The Ultimate Fighter 18: Team Rousey v. Team Tate – Week 13 Recap

A small tidbit to start off: during last Sunday’s NFL games, Fox Sports ran a commercial advertising this weekend’s Ultimate Fighter 18 finale.  I noticed that they showed Gray Maynard, Nate Diaz and four finalists…with Raquel Pennington being left out.  Did they inadvertently spoil the results?  I only saw the promo once, so I could be mistaken.  Did anyone else catch this?

At last, we’ve come to the end of a perversely enjoyable season.  This is the second season since they overhauled production and I think the product has shown improvement.  It’s pleasing to the eye and they’ve put the focus back on the fighters themselves rather than in-house stupidity.  This season is definitely in the best 9 seasons rather than the worst 9 I can tell you that much.

In celebration of your American Thanksgiving (and as a weak segue into recap territory), I offer a brief list of TUF 18 features that I am thankful for:

  • The women!  I said at the beginning of the season that this roster of females could go on to be as successful as the very first TUF contestants and I stand by that.  I see the majority of them panning out like Josh Koscheck or Kenny Florian, though there will likely be at least one Jason Thacker in the bunch.
  • Chris Holdsworth.  The show gave him plenty of camera time and for good reason.  I would have been satisfied if every episode had at least one segment featuring his dorky brand of cool.
  • Speaking of dorky cool, there has to be a place for Roxanne Modafferi in the UFC.  I know she’s not exactly a “cover girl” and she’s too small for the 135 pound division and too big for the upcoming 115 pound division.  I don’t care.  She has a wicked personality and she knows just about everything there is to know about the women’s MMA scene.  Give her and Shayna Baszler a YouTube show and I’m good
  • Plato!
  • Nice shoes.  Wanna f**k?
  • LIVES WITH PARENTS
  • Jessamyn Duke v. Rocky.  Personally, I didn’t think this fight was that great but it seemed to gain decent traction in social media and that can only be good for women’s MMA.  It was a gritty battle with a high output from both fighters and it’s something they’ll be able to look back on with pride long after they’ve retired
  • Sarah Moras’s shorts
  • Ronda Rousey introducing me to stereotypes about Armenians that I didn’t even know existed.  Also, she compared Chris Beal to Ashy Larry
  • Michael Wootten’s weight cut penis
  • Harley Davidson camp.  Just kidding.  That sucked
  • The delightful insanity of both Cody Bollinger and Anthony Gutierrez missing weight.  Consider that this was a dual weight season so they mucked up what was an already small bracket
  • And of course: “…I just drank the bathwater.

Team Colours:

Team Rousey
Team Tate

There’s a lot on the line in tonight’s episode.  Not only is Jessica Rakoczy one step away from having a shot at being the first female Ultimate Fighter winner, she would also be the first Canadian to win the show.  That matters to folks like me.  The only other Canadian finalists were Patrick Côté (who I don’t count because of the unique makeup of the comeback season) and Mike Ricci (who I don’t count because he is terrible).  She would also be the first fighter chosen last overall in their division to claim the title.  On TUF 17, Kelvin Gastelum was the last pick of Team Sonnen but Dylan Andrews was the last pick overall.  No pressure.

We find out that Pennington was a solid amateur athlete who lost her scholarships after breaking her back in a snowboarding accident.  This lead to her to getting into MMA, which means we have her love of shreddin’ the gnar to thank for her career change.  That actually explains a lot as she’s been the most chill person in the house, even making cutting weight look like a vacation.

I’d probably be sweating a lot around Jessamyn regardless of the situation.

Rakoczy’s path to MMA is hazier.  Did she make the move because it was a fresh challenge or to take advantage of the increasing interest in women’s MMA?  Regardless, I give her a ton of credit for having made the move as effectively as she has.  Ignore her pedestrian 1-3 (1 No Contest) record.  Having won 8 world titles in boxing, it was difficult for her to find opponents so she had to step up fast.  Her losses are to Michelle Ould, Zoila Frausto Gurgel and Felice Herrig who have a combined record of 28-10 (2 NC).  It would have been unbelievable if she had actually beaten any of them.

There’s a pall over this week’s match-up as both girls are nursing injuries.  Louis Fisette accidentally crunches Pennington’s hand during a scramble and Ashy Chris rocks Rakoczy in practice.  The Beal hit aggravates a pre-existing shoulder injury.  That’s something Manny Gamburyan knows all about.  He lost to Nate Diaz in the TUF 5 tournament final when his shoulder popped out of place in the second round.  She also gets some striking advice from Edmond Traverdyan…Tarverdyan…hey, wait a second…

Step up your game, production team!

Leading up to the fight, there’s a few cute moments to ease the tension.  At the weigh-in, they laugh about Rakoczy gaining a pound (she’s a small bantamweight).  David Grant and Rakoczy bond over bacon and syrup.  So Canadian.  Pennington has a strange dream that seriously messes with her.  We see the hairdresser again.  Okay, after seeing how long it takes to do proper cornrows, I can finally accept that they hired a hairdresser for the show.

I’m still not happy about it though.

When you’ve seen one TUF story, you’ve seen them all.  Still, I’m a sucker for Rakoczy talking about how she had to let her son go back to Canada while she was on the show.  She looks deathly serious when she says she’s afraid her son might be mad at her even though he’s only 4 years old.  These are the moments that stick in people’s minds and lead to fighters being able to stick with the company for years.  Nate Quarry was a decent fighter who came off as incredibly intelligent and thoughtful during his time in the house and that played a part in his being booked for 10 UFC appearances.  I see similar things in Rakoczy’s future.

Motivation.

Rakoczy is eager to box, mentioning that Pennington claims to get high from pain and that she’s going to make her high.

Pennington on the other hand is just…off.

Pennington: I’m so relaxed, it’s f**ing weird.

The fight

Closing out the season, it would be hard for this fight to live up to the hype and frankly…it doesn’t.  Whether it’s the dream or the injury or her rows are just too tight, Pennington is shows little of the confidence and aggressiveness that won her the Duke fight.  That is not to take anything away from Rakoczy, who fights like what she is: a world champion boxer.  She looks so light on her feet and she is able to land her jab whenever she wants.  Pennington manages to score a trip, but she does almost nothing when she gets there.  Rakoczy goes for an awkward leg grab counter, so Pennington just falls on top of her.  Even with those takedowns, I gave the first round to Rakoczy (10-9).

The corner calls for Rakoczy to double up on the jab and hit the body.  They may as well be using a video game controller because she follows their instructions to the letter.  The strategy makes Pennington impatient and she ends up eating a hook.  Rakoczy is in complete control of the octagon and she comes forward with combinations.  Pennington uses the classic tactic of shooting late to steal a round, but it won’t be enough.  Another 10-9 for Rakoczy, even more decisive than the first.

It is astonishing how crisp Rakoczy’s boxing is.  She looks like she’s back between the ropes with 10 oz gloves on.  A sloppy takedown attempt by Pennington results in her taking another big hook as they break apart.  Rakoczy knows she has this one.  I gave her all three rounds and the judges agree.

Everyone is also in agreement that Pennington didn’t fight anywhere near her potential.  Dana White, Baszler and Miesha Tate all say something to the effect of “she can do better”.  I thought it was a great effort from both girls, especially considering their injuries.  Let’s not bury the headline here.  That was 15 focused and consistent minutes from Rakoczy.

MILF = Mother I’d Like to Fight

We close with the long awaited face-off between Rousey and Tate.  There’s one last prank up Tate’s sleeve (er, down her shorts): a sock with the middle finger on it, a fitting response to Rousey’s usual antics.  The poor sock gets tossed away and it is on!

Feel feel feel feel feel…feel my heat.

This Saturday:

Last year I had the brilliant idea to compare two seasons of TUF that were running concurrently: TUF 16: Team Carwin v. Team Nelson and TUF: The Smashes (the UK/Australia edition of TUF).  It was just my luck that the US edition happened to be worthless while The Smashes was too obscure for anyone to care about on this side of the pond.  I bring this up because I had the rare chance to pick three winners (a welterweight for TUF 16 and a welterweight and a lightweight for The Smashes).

I picked Ricci, Brad Scott and Colin Fletcher.  All three lost.  When you think about it, getting all three wrong is almost as impressive as getting them right, isn’t it?  I followed that up by willingly piling on to the Urijah Hall bandwagon and we all know how that went.  I’m currently on a four finale losing streak.  This ends today!

Chris Holdsworth (4-0) v. David Grant (8-1)

Is there any question who I’m picking here?

Even if I wasn’t fond of the young man, I’d be hard pressed to bet against him considering his pedigree and his performances on the show.  Getting into the house, he struggled for a couple of minutes against Fisette.  Other than that, he’s rolled through the competition.  He came in with the Alpha Male association, a spotless 4-0 record and some serious grappling credentials and he didn’t disappoint.  I’ll admit that my lack of knowledge when it comes to Grant and the UK MMA scene in general means I could be making a mistake here.  I have to go with what I know.

The pick: Holdsworth

Julianna Peña (4-2) v. Jessica Rakoczy (1-3 [1 NC])

Rakoczy is the sentimental favourite and were this a question of who I want to win, I’d pick her without hesitation.  She is proof that someone with a strong background in a single discipline can make the leap to MMA late in their lives with hard work and commitment to studying other styles.  She’s like a more attractive James Toney.

Unfortunately, the octagon cares not for who you are or where you come from.

I can’t say I’ve been overly impressed with Peña, but I agree with the notion that she’s a budding star waiting to erupt.  At only 24, she’s 12 years younger than Rakoczy.  She is at the point in her career where every action is a rising one while nature dictates that Rakoczy must be on the decline.  In her three fights (including the elimination round), Peña has shown she has another gear that her opponents haven’t been able to keep up with.  From a mental standpoint, her unique mix of arrogance and paranoia might actually serve her well under the bright lights of the UFC.  It’s hard to get distracted when you’re so focused on your own world.

Should Rakoczy pull off the upset, I’ll be happy to be wrong.

The pick: Peña

With that, I’m signing off for the season.  I never thought I’d have this much fun writing about The Ultimate Fighter.  The show itself was spectacular and the feedback I got from you all every week made it even better.  I might take a week off from posting content just to recharge, sort out some ideas I have bouncing around in my head and make more time to read posts from other wonderful contributors.  If you like what I do, then keep an eye out for my posts.  Otherwise, I’ll see you next season!

The Ultimate Fighter 18: Team Rousey v. Team Tate – Week 12 Recap

One misconception about The Ultimate Fighter that I don’t think carries much weight is that the champion’s prize is meaningless because so many of the contestants end up getting signed anyway.  True, it does seem disingenuous when the show adds half a dozen new recruits after hyping that there can only be one “ultimate fighter”, but 1) it wouldn’t make any sense to toss these freshly promoted characters to the curb and 2) winning the show has more benefits than just a spot on the roster.

The winner’s six figure contract is both more and less lucrative than a casual viewer is lead to believe; no, it is not a lump sum payment and no, there is no guarantee that the fighter will be paid in full.  It’s my understanding (and the conditions may have changed over the years) that the contract is for up to nine fights, with show/win money starting at 12K/12K and escalating over the course of the deal until it averages out to around $300,000 in total.  The contract is not ironclad as several winners have been cut after mediocre showings.  On the flipside, the fighter is also not bound to the limitations of the contract, as Forrest Griffin got massive raises in his 7th and 8th post-TUF fights against Shogun Rua and Rampage Jackson respectively.

Just from a monetary standpoint, even if you flame out like Efrain Escudero or James Wilks (and inevitably Colton Smith), a couple of wins in that initial string of appearances would provide a financial boon that the majority of fighters in the world would kill for.  You also have to factor in how far being the feature fighter on a nationally televised show will go with sponsors (likely negligible these days).

For the other fighters who are brought back for the finale?  $8,000 to show and if you don’t win, you’re out.

Many fighters have gone on to great success and major pay days without even making it to the tournament final.  Melvin Guillard, Gray Maynard and Matt Hamill (though he bowed out due to an injury) immediately come to mind.  There are countless others who have had multiple appearances for the company.  I agree that you don’t need to win the show to have a career in the UFC.  But winning makes the whole process a hell of a lot easier.

I’ll close with a question: Is there any chance that Amir Sadollah would have ten UFC appearances under his belt and still be cashing Zuffa checks if he was never a TUF champion?

Team Colours:

Team Rousey
Team Tate

Promos over the course of the season have hinted at some sort of catastrophe and it looks like this will be the episode where it happens.  Cody Bollinger’s meltdown, Anthony Gutierrez’s reckless eating and the sweet, sweet smell of Armenian BBQ set the stage for what should be a classic.  Seriously though, bringing BBQ to the house when there are still fighters who are focusing on making weight?  This didn’t seem like a bad idea to anyone?  Gutierrez and Sarah Moras even make note that prior to this season, the last contestant to miss weight shared a living space with the evening’s chef, one Manvel Gamburyan.  He’s a jinx!

I hate you Manny.

It is tough to watch Gutierrez chowing down on that greasy, fat filled meat.  Later in the episode, we see Ronda Rousey being the good coach and offering her wisdom on proper dieting.  Whether he can make the weight or not, there’s no way that he’s entering the cage in optimal shape.  He brushes her off and in his testimonial expresses his weariness at people questioning what he eats.  He’s completely blind to the fact that he’ll pay badly for these habits when he gets older.  I couldn’t anticipate that the chickens would come to roost so soon.

I realize now that an oft-repeated preview of David Grant tearfully looking to Rousey for support was an obvious red herring.  This isn’t the first time I’ve been deceived by a reality TV competition and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

I bet she doesn’t even need those glasses.

Team Rousey seems determined to avoid a convoluted training situation.  They decide it’s best to stay out of preparation altogether, allowing the fighters to pick their own corners.  Gutierrez picks Josh Hill from Team Tate, Shayna Baszler and Jessamyn Duke while Grant rolls with his homeboy Michael Wootten, Chris Beal and fellow semi-finalist Jessica Rakoczy.  Rousey is broken up about having to abandon her charges after having trained with them for weeks.  It’s hard to tell if she’s just doing it for cameras, but I choose to believe.  If I’m wrong, then this isn’t the first time I’ve been deceived by a reality TV competition and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The segment ends with a special treat: armbar training from the Olympic medallist herself.  I do like me a good armbar.  This is Rousey at her best.  No bulls**t.  Just fantastic technique, execution and supreme confidence.

Rousey: You guys can go tell everybody how I do my armbar.  I don’t give a f**k, I’m going to get it anyway.

It’s time for the coaches’ challenge!  This is one segment every year that never fails to entertain, if only to see how bad these finely tuned warriors are at other sports.  Some of the most recent challenges have been awesome, including last year’s excavator showdown between Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones and the destruction derby competition with Ross Pearson and George Sotiropoulos from the criminally underrated TUF: The Smashes.  Grant jokes that this year’s set-up had him anticipating a dance competition, which would be the greatest thing ever.  I’d pay good money to see Ronda do some ronds des jambe.

Instead, it’s just the wall from American Gladiators.  Where’s Al Kaplan when you need him?

Gladiators!  READY?!?

Rousey wins, throws in a classy “F**k you, bitch!” at Miesha Tate, and plugs their fight for good measure.  Even Chris Holdsworth can’t help but laugh at how…“Ronda” it is.  I’m all for people being real and up front about things, but that is no excuse to be a jerk.  Just because you’re honest about being a sh**ty person doesn’t excuse you being a sh**ty person.

And now the main event…making weight.  I don’t even know where to begin with this.  It’s just delicious.  As delicious as the mayonnaise that Gutierrez so gleefully spreads on his sandwich.  Let’s count this one down.

150.5

Gutierrez is pleased with himself.  He is ridiculously arrogant about his ability to eat whatever he wants, accusing the others of being jealous of his physiology (sounds like Julianna Peña).

139.5

Oh sorry, that was Grant’s weight the morning of the weigh-ins.  He’s going to make it easy.  We find out that he used to be a DJ under the name “DJ Davey G”.  It’s a travesty that we’re only hearing about this now and that he gave that up for his stupid family.

Now, where were we…

145.5

ERMAHGERD

142?

Gutierrez is employing the Bollinger “mind over matter” strategy.  He says all the right things about how much he was planning to weigh before going to sleep and how big he was after an hour and a half at the gym without ever confirming it.  Perhaps if he can convince himself that he’s losing weight, it will magically disappear.

A bad omen.

The situation is tense in the Team Rousey locker room.  Rousey is pissed about the last minute cut, especially since it’s clear that Gutierrez had indulged in some late night snacking.  There’s no reason he should have been the size of a featherweight when he woke up.

Time for another weight check.

143.5

The lie unravels as Baszler says she never saw him check his weight and that he was drinking a NOS on the way to the gym.  When Rousey asked him how the cut was going, Baszler figures he must have been guessing.  The rest of us refer to this as “lying”.

???

He keeps taking breaks!  Rousey says that there’s no point in periodically checking his weight anymore, he just has to power through.  There’s so much tension.  Running.  Sauna.  Running.  Sauna.  Running.  Sauna.  I might have to change my pants after this.

135.5

*phew* that was close…oh wait, that’s Grant again.  And this is at the actual weigh-ins.  Mr. Gutierrez?

140

Well, f**k.  There is no f**king way he cuts those last four pounds in an hour.  This really reflects poorly on both Rousey and Tate after the Bollinger debacle.  As much as I’m enjoying this, don’t think I don’t have sympathy for Gutierrez.  Yes it’s all his fault, but I can’t imagine how that must have felt to see that number on the scale.  “How is it one-forty?” he says, despondent.  That has got to just crush a man.

Rousey: It doesn’t matter if you don’t make the weight.  What matters is that you don’t quit.

There’s nothing the coaches can do to help Gutierrez.  He responds to the challenge by literally lying down.  He admits that he “f**ed up the last three or four days and then caps it off with one of the saddest sentences in TUF history:

Gutierrez: …I just drank the bathwater.

He’s not going to make it.

And pork is in his belly.

With all due respect to Gutierrez and the other fighters who endure these grueling weight cuts, I love this stuff.  Love it.  There’s something about these athletes pushing themselves that much further to get an edge that is just crazy to me.  There are pros and cons to extreme weight cutting.  The idealist in me believes we should find a way to abolish it; the rubbernecker in me wants to know everything about how it’s done.  I’ve been spoiled by not one, but two dramatic weight cuts this season.  It’s like pornography.  I’m not kidding.

The coaches and contestants run a gamut of emotions.  Grant  looks absolutely disgusted and I don’t blame him.  I wouldn’t celebrate either.  Baszler looks like she wants to cry.  Rakoczy can’t even look in his direction.  Rousey decides to make weight as an act of contrition, apparently dropping 17 pounds in 24 hours with no preparation (check out Duke’s blog for the details and the sweet surprise she got for her birthday).  Dana White has the most appropriate response:

White: Leave.

The bitter taste of victory.

Next week: Raquel Pennington v. Jessica Rakoczy.  Also, Gamburyan gets permanently banned from appearing on the show.

Bonus link!

I know you all are too lazy to track it down yourselves, so here’s the clip from Duke’s birthday celebration.  There is no reason this shouldn’t have been on television.

 

The Ultimate Fighter 18: Team Rousey v. Team Tate – Week 11 Recap

In the interest of maintaining what little journalistic integrity I presume to have, I’ve skirted around the more base aspects of the show that have undoubtedly been a common topic of discussion amongst viewers: which female fighters are the hottest?

To make the question slightly more palatable, let’s rephrase it to “who has the most star potential?”  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that, but for the most part I think we can come to a consensus on what features men and women tend to find attractive.  Under those vague criteria, I’d say the obvious front-runners are Jessamyn Duke, Julianna Peña, and Raquel Pennington.

Duke is a former model, so she has experience with being paid to look pretty.  Peña is a favourite of Miesha Tate and the show runners (and herself, for that matter).  Pennington has said that she’s used to being judged by her looks as opposed to her accomplishments.  All three girls bring something different to the table and the UFC would love it if one or all of them could follow the career path of Tate or Ronda Rousey.  The show has even given them a head start in terms of exposure.

This is not to discount the other ladies, as we all have our tastes.  I, for one, can’t get enough of the ginger giantess Peggy Morgan, though I can’t seem to get any of my friends to bite.  The casting director deserves major kudos this year for finding a diverse group of women that are fun to watch both inside and outside of the cage.  The men are alright, I guess.

Lastly, as someone who didn’t see what the big deal was about Tate before this show, can I just say that she has become hotter with every episode?  Is it just me?  I don’t care if I’m coming off as a pig right now.  Let me have this.

Okay, shutting off male gaze in 3…2…1…

Team Colours:

Team Rousey
Team Tate

Team Tate is in disarray, which was to be expected when three of your four fighters are competing for a spot in the finals.  Assistant coach Eric Triliegi says that Sarah Moras just held him and cried.  That’s not something most TUF coaches have had to deal with.  Going into this season, I wondered how the women would do coaching the men; now, I’m more interested in finding out how men will coach the women!  We cut to Moras sobbing in the sauna.

Maybe she’s just trying to lose more water weight.

I don’t see why these teams don’t employ a sports psychologist.  MMA has to be one of the most intense, demanding and lonely sports in the world.  It’s absurd to expect these athletes to deal with their day-to-day struggles in calm, level-headed fashion.  I’m not saying that a good psychologist could have helped Cody Bollinger or Moras in this situation, but it certainly couldn’t hurt.  We’ve had a lot of crying this season, though it still ranks behind TUF: Brazil 1 and, of course, Andy Wang.

The situation is almost too much for Tate to handle.  She says that Peña is paranoid (“Peñanoid”?) and decides it would be best for both her and Moras if she removed herself from training altogether.  I’m not sure that I agree with this strategy because in a way she’s acknowledging that Moras’s outburst is an effective way to get to her.  Isn’t this one of the first rules of parenting?  Let the child cry!  Compromise is nice, but the nice thing isn’t always the right thing to do.

I haven’t seen jealous eyes like this since Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth.

Around the campfire, Moras regales the others with stories of how she dominated Peña in their first encounter.  Everyone is a little too happy about how Moras apparently snapped Peña’s arm.  Josh Hill reiterates that nobody likes Peña and Anthony Gutierrez sums up just how bad the situation has become:

Gutierrez: …it’s really sad because Shayna even said that Roxanne was talking crap on Julianna and if Roxanne is saying something bad about you then you know you are failing at life.

Peña doesn’t realize that what people don’t like about her is that she all she thinks about is how people don’t like her.  She says that maybe the guys are worried they’ll make their girlfriends jealous by talking to her and 7as9n7vhf@*..,zgdiu2z[c,[pzbnqUV3ZXM[]c,2jvx/[[q

Whoa, sorry, my eyes rolled all the way to the back of my head there and it took me a second to adjust.  I’m okay now.

Peña goes on to say that the other people are only nasty to her because they’re nasty people.  In other words, she’s a perfect person who does nothing wrong.  Self awareness doesn’t appear to be one of her strong points.  It’s funny, because she has the exact opposite problem in training.  Bryan Caraway points out that she is overly critical of her performances.  That may be true, but you can tell that it’s that mindset that has caused her skills to improve by leaps and bounds.  If she can balance that out with positivity (maybe spend some time with Diego Sanchez), she’s a legitimate force at 135.

On the Moras side of things, we get a nice Kelowna B.C. shout-out and a terrible scene where she drops a hard elbow on Roxanne Modafferi’s face.  Even after that flub, Modaferri is a good sport.  What does it take to make this woman angry?

This week’s time filler is an upgrade over last week’s Harley Davidson camp, though that isn’t saying much.  Rousey shows off her artsy side by taking a bunch of perfectly good shirts and poking holes in them…sexy holes.

She rips through shirts like she rips through the competition!

As stupid as I find this whole thing, I’m going to put this segment in the plus-column for her.  It’s cute.  And hey, maybe one of these things will pop up on-line and it will make a good Christmas gift for a loved one.

Moras: I got a Ronda shirt.  I’m gonna sell it on e-bay and not have to work when I get home.

Not everyone is as enthused.  Peñanoid doesn’t get a shirt “Ronda-fied” as she can’t decide what shirt to use and whether Rousey would even do it for her.  Have I mentioned she has a tendency to over-think things?

Ugh, Peña is even ruining this awesome robe.

It gets worse later when we have what should have been an amusing segment with Pennington airing out a list of grievances in regards to Peña’s poor roommate etiquette.  As only Peña can, she refuses to accept any blame for her actions and compares herself to both Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing.  She even goes as far as to drop a “nobody puts Baby in the corner”.  You do not quote Dirty Dancing, Julianna!  YOU DO NOT!

Pennington: You play the victim a lot.

The only thing I find more disturbing than Peña’s martyrdom is the fact that someone let a pet into the house.  First hairdressers, now this.  This show has truly gone to the…you know.

I’m nearly certain this is against the rules.

The fight

Louis Fisette was making fun of Peña’s stand-up before and it does look bad at times.  There is enough power in those punches to make Moras back off though.  The activity prevents Moras from setting up any kind of offence, including the takedown she desperately needs.  They clinch and Peña just sort of falls on top of Moras.  Peña’s corner wants her to stand as she struggles in Moras’s guard.  She is able to pass and throws a few elbows.  The first round is hers.

Just over a minute into the second, Peña scores with a nice trip that leads to side control.  Peña is just so heavy on top and you can see Moras getting tired.  Not to mention this is only a few days after her match with Morgan.  A big elbow has Moras’s nose gushing blood and Peña pours on the pressure.  She goes all out for a flawless guillotine choke that ends the fight.

Peña and Moras are both in tears after the fight, for different reasons obviously.  After all the drama and all the talk, Peña delivers when it matters most and she looks like she will be the betting favourite no matter who she meets in the finals.

At least somebody still likes her.

Next week: Could another Team Rousey fighter miss weight?  I like David Grant, so let’s hope these are some misleading promos.  Either way, I’m excited that they’ve dug up “The Wall” from American Gladiators for this year’s coaches’ challenge.

As for Moras, you haven’t seen the last of her, I guarantee it.  And you definitely haven’t seen the last of that hair.

She should change her nickname to “Majestic”.

The Ultimate Fighter 18: Team Rousey v. Team Tate – Week 10 Recap

Carrying over from last week’s discussion about The Ultimate Fighter’s viability, I’m going to bring up an idea that seems to come up every now and then.

Another “comeback season”.

For those who don’t remember, season 4 of TUF brought back veteran fighters who had made appearances in the UFC but never ascended to a top position.  It is rightfully regarded as one of the best seasons, both for the quality of the fights and how well it showcased several personalities.  Who could forget the non-stop entertainment of “Mr. International” Shonie Carter, the ball busting of Charles McCarthy (who in all likelihood was suffering from a bi-polar disorder), and the sophomoric shenanigans of future sex offender Jeremy Jackson.  Okay, maybe we could forget that last one.

Nobody benefited more from the show than Matt Serra.  He became the de facto leader of his team and had memorable clashes with Marc Laimon and Matt Hughes (planting the seeds for their rivalry).  He was in the middle of almost every memorable moment.  Oh, he also won the tournament, earned a title shot against Georges St-Pierre and beat him to officially become the number one welterweight in the world for a short time.  This actually happened.

Were they to reuse the concept today, the automatic title shot would be out the window.  I’m thinking the winner would get a main event slot on a free card.  Does that even sound like a worthwhile prize?

Let’s say the only restrictions are that contestants can’t have been on TUF before, competed for a UFC title or ever been in the main event of a UFC card.  Who would you bring back?  I look forward to your suggestions.

Team Colours:

Team Rousey
Team Tate

The first round is over and you know what that means.  It’s time…to…get…KRUNK (do people still say this?)!  Everyone is in good spirits and why shouldn’t they be?  They know who the semi-finalists are, all of this tension has been released and…you know, it feels like they’re forgetting something.  Not sure what it could be though.

hey guys

Ah, well.  SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS

Raquel Pennington is there to hang with Sarah Moras, who is frustrated about not getting to enjoy her victory.  Pennington reminds me of Nate Quarry, in that she’s always there for someone to lean on.  She’s a real “Rock”, if you know what I’m saying.  A real “Rock”.

You see, Pennington’s nickname is “Rocky” and Quarry was known as “Rock” in his fighting days.  Rocks are solid and stable, much like someone you would go to for comfort in a difficult time.  Quarry was one of the more mature members of the original TUF cast and thus, like a rock.  Pennington is like Quarry, thus also rock-like.  Rock.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, we find out that Ronda Rousey is a former bartender.  Also, she’s cosplaying Sarah Connor apparently:

“You broke my arm!”
“There’s 215 bones in the human body.  That’s one.”

If I was one of the contestants on the previous seasons I’d be jealous that the TUF 18 guys get to party with the ladies.  From here on out, it will suck to not be on a cast with women.  I’d rather be flirting with Jessamyn Duke than have to listen to Amir Sadollah’s collection of vintage fart jokes.

Party time is over and the semi-finals are looming.  Pennington, Moras and Louis Fisette are convinced that Julianna Peña and Chris Holdsworth are the coaches’ favourites.  It’s hard to argue with that logic, especially when you consider that Peña and Holdsworth had a previous relationship with Miesha Tate and her team.  That said, the dissenters are treading a fine line between standing up for themselves and whining.  Later in the episode we get Holdsworth’s perspective.  He feels abandoned by his teammates who aren’t going to the semi-finals (he was the only Team Tate male to advance).  Seeing Peña and Holdsworth jumping rope together like a couple of robots probably isn’t helping things.

Holdsworth v. Peña would be a dream finale.

In what must be a desperate attempt to get ratings, we’re treated to guest appearances by Cain Velasquez and Nate Diaz!  Velasquez rides in like the Fonz, but there isn’t much he can do to liven up what is otherwise an extended Harley Davidson commercial.

Sit on it!

The cast hangs out in a hangar and gets to enjoy “Harley Davidson boot camp”.  This unfortunately leads us to what must be a lowlight of the entire TUF series: a tutorial on how to pick up a Harley that is tipped over.  I can’t believe this show is struggling to find an audience.

Diaz acquits himself better as he actually shows up at the gym to train with Team Rousey.  It’s a big deal for everyone, including David Grant who actually named his son Nate!  I completely missed the TUF 5 connection between Diaz and Manny Gamburyan.  It’s incredible how far both men have gone in their careers, with Gamburyan having challenged for the featherweight title and Diaz getting a crack at the lightweight strap.  This coaching session brings it full circle.

The rest of the episode is all over the place.  Holdsworth and Michael Wootten are struggling with the isolation; Holdsworth from his team and “himself”, Wootten from his friends and family.  The segment is packed with long shots of dark rooms and coffee dripping.  You know, the stuff fight fans come to see.

Subtlety, thy name is The Ultimate Fighter.

There’s also an inspiring visit from Kenny Salvini, a former athlete who became a motivational speaker after a life altering accident.  Pleasant as that was, you can tell they had trouble filling time this week.  The episode kind of sucks.

One bright spot is Team Rousey’s handling of a depleted Wootten.  Rather than forcing him to put on some false bravado, they acknowledge his fatigue and find other ways to prepare him for the fight that don’t involve overtraining.  Take note overzealous camps!

Then again, considering the results…

The fight

A dominating performance by Holdsworth.  He takes Wootten down like a sack of potatoes and advances to side control with ease.  You’re seeing black belt jiu-jitsu here folks.  Wootten tries to buck Holdsworth off, but that’s just a waste of energy.  On the escape, a D’Arce choke almost puts Wootten to sleep.  Holdsworth is all over him, slipping around into a rear naked choke.  He squeezes and squeezes until his hand slips under the chin and that will do it.  Much like Uriah Hall, Holdsworth is using the tournament as a showcase even though the UFC would probably have signed him without it.  Hopefully, unlike Hall, he won’t suck.

All they do is win.

Next week: Sarah Moras v. Julianna Peña.  Dana White admits that he isn’t high on Moras even after her impressive win over Peggy Morgan.  It might have something to do with the fact that she’s chosen to channel the spirit of Gilda Radner.

Sarah Roseannadanna.

The Ultimate Fighter 18: Team Rousey v. Team Tate – Week 9 Recap

Appropriately enough, last week’s recap episode had me thinking about The Ultimate Fighter and its place in the modern UFC.  A recent Bloody Elbow comment thread included some stinging criticisms that had me reconsidering the whole endeavour altogether:

“It’s horrifying when you start looking at the list of all the great fighters who have had their fights delayed because they were coaching TUF.  Early on TUF built up young fighters and promoted big fights between coaches.  Now TUF saddles us with second-rate fighters on main cards and delays big fights between coaches.”  (MichaelDavidSmith)

“Well put.  TUF is the biggest misallocation of resources and wasted opportunity cost in Zuffa history.  They seem completely committed to never varying the formula either.”  (Nate Wilcox)

“With Ronda Rousey, for example, I understand that they are going to use TUF to build up her name and profile, but from March to December, she will not have had a fight mainly due to TUF. On top of that, she’s getting all these movie offers, and they could have possibly squeezed in two fights for her in that time frame, and most definitely could have done one fight in there.”  (chrisbboy82)

“Not to mention that since TUF is now on FS1 it’s drawing the worst numbers ever and this is for a program that demonstrably has fan appeal (based on DVR numbers, etc).  They took their biggest star and buried her on a chump network for half a year.”

Ouch.  Even as one of TUF’s few remaining devotees, I can admit that the show has become a trifle.  The last two seasons have been great fun, but there’s nothing that tells me that it’s capable of producing new stars.  Gray Maynard is the last TUF contestant to main event a PPV and he was on the show 6 years ago.  Since that time there have been 13 domestic and 3 international editions of the show and each one is a textbook example of diminishing returns.

This is the part where I’m supposed to make a spirited argument for the show and how it’s a cheap way to stock the roster and how it gives us a unique insight into the minds of the fighters and how fun it is to see adults acting like jackasses when mixed with alcohol and cameras…but I can’t.  As much as I love the show, it’s on its last legs.  All I can do is chronicle the last few seasons before good sense takes over and the whole operation is shut down.

We’ll always have Willa Ford.

Team Colours:

Team Rousey
Team Tate

On a brighter note, we open on Miesha Tate playing the big sister by bringing burgers to the most recent competitors, Josh Hill and Michael Wootten.  It’s a tough scene for Cody Bollinger to watch as he’s next up and has about 15 pounds to cut.  He jokingly says that he’ll cry the weight away.

Mike, could you not look me directly in the eyes when you’re downing that thing?  Thanks.

Bollinger and his opponent, Anthony Gutierrez, apparently get along and now that I think about it, this is the first time we hear of that or anything in-depth about Gutierrez.  Up until this episode, he’s been cast as the chauvinist and the jokester.  His fight to get into the house got the highlight reel treatment so I can’t even tell you what his style is.  He explains that he’s a fan of the Diaz brothers, which explains his classy behaviour.  Ronda Rousey describes him as “annoying”, “squirrely” and “unorthodox” stopping short of calling him a sparkplug.  There’s a surreal scene where Bollinger and Gutierrez are sleeping in the same room together while cutting weight, made more so by Gutierrez being wrapped up like an infant.

MMA.  World’s manliest sport.

Wait…what’s this?

WEIGHT CUTTING DRAMA

You can’t see me, but I’m licking my lips right now.  I don’t know why, but weight cutting fascinates me.  I’m not necessarily a proponent of it, just someone who appreciates the gamesmanship and hard work that goes into perfecting it.  Some of my favourite TUF memories are of Bobby Southworth being dragged whining and complaining back into the sauna and Gabe Ruediger going for a colonic.

This struggle is not as fun to watch.  In previous episodes, Bollinger has been painted as the consummate family man so seeing the desperation on his face as the weigh-in draws closer and closer is gut wrenching.  Bryan Caraway says that weight cutting is the worst thing you could experience in your life, which is a slight exaggeration.  I’m sure the women on the show who have given birth would argue (at least in terms of physical discomfort).

Team Tate is mystified by Bollinger’s weight, since he’s been sweating like a pig and not dropped an ounce.  They speculate that either his water and sodium levels have gone haywire or he lied about where his weight was to start the day.

Ruh roh.

Prior to TUF 18, Bollinger had competed primarily as a featherweight.  Add in the fact that the fighters can order and eat whatever they want in the house and that was a recipe for disaster.  Bollinger breaks down and his coach does her best to keep him going:

Tate: You’re still crying.  That’s good.  You’ve got tears.  You’ve got water in you.  You’re going to pull it out.

Back at the house, Raquel Pennington steps in for support but nothing seems to work.  Bollinger quits.  He was Team Tate’s number one pick and one of the bigger names going into the show.  Will he get a second chance?  The previous TUF contestants to miss weight were Kenny Stevens (faded into obscurity), Ruediger (had a handful of fights in the UFC) and James Vainikolo (TUF: The Smashes, came in as a late replacement so his miss was somewhat excusable).  That’s not fantastic company to be in.

It’s a somber scene as Bollinger admits that he could have made it but he just snapped.  Tate says he wasn’t managing his diet during his time in the house.  Dana White’s take on it is a lot more clear cut:

White: You took somebody’s f**ing lottery ticket and ripped it up.

Sounds about right.  You have to wonder what was going through Bollinger’s head there.  Having never put my body through anything like that I can only imagine the mental toll it takes on you.  Still, knowing the stakes, I’m as surprised as anyone that he couldn’t find a way to gut out this ordeal.

For more information on extreme weight cuts, check out this article by Tim Ferriss and Nate Green over at fourhourworkweek.com.

Chris Beal is the only eligible replacement as Tate’s guys are on medical suspension.  After some discussion, Beal is left hanging as Gutierrez wisely chooses to accept a forfeit rather than having to cut all of that weight again.  Dana doesn’t blame him and the commission backs the decision.

Dana was more pissed about him putting his sweaty ass all over the furniture.

Of course, Rousey takes the opportunity to run down Tate for throwing Bollinger under the bus.  I thought that Tate was contrite (she said she was “extremely sorry”) and I’m not sure how she wasn’t supposed to sound shocked or disgusted by her fighter’s failure.  Lost in that drama is the unfortunate reality that Gutierrez might have screwed Beal over.  I mean, if Beal wanted to fight again he should have won his first one, but still…that’s cold-blooded.

The f**k did you just say?

I almost forgot there’s a fight this week.  Sarah Moras faces Peggy Morgan.  Moras gives us the inside scoop: I think she’s very pale…and a ginger…and really tall too so she’s kind of like a giraffe.  She delivers the lines with the dryness of a mid-90s female stand-up comic.  I keep expecting her to go into a bit about birth control or bad sex, but it never comes.

And what’s the deal with airline food?

We find out that Morgan has a kid.  He’s seen her train so he has some concept of what she wants to do for a living.  As strange as it must sound when he tells people that Mama fights in a cage, I think that’s better than telling your friends that Mama dances in a cage.

It’s a time-tested striker versus grappler match-up.  I’m hearing a lot of “ifs” when discussing Morgan’s chances.  My ginger giantess could be in trouble.

The fight

Morgan fights like she should, consistently landing jabs and straights.  As expected, Moras shoots in and Morgan stops her at first with a nice whizzer.  Moras powers through and gets it, immediately trapping Morgan’s legs.  Someone on Team Rousey says that Moras is only trying to hold Morgan down, which ends up being incorrect.  I understand that Morgan is limited on the ground, but the corner should do more than just tell her to stall.  I could have told her that!

When she’s able to get to mount, Moras busts Morgan’s nose with an elbow.  The mount attack is overwhelming and Moras goes after the arm.  She wins with an armbar that even Rousey should be impressed by.

Last week, I made a gross error saying that Canadians were 0-2 in the house.  I should have clarified and said Canadian men, because I completely disregarded Jessica Rakoczy and now Sarah Moras who has done her part to represent my country.  My apologies ladies!

At the semi-final meetings, Rousey says that Rakoczy and Pennington are the best while Tate likes Julianna Peña.  Everyone on Team Tate says they’d like to fight Rakoczy, showing either unity or the fact that they all know they’re bigger than her.

On the guy side, Chris Holdsworth picks Gutierrez because they’ve got some minor beef, apparently.  He says he’d like to meet David Grant in the finale.  Wootten also picks Gutierrez on the grounds that he thinks it will be an easy fight.  Grant and Gutierrez say they’ll fight anyone.

After Rousey and Tate miraculously agree on the match-ups, your semi-final round looks like this:

  • Jessica Rakoczy v. Raquel Pennington
  • Julianna Peña v. Sarah Moras
  • David Grant v. Anthony Gutierrez
  • Chris Holdsworth v. Michael Wootten

Who loves ya, baby?

Next week: Holdsworth v. Wootten!  And the return of Gabe Ruediger…okay, maybe not.