game fighter, but all of his appearances have been outside of the United States.  This was probably his last shot for now, but a few wins should have him on the short list when the UFC comes back to Europe.

What’s next for Peralta: (2-0 UFC [1 NC], Won last 9) When you’ve been on the shelf for a while, you have to do something to remind people who you are and that’s exactly what Peralta did with this vicious knockout.  Easily the most memorable win of his career, it would be tempting for the UFC to throw him to the wolves, but the matchup that makes the most sense for him is fellow up and comer and Dragonball enthusiast Marcus Brimage.  Whoever wins would earn themselves a booking with a top 10 opponent.

Catchweight Bout (183 lb.): Gunnar Nelson d. DaMarques Johnson via Submission (3:34, R1)

What you need to know: There was some controversy surrounding Johnson’s agreeing to take this fight only 56 days after having his brain shut down by Mike Swick and for good reason: he shouldn’t be fighting.  “Darkness” also missed the original catchweight (175 lb.) badly, coming in at 183.  Nelson is a renowned grappler who entered the fight undefeated with 9 straight finishes.  At age 24, he is arguably the top prospect in all of Europe.  Know that I’m doing everything I can to avoid making a Nelson reference…uh oh….here it comes!

With your love, I put my arms around you…and choke you out!

Whew!  Needed to get that out of the system.

How it went down: I’m not a doctor and maybe Nelson would have handled Johnson anyway, but you have to think the damage from his last fight could have affected Johnson’s training and weight cutting.  When the fight inevitably hit the ground, it was all Nelson as he made it look easy transitioning to a rear naked choke for the finish.

What’s next for Johnson: (4-6 UFC, L3) Looking at those numbers, you have to think Johnson is a guaranteed cut, but I think he gets another chance.  He did the UFC a favour taking this fight.  Match-ups with Papy Abedi, Keith Wisniewski or Lance Benoist could all be good fights while at the same time determining who should stay on the island.

What’s next for Nelson: (1-0 UFC, W10) Booking prospects has to be one of the most difficult parts of Joe Silva’s job.  Do you match him up with other prospects or give him respected names on the downside of their careers?  It doesn’t help that Nelson was devoid of enthusiasm in his post-fight interview, because, you know:

He grew up in a land without sun!

There aren’t a lot of welterweight prospects in the winner’s circle.  A matchup with Che Mills seems counterproductive for both fighters’ careers, so I could see him being fed journeyman Brock Jardine.  The most challenging fight would be recent middleweight transplant Kyle Noke who looked outstanding at UFC 152.

Middleweight Bout: Brad Tavares d. Tom Watson via Split Decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)

What you need to know: This is an example of good matchmaking.  In one corner, you have Watson who is a star in Britain; in the other, Tavares, a young fighter with a respectable 3-1 record inside the octagon.  If Watson wins, it further boosts his ability to draw overseas; if Tavares wins, it gives him a notable name on his resume (besides, um, Phil Baroni) and pushes him towards a match with a top 20 middleweight.

How it went down: It might not have been one for the highlight reel, but Tavares was able to establish a winning formula of jabs and takedowns to pull off the minor upset.

What’s next for Watson: (0-1 UFC, L1) Another appearance on a free card, most likely.  Lucky for him, there’s a lot of those and it shouldn’t be too long before he’s brawling with the likes of Magnus Cedenblad, Buddy Roberts or Clifford Starks.

What’s next for Tavares: (4-1 UFC, W2) Tavares is still searching for that captivating “moment” in his young career and until he finds it the UFC will continue to bring him along slowly.  Joe Silva should book him to face fellow TUF 11 cast member Chris Camozzi or former light heavyweight prospect Luiz Cané, depending on who is victorious at UFC 153 in October.

Featherweight Bout: Akira Corassani d. Andy Ogle via Split Decision (29-28, 27-30, 29-28)

What you need to know: Two recent Ultimate Fighter contestants made their long awaited debuts and they couldn’t be on farther ends of the spectrum in terms of popularity.  Ogle endeared himself to fans with his positive attitude and honest, occasionally uncomfortable displays of emotion.  Corassani is a douche bag with a stupid hat.  I was rooting harder for Ogle than any other fighter on this card and considering my obsession with Dan Hardy (speaking of uncomfortable), that’s saying something.

How it went down: Corassani won a close decision, but the finish of this fight only added to his notoriety and Ogle’s likeability.  Ogle just couldn’t get out of his own way, making a lot of silly mistakes and getting hit hard by Corassani who has some heavy hands at 145.  The third round closed with Ogle unloading a flurry of ground and pound, but he was behind on the scorecards and was unable to get the stoppage he needed.

What’s next for Ogle: (0-1 UFC, L1) Like Watson, a win would have done wonders for him but for now he remains a UK attraction.  He’s eager and well-liked, so there’s a good chance that he we see him flown in as a replacement before the year is done.  I would love to see him face off with TUF: Brazil’s Vina, a fight that would likely end with both fighters crying their eyes out no matter who won.

What’s next for Corassani: (1-0 UFC, W1) Besides an influx of hate mail?  A matchup with “Blessed” Max Holloway would be instant fireworks, but he could be booked to face the winner of UFC 153’s Sam Sicilia/Rony Jason fight.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Jimi Manuwa d. Kyle Kingsbury via TKO (5:00, R2)

What you need to know: Kingsbury is the latest recipient of the “he must have parked in Dana White’s spot” award.  Seriously, who did he piss off to get saddled with Glover Teixeira in his last bout and now hard hitting Jimi Manuwa?  Manuwa isn’t the prospect that Teixeira is, but it felt like they were setting “Kingsbu” up for a fall here.

How it went down: I posted a grisly photo of Kingsbury’s face after his fight with Fabio Maldonado before and this was just as bad only this time a doctor mercifully stepped in to declare his eye too swollen to continue.

What’s next for Kingsbury: (4-4 UFC, L3) It wasn’t that long ago that Kingsbu was on a 4 fight winning streak, but a disastrous run-in with Stephan Bonnar exposed his shortcomings and he’s yet to bounce back.  Even though I feel he’s been shafted by the booking, it’s doubtful he stays on the roster.

What’s next for Manuwa: (1-0 UFC, W12) I’ve seen it suggested that he face Teixeira should he get past Maldonado, but there’s no way Manuwa is ready for that yet.  It’s more likely he gets the winner of Cyrille Diabaté/Chad Griggs (so, Griggs) or Stanislav Nedkov (who has a similar pedigree) should he defeat Thiago Silva.

Welterweight Bout: Che Mills d. Duane Ludwig via TKO (2:28, R1)

What you need to know: This had all the makings of a fight of the night candidate.  Mills was inexplicably thrown to the wolves in his last appearance where he was bludgeoned by Rory MacDonald.  Stylistically, Ludwig made a lot more sense and this was a Fight of the Night candidate…

How it went down: …or at least it was until Ludwig blew his knee out in the first round.  Too bad, because it was shaping up to be a good one.

What’s next for Ludwig: (4-5 UFC, L3) I have to think that Ludwig is going to be kept on here, despite suffering three straight first round losses.  Not just because cutting an injured performer is a crummy thing to do…

*ahem*

…but because Ludwig is a veteran who always looks to excite the crowd.  That’s a valuable commodity.  I haven’t heard about the severity of the injury, so I’m not going to speculate on potential opponents.  Let’s just hope he gets better.

What’s next for Mills: (2-1 UFC, W1) It’s good to win, but obviously this wasn’t the way Mills would have wanted it.  This result doesn’t make it any easier for the UFC to evaluate him either.  In his first fight, he knocked out Chris Cope in 40 seconds, but Cope didn’t show much at the top level.  The second fight with MacDonald was a total mismatch.  And now this.  Sherdog proposed a match-up with Seth Baczynski, which is a little unfair to Baczynski who has been on a serious roll.  For sheer violence, I’d love to see him throw down with Matt Riddle.

Welterweight Bout: John Hathaway d. John Maguire via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

What you need to know: Hathaway went from hyped to barely registering after losing to Mike Pyle and even though he won his next two, he appears to have lost his dynamism.  He seemed ripe for an upset courtesy of Maguire, fresh off a Submission of the Night victory over DaMarques Johnson.

How it went down: I normally wouldn’t admit this, but…I fell asleep.  When I woke up, Anik and Florian were saying something about how it wasn’t the most exciting fight so apparently I didn’t miss much.  Later, Dana White singled out the fight as being the only stinker of the night.  Unkind.

What’s next for Maguire: (2-1 UFC, L1) You hate to see someone given a chance to step up and then fall completely flat.  Hathaway might have been too much for Maguire at this point, though he’d been unbeaten since dropping to welterweight two years ago.  He’s far from a lost cause and a good showing against Amir Sadollah, injury plagued Rich Attonito or Pascal Krauss could help him start back up the rankings.

What’s next for Hathaway: (7-1 UFC, W3) The opportunity to get back in the top 10.  There was nobody hotter than Hathaway after a 5 fight win streak that included wins over Rick Story and Diego Sanchez, but since that loss to Pyle several fighters have leapfrogged him.  The timing isn’t right for him to face the winner of Rory MacDonald/BJ Penn in December so look for him to face the Aaron Simpson/Mike Pierce (October) winner or a returning Thiago Alves.

Lightweight Bout: Matt Wiman d. Paul Sass via Submission (3:48, R1)

What you need to know: Sass is a submission wiz who had finished 12 out of 13 opponents by tap out, but stylistically Wiman is the biggest challenge he’s faced.  Wiman is super aggressive and difficult to finish.  He’s never been submitted in his career and he has good ground and pound, which would help him against Sass’ attacks from the bottom.

How it went down: After a bad kick resulted in Wiman getting taken down I figured it was all over, but he shocked everyone by taking it to Sass on the ground.  Sass scrambled beautifully, but Wiman showed great composure and he was able to secure a tap out with a deep arm bar.  Afterwards, both men were emotional, with Wiman breaking down while discussing how much hard work goes into preparing for these fights.  It got a little dusty in my living room.

What’s next for Sass: (3-1 UFC, L1) Growth.  It’s easy for me to say now, but Sass definitely looked nervous before the fight started.  Representing the UFC in his hometown for the first time, you’d have to be made of stone to not be affected.  Jamie Varner, Tony Ferguson or Edson Barboza would all be good tests to see how he bounces back from his first career loss.

What’s next for Wiman: (9-4 UFC, W2) You have to give Wiman credit for never being satisfied.  He’s made a living with the UFC, but he still looks to improve even after 13 appearances.  Fights with Joe Lauzon or Khabib Nurmagomedov could finally get him into the top 10, but the most compelling matchup would be with TJ Grant who just came out victorious in a barn burner against Evan Dunham.

Bantamweight Bout: Brad Pickett d. Yves Jabouin via KO (3:40, R1)

What you need to know: “Tiger” Jabouin is a fighter on the rise, undefeated in three fights since moving down to 135.  Pickett missed his chance at a title shot after losing to Renan Barão, but he remains a relevant top 10 bantamweight.

How it went down: Another exciting fight that ended all too soon.  On the other hand, the stoppage was freakin’ exciting.  Pickett, who hasn’t had a knockout in 4 years, lived up to his “One Punch” moniker levelling Jabouin with an uppercut.  Jabouin was actually winning the round, dodging in and out skillfully, but there is no substitute for pure power.  Then this happened:

What’s next for Jabouin: (3-2 UFC, 1-2 WEC, L1) Like so many before him, he got caught.  He’ll improve.  I’d like to see how he’d fare against grappler Roland Delorme, English striker Vaughan Lee or even Scott Jorgensen, another good bantamweight who’s fallen on hard times.

What’s next for Pickett (2-1 UFC, 3-1 WEC, W2) The two best options are Michael McDonald and Urijah Faber.  A win over either man would vault Pickett to no. 1 contender status, but a McDonald loss is bad for business in the long run.  I’d pick Faber, which is also the more profitable match at the moment.

Welterweight Bout: Dan Hardy d. Amir Sadollah via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28 x2)

What you need to know: Hardy is fighting in his hometown of Nottingham for the first time and somehow resisted coming out to this:

Is that lame now?  Was it ever cool?

How it went down: It probably helps that Sadollah had almost no chance of finishing him, but Hardy looked great mixing up his strikes with takedowns and ground and pound.  It was the most versatile and mature Hardy has ever been.

What’s next for Sadollah: (6-4 UFC, L1) Another meaningless fight?  Sadollah has lost 2 of 3, with his only win being a close split decision against Jorge Lopez.  He’s looked terrible against any fighter even close to the top 20 and it’s not like he goes out to put on a show.  I’m can’t even pretend to care about who he’s fighting next.

What’s next for Hardy: (5-4 UFC, W2) GSP!  Okay, maybe not.  He’s a long shot to ever fight for the title again, but you’ve got to respect that mindset.  If you’re not in this to be the best, what are you in it for?  For now, he can continue putting on entertaining fights against the likes of Noke, Sean Pierson or James Head.

Heavyweight Bout: Stefan Struve d. Stipe Miocic via TKO (3:50, R2)

What you need to know: Miocic has climbed the ladder the right way, taking out one tough veteran (Joey Beltran) and two fellow prospects (Philip De Fries and Shane Del Rosario) to earn his spot in the main event.  He’s part of the new breed of heavyweights who manage to combine size and athleticism in a frightening package.  Struve, meanwhile, has been on the fringe of the upper echelon for years now.  He’s only 24 years old and he already has 8 wins in 11 octagon appearances.  A win over Miocic isn’t likely to affect his ranking much, but it should allow him another chance to establish himself in the top 10.

How it went down: Struve has been defensive when the topic of his chin comes up, saying that anyone would have been knocked out by Roy Nelson and Junior dos Santos.  While Struve might be correct in asserting that his chin isn’t weak, he has been doing a poor job of protecting it and in the heavyweight division that leads to concussions.  Miocic wasn’t able to capitalize on this early, winning the first round with body punches but never going in for the kill.  When he started letting loose in the second round, Struve finally took advantage of his reach and scored with stiff jabs.  Both men looked to be on tired legs, but it was Struve who strung together a series of uppercuts, forcing Herb Dean to jump in.

What’s next for Miocic: (3-1 UFC, L1) Another main card appearance.  He and Struve earned the Fight of the Night award, so I doubt they’ll be unhappy with his performance.  He remains a fresh face in the heavyweight division and he should end up with the loser of the Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira/Dave Herman.  Speaking of which…

What’s next for Struve: (9-3 UFC, W4) …the winner of Nogueira/Herman should face Struve.  After the win, White said that Struve was definitely in the top 10, though I have him at #11 because I’m a jerk like that.  He has more UFC wins than almost every top heavyweight, but I’d like to see him beat Nogueira/Herman, Cheick Kongo or Mark Hunt (yes, Mark Hunt!) to seal the deal.

Like Kongo, the Super Samoan is known for his memorable physique.