The Ultimate Fighter 17: Team Jones v. Team Sonnen Week – 10 Recap

It’s time for the quarterfinals meaning four fights in two weeks.  Normally this is where the show starts to lose its charm for me, but since this has been a season where the quality of the fights has matched the strength of the personalities, I’m actually looking forward to the upcoming episodes.

Team Colours:

Team Jones
Team Sonnen (actually black on the show, but blue for the purposes of this article)

I continue to have mixed feelings about “Bubba” McDaniel.  It’s admirable that he has a pragmatic view of fighting and the he understands how far winning the tournament would go towards setting his life in order.  However, his constant politicking and complaining makes it abundantly clear that he doesn’t see himself as a future champion in this sport.  He’s looking for a job and a paycheck, not a belt around his waist.  Mere moments after being told he’s fighting Uriah Hall, he’s back to complaining as usual and that should tell you everything you need to know about why it’s taken him this long to make it big.

A visit from Ronda Rousey has Kevin Gastelum choosing his words carefully as I’m sure he’s wary of the wrath of his girlfriend.  She shows up and proceeds to slap Gastelum around, much to the delight of his teammates.

I’d love to try this, even though I’d probably be unconscious or crippled seconds later.

They don’t show too much of the training session, maybe because of time constraints or not wanting to give too much away since she’ll be a coach on the next TUF season.  I also wonder if things might have been a little awkward, since I’ll bet most of these guys don’t have serious female training partners and they’re especially not used to taking instructions from one.  Tor Troéng definitely has a serious “women are good for serving ale and nothing else!” expression on his face, though I might just be thinking that because he looks like a Viking.

At the weigh-ins: Sweet, sweet blurred out genitalia.

The first fight between Gastelum and Collin Hart is a thriller…all 30 seconds of it anyway.  Hart lives up to his reputation, coming forward non-stop at Gastelum and pushing the action to the cage.  Gastelum is not shaken in the slightest and a furious exchange ends with Hart getting rocked and face planting:

It kind of looks like Hart is demonstrating the worm.

The funny thing is that Hart’s technique actually looks better, but Gastelum has got that power.  Hart partially regains consciousness, but he’s unable to defend himself from a huge hammer fist and Steve Mazzagatti gets in there for the save.  Thankfully, Gastelum had already stopped himself.  It’s another impressive victory for the youngest guy on the show.  The power of Ronda compels him!

Before the next fight, we learn a little more about Dylan Andrews and his close relationship with Team Jones kickboxing instructor Stonehorse Goeman.  The two bond over their tribal heritage and you can tell it’s benefitting their training sessions as well.  Andrews says that Goeman represents a father figure he never had.  Just after Andrews steps into the cage for his match with Luke Barnatt, there’s a nice shot of Goeman showing Andrews a picture of his family to remind him what he’s fighting for.

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that Mike Tyson makes an appearance, which I believe is the second time he’s been on TUF.

The first significant action sees Andrews landing a quick 1-2 and using that execute a takedown.  It’s an interesting reversal as Barnatt had considered himself to be the superior of the two on the ground and he had planned to bring the action down.  Andrews holds on tight and scores a second takedown when Barnatt goes for a judo trip (maybe too much Ronda…).  Throughout all of this, Barnatt is super active off of his back and it’s possible that he is winning from the bottom.  Andrews rolls for a guillotine, but it’s not tight enough and Barnatt gets back up again.  It’s a tough round to score with Barnatt looking good on the feet and off his back, but Andrews had positional dominance.  I gave Andrews a narrow 10-9 round.

Andrews gets in close over and over again and lands some thudding body shots.  Both men approach the second round like they might have lost the first and that leads to some fantastic work.  In the blink of an eye, Barnatt rips Andrews off the cage and falls on top of him and into full mount.  The British giant is showing off his cardio.  Andrews surprises me by having enough in the tank to reverse and get into Barnatt’s guard.  Barnatt needs to get up, but Andrews manages to stay on top despite lacking consistent ground and pound.  I thought Andrews took that round too, but apparently Barnatt did win one and we’re treated to a 3rd round.  Andrews’ corner shows him the picture of his family again.

Barnatt still looks good, but he’s allowing way too many hard shots to get through.  Andrews is relentless and looks like he’s almost in tears as he unloads a final volley of punches that give Herb Dean no choice but to call off the fight.  This was an emotional one and I’m not going to lie, it got dusty in my house by the end.  Best fight of the season so far.

Next week: Josh Samman v. Jimmy Quinlan and Bubba v. Hall.  I’m taking Quinlan and Hall.  Two more for the bad guys.

The Ultimate Fighter 17: Team Jones v. Team Sonnen – Week 9 Recap

With the wildcard matchup this week between “Bubba” McDaniel and “King” Casey, let us take a look at the brief history of the second chance:

  • TUF 11 (Liddell v. Ortiz): The debut of the wildcard means two less fighters in the house, which is a practical choice as a smaller cast should give us more time to learn and care about them: Unfortunately, this cast is horrible.  They were also snake-bitten and a multitude of injuries leads to journeyman Kyacey Uscola and one-dimensional Kris McCray being “chosen” for the wildcard spot.  I’ll give McCray credit for having to fight five times and making it all the way to the finals.
  • TUF 12 (St-Pierre v. Koscheck): Koscheck picks his boy Marc Stevens, who lost by guillotine choke to Cody McKenzie in the 1st round.  He’s confident that it was a fluke and that Stevens will blow through his next opponent.  Stevens proceeds to lose to Aaron Wilkinson by guillotine choke.
  • TUF 13 (Lesnar v. dos Santos): Chuck O’Neil and Javier Torres are the wildcard selections and I remember the circumstances as much as you do.

You can see why they ditched the concept until this season, where the circumstances lined up perfectly for a long awaited grudge match.  Bubba and King came into the show with storied reputations and they deserve a shot at redemption.

Team Colours:

Team Jones
Team Sonnen (actually black on the show, but blue for the purposes of this article)

Like many fighters looking to catch a break, Bubba has had to sacrifice time with his daughter to train with Greg Jackson in Albuquerque.  His 8 year old daughter is back in Texas.  The kind of money that comes with fighting in the UFC would not only provide financial security, but a chance for him to come home.  I sometimes wonder if these pressures that fighters put on themselves can get in the way of performing at their best.  I know there’s no greater motivation than money and love and family, but those can just as soon weigh you down as raise you up.

Jon Jones does a great job restoring Bubba’s confidence, telling him that he’s been one of his toughest sparring partners and that he trains with him to prepare for the best in the world.  Bubba’s face is etched with a mixture of concern and determination.  You can tell he’s still feeling the pressure.

Back at the house, Josh Samman calls out Jimmy Quinlan in a half-joking manner that turns into a serious suggestion.  Luke Barnatt wants to prepare Quinlan for when the coaches ask him why he wants to fight Samman and Quinlan makes a dreadful “expert fisherman” joke.  See, Samman’s name sounds just like…ah, forget it.  Everyone knows that Samman is picking Quinlan because his wrestling-based attack doesn’t seem like it would cause too much wear and tear to his quarterfinal opponent.  In other words, Samman is already looking ahead to the next round, which is just plain dumb.

A glimpse into a Team Sonnen training session sees Uriah Hall begging Quinlan to let him have Samman.  Hall had pegged Samman as his nemesis from their earliest encounters.  Quinlan says he wants to see Hall beat up Samman too.

Meanwhile, King is forced to wear a pretty scary looking mask to protect his cuts during practice.  He refers to his first performance as a “fluke”, which is…questionable.  If you assume you didn’t really do anything wrong when you fail, how are you going to improve?

Can we add kendo to MMA?

This week’s episode was filmed during Thanksgiving, which is a joyous occasion for everyone in the house…except the two dudes who have to stay on weight.  Chael Sonnen steps up with a speech (surprise, surprise) and he explains how he was disappointed to find out how much he ended up liking Jones.  The love-fest between the two is repulsive.  Thankfully, Bubba gives a blistering testimonial about how much Thanksgiving sucks when you can’t eat and you’re with a bunch of strangers.  His spite more than makes up for any gratuitous friendship.

The next day, King needs to strip behind a towel to make weight (someone snuck in an extra slice of turkey methinks) and he warns them not to drop it or everyone will be scarred for life.  Sonnen kindly offers to help him put his pants back on after, but King takes care of it himself.

That could have been awkward.

King never got off in his fight with Collin Hart, but he gets to show off his BJJ expertise in the first round with Bubba.  He takes advantage of Bubba’s aggressiveness and pulls guard right out of the gate.  They move back to the feet, but King maintains the clinch and trips Bubba down.  He soundly out-grapples Bubba, though neither man seems interested in throwing strikes from any position.  Someone says that Bubba has given up and he has a worried look on his face, but he does manage to battle back.  King trips him again and secures a 10-9 round.

The second round starts out well for Bubba, with King looking fatigued (which was a huge issue against Hart).  Bubba’s corner implores him to break away from clinches, but he manages to end up on top and he starts scoring points.  A fierce downward elbow knocks out King’s mouthpiece.  Bubba just brutalizes King from inside his guard and he gets a dominant 10-9 round.  It looks like we’re going to a third round, but King can barely get up on his own.  He fails to answer the bell and Bubba is awarded a $5,000 finishing bonus (though he has to confirm it with Dana White).  As King is put in an ambulance, he mentions that he might be experiencing kidney failure, something that happened to him during a match in 2010.  Sounds like King needs to work on having healthier weight cuts.

The elimination round is over and it’s time to decide the quarterfinal match-ups!  Here’s a brief rundown of who called out whom:

  • Bubba: Jimmy Quinlan or Luke Barnatt
  • Quinlan: Bubba
  • Andrews: Barnatt
  • Barnatt: Bubba or Andrews
  • Gastelum: Hart
  • Hart: Hall
  • Hall: Samman
  • Samman: Quinlan

And the announced matches:

  • Collin Hart v. Kevin Gastelum
  • Dylan Andrews v. Luke Barnatt
    • UK versus New Zealand!  The Smashes redux!  Thank you Dana!
  • Josh Samman v. Jimmy Quinlan
    • Hall is NOT happy with this decision
  • Bubba McDaniel v. Uriah Hall
    • Bubba doesn’t seem too happy either

Hall is NOT happy with the decision.  Bubba doesn’t look too excited either.

Next week: Two fight episode with Hart v. Gastelum and Andrews v. Barnatt.  I’m picking Gastelum and Barnatt.  Also, Ronda Rousey!

Justice Is Served – UFC 158 Recap

Nick Diaz didn’t deserve a title shot.  Johny Hendricks is running a gauntlet.  And what the heck could Jake Ellenberger have to gain by fighting Nate Marquardt?  A bad break here or there could have left the welterweight division in disarray, but lo and behold, the MMA Gods chose to shine on the matchmakers on Saturday and the landscape could not be clearer.  Hendricks affirmed his status as the true number one contender; Ellenberger contributed the highlight of the night; and Diaz was pushed to the back of the line where he belongs.

I don’t like Diaz.  He’s a hell of a fighter, but as a human being I don’t like him and I don’t respect him.  I’m all for individuality and bucking the system, but not when so many people are supporting you and you still act like the world is against you.  Diaz has used martial arts and athletics to improve his life, but rather than speak on that, he chooses to dwell on every little negative aspect that bothers him.  In doing so, he fosters a culture of entitlement and self pity that has never done anybody any good.  You don’t need to act like a role model, but you also shouldn’t talk so much when you don’t have anything of value to say.

GSP might come off as awkward, unfunny and even pompous at times (in other words: French), but he backs up everything he says and doesn’t make excuses for his shortcomings.  After his last loss, he spoke of some personal problems that might have distracted him, but later apologized to Matt Serra and ever since he’s acknowledged that Serra was the better man that day.  His admission made him stronger (safer too, much to the chagrin of the bloodthirsty public).  St-Pierre didn’t come close to damaging Diaz as badly as the prefight hype warranted, but he took care of business like the professional he is.  It was a relief to see these two actually lock horns after years of speculation as to who was the true welterweight champion.  No more talking, no more analysis, no more excuses: The octagon never lies.*

*(unless there’s a bad stoppage, incompetent judging, failed drug test, eye poke, ruptured scrotum…)

Undercard Notes

    • George Roop ruined my near perfect fight picks by using his ridiculous height advantage to win a decision against Reuben Duran.  Roop had unsuccessfully attempted a drop down to 135 back in 2010, but the cut was hard on him and he was easy pickings for Eddie Wineland.  Reports from the weigh-ins said he didn’t look much better this time around so I figured Duran would outlast him.  If Roop can manage his weight properly, he’ll do just fine at bantamweight.  Especially if he never runs into his training partner Ed West:

  • Another bantamweight making headlines last night was TUF 14 finalist T.J. Dillashaw, who defeated Issei Tamura by KO.  Dillashaw is rapidly improving and has looked dominant in winning his last three fights.  He was pegged as a legitimate prospect coming out of the show and he hasn’t disappointed.
  • A quick shout-out to Jordan Mein who at age 23 already has 35 fights under his belt, including his UFC debut last night.  He had some troubles early on, but he managed to use ground and pound to become the first person to finish UFC veteran Dan Miller.  Mein headlined the first MMA show in Ontario (also the first MMA show I ever attended) and I remember him standing out in a win against Josh Burkman.  Nice to see that presence carry over to the big show.
  • Darren Elkins might not be throwing ninja kicks, but he’s making a name for himself the old-fashioned way: winning.  Since dropping down to featherweight, the native of Hobart, Indiana has gone undefeated at 5-0.  The first four wins in this streak came against solid competition (information relative to the time of the fight):
  • Michihiro Omigawa (ranked in the top 10)
  • Zhang Tie Quan (15-1)
  • Diego Brandao (Brandao’s first fight after winning TUF 14)
  • Steven Siler (3-0 in the UFC)

On Saturday, Elkins took out Antonio Carvalho in the first round.  Carvalho is arguably the least impressive name on the list (though he has a 2007 win over Hatsu Hioki to his credit), but with the TKO Elkins finally got the elusive finish he was looking for to make a statement for an improved spot on the card.  While the stoppage may have been a touch early, there was no question that he had the fight all but wrapped up and he’s set himself up for a top 10 opponent.

(And…just as I was finishing up this article, he gets Chad Mendes next month.  Mendes is the undisputed no. 2 featherweight, so while taking on an opponent of his calibre on short notice is borderline insane, it’s also the fastest path to the title.  I applaud Elkins for embracing this challenge.)

  • I’ve learned to like Patrick Côté ever since he busted his ass to make it back to the big show…and also because he came out to “Too Legit To Quit” that one time.  It’s a shame that his last two victories have come in controversial fashion.  A wrongful DQ win of Alessio Sakara gave The Predator his first UFC win since 2008 and many felt he actually lost Saturday’s fight against Bobby Voelker.  Côté is getting a fresh start at welterweight, but these odd blemishes might hurt his job security if he suffers a loss in the near future.

The Main Card

Lightweight Bout: Mike Ricci d. Colin Fletcher via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)

What you need to know: Ricci stormed through TUF 16 before coming up short against Colton Smith, while Fletcher’s experience and sharp kickboxing earned him a spot in the TUF: Smashes finale, where the strength of Norman Parke proved to be too much to overcome.  This was a second chance for two TUF runner-ups to lock up a spot on the roster.

How it went down: I’m not sure who thought it would be a good idea to put two unknown properties in the show opener.  I like both these guys and they’re both good strikers, but neither is anywhere near the level yet where they should be opening a PPV.  Their performances in their respective finales should have made that clear.  Fletcher showed some flashes, but Ricci is more balanced and he mixed up strikes and takedowns to comfortably sweep the scorecards.

What’s next for Fletcher: (0-2 UFC, Lost last 2) The Freakshow has a ton of charisma, but he has to step up his intensity if he wants to compete at the highest level.  He’ll go back home for seasoning and if he gets himself back in the winner’s circle, he can expect a call from the UFC the next time they’re in the UK.

What’s next for Ricci: (1-1 UFC, Won last 1) Over his last 7 fights, Ricci has alternated wins and losses and he’s yet to live up to the buzz he’s generated up north.  With his less than sparkling personality (he was the resident “stick in the mud” on TUF), there are no guarantees that the UFC will wait for him to develop.  Matches with Rafaello Oliveira (currently recovering from a broken hand), TUF 15 competitor James Vick or fellow Canuck John Makdessi could be valuable learning experiences.

Middleweight Bout: Chris Camozzi d. Nick Ring via Split Decision (29-28 x2, 28-29)

What you need to know: Despite Camozzi having to leave TUF 11 with a jaw injury, he and Ring struck up a friendship making this contest strictly business.  This was an important bout for both guys as they jockey for position in an increasingly lucid middleweight division.

How it went down: I don’t know what it is, but I seem to enjoy the prospect of a Nick Ring fight more than the fight itself.  Ring decided to challenge Camozzi with a wild, “loosey-goosey” stance that was akin to something Anderson Silva might pull off, except Ring is no Silva.  He did a good job of constantly coming forward, but he allowed Camozzi to score a lot of points and Ring couldn’t put together anything substantial for himself.  It was close, but I had it for Camozzi and so did 2 of the 3 judges.

What’s next for Ring: (3-2 UFC, L1) After squeaking out a win over Court McGee in his last fight, Ring feels the sting of a disappointing decision.  He’s a game competitor and a good guy so I would expect the UFC to take it easy on him for his next booking.  Then again, there are no easy fights in the UFC.  Some logical opponents are Ed Herman, Stanislav Nedkov or maybe a healthy Sakara.

What’s next for Camozzi: (6-2 UFC, W4) Camozzi’s streak continues and like Elkins, he’s due for a higher ranked opponent; unfortunately, a lot of those names are already booked or are coming off losses.  If the UFC wants to stick to booking winners against winners, Brad Tavares (another TUF 11 contestant) makes a lot of sense, but if they are feeling froggy they could throw him into deep waters with *gulp* Yushin Okami.

Welterweight Bout: Jake Ellenberger d. Nate Marquardt via KO (3:00, R1)

What you need to know: Other than a loss to fellow contender Martin Kampmann, Ellenberger has been a force in the welterweight division with wins over Mike Pyle, Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez.  He has hellacious punching power that has kept him in the mix for a title shot over the last couple of years.

Nate Marquardt made his return to the UFC after a bizarre journey that…well, let’s recap it step by step:

  • June 2011, Marquardt is not cleared to compete after testing positive for elevated testosterone levels.  This occurred the day before an event he was supposed to headline, sending the UFC scrambling for a replacement.  Dana White cans him
  • Marquardt signs with BAMMA (British Association of Mixed Martial Arts), but ends up sitting out over a year without ever competing for them
  • Zuffa brings him back to fight for Strikeforce and he’s given a shot at the vacant welterweight title in his first career fight at 170.  He looks fantastic and knocks out previously unbeaten Tyron Woodley
  • in his next appearance at Strikeforce’s final event, a heavily-favoured Marquardt drops a lopsided decision to talented karateka Tarec Saffiedine
  • Marquardt rejoins the UFC roster after Strikeforce dissolves

How it went down: Ellenberger was just on against Marquardt, connecting with ease and backing Marquardt up the whole time.  A heavy fist smashed against the bridge of Marquardt’s nose and Ellenberger finished with heavy punches to the side of the head for a clear-cut KO.  Marquardt protested afterwards, but at one point his arms went completely limp and he was face-down on the ground with his ass up in the air.

In lieu of a decent photograph, here’s a screenshot from “Art Of Fighting 2”.

What’s next for Marquardt: (10-5 UFC, L2) Despite his recent checkered history, Marquardt is a well respected fighter; more importantly, he did the UFC a solid by stepping in on short notice to replace Hendricks (who himself moved up on the card to replace an injured Rory MacDonald).  He’ll likely get some time off to retool then look for him to be matched up with other fighters coming off of long layoffs like Mike Swick, Yoshihiro Akiyama or Brian Ebersole.  I like the Ebersole match-up the best as the two have over 100 combined fights between them.

What’s next for Ellenberger: (8-2 UFC, W2) The great news for Ellenberger is that he’s on the short list for a title shot now and if Hendricks should get injured, he’s the first choice to step in.  However, it’s more likely that he’ll have to continue to pad his resume.  A resurgent Robbie Lawler is waiting in the wings, but I’d like to see him paired up with Demian Maia in what could act as another potential title eliminator.

Welterweight Bout: Johny Hendricks d. Carlos Condit via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

What you need to know: Hendricks got screwed.  After demolishing Jon Fitch and Kampmann, two huge names at 170, Hendricks should have been given a title shot immediately.  Regardless of what GSP or anybody else wanted, he’d earned the right to prove that he’s the best welterweight in the world.  Instead, he was told he has to do more to earn his shot, which apparently involved getting past Condit, one of the most successful welterweights of the past half-decade.

How it went down: I picked Hendricks to win, but I hated the match-up for him because Condit is so technical and so skilled at fighting off of his back.  If Hendricks chose to swing wildly and force takedowns, I was certain Condit would be able to counter.  The crazy thing is that Hendricks did choose to swing wildly and force takedowns and it actually worked!  Bigg Rigg’s plan couldn’t have been simpler: push forward with heavy hands and when Condit is backed up against the fence, get low, pick him up and dump him to the mat.  This exact sequence occurred several times and while Condit has an effective guard, he ate way too many big shots and gave up the takedowns too easily.

The fight was a thriller, with Hendricks looking like Bizarro Hendo at times, loading up his big left hand and blasting away without even pretending he was going to do anything else.

Me not want to hurt you!  Goodbye!

Condit was somehow able to absorb the same shots that had put Fitch and Kampmann down for the count.  His counter of choice was a straight knee up the middle, but Hendricks picked up on that quickly and it only made it easier to get the action down to the floor.  Hendricks himself took those knees to the face like a champion or at least his beard did.  I feel like that kind of facial hair growth should be classified as “performance enhancing” at this point.  With the win, Hendricks became the undisputed number one contender (as if he wasn’t already).

What’s next for Condit: (5-3 UFC, L2) You won’t find a hotter fighter on a two fight losing streak.  The Natural Born Killer was originally set to face MacDonald in a rematch, but that fight doesn’t make sense for young Rory anymore.  I appear to be one of the only people who’d actually look forward to a Condit-GSP rematch, so I don’t want to see him stray too far from the top of the rankings.  There’s a chance he could face Josh Koscheck (which almost happened last February) or look for redemption against Kampmann, who welcomed him to the UFC with a razor-thin split decision loss.

What’s next for Hendricks: (10-1 UFC, W6) Now that it’s official, Hendricks presents the most dangerous threat to St-Pierre’s belt since…well, Condit.  Unlike Condit (and Nick Diaz for that matter), Hendricks’ wrestling background should help him control where the action goes and he has the kind of power that should evoke warm and fuzzy Matt Serra flashbacks.

Welterweight Championship Bout: Georges St-Pierre d. Nick Diaz via Unanimous Decision (50-45 x3)

What you need to know: Diaz has been calling out GSP for years, but doing absolutely nothing to actually earn a shot.  It started when he was in Strikeforce, but rather than jump ship to the UFC to face St-Pierre, he chose to stay where he was.  In 2011, when he did decide to return to the UFC, he was granted an immediate title shot but lost it when he couldn’t be bothered to take care of his media responsibilities.  When GSP himself got injured, Diaz had the gall to say that the champ was ducking him.  A thorough beating of BJ Penn put Diaz back near the top, but with GSP out with another injury the Stockton bad boy was awarded with an interim title match against Condit.  He lost.

Unfortunately, the storyline would not die and as White tells it, GSP wanted to teach Diaz a lesson.  Thus, we were served this long delayed title fight that both men did their best to sell despite the stench of inevitability.

How it went down: St-Pierre is known for his powerful takedowns.  Diaz is known for having terrible takedown defence.  How do you think it went down?

When he had time to work, Diaz actually got the better of some exchanges…too bad for him those exchanges accounted for about 2 minutes of a 25 minute fight.  The strange thing is that even when he wasn’t planted on his butt, Diaz spent a lot of time taunting and not executing strikes.  The threat of being taken down obviously slowed his usual attack, but was still far more hesitant than we’re used to seeing.  This also affected over to his guard work.  Diaz was more focused on getting up than attacking with submissions, so he simply tried to power out rather than use his technique.  This made it easy for St-Pierre to drag him down over and over again.

Afterwards, Diaz did his usual song and dance about how he doesn’t like fights like these and how he might retire.  I say “good riddance”.  This baby needs to take his ball and go home.

What’s next for Diaz: (7-6 UFC, L2) Putting aside my personal disdain for the man, it would be asinine to suggest that he isn’t a legitimate talent.  I doubt anything will come of his retirement talk, but I expect it to be a while before we see him again.  Fights with Kampmann, Koscheck or Marquardt could be fun and *sigh* would likely get the controversial Diaz back on track.

What’s next for St-Pierre: (18-2 UFC, W11) Hendricks.  I hate to accuse fighters of ducking anybody, but it’s not much of a stretch to think that St-Pierre’s request to face Diaz had as much to do with the threat of Hendricks as it did with settling a grudge or selling PPVs.  If tonight’s theme of justice carries on throughout the year then we might just see the hard-charging Hendricks take his place among the immortals.

The Ultimate Fighter 17: Team Jones v. Team Sonnen – Week 8 Recap

This week features a match-up between veteran Zak Cummings and Australian Dylan Andrews.  Forgive me if hearing Andrews speak causes me to drift off into fond memories of the criminally underrated TUF: Smashes spin-off.

Team Colours:

Team Jones
Team Sonnen (actually black on the show, but blue for the purposes of this article)

It’s time for the always popular coaches’ challenge and this year they’ve got a good one: Excavators!  While the challenge has traditionally been based around traditional athletic competitions (even Smashes’ destruction derby kind of counts as a sport), the producers have stepped outside of the box to come up with something unique for Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen.  Using heavy construction vehicles, the two coaches have to complete three courses: filling up a dumpster with dirt, building a pyramid made of three large tires and taking a basketball off of a cone and dropping it into a tire.  This whole concept seems extraordinarily dangerous and there’s a near fatality as Jones nearly takes out a bunch of the fighters while rotating the excavator bucket.

This could have been taken from the set of a “Final Destination” film.

I have to think that they’ve taken some liberties with the editing, but regardless it is a thrilling back and forth battle between the two coaches and it’s easily one of the most memorable coaches’ challenges ever.  This means Sonnen beat Jones at bowling, he won the this challenge and his team is up 4 wins to 2.  I wouldn’t take this as any indication of how their fight will go in April.

Andrews has a compelling story involving athletic brothers who squandered their potential through drug use mixed in with his own struggles with the fight game.  He explains how he stumbled across a gym in his hometown and took to the sport naturally, but that he “hates the experience” of fighting.  It sounds like he feels obligated to be doing what he’s doing, whether it’s for spiritual or financial reasons.  His motivations are in stark contrast to Cummings, who says that he’s always been a bright guy who was expected to pursue a career in engineering or physical therapy, but he dedicated himself to something that he truly loved and he’s proven good enough to fight for major promotions like Strikeforce and Bellator.  Now he’s close to a shot at the UFC.  I admire Andrews’ sense of duty, but also Cummings for taking a chance on his passion even when there were more obvious alternatives.  When they reveal later in the episode that this was his seventh time auditioning for the show, you can’t help but be astonished.

The fight is a good one.  The first round is tale of two halves as Cummings has top control for the first couple of minutes.  Andrews does a poor job of defending himself and takes a lot of short elbows to the side of the head, but nothing that can put him out of commission.  I misjudged how hurt he was as right around the 2:30 mark, with Cummings advancing to mount, Andrews manages to scramble and reverse into top position.  He does a ton of damage from guard and the sheer volume of his ground strikes earns him the first round.  The Australian has a cut on the side of his head, but stays as calm as he’s been throughout the fight so far.

Cummings opens the second with his best Uriah Hall impression, throwing a spinning kick that hits…a whole lot of nothing.  Still, the attempt draws a chuckle from Andrews and the two touch gloves again (something I hate seeing in the middle of a fight).  The power that Cummings displayed in the preliminary round is on display as he connects solidly and actually has Andrews on the run for a brief moment.  Unfortunately, he chases awkwardly and completely whiffs on a flying knee making it easy for Andrews to plant him on his back.  Andrews transitions to half-guard and fights from there for the remainder of the round, pinning Cummings against the fence and landing more ground and pound.  It’s a clear-cut decision victory for Andrews.

With the wild card round returning, Dana White leaves it up to Jones and Sonnen as to who they think deserve a second shot.  The eligible fighters are Cummings, “King” Casey, Clint Hester and “Bubba” McDaniel.  For Sonnen it’s an easy pick as he is confident that King underperformed and that he’ll be ready for this opportunity.  Jones, on the other hand, has to decide between the ultra-promising Hester and early tournament favourite Bubba.  Someone on Team Jones also adds that Hester is black, which should settle it right there, but in all seriousness I have no idea how he could pass on Bubba.  He’s not only one of the most well-credentialed fighters, but he trains with Jones and I don’t see how he’d be able to look the man in the eye back home if this wild card was given to anyone else.

One last observation: The octagon girls usually accompany White to the coaches’ challenges but since this one was so different, I thought that might not be the case this season.  Bless her heart, Arianny Celeste soldiers on!

I didn’t know I had a thing for hard hats until now.

Next week: In a fight that’s been hyped all season, King and Bubba finally clash.  I am looking forward to some quality trash talk, even if it comes in the form of another mediocre freestyle.

The Ultimate Fighter 17: Team Jones v. Team Sonnen – Week 7 Recap

Hooters.  It’s what’s for dinner.

Team Colours:

Team Jones
Team Sonnen (actually black on the show, but blue for the purposes of this article)

The group gets treated to an outing at the world’s most well endowed restaurant chain and even for the guys with wives or girlfriends it has to be a breath of fresh air.  Still, to go from a house full of dudes to a place filled with voluptuous women almost seems like it could be dangerous.  It’s like when the people on Survivor finally get to eat a huge meal after nibbling on plain rice for weeks.  They always overdo it and end up nearly exploding.  I’m not sure what the equivalent would be in this scenario and perhaps it is best if we don’t think about it too much.

In a shameless attempt to boost ratings, the show also threw in a gratuitous strip tease:

The most impressive chest in the room.

They do an outstanding job of conveying (manufacturing?) the drama around Uriah Hall.  Last week’s episode was all about him, but they follow up with a subtle scene where he chooses not to take a picture with the other guys after dinner.  Whether it’s because he’s some sort of prude or he has truly given up on being part of the group, it’s a strong image.  They are not doing anything to protect Hall’s character, which is fine because he’s become a polarizing figure.  He’s someone who you want to watch for all the right reasons.  This is a stark contrast to the usual “controversial TUF house member”, who is usually a loud, obnoxious drunk devoid of any real personality or talent that only exists to provide meaningless conflict.  Love him or hate him, Hall seems like a genuine person experiencing serious conflict.

After winning last week, Josh Samman begins to suffer from severe leg pains and a trip to the hospital is in order.  Every season features at least one or two episodes with an injury scare and it’s a stark reminder how well conditioned and lucky these contestants have to be to be able to compete in this tournament with little rest between fights.  When you look at the layoff fighters regularly get when they reach the major leagues (3-4 months), competing multiple times in the same month is almost miraculous.  I can only remember one season being seriously derailed by injuries (TUF 11: Liddell v. Ortiz).  Other than that, the majority of fighters have been able to stay healthy and thankfully that turns out to be the case with Samman.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the part where Clint Hester is pretending to ride the model Harley they have in the house.  Gilbert Smith walks up and starts beat boxing, explaining “This is where your song starts.”  Hester says Smith is going “too fast” and Smith immediately switches up to a slower, more methodical beat that transitions perfectly into a musical pick up by the show.  It’s a neat bit of programming.

This week’s inspirational Chael Sonnen speech revolves around positivity and enthusiasm.  With a few simple words, he derails the cliché “striker v. grappler” narrative, saying that it doesn’t matter if Jimmy Quinlan gets caught by a hard punch from Hester.  Too often do we see grapplers being told to play it safe and stick to the game plan, but Sonnen (who has decried the importance of game planning in the past) alleviates any worries that his team might have about Quinlan getting hit with a lucky strike:

Do you have a problem being hit in the middle of a fist fight?  Do you have a problem being hurt in the middle of a fist fight?  Then why do we keep bringing it up?  He’s gonna get hit and it’s gonna get hurt but he’s gonna stay on his feet and he’s gonna take care of business anyway!

Can we get a calendar full of Chael Sonnen quotes made, please?  You hear me, Zuffa?  Take my money!

I’ll never have a problem with athletes showing good sportsmanship and getting along, but one criticism I do have of TUF 17 is that the fighters might have gotten too friendly.  It’s not a bad thing and it’s always fun to see that two guys who get into a cage to fight are not necessarily out to murder each other, but at the same time it can lead to some flat encounters.  Hester and Quinlan are so buddy-buddy that they cannot get the smiles off of their faces during the post-weigh-in faceoff.  This does lead to a nice moment on fight day where Quinlan accuses Hester of using a bowl with his name on it and then challenging him to brawl down by the monkey bars.  It’s the kind of self-aware moment you rarely see on TUF.

Feel…the…HATE

Unfortunately for Team Jones, the fight goes exactly as Sonnen expected and Quinlan is able to take the fight to the mat within seconds.  Hester is a superb athlete and he’s able to get up more than once, but Quinlan is stuck to him like a backpack.  To Hester’s credit, both coaches note that he’s able to generate an unusual amount of power from some normally disadvantageous positions and that he might even have won the first round despite spending time on his back.  It becomes a moot point as Quinlan opens up the second with another takedown, eventually advancing to mount and then taking the back and finishing with a rear naked choke.

Team Sonnen regains control, but there’s only one possible match left.  It’s probably better that way since almost every fight the coaches picked ended up with the guy from their team losing (only Hall was victorious after being picked by Sonnen).

Next week: Zak Cummings against the last overall pick, Dylan Andrews.  Cummings calls Andrews the nicest person he’s ever met.  Somehow I don’t think that’s going to stop him from punching his face off.

Triumph: Ronda and Wandy Save The Day

Two weeks ago, a flurry of releases struck fear into fighters and fans alike.  How would this affect employee performance if winning is the only way to guarantee job security?  Will the threat of being cut cause fighters to become more conservative?  On the flipside, will normally cerebral fighters recklessly throw caution to the wind for the sake of entertaining the masses and appeasing their boss?  The revelation that many more cuts are looming created an air of dread around two major events.  Thanks to some exceptional efforts, there was nothing to worry about.

*****

UFC 157 saw one troublesome result: Brendan Schaub smothered Lavar Johnson in a fight between two proven finishers.  Schaub was being smart.  He was on a two fight losing streak, he’d taken a lot of damage in his previous fights and he guaranteed himself another appearance.  Regardless of how we might feel about his performance, he did what was best for his career and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The only other point of contention was the Dan Henderson/Lyoto Machida fight.  A split decision enhanced the perception that Machida fought too safe and that he didn’t do enough to truly win the fight, but he fought the exact same way against Ryan Bader.  I didn’t see anyone complaining when he concussed Bader with a single punch.  A repeat of Henderson’s instant classic with Shogun Rua was an unreasonable expectation and its lack of dynamism shouldn’t outweigh an otherwise solid main card (not to mention a “Fight of the Year” candidate on the undercard between Dennis Bermudez and Matt Grice).

Besides, the main reason that UFC 157 will be remembered fondly is the headliner between Liz Carmouche and the UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.  More than any other factor, the success of the event would be defined by the organization’s gutsy call to have its first female fight close out the show.  As brief as they are, every one of Rousey’s wins has been compelling due to her unbridled ferocity and finishing ability.  Still, with Carmouche as a heavy underdog, there were questions about how involved the crowd would be in the match.  Was this too much too soon?

The fight itself couldn’t have gone better.  Everyone knew Carmouche was tough, but Rousey was still expected to run through her.  Instead, the champ found herself in serious trouble as Carmouche managed to climb up onto her back and nearly pull off the enormous upset with a rear naked choke.  The champion showed great strength and poise, holding on long enough to shuck Carmouche off and get the fight to the ground.  Even though she now found herself in Rousey’s world, Carmouche didn’t give up her arms easily and it seemed like it would take the Jaws of Life to pry one loose.  Rousey persisted, displaying some exquisite technique to pressure both arms at the same time, eventually dislodging a limb and securing her trademark armbar for the victory.

Critical approval was near-unanimous and no matter how anybody felt before, there was no denying that the girls competed at a level worthy of the spot they were given.  However, an important question lingered: Could they draw money?

The last PPV, UFC 156, was loaded with top ranked fighters like Joseph Benavidez, Jon Fitch, Demian Maia, Rashad Evans, Alistair Overeem, Frankie Edgar and José Aldo.  It earned 330,000 buys.  UFC 157 is estimated to have delivered nearly 500,000 buys.  The champ is here.

*****

It was supposed to be another triumphant trip to Japan for the UFC and things were going poorly, to say the least.  Some stylistic mismatches lead to grappling heavy affairs that were tough to stomach, potentially scaring away casual fans as opposed to converting them into PPV customers as is the goal of these free cards.  Don’t blame the fighters like Dong-Hyun Kim and Yushin Okami for taking care of business; if their opponents can’t fight from their back or stand themselves up, they deserve to lose (Hector Lombard shamelessly implored Okami to stand and bang with him in the days leading up to their match.  There’s a reason Okami is a top 5 middleweight and Lombard isn’t.).

Things went from bad to worse when Diego Sanchez won yet another controversial decision against Takanori Gomi.  I have no idea how this happened.  The Dream was out-struck in every round and failed to do anything with the takedowns he scored in the first.  When Sanchez won his last controversial decision against Martin Kampmann, he could at least argue that he was coming forward at all times and even rocked Kampmann at one point.  Here, Gomi was never in any danger and I actually had him taking the fight 30-27.  It was a decent fight soured by poor judging.  In other shocking news, there is unrest in the Middle East.

The friends I had over were struggling to stay awake but I knew that business was going to pick up with the Stefan Struve/Mark Hunt bout.  The match harkened back to the freak show days, where competitors of vastly different backgrounds and body types could legally enter a cage and beat each other up.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  More the latter.

I’m a major proponent of the modern changes in MMA, but even I can appreciate the stunning visual of the towering Struve versus the squat Hunt.  For the most part, extraordinarily short opponents have troubled Struve.  He was badly bloodied when he fought Denis Stojnic and he got knocked out by Roy Nelson.  Both men were giving up over 12 inches to the Dutch Skyscraper.  Hunt gave up 14.

The fight was somehow both riveting and grueling at the same time.  After about 7 or 8 minutes of cage time, it was clear that both men’s fuel tanks were beyond empty.  The endurance test was working out well for Struve since all he had to do was fall on top of Hunt and he was free to pound away from the mount.  Unfortunately, Struve couldn’t finish and the bell sounded for the end of the 2nd round.  It was in the 3rd that the fight got ugly.

Both men were clearly so exhausted that they could barely lift their arms.  For Struve, it was as if the laws of gravity decided he should no longer be able to lift his hands above his waist to defend himself.  Hunt started throwing haymakers and there’s really no better word to describe it than “throwing”.  He wasn’t so much punching as he was tilting from side to side until he could build up enough momentum to swing one of his fists forward in a looping motion.  It sounds silly, but it worked!  Hunt managed to get damn near 300 pounds of weight behind him, delivering a punch that shattered Struve’s jaw.   The Super Samoan had done it again.

The most satisfying moment was yet to come.  I’d been predicting a Wanderlei Silva victory all week, but I’d also been predicting something grim: his retirement.  Win or lose, I felt like a battle with Brian Stann would destroy what was left of the MMA legend’s chin and that going to war in front of his most dedicated fans in Japan would be the perfect bookend to his career.  That prediction might still prove correct, but even I couldn’t have imagined the magical moment that would take place.

If Silva wanted to, he probably could have taken the fight to the ground where his black belt in jiu-jitsu would have allowed him to control Stann.  In Japan, in front of the audience that made him immortal, that was never an option.  There were several flurries in the opening round where it seemed like either fighter could get dropped in a flash.  If there was a strategy, it was invisible to detection.  Frankly, both men were being incredibly irresponsible.  It looked like they were having the time of their lives.

You knew, you just knew, that someone was going to go down for the count in the 2nd round.  The way things had unfolded in the 1st, I was certain it would be Stann.  Silva was possessed, fighting for pride and for PRIDE.  He could have given Jon Jones a run for his money on this night.  He dropped Stann and finished him off with some horrific punches on the ground.  I can’t remember the last time I heard such an emotionally charged reaction from everyone in the arena.  Hell, I could feel the energy flooding from everyone watching that broadcast.

The best thing about the moment is that it was earned.  As if every second of Silva’s career was building up to this exhilarating sequence of events.  The glory days of PRIDE and the ups and downs of his UFC career were all encapsulated in less than six minutes of activity.  Much love has to go to Stann too, who seemed to understand all too well his role in the drama.  He’s displayed smart boxing in the past, but as soon as Silva engaged him there was no turning back.  Stann was heartbroken, but humble.  It’s going to take years for him to appreciate the joyous occasion that wouldn’t have been possible without his temerity.

*****

Rousey and Silva.  Ronda and Wandy.  In the past two weeks they’ve done wonders for the UFC brand.  You’ll remember how close, how intense the first female fight was and how the golden girl stepped up and knocked one out of the park.  You’ll remember how one of the most respected fighters of all time stepped into the cage and fought his fight and was rewarded.  You’ll remember these moments and you’ll remember how the UFC and mixed martial arts as a whole became greater because of them.  The highest of highs can help to build a culture and they don’t get much higher than this.

The Ultimate Fighter 17: Team Jones v. Team Sonnen – Week 6 Recap

We’re halfway through the first round and I have to say I am thoroughly enjoying this season so far.  The coaches are better, the fighters are better and the show just looks better.  Making it through last season was a chore, but TUF 17 has been a delight so far.  Better get on with it before I jinx the whole thing.

Team Colours:

Team Jones
Team Sonnen (actually black on the show, but blue for the purposes of this article)

“Bubba” McDaniel congratulates Chael Sonnen on coaching Kevin Gastelum to a big win and it’s nice to see both teams continue to carry themselves with such class and digni…

Wait a minute…what?

This week’s theme is team unity.  Everyone on Team Sonnen seems to be getting along, with Luke Barnatt showing a lot of support for Tor Troéng, his fellow overlooked European.  Of course, there are always exceptions and we see Uriah Hall’s frustrations (which have been hinted at all season) boil over.  The prohibitive favourite keeps putting his foot in his mouth leading to clashes with just about everyone in the house.  He does not like to be corrected and anytime someone takes that tone with him he takes it as a sign of great disrespect.  Unfortunately, instead of working this out in a mature way he chooses instead to lash out with awkward insults.  At a Team Jones campfire gathering, he asks Adam Cella: “Is your girl like a bitch like you?”

I should mention that the only reason he was hanging out with the Jones’ is because his own team had enough of his attitude.  A heated sparring session the previous day put him on Barnatt’s s**t-list and the situation is exacerbated when Hall says he’d like to fight “Bigs” in response to a question from Gilbert Smith.  Even though he was just being honest about who would be a good match-up for him, it still comes off as incredibly rude to even mention fighting a teammate when the squads have been so tightly knit this season.  “King” Casey refuses to let Hall have the last word and I’m reminded why I’m so happy that there are four black guys on the show to escalate these disagreements.

Both teams agree that Hall has been transparent in his desire to be on Team Jones and that he should have stuck by his comments after he made them.  His reaction to being criticized is not to defend his viewpoint, but to say that he shouldn’t have spoken up in the first place.  Weak.  He also can’t handle playful banter, instead taking every minor remark as a grave insult.  When pressed on it, he keeps going back to how he was teased as a child, an excuse that is quickly losing credibility.  Cella has the most disturbing observation: It’s almost like he was trying to bully us.

Hall also has this annoying habit of punctuating his testimonials with the same finger snap every time.  I think even I’m starting to hate him now.

Like…THAT

From day one, I thought that Josh Samman had the potential to be an overbearing dick and if this episode is any indication, he’s following through on that front.  There’s just something about the things he says and does that make him seem arrogant.  Watching him lead backyard training sessions as if he’s king s**t doesn’t sit well with me or some of his teammates.  Still, I respect him a lot for putting in the effort to motivate the team and for his own personal triumph over a potentially life altering injury.  It helps that the dude is also a great fighter.

Troéng’s narrative revolved around him being technically sound and Sonnen prophetically laments not being able to figure out his weaknesses so they can fix them.  Come fight time, Troéng is too methodical and he seems a step behind Samman in every way.  He listens to Sonnen’s instructions, but in the middle of the fight if you have the time to listen to everything your corner says, you’re probably not being aggressive enough.  Troéng lowers his hands at the wrong moment and Samman smacks him with a big left-right combination that knocks him out cold.  You know that Hall is dying to face Samman in the next round.

Guess that pre-fight full body massage wasn’t enough:

Barnatt: And people say wrestlers are gay…

Next week: Team Jones’ no. 1 pick Clint Hester faces off with grappling champion Jimmy Quinlan.  Quinlan is one of my sleepers and I’m not giving Jones anymore undue credit.  Go with the upset pick.

The Ultimate Fighter 17: Team Jones v. Team Sonnen – Week 5 Recap

I’ll admit that I bought into all of the “Bubba” McDaniel hype.  He has a sturdy professional record and a history with Jon Jones that suggested his involvement with this reality show was strictly a formality.  He was due for a UFC contract and while he might not win the whole thing, he definitely wasn’t going out in the first round especially to a nobody like Kelvin Gastelum, right?

Team Colours:

Team Jones
Team Sonnen (actually black on the show, but blue for the purposes of this article)

Jones and Chael Sonnen continue to be chummy and I can’t help but feel that this is all part of Sonnen’s plan.  I don’t think he has a chance in hell of beating Jones (and the pessimist in me fears an injury derailing the match altogether), but I’ll be damned if he isn’t taking an interesting approach to the whole thing.  As the saying goes: “Keep your friends close and keep your enemies closer.”

You could argue that the show was forecasting an upset with testimonials from both sides emphasizing how heavily the fight is weighted in Bubba’s favour.  Still, I’ve seen this kind of build before and it can go either way.  Editing the show is a delicate balancing act as you have to be even-handed, but you also have a lot of control over audience expectation; thus, the editing team has the power to influence how we perceive the fights and the fighters themselves.  This week’s narrative is obviously that of the plucky Gastelum challenging the veteran Bubba.

We get a game of charades to fulfill the entertainment portion of the episode.  It comes off as tame (much like the previous weeks’ freestyle battle), but I still prefer these forced team bonding sessions over the traditional TUF pranks.  I’m not sure if this group is more mature or if the producers just told them to avoid the usual in-house dumb-assery, but seeing people having fun and actually getting along is refreshing.

The fighter hype further conveys the divide between Bubba and Gastelum, with Bubba being a full-time fighter and Gastelum carrying the responsibility of a full-time job along with his MMA dreams.  It’s hard not to like the kid, who seems to have made a lot of sacrifices for someone who’s only 21 years old.

On the coaching front, Sonnen continues to deliver.  He shares a simple, but effective parable with his team:

On fight day, the only thing that changes is the environment.  If I was to give you guys an example, there was a very famous study done.  This gentleman brings in a long 2×4.  He sets the 2×4 down and has a group like this and he asks random people to walk the 2×4 heel to toe.  So they lay the 2×4 on the mat, everybody gets up and they walk it like it’s no big thing, right?  Big deal.  He brings in two big step ladders.  He hangs the 2×4 across the ladders and he asks them “Who’s ready to walk it?”  Nobody raises their hand.  The environment changed, but the act doesn’t.

They really couldn’t have picked a better coach for this new format.  Everything is portrayed as more dramatic, more cinematic and there’s no better actor in the UFC than Chael Sonnen.  He’s the Christoph Waltz of TUF.  Whether or not he actually believes in the things he says and does, he creates compelling television and that is more valuable to this program than anything.

Josh Samman continues to play the politician, letting everybody know about his aches and pains to manoeuvre himself into a more favourable match.  Team Jones seems to catch on and while they encourage communication, they can see that he might be taking things too far.  I don’t like Samman.

Then Mickey Rourke showed up.  I…I don’t know what to say.  I’m assuming he’s a Vegas regular so it’s not too much trouble for him to show up and he is a humble and appreciative guest, but I’m still not sure what the point of this segment is.  They wisely choose to show the testimonials of the fighters who can relate to Rourke’s struggles and not the ones that said Why the f**k is Mickey Rourke here?

Earlier in the episode, Sonnen pulled some strings to get Gastelum a call from one of his favourite fighters, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.  Even though he has a girlfriend, he was still giddy at getting to talk to her especially after she promised to train with Team Sonnen if he managed to beat Bubba.  That might explain why Gastelum attacked Bubba like a wild dog.  Bubba definitely has skills, but Gastelum stuck to a simple game plan and just kept going after his opponent until he was able to secure a tight rear naked choke.

Probably a good time to tap out.

There is no question that Rousey’s call boosted Gastelum’s spirits, which goes to show that not only can you fight with an erection, it can actually improve your performance.

Next week: Mouthy Samman takes on silent, but deadly Tor Troéng.  Won’t say who I’m rooting for here.

The Ultimate Fighter 17: Team Jones v. Team Sonnen – Week 4 Recap

Wit the internet buzzing about Uriah Hall’s spin kick last week, “King” Kevin Casey and Collin Hart, have a tough act to follow.

Team Colours:

Team Jones
Team Sonnen (actually black on the show, but blue for the purposes of this article)

As if to assuage everyone’s concerns, we open on Adam Cella returning to the house, seemingly none the worse for wear.  On the one hand, he apparently didn’t feel a thing; on the other hand, shouldn’t everyone be worried that he didn’t feel a thing?  According to Cella, he doesn’t even remember fighting.  His brain got shut down hard and while it’s good to see him in his usual high spirits, the lack of recognition is troubling in and of itself.  He goes to find Uriah Hall in the shower to congratulate him and let him know that he’s okay.  The whole sequence is not awkward or gay at all.

Even stranger: Cella still wearing the hospital gown

In the kitchen, King discusses the virtues of fighting early despite the cut he suffered in the preliminary round.  If he gets a win out of the way early, it will give him more time to heal.  It’s a reasonable theory, but you have to wonder if Team Sonnen might be playing themselves in their attempts to get into “Bubba” McDaniel’s head.

Speaking of McDaniel, he continues to strategize, this time drawing the ire of Aussie Dylan Andrews.  The discussion is mirrored on Team Sonnen, with Tor Troéng explaining the pointlessness of stressing over match-ups.  This is a prominent theme this season: Who is looking for more television time and who is fighting to be amongst the best of the best in this sport?

Hart is depicted as being the quiet type, which he understands can be off-putting to those around him.  Team Jones strategy for him revolves around getting in close with King and making the fight ugly.  At first, that might seem to favour King who is a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu black belt, but Jon Jones is convinced that King’s inflated physique won’t be able to go the distance with Hart.  He couldn’t have thought of this when he was matching up poor Gilbert Smith with Luke Barnatt?

Fun and games ensue when some of the more, *ahem*, “urban-inclined” members of the house hold engage in an impromptu freestyle session.  Word gets out that King is a budding rapper, which all but forces Smith to step to him.  King fires back and as he disses Smith, the self-proclaimed “Gigantor” does some weird (sexy?) dancing.  Clint Hester tries to get in on it but he chokes badly.  Cella jokes that he didn’t want to jump in and embarrass anyone.  In truth, none of them are that good so Cella would have fit right in.

Less amusing is the first official prank of the season.  The power goes out in the house and King has the oh-so-clever suggestion to drape toilet paper over the sleeping members of Team Jones.  Someone throws the roll instead, which only serves to awaken the fighters from their precious rest.  Hart is deeply perturbed and when King goes to shake his hand at the weigh-ins, Hart flips him off.  The move starts a scuffle between the two teams.  Hall is particularly insulted and he expresses his disappointment back at the house, which Hart could care less about.  King tries to play it cool, but respect is a huge issue with him and you can tell it’s eating at him.

The actual fight is uneventful.  Hart comes out with some crazy flying crap…

Not exactly the stuff viral gifs are made out of

…and follows up the unorthodox maneuver with a strong single leg.  He has King down within seconds.  The fighters stay close throughout the first round, with Hart scoring frequently with short punches, elbows and knees in the clinch.  Near the end of the first and the beginning of the second, King has some success with his hands.  You can see he has some power, but he lacks confidence and continuity.  His first instinct is always to grapple and while that might work against most opponents, it’s exactly the wrong thing to do against the relentless Hart.  Hart opens up another cut and then pounds on King from top position for the remainder of the period.  After taking the decision, Hart coolly walks over to a treadmill and goes for a jog.  That’s how you show somebody up.

Next week: Bubba finally gets to fight and Team Jones picks on Kevin Gastelum (the youngest American TUF participant ever).  It looks to be a huge mismatch in both size and experience, but stranger things have happened.