It’s time for the quarterfinals meaning four fights in two weeks. Normally this is where the show starts to lose its charm for me, but since this has been a season where the quality of the fights has matched the strength of the personalities, I’m actually looking forward to the upcoming episodes.
Team Sonnen (actually black on the show, but blue for the purposes of this article)
I continue to have mixed feelings about “Bubba” McDaniel. It’s admirable that he has a pragmatic view of fighting and the he understands how far winning the tournament would go towards setting his life in order. However, his constant politicking and complaining makes it abundantly clear that he doesn’t see himself as a future champion in this sport. He’s looking for a job and a paycheck, not a belt around his waist. Mere moments after being told he’s fighting Uriah Hall, he’s back to complaining as usual and that should tell you everything you need to know about why it’s taken him this long to make it big.
A visit from Ronda Rousey has Kevin Gastelum choosing his words carefully as I’m sure he’s wary of the wrath of his girlfriend. She shows up and proceeds to slap Gastelum around, much to the delight of his teammates.
They don’t show too much of the training session, maybe because of time constraints or not wanting to give too much away since she’ll be a coach on the next TUF season. I also wonder if things might have been a little awkward, since I’ll bet most of these guys don’t have serious female training partners and they’re especially not used to taking instructions from one. Tor Troéng definitely has a serious “women are good for serving ale and nothing else!” expression on his face, though I might just be thinking that because he looks like a Viking.
At the weigh-ins: Sweet, sweet blurred out genitalia.
The first fight between Gastelum and Collin Hart is a thriller…all 30 seconds of it anyway. Hart lives up to his reputation, coming forward non-stop at Gastelum and pushing the action to the cage. Gastelum is not shaken in the slightest and a furious exchange ends with Hart getting rocked and face planting:
The funny thing is that Hart’s technique actually looks better, but Gastelum has got that power. Hart partially regains consciousness, but he’s unable to defend himself from a huge hammer fist and Steve Mazzagatti gets in there for the save. Thankfully, Gastelum had already stopped himself. It’s another impressive victory for the youngest guy on the show. The power of Ronda compels him!
Before the next fight, we learn a little more about Dylan Andrews and his close relationship with Team Jones kickboxing instructor Stonehorse Goeman. The two bond over their tribal heritage and you can tell it’s benefitting their training sessions as well. Andrews says that Goeman represents a father figure he never had. Just after Andrews steps into the cage for his match with Luke Barnatt, there’s a nice shot of Goeman showing Andrews a picture of his family to remind him what he’s fighting for.
I suppose it’s worth mentioning that Mike Tyson makes an appearance, which I believe is the second time he’s been on TUF.
The first significant action sees Andrews landing a quick 1-2 and using that execute a takedown. It’s an interesting reversal as Barnatt had considered himself to be the superior of the two on the ground and he had planned to bring the action down. Andrews holds on tight and scores a second takedown when Barnatt goes for a judo trip (maybe too much Ronda…). Throughout all of this, Barnatt is super active off of his back and it’s possible that he is winning from the bottom. Andrews rolls for a guillotine, but it’s not tight enough and Barnatt gets back up again. It’s a tough round to score with Barnatt looking good on the feet and off his back, but Andrews had positional dominance. I gave Andrews a narrow 10-9 round.
Andrews gets in close over and over again and lands some thudding body shots. Both men approach the second round like they might have lost the first and that leads to some fantastic work. In the blink of an eye, Barnatt rips Andrews off the cage and falls on top of him and into full mount. The British giant is showing off his cardio. Andrews surprises me by having enough in the tank to reverse and get into Barnatt’s guard. Barnatt needs to get up, but Andrews manages to stay on top despite lacking consistent ground and pound. I thought Andrews took that round too, but apparently Barnatt did win one and we’re treated to a 3rd round. Andrews’ corner shows him the picture of his family again.
Barnatt still looks good, but he’s allowing way too many hard shots to get through. Andrews is relentless and looks like he’s almost in tears as he unloads a final volley of punches that give Herb Dean no choice but to call off the fight. This was an emotional one and I’m not going to lie, it got dusty in my house by the end. Best fight of the season so far.
Next week: Josh Samman v. Jimmy Quinlan and Bubba v. Hall. I’m taking Quinlan and Hall. Two more for the bad guys.