The Ultimate Fighter 20: A Champion Will Be Crowned – Week 10

Are we all still basking in the glory of Randa Markos giving Carla Esparza and Felice Herrig their comeuppance?  I wouldn’t blame you if you are.  With one massive victory, Randa became one of the biggest names in Canadian MMA overnight.  To not only battle, but decisively vanquish her rival, was almost too perfect of a finish for that episode.  The only thing that would make it sweeter would be if Randa won her next fight leading to a final confrontation with Carla.

Team Colours

Team Melendez
Team Pettis

The show will be hard pressed to match last week’s drama.  Combatants Aisling Daly and Jessica Penne have both been cool and likeable so far.  Darn.  “Cool and likeable” don’t feed the bulldog!  Justine Kish laughs off the minor dilemma of being both Jessica’s friend and Aisling’s roommate.  It’s great to see that Justine is able to keep a positive attitude despite losing her chance to fight in the tournament.  She’s shown joking and smiling a lot, even while Jessica is kicking away at her in training.

Aisling's NotesI love the reminders that Aisling has posted to keep herself focused.

Aisling senses some bias in the coaching staff.  She’s been behind in adapting to the TUF experience from day one due to a combination of her depression, her being a foreigner, and the reality that this kind of show just isn’t for everyone.  Just like the last time she was down, an emotional lift is right around the corner…

Conor SurpriseFor some reason, Aisling being happy always makes me happy.

It’s Conor McGregor!  He takes the title off the wall and makes sure that he and Aisling get a good look at it.  I just realized that it’s possible she might beat him to becoming the first native of Ireland to hold a UFC title.  These two go way back.  Aisling was one of McGregor’s teammates from the first day their fight team was formed.  He also knows JoJo, because everyone who is cool knows JoJo.

“The Notorious” one’s charms fall flat in the Team Pettis locker room.  Everyone is way too tense to be enjoying themselves right now.  Aisling makes sure to introduce him to the group, though she is peculiarly selective about it:

Mischievous SmileAisling: “A bit childish of me, but I kind of made a point of telling Conor who my friends and ‘not my friends’ were.  Didn’t want anybody getting any love from Conor if they didn’t deserve it.”

Prior to the fight, the lack of privacy is driving Jessica crazy.  We’ve seen her getting along well enough with Justine and Felice, but overall she is a self-described “loner”.  Justine wants Jessica to open up.  She asks Jessica what would happen if she threw her puzzle pieces in the air.  Jessica says she would knee her in the face, like Justine taught her.  Aww…that’s…nice?

Killing TimeThat TUF puzzle looks like it would be a bitch to do.

The fight

The one word that everyone uses to describe Aisling is “unorthodox”.  Must be something in the water in Ireland, because she is as “Jardine-esque” as advertised.  It’s difficult to keep track of her stance switching.  From what I can tell, she tries to keep her opponent circling towards her power at all times.  It can be effective, though it leaves her open to an opponent that can effectively counter, which Jessica does.

A great entry by Jessica leads to her briefly taking the back.  Aisling is able to walk them over to the fence to avoid the takedown.  High volume from both in the clinch.  Aisling smartly uses her hand to smother Jessica at every opportunity.  It’s an extremely close first round that has me leaning towards Jessica (10-9) for being slightly crisper on the feet.  She does get thrown to the mat a couple of times in the closing minute, but it is nothing substantial.

The second round is similar to the first.  I give credit to Jessica for dictating where the fight goes, though she does get tripped down again.  Aisling does nothing with it.  She lets Jessica get up way too easily.  I’m just not seeing any sustained offence from Aisling.  Jessica is pushing her back and landing cleanly every time Aisling comes in.

Penne TripThis deft throw might have sealed the second for Jessica.

It’s definitely a 10-9 second for Jessica.  However, we end up going to a third round.  It’s not a problem for Jessica who scores with a slick trip early in the round.  There’s a fair bit of scrambling, with Jessica having the advantage in that department.  She attacks with a triangle from the bottom and later she manages to flatten out an exhausted Aisling.  Jessica is landing a ton of shots to the head putting her opponent into survival mode.  It’s a clear cut 10-9 third and decision win for Jessica.

Anthony Pettis says it was one of the best fights.  I don’t know about that.  It was good, but it was stuck in first gear for the majority of the time.  I did feel that Jessica put on a strong performance though.  The assumption was that her technical grappling would be too much for Aisling and while that might have been true, she also proved to be more than a match for her on the feet.  We also get some words from Gilbert Melendez, making his first appearance thirty three minutes into the episode.  Aren’t we glad he was taken out of competition to coach this season?

With only two episodes left, we’re forced to deal with the grim reality that only one of Rose Namajunas, JoJo, and Randa can make it to the final.  JoJo was my early favourite, but I’ve grown to like Rose and Randa so much.  Arrrrrgggh!  Making matters worse, there’s going to be four fights in two episodes.  Will there even be enough to write about or will I be forced to provide you with meaningless filler?  See, I’m doing it already!  Can you handle the suspense?!?

Jessica Moves OnNext Week: Tecia Torres v. Carla Esparza and Rose Namajunas v. JoJo.  Also, Gilbert might be there.  Or not.  Who knows?

Discussion question: The powers that be have declared that the next edition of TUF will be “something completely different”.  What could this possibly mean?  Will they finally do away with the team concept?  Choose coaches based on aptitude as opposed to using the show to hype fights (bring back Matt Serra!)?  Get rid of the TUF house?  It could be anything.

I, for one, am hoping they finally pull the trigger on what I like to call Paradise Fighter: Eight heavyweight men, eight strawweight women, no condoms.  In the words of Big John McCarthy, “Let’s get it on!”

The Ultimate Fighter 20: A Champion Will Be Crowned – Week 9

Before get into what was quite possibly the best episode of the season, I recommend taking a second to check out this quarterfinals preview by shanpthemadhatter.  It’s a good read, including the comments section which shows just how passionate viewers of the show have become about the cast.  Favourites have emerged and villains have come slithering out from the shadows.

Team Colours

Team Melendez
Team Pettis

The first round is finished and that means it’s time to get drank!

Stomach RaspberryI don’t recall Forrest Griffin or Rashad Evans ever doing one of these to a teammate.

To nobody’s surprise, Tecia “Buzz Killington” Torres is not amused by the evening’s festivities.  The good news is that it expedites her departure from the Team Melendez room she had been staying in under the most hostile circumstances.  She won her fight last week, so she can finally move on comfortably.  It works out for everyone.

Another fighter feeling the stress of the competition is top dog Carla Esparza.  I previously mentioned Bec Rawlings having the misfortune of having to face a higher seed than expected and that goes double for Carla.  As the #1 seed, she should have had the easiest path to the finale.  Now she has to face Tecia, who wasn’t even supposed to be on her side of the bracket.  I understand that if you want to win the show you have to beat four tough opponents anyway, but I can see why Carla wasn’t thrilled about Tecia being brought back into the competition the way she was.

Carla doesn’t feel comfortable sharing training time with her upcoming opponents, an opinion shared by her best friend Felice Herrig.  Team Pettis begrudgingly agrees to split their training sessions in half, with one side taking the days and the other taking nights.  Randa Markos, being the good Canadian, says she wants thing to stay the way they are.  Her modest approach to the discussion doesn’t do her any favours though.  A shaky voting process leads to the practices being split.  This means they’re essentially cutting their own practice time in half (with the exception of JoJo, the lone Team Pettis fighter facing someone from the other team.  JoJo always wins).  Randa also manages to draw the ire of Carla and Felice.

What starts off as a fun contrast of personalities between the reserved Randa and the feisty Felice soon turns ugly.  Randa thinks it sucks that they’re splitting up the training.  She wants as much gym time as possible.  When her half of the team asks Team Pettis to revert things back to the way they were, it doesn’t sit well with Felice who think the other girls are “cowardly” for not bringing it up the first time.  The Team Pettis coaches are responsible for this conflict because they should have required the vote to be unanimous as opposed to a majority decision (which it wasn’t really because it looks like a few team members abstained.  From what we saw, only three out of eight voted to split practice).

The situation comes to a head when Randa gets in the team van to go to the second practice of the day.  Carla feels compelled to speak her mind and Randa doesn’t want to hear it.  You get the feeling that this is the culmination of weeks of tension between the fighters.  Felice even starts doing a rude impression of Randa with Randa sitting right behind them!  It gets even sillier after they get back from practice when Carla and Felice invent a patty cake routine to mock Randa.

Patty CakeYo…women are mean.

Randa doesn’t have much to say to Carla besides “Don’t talk to me” and “Thank you”, so Carla and Felice latch onto those phrases and repeat them over and over again.  They say it in the van, at the house, at the weigh-ins…as annoying as this sounds to us, imagine how it must have been for Randa and the others.  I’m all for manufacturing feuds for the sake of the show and to give yourself a boost as it seems Felice is determined to do, but this is pushing it.

POPIn Canada, you blow a bubble in someone’s face and someone has to go!

This seasons Coaches’ Challenge is a trivia contest!  Wicked!  Dana White explains that they changed it up this year to work around Anthony Pettis’s bad knee.  I’m really happy about this since they’re usually playing with so much fire when they put the coaches into intense physical competitions.  Stick to excavators, demolition derbies, and rooftop air hockey.

I have to mention that Bruce Buffer looks right at home in this environment.  He’s found his true calling!

The first category is The Ultimate Fighter, which for some reason causes Gilbert Melendez to mouth a curse word.  Not a fan of the show, Gil?

TUF TriviaThis is how all conflicts should be settled.

Question 1: “In the history of The Ultimate Fighter, there have been ten fighters who have both competed and coached the show.  Name two of them.”

Since you’re wondering, the fighters are Forrest Griffin, Matt Serra, Rashad Evans, Michael Bisping, Roy Nelson, Josh Koscheck, Patrick Côté, Ross Pearson, George Sotiropoulos, and Kyle Noke.  And no, I did not have to look that up.  Gil gets Griffin and Evans.

Felice says that Pettis is the one who doesn’t watch much UFC programming.  The correct answer for the question, “What fighter has won a UFC title but did not win his season of The Ultimate Fighter?” is “T.J. Dillashaw”.  Pettis guesses “Forrest Griffin”.

Backhanded Compliment“Use your brain Anthony!  Use your brain!  It’s a good thing he’s, you know, athletic and all.”

Round 2 is UFC History, and Pettis gets on the board by remembering that the first UFC event was held in 1993.  He does a lot better here, evening up the score at one point.  His luck runs out in Round 3.  The category is Famous Finishes, which is convenient because this is where Gilbert finishes Pettis off.  He remembers that Griffin beat Shogun Rua by rear naked choke at UFC 76, Matt Hughes took the welterweight title from Carlos Newton by KO (or as Gilbert puts it, “slammed him with the triangle”), and that Duane Ludwig is the owner of the fastest KO in UFC history.

There’s still a sudden victory round where the fighters have to write down a wager.  Gilbert has 1800 points, twice as much as Pettis’s 900.  That kind of takes the suspense out of it.  The final question asks how many times Anderson Silva successfully defended his title.  The answer is ten, both of them guess nine, and none of that matters because Gilbert did the smart thing and wagered nothing.  That was dumb.

That whole segment was a missed opportunity!  They didn’t show us all of the questions, the presentation came off as extremely cheap, and they didn’t showcase Gilbert who actually looked like he was enjoying himself for once.  I’m not a happy viewer right now.  It was nice to see Team Melendez win something for once.

Team Melendez VictoryAngela Hill definitely knows how to live it up.

Pettis says that Gilbert needs to get used to losing because “my team ain’t losing and I ain’t losing.”  Technically, it’s impossible for his team not to lose because they’re facing each other, but then I guess they’re also guaranteed to win so…head hurt…

The fight

Aisling Daly thought this would be a striker v. grappler match-up.  I wasn’t so sure.  From what I’ve seen, neither fighter looked overly dependent on one discipline.  The bell rings and Randa aggressively looks to grapple while Felice keeps her at bay with strikes.  The lesson here: Aisling is a professional mixed martial artist and I’m an idiot.

Were there a scoreboard, Felice would be ahead after the first few minutes.  She’s connecting and actually manages to get on top of Randa after a failed trip.  Randa shows incredible determination in scrambling back up and resetting against the cage.  She bulldogs Felice down and then uses her legs to trap Felice’s arm at a nasty angle.  Felice taps!  This is a huge scalp for Randa when you consider that Felice was one of the biggest names going into this season.

Unique SubmissionRanda: “I got an arm lock, just stuck it in between my legs.  Pulled it back.  I should have pulled further to break it, but I didn’t because I’m too nice, but it feels great to get that win.”

We’re all loving us some Randa now, aren’t we?  I’d like to tell you that the experience of shared combat engendered a newfound respect between Randa and her rivals.  It didn’t.

Randa: I think that should shut her up, right?
Carla: Maybe if you stop acting like a bitch, she’ll shut up.
Randa: Don’t worry, you’re next.

Before we demonize Carla and Felice, I must reiterate that they are playing their parts on the show to a tee.  While we might be getting glimpses of their true personalities, I have to assume they’re constantly being poked and prodded and prompted (whether they realize it or not) by the show runners to stir the pot for the sake of drama.  It just so happens that they’ve found a perfect foil in Randa.

Like Randa herself, I choose not to dwell on the negatives.  Why do that when celebrating your victories is so much better?

Randa Moves OnThe greatest colours in the world:  The red, white and…uh…red.

Next Week: Aisling Daly v. Jessica Penne.  Also, Aisling gets a visit from a notorious teammate.

The Ultimate Fighter 20: A Champion Will Be Crowned – Week 8

With the opening round wrapping up this week, now is as good a time as any to clarify my approach to discussing the various personalities on this show.  When dealing with reality television, it’s safe to say that most viewers are aware (at least I hope they’re aware) that what they’re watching is as fictionalized as any sitcom or serialized drama.  So when I have something to say about Heather or Felice or Rose or Angela (either of them), keep in mind that I don’t know who these people really are.  I’m evaluating them based on how their characters are portrayed, not with any insight as to their “real” personalities.

That said, Angela Magaña truly sucks.

Team Colours

Team Melendez
Team Pettis

Tecia Torres gets her second chance this week as a result of Justine Kish being removed from the competition due to injury.  It’s a bum deal for Bec Rawlings, who was expecting to face the number 9 seed, not the number 3.  Then again, it’s not without complications for Tecia either.

Angela M. and her Skrapettes hold a meeting to decide on what to do with Tecia and Heather Clark.  Tecia was moved from Team Melendez to Team Pettis while Heather’s relationship with her team soured from day one, so they just want to be rid of her.  They agree that Tecia and Heather must move out of their Team Melendez room.  The group says they can’t force them out, but Angela M. says “Yeah, we can!”  Worst comes to worst, they’ll make things untenable, like when a business tries to get an employee to quit by limiting their access to the washroom.

In a wise move, Emily Kagan is chosen to be the messenger.  She comes off as the mature, level headed one in the house.  Maybe she’s too diplomatic though, because Heather is unconvinced.  Send in Magaña!

During Bec’s portion of the show, we learn that Gilbert Melendez calls her “The Terminator”.  He also refers to her as “a stud”.  Are female horses called studs?  Bec has two children, Enson and…

Child's Name Tattoo…did she say “Zeke” or…oh wait, I got it.

She was stuck in an abusive relationship.  The situation was compounded by her feeling embarrassed because she’s a fighter and she’s supposed to be tough and strong.  People find themselves trapped in these cycles all the time and it has nothing to do with how strong they are.  To her credit, one morning she just packed up, took the kids, and left.

On a lighter note, the girls get to enjoy a pool party at the Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa & Casino.  Yes, it’s that moment we’ve all been waiting for: gratuitous bikini shots!  I want to say that the guys have been filmed the same way in these party situations, but…I’m not so sure.

Chest ShotI don’t remember Darrill Schoonover’s cleavage getting filmed like this.

Then again, I just got through a season of TUF: Latin America where the guys spent most of their time in the pool naked, so I guess it’s all good.

The Skrapettes decide to leave early while Heather and Lisa Ellis, stayed behind.  Angela M. is still referring to them as The Chumpettes.  I might not like her, but she certainly makes for a good quote.  Lisa, who doesn’t strike me as someone interested in any kind of petty feud, finally gets around to speaking her mind about Angela M.:

She said it best on one of the very first days we were here.  She said she’s manipulative, calculated, and a crazy ass bitch…she said it.

The conflict over the room is not easily resolved.  Heather was considerate enough to say that Tecia shouldn’t have to move when she’s about to fight.  Tecia stands her ground as well.  Bec is pissed.  Keep in mind that Tecia and Bec are both in the midst of a weight cut, so this might not be the best time for them to be attempting a rational discussion.

It’s hard to put a finger on why I can’t get into Tecia.  I like her, but there’s something missing, isn’t there?  She’s almost too professional, too calm, and monotone.  I’m not saying everyone needs to be Chael Sonnen or Conor McGregor or, well, Angela Magaña for that matter.  It would just be nice if there was something more to chew on besides “I want to be the best.”  Even Carla Esparza smiles sometimes and she has all the pressure on her as the top seed.

We get a small taste of weight cut drama as Bec questions why Heather is helping Tecia with her cut.  Bec is way out of line here.  Heather rightfully points out that Tecia was the only member of Team Melendez to help her with her own cut, so how could she not do the same?  There’s a lot of “she said/she said” in the house.  I’m sure we’re not seeing the whole story, but this whole episode has been a bad look for The Skrapettes.

Bec Weighs InBec hittin’ ‘em with dat Blue Steel.

The fight

Anthony Pettis advises Tecia to avoid a glove touch at the beginning so she can stay out of boxing range.  That bit of gamesmanship proves effective, as maintaining distance and dictating pace are the story of the fight.  Tecia picks Bec apart with accurate kicks to her body and legs.  It does look scary when Bec gets in there though.  The Aussie has a considerable height advantage and she throws lethal leather in the clinch.  Tecia has to be fighting above her natural weight class, right?

I really suck at judging these close-in exchanges.  There’s a lot going on and I can’t tell who is landing what or where.  Overall, the volume definitely seems to be favouring Tecia.  I can see why Pettis was happy to coach her.  On a completely random note, Tecia’s bouncing top knot is mesmerizing.

Back to the action, Tecia gets too aggressive in the clinch and Bec throws her down!

Clinch ThrowThis wasn’t part of the gameplan.

Tecia’s guard is good and she gets back up without taking much damage.  She does almost get decapitated by a head kick as she rises though.  Bec is effective whenever she gets close, but Tecia’s kicks have to be swaying the judges.  Her “presentation” is better.  Tecia seals the round with a hard earned single leg, putting the capper on a good fight.  I gave both rounds to Tecia and the judges agree.

Someone on Team Melendez boos Tecia after, which is absolutely gross.  JoJo admonishes them, saving the day as usual: “There’s no need for booing.  Bad sport.”  She actually looks angry.  You wouldn’t like JoJo when she’s angry!

ReactionThe look on Jessica’s face says it all.

Both fighters are applauded for their efforts when they get back to their locker rooms.  Nate Diaz tells Bec that it should at least have gone to a third.  The funny thing is that his slurred speech requires subtitles, which could be a first for an American fighter.

The quarterfinals are set and they look like this:

(6) Felice Herrig v. (14) Randa Markos
(4) Jessica Penne v. (5) Aisling Daly
(1) Carla Esparza v. (3) Tecia Torres
(2) Joanne Calderwood v. (7) Rose Namajunas

Rose and JoJo refuse to break their staredown.  As far as we know, they could have been standing there for an hour.  Can I get the uncut version of this somehow?

Tecia VictoriousNext Week: Randa Markos v. Felice Herrig.  Also, it looks like we get the old Felice back.

Felice Salutes You

The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America – Week 12

NewChallenger: As the leaves change colour, another TUF season comes to a close.  The fights have been fought, the weight has been cut, the kitchen…well, someday it will be cleaned.  What better way to kick off the finale of this historic season of TUF than…with a visit from another Latin celebrity who we know nothing about.

His name is Gabriel Soto and to his credit, he is a serious fan.  He knows Yair well enough to refer to him as “Panterita”.  They ask him who his favourite fighter is and he says GSP, which Chito approves of.  I remember Jake Matthews from TUF: Nations being a big GSP fan as well.  The man transcends nations!  Gabriel already seems a lot cooler than Latino Kelsey Grammar.

Gabriel SotoAt the very least, his level of commitment makes him the Latino Kevin James.

The_Vortex: Where are they getting all of these “celebrities”? Look, obviously, I don’t know anything about them, as I’m not Latin American, but none of the fighters seem enthused by these guys. If you’re gonna dig out an actor for a ratings boost, find one the fighters will get pumped for, TUF producers. Nah, this Gabriel dude seems cool enough, although he does ruin it a bit to me by saying that he understands everyone because he trains UFC too, bro.

And, yeah, the Dana/Chito thing. Holy crap. They’re going to keep Chito in Vegas for a couple days after the show, fly up his wife and daughter, take her to a specialist, and try to get it all taken care of. This is an unbelievably cool thing to do. It is just an absolutely awesome gesture to make, for a kid that hasn’t even made it into the UFC properly. I was blown away, and Chito is moved to tears. His daughter has been what he’s been fighting for this whole time, so this is a huge moment for him.

NewChallenger: I know my emotions are being manipulated, but…it’s working.

The_Vortex: We head back to the house to find some more stuff out about our perpetual smiler, Moggly. Seriously, this dude always has some sort of grin on his face. It’s not at “Smile-N” Sam Alvey levels, but I’ve renamed Moggly “Grinnin’” Gabe Benitez.  Turns out that Grinnin’ Gabe had a rough childhood.

NewChallenger: As if these guys need more nicknames.

It is encouraging that Moggly has come off as one of the more outgoing members of the house despite the fact that he describes himself as “solitary”.  He’s been forced into independence since he was 14, a result of having to leave a difficult household situation.  His mother left when he was just a baby and his father was usually away at work.  There was also the presence of drugs at home.  When he told his father he was leaving, it was assumed that Moggly wouldn’t be gone for more than a couple of days.  He hasn’t looked back since.

The good thing is that he’s found family and friendship in the house as evidenced by a season ending BBQ.  Whooo!  Psycho gets sentimental and we get a confessional from El Doctor Bolivia who wraps things up with a neat bow:

It strengthened my belief that Latin America, starting from the northernmost part of Mexico, to the southernmost part of South America, we are all one people who are very strong and brave, and now the door is open for all Latin Americans who want to be part of the UFC.  It all depends on them.

Only ten minutes into the show, it’s fight time!

Final Fight GraphicI actually forgot these guys have real names.

The_Vortex: Before we hit the fight, let me just say, that was the lamest “last night in house” I’ve ever seen on this show. Everyone was all polite and respectful, and sat around and ate like warrior-brothers. Duuuude. In other seasons, the fighters have literally destroyed the house. Like, trashed the entire joint beyond recognition. Instead, we get politeness and respect. Booo!

The fight is a pretty good one, and starts well. As both fighters have discussed before, they’ve got their gameplans set out, and know their keys to victory. Right away, Leonardo cracks Moggly with a strong jab, and right after that, Moggly closes distance, and clinches against the cage. So, it’s going to plan for both guys. When Moggly’s got Leonardo against the cage, he ends up grabbing the cage, and instead of warning, the referee (Mini-Brock) just plain swipes his hand away. It was odd. To be fair, Chimy grabs the cage later and the referee does the same thing, but I really thought that the referee wasn’t supposed to touch the fighters unless he’s interrupting the fight. Maybe it’s the language barrier thing, but it looks stupid.

Unfortunately, the highlight of round one is Moggly getting kneed in the nuts twice. Neither of them look intentional, in fact, Leonardo seems genuinely annoyed at himself after the second one. With a minute to go, they get separated after seemingly endless clinching and thigh-kneeing, and Leonardo absolutely starches Grinnin’ Gabe with a sweet combo. I give the first round 10-9 Leonardo: He did damage when they were separated, and was able to reverse off the cage from being the pressee to the presser fairly quickly every time.

In between rounds, Cain advises Grinnin’ Gabe to stay at phone booth range instead of latching on. Grinnin’ Gabe sticks to this for around a minute, before he locks Leonardo against the cage again. Look, after a round and a half, I don’t think Grinnin’ Gabe has landed any strikes to Leonardo’s head. He’s kneed his thigh a ton, and every time they get separated for inactivity (which happens like 3 times this round), Leonardo torches him with a combo. He’s not even trying for any elbows, and his positional dominance means nothing to me if he can’t even get the fight to the ground. I’ve got round 2 as 10-9 Leonardo again, meaning he’s got this in my books unless anything spectacular happens next round.

Nicaraguan ComboDamn, Gabriel still grinnin’ after that.

NewChallenger: I actually had it even going into the final round, giving Moggly the slight edge in the first and The Mysterious Nicaraguan a clear cut second.  The final round is more of the same.  Team Mexico’s gameplan made a lot of sense; stay close and smother The Mysterious Nicaraguan until he ran out of energy.  The problem is that Moggly isn’t smart about it.  He takes a lot of damage getting in close.  As you mentioned, it doesn’t help that the referee is so quick to break them up.  Moggly has to stand and trade with The Mysterious Nicaraguan and that’s a losing proposition.  Once The Mysterious Nicaraguan gets going he’s really fun to watch.  He takes the final round and the fight (30-27, 29-28 x2).  An assist has to go to that turd burglar referee Chris Tognoni for completely killing Moggly’s clinch game.

Dana actually compliments Tognoni after the fight, saying he kept the action moving.  I still don’t think he gave them enough time to do anything.  I will admit that it made for a much more entertaining fight than if Moggly had spent the better part of fifteen minutes grinding against the cage.  But it also made for a fight that favoured The Mysterious Nicaraguan.

Morales Moves OnYour finals look like this:

Featherweight Final: Yair Rodriguez v. The Mysterious Nicaraguan

Bantamweight Final: Alejandro Pérez v. Teco

They bring in the coaches for a staredown as well.  In addition to it being awkward because of what we know now, there’s also the fact that there is zero heat between the two coaches.  They’re two of the nicest, most professional men in mixed martial arts.  Dana says Cain and Werdum told him that they couldn’t wait to get their hands on each other.  It would have been nice to hear that from the fighters themselves at some point.

Coaches' Face OffFeel the apathy.

It’s a moot point anyway because we ended up getting an even more intriguing match-up with Mark Hunt getting a chance to fight Werdum and become a UFC champion.  And yes, it is the year 2014.  The promo describes Hunt as a “rising star”, which is absurd except for the fact that he kind of is.

Thoughts on the season, Vortex?  Memories?  Regrets?

The_Vortex: Hard to believe it’s all over for another season. It’s been fun, as usual. There’s really always a different mood in the air for non-USA seasons of TUF. I don’t know, but the fighters always seem more invested, it’s more of an opportunity, it’s worth more.

These have been a fun bunch of guys, and I’m sad to see them go. Of the Mexicans, Teco and Alejandro have stood out inside and out of the cage, and I think one of them will be heading on to bigger things in future. Also, I’m really behind The Mysterious Nicaraguan in his fight. He’s still like, super young, he’s a talented striker, and I think he’ll win some in the UFC.

If the coaches’ match ever happens, I’ll watch it, but for now, I’m happy with Mark Hunt having his crack at the gold. That’s pretty much the whole season all wrapped up for me. I’ll pass the nostalgia beacon back over to you, NewChallenger.

NewChallenger: It has been fun.  These international editions of TUF have proven to be a worthwhile experiment, especially with the domestic edition being so inconsistent from year to year.  I will say that this is the most fun I’ve had watching concurrent TUF seasons since the original TUF: Brazil and TUF: The Smashes ran at the same time back in 2012.  I can’t say for sure if any of these fighters projects as an impact player in the future.  Diego Rivas and Fito did not represent the cast well this past weekend, putting on a snoozer of a fight.  But I agree with you that The Mysterious Nicaraguan has some serious potential.  And, of course, Chito Vera.

Looking at my TUF calendar, it looks like we have another edition of TUF: Brazil coming up in April featuring Shogun Rua and Anderson Silva.  I think Andy will make for a good coach.  His involvement is long overdue anyway.  I look forward to our next team-up, Vortex.

But for now, let us say farewell to our Latin brothers in the most appropriate manner: with a vaguely Latin-themed pop song.  It has been a pleasure.

This weekend: UFC 180 live on PPV!  Featuring an interim world championship fight and the two tournament finales that are so important they aren’t even on the main card.

The Ultimate Fighter 20: A Champion Will Be Crowned – Week 7

One thing to like about this year’s cast besides the fact that it’s all female is the international flavour.  In a season where there is a UFC championship on the line, it makes sense to have the best fighters from all over the world represented.  This is an idea they should explore in future seasons.  It would also allow them to play around with the seeded format (since we know some countries are more advanced than others) and even give it a fun World Cup vibe.

Off the top of my head, the possible countries would be:

  • USA
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • England
  • Ireland
  • France
  • China
  • Mexico
  • Australia
  • Netherlands
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Sweden
  • Russia
  • South Korea
  • South Africa

I’m sure I missed a more suitable candidate (Cuba?  Poland?).  The language barrier would be a major issue, though all it would take is a few translators in the house to get that sorted.  TUF: The World Warriors.  Make this happen!

Team Colours

Team Melendez
Team Pettis

We open on JoJo being her usual adorable self.  She’s doing an impression of Randa Markos that has Team Pettis in stitches.  Joining them in their revelry are Heather Clark and Lisa Ellis from Team Melendez, which rubs Bec Rawlings the wrong way.  Unsurprisingly, she confides in an equally disgruntled Angela Magaña.

Angela M.: They are so two-faced and what doesn’t come out in the wash comes out in the rinse and laundry’s almost done bitches.

She doesn’t elaborate on what happens when you put the laundry in the dryer.  Or if she even uses a dryer.  She strikes me as someone who prefers to hang the clothes outside and air dry.

Lisa, for her part, has had enough of what she considers to be “high school” and immature.  The rest of the team’s behaviour certainly lends credence to that viewpoint.  Angela Hill has dubbed her clique “The Skrapettes” (an homage to Gilbert Melendez and The Skrap Pack), while Angela M. calls Heather and Lisa “The Chumpettes”.  I’ve had more than my fill of Angela M. at this point.  Emily Kagan tells Gilbert that Heather and Lisa may as well head over to Team Pettis and put those jerseys on.  I get the feeling that he is counting the days until this whole debacle is over.

There’s hope for Team Melendez though as the highly touted Rose Namajunas finally gets her chance to fight.  First she has to deal with being schooled by guest coach Kron Gracie.  She gets down on herself, though Kron praises her for her drive and determination.  He’s also a master jiu-jitsu practitioner and about twice her size so it’s fair to say she’s being a touch too hard on herself.  I think he handled the situation well, acknowledging her frustrations and then giving her time to just let it all out.

Emotional MomentAnybody who’s ever felt lost doing any kind of lessons or class can relate to this.

I’m a sucker for Australian women.  And women who are smart.  Alex Chambers is checking off all kinds of boxes!  She has a background in engineering and astrophysics, which still has her just short of being the smartest woman in MMA.

Alex is coy about her age, so it’s nice of them to just flash it on the screen during a confessional.  She has no reason to be concerned though, because at age 36 she’s a total babe.  Just remember folks, “age ain’t nothing but a number” like Aaliyah once said.  And she married R. Kelly when she was 15, so she knew what she was talking about.

To contrast, Rose is the youngest a fighter at 22.  Despite the age difference, Alex only has two more fights than Rose.  The two were actually on the same Invicta card.  Alex was pumped about winning her match by submission in just 90 seconds, only to be overshadowed later by Rose who managed to score a 12 second submission.

Anthony Pettis is torn between Alex, his current charge, and Rose, an old teammate.  Naturally, he wants to see both of them do well.  He’s also dealing with having to navigate an increasingly sticky training situation.  This season’s unique format means that the women already know who they’re facing in the second round, limiting their partnering options.  Carla Esparza goes as far as to cryptically describe some of her teammates as being “not cool in training”.  This is what you get for going 6-0, Pettis!

Carnival KicksTeam Pettis is so far ahead they’ve officially entered the “f**king around” stage of their training.

Heather reveals that she has a torn ACL.  When she says she has the paperwork to prove it, Angela M. can be seen and heard scoffing on the side.  These two truly cannot stand each other.  Heather’s attitude isn’t the greatest.  She’s like, I told you my knee is messed up and my career is in jeopardy.  I win!  Later, Rose jokes that she damaged her knee on purpose just before seeing the doctor so she could rub it in their faces.  After all that, Angela M. does the right thing and apologizes to Heather.  It’s the right thing to do, though their relationship is still frosty.

We find out that Rose is known as “Thug Rose”, which comes from her upbringing on the mean streets of Milwaukee.  She has dealt with a history of sexual abuse as a child.  Much like Aisling Daly’s bouts with depression last episode, this is a serious issue that is difficult to discuss openly.  Thankfully, through MMA and the support of her fiancée Pat Barry, she’s been encouraged to spread awareness about the issue.

Rose: There’s a lot of kids out there that are probably thinking that it’s their fault that they’re being abused and not really knowing who to go to.  There’s always somebody to go to.  There’s always somebody that can help you.  You don’t have to take it on yourself.  I lived with that secret for…up until right before the show and I finally told somebody about it.  You don’t have to keep it a secret.  You can open up to somebody and you can get out of that situation…you can do it.

Rose likes to attempt a lot of flying submissions, which she attributes to being “part crazy”.  She has a lot of ideas about how to start the fight with Alex, suggesting that she might open with a side kick or a berserker knee.

Going BananasGilbert calls this the “Liu Kang”.

The girls get a visit from two members of the US Olympic Soccer Team, Sydney Leroux and Megan Rapinoe.  Sydney is a traitor from Canada who chose to play for Team USA.  She also broke off her engagement with current Toronto Blue Jays third baseman (and fellow Canuck) Brett Lawrie.  Lawrie hasn’t been the same player since.  I hate you Sydney!

Sydney LerouxSydney in the middle of describing how to turn your back on an entire nation.

I don’t know why more professional athletes haven’t appeared on this show.  From what I’ve seen, the international editions are keener to bring in guests to interact with the fighters.  Ronaldo once left a video message for a friend on TUF: Brazil!  If one of the most famous athletes on the entire planet can appear on TUF: Brazil, I think that domestic TUF can do better.  The girls do a great job of giving these two Olympic gold medallists a glimpse into the world of MMA.

Angela M. starts going off on some hippie s**t aaaaaand I’m about ready to see some human cockfighting.

The fight

There’s no nice way to put it: Rose has her way with Alex.  She throws out a variety of techniques with little regard for Alex’s defence.  Other than the occasional counter punch, Alex is on the back foot for the entirety of the match.

Rose Tees OffA Rose by any other name would hit as hard.

Rose takes Alex down with a smooth trip.  She’s all over her.  She attacks with a ferocious rear naked choke and gets the tap with about thirty seconds to go in the first round.  Gilbert says Rose delivered the most complete performance yet.  It’s hard to argue with him.  Rose has herself another good cry.  She’s earned it.

I normally like to end with a shot of the victorious fighter, but instead here’s Rose’s sweet flying armbar submission of Kathina Catron and the subsequent freak out.

Next Week: Tecia Torres v. Bec Rawlings.  Also, Alex might have to settle for a lucrative career in engineering.

This post was edited to correct statements made about Rose Namajunas’s past.  It originally said she had dealt with “sexual harassment” as opposed to sexual abuse during her childhood.

The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America – Week 11

The_Vortex: We are right near the end of this season, and it’s still pretty compelling in the penultimate episode. I’m compelled. To begin the episode, of course, we go to Guido once again. He’s still reeling (metaphorically) from his knockout loss. It really was a vicious knockout, and I’m having trouble picking the best knockout this season, between that one, The Mysterious Nicaraguan’s excellent head kick of Masio, and Chito’s freak upkick KO.

NewChallenger: I can’t remember the last time a season of TUF had this many quality finishes!

Thanks to the efforts of Marco Beltrán, Alejandro Pérez, and incompetent judging, Guido Cannetti is at last gone from the competition for good.  Everyone is talking about how he came out like a madman in the second fight.  Bentley says, “I really hope that he’ll finally realize his mistakes and his arrogance.”  Does anybody like Guido?

The_Vortex: Guido gets pretty reflective, and ends up talking it out with Masio, who was also on the receiving end of an aforementioned brutal knockout. Both of those guys are using their losses as motivation, and really looking forward to stepping forwards in their careers. Guido’s most disappointed that he also wasn’t able to fulfill his promise of giving money to Chito for his daughter, and look, that’s pretty good of him. Not many guys in the history of TUF have taken the time to empathize with the fighters they’re replacing due to injury. It’s not all over for Guido, I mean, who knows? We could very easily see any one of these fighters in the UFC pretty soon. I mean, hell, this weekend, Fito is fighting Diego Rivas, and neither of those two men were especially impressive on the show. Guido got screwed, and then he went out and WAAARRR’d. That’s basically Dana’s dream right there. We’ll be seeing more of the Ninja in the Octagon.

NewChallenger: Guido has definitely learned something from his experiences on the show.  What, I’m not sure…but something.  It’s funny, I kept getting Masio and Psycho mixed up during this episode.  As compelling as it has been, I think I’m about ready for this season to end.

The friendship of Teco and Alejandro remains in the spotlight.  Nobody is rooting harder for Teco than his best friend.  Of course, Alejandro is also eager to avenge the two losses that Teco has hung on him in the past.  That’s a good friend right there: I hope that you get one step closer to your dream…and that I am the one who takes it away from you  >:)  As for Psycho, he just wants to get in there and “Let the fists sing in the cage”.

We then get some solid product integration as they bring in the most recent UFC game for the cast to muck around with.  As far as I can recall, this is the first time they’ve let the cast play one of the UFC games competitively (the TUF: Nations guys got to race each other in Forza).  To my disappointment, they don’t show us much and we don’t even find out who was the best player in the house.  Boo.

The gym looks sparse as the trainers have removed themselves from the proceedings to avoid giving an advantage to either member of their team.  This begs the question: What are the trainers doing with all of this free time?

The_Vortex: The UFC gaming stuff was fun, and I did notice the Fabrício Werdum character being used a ton. Funny though, Werdum strikes me as a guy that uses other people when he’s playing, just so he can screw around.

The gym is empty as all hell, and yeah, you’re right, all the coaches have cleared out. We see Cain this episode for about 20 seconds, tops. We’re into the stage of the episode where we’re learning a bit more about the fighters. Teco really, really wants this next fight against Alejandro, and Marco, Marco is apparently lazy as s**t. We find out in a Moggly confessional that Marco holds the nickname “Baby Jesus”. He’s also the first to disappear when the cleaning is being done, and gets into a small shout-off with Yair and Masio about his avoidance of chores.

Moggly Talking More SmackBaby Jesus ain’t dying for no sins.

He’s feeling a little isolated in the house, especially since the other Mexican 135ers (Teco, Henry and Alejandro) are all friends from outside of the show, sometimes even training together. Weigh-ins relieve some of the tension that has been hanging all over this episode. Teco brings in lucha libre masks for both himself and Marco, and it’s a glorious moment of levity. He’s done this because luchadores are pretty important in Mexican culture, and well, who cares, it’s always great watching two guys fool around in lucha masks.

Lucha LibreI can’t believe it took us eleven episodes to get here.

NewChallenger: I think it’s safe to say that along with Chito, Teco has been the most interesting cast member.  The mustache, that laid back demeanour, an enjoyable fighting style…win or lose, he’s one to watch after the show.  He drops a cool quote about how Mexicans are “warriors of the corn”.  Even his tattoos don’t suck!

Teco Tattoo

It’s not as good as Guido’s “star nipple”, but really, what is?

On to the fight.  It’s Marco who gets the first takedown.  He was worried before the fight that such a strategy might waste too much energy and that proves prophetic.  Teco gets up quickly and retaliates with a takedown of his own.  He shows great patience for a young fighter.  His ground and pound is more about accuracy than volume.  He also cuts a wicked pace, keeping Marco down when he tries to scramble away.  Marco almost gets a triangle armbar, but Teco gets free.  Teco scores a ton more points on the ground to close the round and he takes it 10-9.  In between rounds, Marco says he can’t feel his arms.  My corner expertise tells me that isn’t good.

The next two rounds are more of the same.  Teco is able to get the better of the scrambles and clinches while Psycho’s takedown attempts get increasingly sloppy.

Psycho AttemptYou’d better be friggin’ Matt Hughes if you want to get someone down while they’ve got you in a front facelock like this.

The third round starts with a hug, which you can tell Psycho was grateful for if only because it gave him a few extra seconds of rest.  He has the worst body language.  After seeing him fight for twenty five minutes on this show, I’m not sold on him at all as a UFC level fighter (whatever that means these days).  Teco cruises to a decision win.

The_Vortex: This was an ok fight. It wasn’t amazing, didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, but it wasn’t a bad fight entertainment-wise by any means. These guys are probably less skilful than some of the TUF 19 guys, but they’re not making me want to skip every fight on principle like those guys did (Jeez, that season puts me to sleep even thinking about it). Teco was the better fighter, and watching him fight Alejandro should be pretty interesting. I dunno, Marco’s still a bit raw, and his head might just not be fully in it the way some other guys are. For all the editing of Marco being isolated, his corner really came through for him. He had Henry and Fito backing him, and they were just as vocal as Alejandro and Masio in Teco’s corner.

NewChallenger: I’m sorry…did you just say these guys were less skilful than the TUF 19 guys?  TUF 19?!?  On behalf of our Latino brothers, I am offended, sir!  No cast (with the possible exception of TUF 16) were as incompetent as the TUF 19 crew.  Just for that, you and the readers must now endure the “classic” action from that season:

Ground And Whoops

Monaghan EscapeSit Down Swing & A Miss

Single Leg Counter

Wayward KickThe_Vortex: It turns out once again that Cain straight up didn’t attend the fight. Couldn’t watch either of his boys winning or losing. It seems that Cain actually takes the whole “no fighting teammates” thing way, way more seriously than I had ever thought.

And with that, it’s nearly all over.

Teco Moves OnNext week: The Mysterious Nicaraguan vs. Moggly, which will then be followed by the respective finales and by Mark Hunt becoming the interim, and then undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

The Ultimate Fighter 20: A Champion Will Be Crowned – Week 6

Before we get into this week’s episode, I have to point out the ugliness of Angela Magaña’s tournament portrait.  I understand that when they’re taking these profile pictures a certain amount of make-up might be required to guarantee a good photo, but there’s something to be said about letting their natural beauty shine through.  Just…look at this thing:

Unfortunate PicThe makeup gun must have accidentally been set to “whore”.

Team Colours

Team Melendez
Team Pettis

Speaking of Magaña, this episode is a doozy.  Last week’s preview promised we’d get her complete, harrowing life story and they were not lying.  Her parents were hooked on heroin so she was born into addiction.  She used to eat out of trash cans.  Her mother was a prostitute who she had to help shoot up properly so she wouldn’t get sick.  In a drunken haze, Magaña fell off a balcony and ended up with a broken back and partial amnesia.  She got out of a bad relationship and then met the man of her dreams who died the day after they were engaged.  Her mom passed away.  A car accident put Magaña in a coma.  She’s thankful to MMA for keeping her on the right path the whole time.

I'm ListeningRose, possibly regretting wanting to know more about Angela’s life.

I admire Magaña for her positive attitude, but she could stand to be more humble.  Don’t get me wrong, she deserves to take pride in overcoming enormous adversity.  The problem is that she comes off as someone who needs to make sure everyone knows her story so they know how extraordinary she is.  I find it disturbing how she runs through her trials like she’s reading off a grocery list.  Then again, maybe she has become numb from discussing it so much.

I’m probably being unfair.  That was a heavy segment to process.  Let’s move on to Anthony Pettis wearing tights.  There are no great crotch shots so I can neither confirm nor deny whether he is toight like a tiger.

Pettis TightsEyes up here, ladies.

Tecia Torres is still having trouble adapting to the new team.  I’m not sure what they were expecting by having her switch over so late in the competition.  Dana White’s explanation that she had to join Team Pettis because the winners determine which coach gets to pick the next match-up makes no sense when you consider that there were only three first round fights left and we later find out that Tecia and Bec Rawlings are going last anyway.  Readers, help me out with this one.

Facing off with Magaña this week is Aisling Daly.  I might come off as somewhat hypocritical here because I actually enjoyed hearing about Aisling’s struggles.  In her case, the Vegas heat is taking its toll on her in addition to any medication she happens to be taking to deal with her depression.  She doesn’t appreciate the strength and conditioning coach implying the problems might be in her head.  Her low key personality belies the fact that she’s spreading a positive message about dealing with depression just by being in the house and being honest about it.

I want to believe that it’s intentional that they have shown such a contrast between the two competitors.  Magaña refuses to show vulnerability for fear that it will detract from this “champion” persona she has constructed for herself.  Aisling, on the other hand, has accepted that her mind and body might not be cooperating with the goals she’s trying to reach.  One of the biggest misconceptions about depression is that has to be directly tied to events in someone’s life and that’s just not the case.  It doesn’t matter whether you’ve suffered like Magaña or lead a pampered existence.  Depression can affect anyone.

Aisling: Although it is becoming more open and widely talked about there still is a little bit of stigma attached to people suffering with depression.  By letting people know that it’s okay to talk about it, it’s okay to feel down for no reason…there doesn’t have to be some catastrophic incident going on in your life for you to feel miserable.

Dana pops in for a meeting with Aisling to make sure she’s okay.  She does have one wish that he grants: UFC: Dublin.  That is great news for the cast because that was a spectacular card.  Four of Aisling’s teammates fought that night, including Patrick Holohan who gave her a shout out after his big win.  It’s really touching and you can see her spirits were lifted.

Giddy IrishwomanSomeone is excited.

The fight

Aisling and Magaña are two of the more experienced fighters, with 36 combined pro bouts between them.  They have one shared opponent, Jessica Eye, who beat Magaña but lost to Aisling.  Pettis is convinced that Aisling’s unorthodox style is too much for Magaña, who he considers to be good, but basic.

The fight starts and Aisling gets right in there!  They pummel until Magaña wins out and scores a trip.  She moves to side control and then back mount.  The choke attempt is there, but Magaña can’t get under the chin.

Now would be a good time to talk about how much I dislike Chris Tognoni.  Aisling shows great flexibility and strength to stand with Magaña on her back, but Magaña still had the hooks in.  Somehow, this warranted a reset.  He does this stupid stuff all the time.  Later in the round, Aisling goes for a standing kimura and he’s yelling “Stay busy!” while the girls are battling.  Somebody get this clown out of here before a fighter gets hurt, please.

The first round ends in a fun scramble.  It looked to have been a 10-9 for Magaña.  They come out firing in the second, though Magaña wants to get back to grappling.  She wastes a lot of energy on a bad shot.  It’s Aisling who spends most of the round in top position.  There are also some solid exchanges on the feet in what turns out to be a fantastic round.  It ends with Aisling raining down hammer fists on Magaña while Tognoni says  “Stay busy!” some more.  SHUT THE F**K UP TOGNONI!

Extra period, Magaña cracks Aisling with a head kick but the Irishwoman just walks right through it.

Angela Head KickOh, I’m sorry, were you trying to hurt me?

Now it’s Aisling who wants to grapple, having correctly assessed that Magaña was weakening in the second frame.  She gets the back again and it looks like she weighs about a thousand pounds the way she’s suffocating Magaña.  Magaña’s arm is pulled across her face and Aisling is punching the crap out of her.  It’s nothing too damaging, but the situation isn’t going to get better.  The referee has to step in and call the TKO.

And then he calls Aisling “Ashley”, because he can’t even get that right.

Gilbert Melendez points out that the referee didn’t need to interrupt in the first round when Magaña was still on Aisling’s back.  Magaña is justifiably upset.  It’s not necessarily fair to blame it all on Tognoni, but the window for a finish in MMA is so small that if she was even close to an armbar then she deserved the chance to go for it.

Meanwhile, Aisling’s attitude has turned around 180 degrees.  Amazing what a little violence can do for you.

Daly VictoriousNext Week: Alex Chambers v. Rose Namajunas.  With Pettis and Rose having trained together in the past, will the Aussie get the inside scoop?  Does Team Pettis need any more advantages?

(On a closing note, if you think there’s a chance that you or anyone you know might be dealing with depression, please take the time to research the issue and talk to a doctor if necessary.  There are many forms of depression and they’re far more common than people think.  It’s not enough to assume that someone is just “moody” or “having a bad day” or “needs a vacation”.  It’s a serious problem that can be one hundred percent out of your control no matter how mentally or emotionally strong you are.  Most importantly, it is nothing to be ashamed of.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.)