The Ultimate Fighter 21: American Top Team v. Blackzilians – Week 6 Recap

Before we place this season in the pillory, allow me to be the voice of reason: This is still better than TUF 16 and TUF 19.

For those unfamiliar with either season, I’ll summarize. TUF 16 had the unfortunate timing of airing just as the UFC was starting to expand the brand globally and it paled in comparison to the relatively fresh TUF: Brazil and TUF: The Smashes (Australia/UK). The coaching pair didn’t help. Shane Carwin was known for his explosive punching power, not personality, and the normally reliable Roy Nelson seemed more determined to skewer Dana White (and vise-a-versa) than actually do his job.

What followed was a tepid season of forgettable fights and even more forgettable personalities…except for Julian “Nitrane” Lane who came off as a parody of every TUF malcontent that appeared before him. Let me bang, bro, indeed.

The finalists were Mike Ricci and Colton Smith. Smith would defeat Ricci in a snoozer of a finale and then lose his next three fights en route to being released. That has never happened to a TUF winner before. Ricci split two fights before washing out.

TUF 19 is only two years old, so it might be unfair to judge the resulting talent but I’m going to do it anyway. The show itself was an ordeal despite the coaching presence of two of my favourite all-time fighters, Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn. I don’t know what went wrong with the casting, but they somehow gathered the least interesting and least competitive crew imaginable.

It was a dual division season, and both the middleweight and light heavyweight finals ended in surprisingly quick fashion. It was the most passion any fighter had shown all season, and certainly more than the third battle between Edgar and Penn, which was more of a mercy killing of The Prodigy than anything else. Overall, an utterly depressing entry in the franchise.

The current season seems to have the same casting problem as TUF 16, so I can’t blame the show runners too much for that. Once they were saddled with the “camp wars” premise, it severely narrowed down their options no matter how much input they were allowed to give Dan Lambert and Glenn Robinson. That said, the genuine brotherhood aspect is at least interesting compared to the forced camaraderie of past seasons.

Another thing saving TUF 21 from historical ignominy is the new format, which I still stand by. It will be cool when a fighter has to perform a second time on the show. We’ve seen fighters come back before, but as replacements. If a guy can emerge as the ace of his team, it would make him a hot prospect heading into his UFC career. And isn’t that the best possible outcome for any TUF hopeful?

Team Colours

American Top Team
Blackzilians (actually black on the show)

That rant went longer than expected. Let’s join the American Top Team crew, fresh off their first win of the season. It’s a big one since it not only gets them on the scoreboard, but it means the next fight will be at the ATT gym. Hayder Hassan points out that he’s now 3-0 in his career against Blackzilian fighters.

Andrews Nakahara is down on himself. There isn’t much his teammates or coaches can do to console him at the moment. For the first time I notice that Andrews sounds like Grey Worm from Game of Thrones.

Sad AndrewsI am ashamed…because when the punch land and I fall to the ground…I am afraid. I fear I never again see Missandei from the island of Naath.

It becomes obvious early in the episode that the Blackzilians are going to go with Jason Jackson. He thinks the situation in the house has become too friendly and that has affected the team’s hunger. Rashad Evans gives the team a speech about always being ready to take that call from the UFC, which fits Jason to a tee. Glenn loves that Jason is actually enthusiastic about going into enemy territory.

Jason says his nickname is “The Ass Kicking Machine”. He’s from Jamaica, presumably “right near the beach” and he fights so that his son can have a better life. Obligatory link.

ATT’s two top choices for the week are Grilo and Nathan Coy. It feels like they’ve been teasing deploying Nate forever. Keep waiting. It’s the veteran Grilo this week. He’s from Porto Alegre, Brazil and he’s been with ATT for five years.

Grilo Makes WeightSabah: (laughing) “Once he got up on there and made weight he just f**king turned into the beast that he is.”

Michael Graves jokes about Grilo’s unorthodox approach to cardio and we get a demonstration from the man himself. There are some valid points made by Grilo about how your breathing will change during the fight depending on where the action goes. He practices doing short, rapid breaths and then deep ones and I can’t help but be reminded of Peter Griffin clutching his shin.

During a video review session, ATT break down Jason’s tendencies. Luckily, they have Hayder who defeated Jason last year. He has specific instructions for Grilo as far as how to counter Jason and potentially knock him out. Dan is already looking ahead to Grilo fighting again in the 100 point round. Then he sees a bunch of chicken eggs and starts counting them well before they’ve hatched.

For the first time this season, we are in the ATT gym for the fight. It’s good to see that Steve Montgomery is well and that the home team is making the most of the environment.

Drum CircleParty up!

American Top Team’s Grilo (16-7-1) v. Team Blackzilians’ Jason Jackson (4-2)

Tentative start for both men. Grilo’s jab is looking good early on, though he takes one back from Jason that knocks his mouthpiece out. Believe it or not, this might have been the turning point of the fight. Dana would later say that believes that shot scrambled Grilo’s brain and judging by the rest of the fight, it’s hard to argue that.

I give Grilo the first round (10-9) based on a couple of semi-successful takedowns and the pressure he was able to put on Jason. It wasn’t a dominant performance by any means. Most troubling was Grilo’s lack of response when his corner called out for him to throw his right hook more.

In the second round, it is Jason with all of the movement. He pecks away at Grilo, whose output has become non-existent.

“Put your hands up and fight!” Dan yells at him.

Both guys smile and laugh as the second round comes to a close. I know one person who isn’t smiling: Dana. This fight was a stinker.

It’s a clear cut 10-9 round for Jason. The scorecards haven’t been read yet and ATT are already acting as if Grilo lost. They’re right. One judge scores it a draw as I did, but the other two see the fight for Jason. Grilo just didn’t do enough of anything to win this fight.

Glenn feels the need to obnoxiously cram his face into the camera and say “That’s the way we f**king do it!”

Up Close & PersonalEnjoy, readers.

The ATT staff are confused and frustrated with Grilo’s flat performance. He’s 36 years old and this could be his last real shot at making it to the UFC. Grilo says he wants to fight again on the show. Dan looks unconvinced.

Well, that’s it for this…wait, what the hell? They suddenly tell us that the coaches now have the option to cut up to two guys from their team and bring in two new guys. Was this mentioned before? It sounds to me like the season hasn’t been as competitive as they would have liked and they threw this out there to even things up. I hate when shows do that.

Jason VictoriousThe score: Blackzilians lead 150-50 (5-1)

Next Week: Seriously, what?

The Ultimate Fighter 21: American Top Team v. Blackzilians – Week 5 Recap

*First off, my apologies for the lateness of this recap. I can’t promise things will get better from here on out as I’m currently in school, but just know that no matter what I am going to get around to covering every episode this season eventually. They can’t get rid of me.

As for our TUF: Brazil recaps, The_Vortex appears to have actually fallen into a vortex. While that is darkly hilarious in its own right, until I’m able to extract him, that project is on hiatus. It will be back soon!

Team Colours

American Top Team
Blackzilians (actually black on the show)

Rumble Johnson appearance! There’s a nice tie in to the title fight he had this past Saturday. He visits the house to congratulate Carrington Banks and joke around with Kamaru Usman. Rumble and Carrington make fun of the size of Kamaru’s head like he’s Tyrese in the Fast & Furious movies.

Johnson Playing AroundAnthony “Snuggle” Johnson.

The highlights of last week’s fight show that Carrington landed a lot of solid strikes on Sabah Homasi, justifying the judges’ decision on what was a back and forth battle. That doesn’t stop Sabah from continuing to complain. He says the fight was both “close” and a “robbery”. That is one of my biggest pet peeves in mixed martial arts.

A close fight usually means a fight could have gone either way; a robbery is a fight where one competitor loses despite being the clear winner to the majority of the viewing audience. They are mutually exclusive!

I still hate how Dan Lambert acts like it isn’t a big deal that his team lost the first four fights. I don’t care if they’re exhibitions that don’t end up on their record, these are losses that these guys have to live with for the rest of their careers. It’s not about the stupid points!

After a brief ATT deliberation, they decide that it’s time to unleash Hayder Hassan. He’s never been to a decision, he only knows one speed, and he’s got ferocious knockout power. Hayder means “brave” in Arabic, and he says he’s descended from the “baddest warriors”. He stops short of describing his fighting skill as “radical”.

Hayder: The winner is going to be two people: myself and the fans who get to experience the show.

Either Hayder’s math is off by a few hundred thousand or I truly am the only person left watching this season.

The Blackzilians are deciding between Andrews Nakahara and Felipe Portela. They decide to go with Andrews because they worry that they’ve been holding him back. He was brought to the camp by none other than Vitor Belfort, who anointed him as a future champ.

Andrews hails from Mogi das Cruzes, São Paulo, Brazil. He describes himself as a simple guy who just happens to be a Kyokushin karate world champion. We get to see him training on the beach and, look, I’m comfortable saying this: dude is fit.

Nakahara MusclesThere is a minor dust up at the house when Hayder confronts Jason Jackson for spreading rumours that Hayder is a dirty fighter. These two fought before the show, with Hayder winning via TKO. Jason says that Hayder pulled his hair. It should also be noted that Jason sounds a lot like Obie Trice (real name, no gimmicks).

(By the way, one more thing I hate about this season: the shortened preview of what is to come after the next commercial break. Completely pointless.)

Jason tells Hayder not to come at him like he’s a bitch. I’ll say this for Jason, at least he knows he’s on a television show. Hayder looks lost for words. Maybe he didn’t get his copy of the script. This better be leading to a rematch down the road, otherwise this has been a waste of time.

The ATT guys gather around the campfire trying to figure out who the Blackzilians are picking. This would be a lot more interesting if the viewers didn’t already know. Can you say “filler material”?

Survival SkillsSteve Carl: “Alright, psycho. What the f**k are you trying to do?”

Michael Graves, everyone’s favourite slob, is sleeping in on training day. They tell us he’s been up all night drinking instead of, you know, showing us. It’s a good thing that television isn’t a visual medium.

ATT are highly critical of how Michael’s fight has affected his mood. Look, I’m not a doctor, but is there a chance that he has, you know, a concussion? Maybe ganging up on him and letting him stay home alone isn’t the best way to deal with this situation.

Predictably, the Blackzilians are all smiles on the way to training, even finding time for an impromptu massage session.

Buscape MassageHey! What do you think this is? TUF: Brazil?

Dana White pops up on screen to yell at us about the Michael situation and repeats pretty much everything we’ve already seen and heard. I’m losing my patience again. This is the last time I’ll mention it this season unless he says something particularly significant: I am so, so tired of Dana White popping up and shouting at random moments. Was he always doing this on other seasons and I just never noticed?

He does relay one good line from Rashad Evans about how they’re going to have to start charging ATT for coming to their gym so much.

Speaking of things I am through writing about, I have no idea who thought it was necessary for Dan and Glenn Robinson to stand behind their fighters for every faceoff. Please stop.

Neither Hayder or Andrews have anything interesting to say leading up to the fight. At one point, Hayder goes “Mentally bro, I can’t be broken, bro.” Impressive sentence structure there.

Andrews says his strategy is “just to win the fight.” So that’s what ATT has been doing wrong.

It falls on ATT assistant coach Din Thomas to provide some good sound bites. He tells Hayder to “explore everything” when striking and to “have fun doing destruction”. Now that I think about it, Din would have made for a far more interesting representative of the gym than Dan. And the Blackzilians could have used Tyrone Spong instead of Glenn. He told his guys to steal the other team’s souls earlier in the episode! Another missed opportunity.

On the day of the fifth fight, I’m nearly certain I spot TUF: Latin America vet Bentley Syler aka Dr. Bolivia in the background.

Bolivia CameoDon’t try to hide from us, Bentley.

American Top Team’s Hayder Hassan (6-1) v. Team Blackzilians’ Andrews Nakahara (4-2)

Hayder sticks to the game plan, closing distance right away. The kicks of Andrews aren’t enough to back him up and you can see Hayder loading up his right hand the whole time. He lands it on the side of Andrews’ face, then follows with a left hook right on the button. The Blackzilian crumbles. Several furious punches later, we get an official stoppage.

Hayder FinishesI might not love the guy’s personality, but he backed up every word he said. A star making debut for Hayder.

Glenn’s post-fight reaction goes a long way towards endearing him to me. He is disturbed not just by his team’s first loss, but by what it meant for Andrews. That is definitely different from how the show portrays Dan, who has been shrugging off losses even as they pile up for his team and his fighters. I appreciate Dan’s honesty, but you need to find room for sympathy as well. Damn, I think I might be rooting more for Glenn after this one.

Regardless, congratulations to Hayder on getting the first finish of the season and in impressive fashion to boot.

Hayder VictoriousThe score: Blackzilians lead 100-50

Next Week: It will be nice to see what the American Top Team gym looks like.

The Ultimate Fighter 21: American Top Team v. Blackzilians – Week 4 Recap

As you can tell by the extraordinary lateness of this posting, this week was a struggle. I’m enjoying a lovely Victoria Day weekend here in Canada and the last thing I wanted to do was spend 40-some minutes with the jokers on TUF 21. But duty calls. Or I have some sort of disorder. Either way, let’s take a look at week four.

Team Colours

American Top Team
Blackzilians (actually black on the show)

American Top Team is understandably reeling from Steve Carl’s loss. He was one of their veterans, a sure bet to steady the ship. Instead, he sunk like a stone. Dan Lambert asks him what happened and Carl says it was all mental. I’m inclined to agree. This guy submitted Josh Burkman!

Steve Montgomery aka Creepy Steve is convinced that he’s the one to turn this around, saying “It’s always the creepy motherf**kers that sneak up on you. I promise.” Yeeuch.

Conveniently enough, Creepy Steve is ATT’s choice to close out the first round of 25 point fights. Also in consideration were Sabah Homasi and Hayder Hassan, but Hayder is still dealing with a hand injury. Ideally, he would have been matched up with one of the Blackzilian strikers (a couple of whom he’s defeated in the past). We’ll have to wait at least another week to see the vocal Top Teamer make his nationally televised debut.

Creepy Steve (whose official nickname is “The Creepy Weasel”) describes himself as having “the mind of a hippie” and “the heart of a fighter”. He’s an old fashioned South Carolina gentleman. So good nickname choice.

ATT CutHe also has ATT shaved into the side of his hair. You make your own judgments.

Glenn Robinson visits the house to ask his crew who they think ATT is planning to pick. Jorge Santiago says Nathan Coy looks skinny and proposes a match with Carrington Banks. The experience difference concerns Glenn, as well as the fact that Nathan’s technical skill might be too much for Carrington. Jorge and the others stick with their gut and Glenn relents.

The Blackzilians bring Carrington, Andrews Nakahara, and Jason Jackson into the bedroom to deliver the news. I’m going to assume this was a longer, more involved deliberation before editing, but that way it is shown it’s almost like they’re all waiting to get a Bachelor rose.

Blackzilian TrioWell this wasn’t a complete waste of time.

Carrington is from Peoria, Illinois, raised in Georgia and wrestled in Iowa. He’s a lifelong wrestler as a matter of fact. His brief montage portrays him as a “chill dude”, which is better than being creepy in my books.

Speaking of Creepy Steve, we get our first taste of genuine in-house drama when panicked cries for help send the cast into high alert. Creepy Steve is having a seizure! Hayder sticks his fingers in Creepy Steve’s mouth to keep him from biting his tongue off. I’m nearly certain that’s not how you’re supposed to handle that.

SeizureFor f**k’s sake, guys.

The house is completely in shock, but the show doesn’t dwell on the scene. This was a good opportunity to delve deeper into the fighters’ relationships as well as show the sympathetic side of the Blackzilians as I’m sure they were as concerned as the ATT crew. Instead, we get a brief comment from Hayder about how helpless he felt, some shots of Creepy Steve being carted off, and that’s the end of it. I’m not advocating milking a serious health related situation, but this is television! You’ve got to give us more than that.

With their first choice out of commission, ATT now has to choose between Nate and Sabah. They like how Sabah potentially matches up with either Carrington or Jason and he’s been eager to fight since the start of the show. He gets the green light.

Sabah is a male entertainer.

Pause for snark.

He makes sure to emphasize that it’s for women, which seems unnecessary. A man has got to eat, brah. You do you. If that disclaimer weren’t cringe worthy enough, he goes on to make an incredibly awkward comparison between dancing in front of a roomful of ladies to fighting inside of a cage. Did I mention that this is the same guy who was combing his beard during a testimonial last week?

Sabah says if you want to see him in an exciting fight, match him with a striker. If you match him with a wrestler, he’s pretty much screwed. At the weigh-ins, Dan says he suspected that ATT would pick Carrington. If that’s the case, why would they go with Sabah? It’s a good thing Carrington isn’t a former junior college wrestling champion or anything…oh wait…

We see Creepy Steve return to the house and thankfully he’s alright. He mishandled the weight cut, drinking too much water without balancing his electrolytes and that deluded all the sodium in his body. Yikes! There’s an educational moment for all you kids out there. Fortunately, there is no brain damage; unfortunately, Creepy Steve has to leave the house as a precaution since taking any blows to the head in the near future is probably a bad idea under these circumstances.

In the build up to the fight, there is just no variation from episode to episode as far as these training segments go: Montage of various techniques and drills, basic breakdown of how the fight could go, testimonial from a respected UFC teammate, the occasional butt slap…wash, rinse, repeat.

It’s a sad state of affairs when the most interesting part of each episode is making observations about the crowd on fight day. For example…

Sideshow CarlI can’t get over how ridiculous Carl looks with his hair loose.

…and then there’s a cameo by a TUF: Brazil champ…

Cara De Sapato CameoWhat’s up, Shoe Face?

American Top Team’s Sabah Homasi (8-4) v. Team Blackzilians’ Carrington Banks (3-0)

It occurs to me now that they’re showing the referee’s instructions to create some kind of big event atmosphere. It’s not working.

Carrington scores first blood, connecting with a right as Sabah lunges in. He goes to his bread and butter as Sabah had predicted. The former Iowa Central wrestler presses Sabah against the fence and drags him down, but he’s never on top for more than a few seconds. Sabah has great balance, but Carrington keeps at it. There is definitely a size difference between these two, which explains why Carrington’s grappling isn’t as effective as it could be. He’s a future lightweight.

There are some good strikes landed by Sabah, but based on the judging on the show so far I think the first round is a 10-9 for Carrington. The second is more of the same, though Sabah finds a rhythm, at least in the early going. It is difficult to tell who has the advantage. For the most part, they are trading evenly on every exchange. Sabah gets bonus marks for his leg and body kicks though.

Both guys look tired and we see some sloppiness.

High Kick MissJuuuust a bit outside.

Is there an unwritten rule that you’re not supposed to laugh when a fighter whiffs on a high risk move like that? Not that you’d be able to hear it, but I rarely see the other fighter or even the crowd react much when someone spills like that.

Carrington matches Sabah’s awkward kick with one of his own that results in Sabah getting hold of a front face lock. It isn’t much, but it should be enough to send this to a third round, and I’m not just saying that because I know how much time is left in the episode.

Maybe Carrington has been spending too much time with Rashad Evans. He gets casual with his stance, dropping his hands and bouncing around like a pogo stick. When he finally goes back to his wrestling it leads to another takedown. No control again, but it could be the difference in what is a difficult fight to call. I’m leaning towards Carrington because there wasn’t enough to distinguish between the two in the stand-up.

The judges score another fight for the Blackzilians. Sabah and his corner are shocked and I’m not sure why.

Sabah StunnedWhaaaaaaa?!?

That was a solid fight, the best one of the season so far. All the credit in the world to Sabah and Carrington. These two went after it!

The real shock is that Dana White disagrees. He says neither guy went in for the kill and that Sabah didn’t show what he could do. I’m not entirely sure what Dana was looking for here. It wasn’t the most exciting fight ever, but as far as I could tell both guys “left it all in the cage”, as he is so fond of saying. I’ve been picky all season and even I think this was a good one.

Dan gives his honest assessment that he had no idea how the third round would be scored. I’m reminded how much I appreciate his candor. Unlike the previous ATT performances though, he has no reason to be disappointed in Sabah. It just didn’t go his way this time.

Dan: Sit here and bitch about it for the next five minutes but then we need to start thinking about the next one. ‘Cause they’re worth 50 points apiece starting on Tuesday.

See? I said some nice things about TUF 21. We can all get along.

Carrington VictoriousThe score: Blackzilians lead 100-0.

Next Week: Montage, breakdown, testimonial, butt slaps.

The Ultimate Fighter 21: American Top Team v. Blackzilians – Week 3 Recap

The intro to this show is all wrong. Of all the things they needed to change, this wasn’t it. They recap last week and then do a preview of tonight’s show, which is just pointless. Then we get a shortened version of the traditional opening, without showing the fighters’ names. It is preposterous that they seem to be doing everything in their power this season to not showcase the actual fighters.

Also, the song sucks. THIS IS NOT THE ULTIMATE

Two fights down, the American Top Team crew acknowledge that the guys they’ve selected so far are talented, but young. Dan Lambert all but admits that Michael Graves and Uros Jurisic were sacrificial lambs since the initial fights aren’t worth as much. He goes on to do the math for us to show that a team can lose the first eight fights and as long as you win the final four (each worth 100 points) you can still win the competition.

Dan’s analysis comes off as incredibly callous because you would think these fights are about more than points. There’s also, I don’t know, his fighters’ careers to consider?

It gets worse when Dana White says ATT is way behind on points even though they literally just showed Dan explaining how easy it is to make up the deficit. Ugh.

Team Colours

American Top Team
Blackzilians (actually black on the show)

At the house, someone has taken Valdir “Baby Monster” Araujo’s wine. He goes on the hunt and…you know what, this is borderline kitchen drama. In summary, Michael has been a naughty boy and Steve Carl (from here on out referred to as “Carl”) thinks it can only lead to unnecessary drama. Michael shows no regret, joking that he didn’t confess because he doesn’t like confrontations. He might also have a drinking problem.

Wine ThiefThis is a likeable bunch, eh?

The ATT deliberations come down to Steve Montgomery (from here on out referred to as “Creepy Steve”), Grilo, and Carl. Creepy Steve is healthy and they believe that Grilo can beat anyone of the Blackzilians, but they decide that Carl is the safe choice. I’m glad they went with Carl this week to show that they’re taking this stage of the competition seriously.

Carl is from Belle Plaine, Iowa, a town so small that it took me almost an entire minute to properly google it. They mention his experience, but gloss over the fact that he submitted Josh Burkman to win the inaugural World Series of Fighting Welterweight Championship back in 2013. Were this a traditional season of TUF, Carl would easily be one of the first three fighters picked.

Carl TattooName tattooed on your back in fancy letters? Oh Steve…I was just starting to like you.

Before we move on to the Blackzilian side of things, I have to point out how much padding there is in this episode. There are some boring training segments that come off as extended commercials for the two gyms (oh wait, I’m the last person to realize that’s what this whole season is for, aren’t I?). They show the guys sitting around the house not doing or saying anything particularly interesting. They even show the referee explaining the rules of the fight to this week’s competitors like it’s a title match.

Worst of all are frequent clips of Dana White selling this week’s fight and constantly trying to get the viewer to buy into the feud between the two camps. Because nothing is more effective in the visual medium of television than someone telling you how interested you should be.

The Blackzilians are looking at Andrews Nakahara (great cardio) and Baby Monster. They dismiss Jason Jackson and Felipe Portela over concerns about them not recovering from their workouts fast enough. They decide on Baby Monster, and I know the show has made me sour because I can’t even enjoy that otherwise spectacular nickname.

It turns out that Valdir is called “Baby Monster” because he’s been too big and too aggressive since he was 12 years old. From what we see of his fighting style, it’s an appropriate moniker. He’s got that Wanderlei Silva technique of lumbering forward and swinging heavy hooks. However, he’s also renowned for his ground game, which could make this another long week for ATT.

Did I mention how dumb it is that we’re still having adults share a house even though most of the cast reside in Florida? Because it is dumb. Apparently, the house is divided into an ATT and Blackzilian side and the spa and steam room are on the Blackzilian side. I’m going to say that’s slightly unfair.

As a result of that inequity, Carl is three quarters of a pound over the limit. This is not weight cutting drama! It’s three quarters of a f**king pound. The commissioner directs them to the sauna, which cheeses off the Blackzilians who didn’t give the other team permission to use their facilities. Tyrone Spong says they’re in a war and in a war there are no rules. He and Michael Johnson go in to kick the ATT guys out.

1)      There are rules in war actually.
2)      It’s not war it’s a f**king TV show!

Is anyone on this show not a petty jerk?

Carl makes the weight. As stupid as that was, Dana does make a good point that if they don’t want to deal with these problems then they should get that home gym advantage. Of course, that point would have more validity if home gym advantage hadn’t been decided by a coin toss.

The nicest thing I can say about that segment is that we are spared another catfight between the owners.

A highlight of this episode is seeing Din Thomas going over Baby Monster footage to prepare Carl. If you’re unaware, Din actually started his own business dedicated specifically to scouting and breaking down fights. It’s a cool idea that I hope spawns career opportunities for retired fighters.

Din points out Baby Monster’s excellent takedown timing and everyone on the staff says he has a weak chin. The game plan is for Carl to get after him on the feet, but he says he “wouldn’t mind tapping out a blackbelt.”

If Baby Monster is worried about getting knocked out, he isn’t showing it.

Baby Monster: I fought Chris Weidman…I fought the champ for three rounds. Compared to this guy, Steve Carl can do nothing to me.

American Top Team’s Steve Carl (21-4) v. Team Blackzilians’ Baby Monster (14-5)

Oh look, Thiago Silva is here.

Thiago SilvaThere’s someone who I didn’t think I’d ever see on a UFC program again.

Carl lands a few punches and Baby Monster has to go for the takedown. Maybe they were right about that chin. The well prepared ATT fighter touches mat, but springs back up quickly. They wrestle against the cage, with Carl being in control for most of the round. The early punches definitely took some of the air out of Baby Monster. I’m actually surprised the referee doesn’t break up the grappling because neither guy is able to do much. I can almost hear Dana screaming.

Baby Monster finally reverses, but he whiffs on a judo throw.

Baby BotchRonda Rousey, eat your heart out.

Round 1: 10-9 Carl.

Between rounds, a subtitle typo makes it look like Tyrone wants Baby Monster to play dead in the middle of the fight.

Feint Not FaintUh, no?

Both fighters are tentative to start the second. They land some nice single strikes, but don’t commit to any sort of follow-up. Carl pushes in and traps Baby Monster against the cage again. Dana must have been contemplating shutting down filming at this point.

Baby Monster counters with a standing D’Arce choke. There is no submission, but it does allow him to switch positions and gain cage control. That’s where almost the entire fight has taken place.

Standing D'arceSurprisingly effective!

This is a difficult fight to score. Even though Carl has been in control longer, it’s Baby Monster who has threatened with submissions. I would send this one to a third round…and just as I write that, Baby Monster pulls guard to fully commit to a guillotine choke that makes Carl tap! It was a hell of a manoeuvre because if the round ended with Carl on top, that could have locked up a decision win for ATT.

Monster KillGlenn Robinson suggests the weight cut might have affected Carl’s performance. Dana is less convinced. He’s more annoyed by the fact that Carl didn’t listen to his corner and paid the price for wanting to grapple with Baby Monster, a black belt in both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and judo.

Complete ShockCarl is a little upset. The good thing is that you can fight more than once now and I would bet on him picking up a win before this season is over.

This season has been such a wasted opportunity. The new format is promising. I like the scoring system and the fact that we have actual teammates working together instead of eight strangers, but everything else is either too familiar or completely banal. They’re not giving us any reason to care about anyone. The cast is so unlikeable.

Sabah Testimonial*sigh* I just want these people to go away.

Baby Monster VictoriousThe score: Blackzilians lead 75-0

Next Week: The last of the 25 point fights that Dan thinks are essentially worthless.

The Ultimate Fighter 21: American Top Team v. Blackzilians – Week 2 Recap

I’ll go ahead and say what we’re all thinking.

The first two episodes of this season have been boring.

I can’t put my finger on exactly why. It could be a casting issue. It could be we’ve had bad luck with the first two fights. The focus on the gym owner feud has definitely been an enormous misstep so far since we have no reason to care much about either guy besides the fact that they really don’t like each other. Whoop-dee-doo.

If anything, all the arguing between Dan Lambert and Glenn Robinson makes them come off as a couple of brats, not respectable professionals. They need to give us more insight to this feud or establish the characters of the fighters soon, otherwise the intriguing new format they’ve drummed up will be for naught.

Team Colours

American Top Team
Blackzilians (actually black on the show)

We open on American Top Team sorting out what went wrong with Michael Graves’ fight. Michael thinks they underestimated the unity on the Blackzilians side, which might have given an extra push to Kamaru Usman. Steve Carl says the pressure of being undefeated had to have gotten to him, as it would with any fighter, himself included.

Hayder Hassan isn’t convinced by the unity argument. He echoes the sentiments of his coach that the ATT fighters develop together while the Blackzilians are more of a patched together group of talents. That doesn’t stop him from messing with the other team when he gets the chance.

A kitchen encounter with Kamaru sees Hayder looking to kill him with kindness. He goes on about the two of them being warriors and meeting in the cage someday, a stark contrast to the schoolboy callout after Kamaru’s fight with Michael. Kamaru isn’t sure how to take Hayder’s show of respect. He later tells his teammates that he’s conflicted about whether to like or hate Hayder.

He would probably be more decisive about it if he heard Hayder in the ATT van telling his boys that he was going to knock Kamaru’s “bitch-ass” out.

Blue SceneI’m digging the transition footage.

The ATT coaches predict that Jason Jackson or Carrington Banks could be next. They think Steve could be a strong representative for them this week since he’s got the most experience and he’s reliable. Hayder is ruled out due to a lingering hand injury. Putting those options aside, they decide to give Uros Jurisic the shot. He’s unproven, but they believe he’s peaking at the right time.

I’m surprised that they’re going with another unknown property. It’s becoming clear, at least to me, that they’re saving their big guns for the more heavily weighted fights. That means guys like Michael, Uros, and Sabah Homasi are being thrown to the wolves and whatever they get from them is gravy.

Uros is of Slovenian descent. Back home he is a student/postman who practices MMA without the support of his parents. After going undefeated in his home country, he moved to Florida to step up his game. Dan describes him as quiet and hardworking. They also joke that Uros is one of the better looking guys “in light of the ugliness of the house”.

The Blackzilians go with Buscapé. Carrington was considered for his wrestling, as well as Andrews Nakahara for his striking. Buscapé is undersized, but he’s extremely strong and adept at grappling. They expect his ground game to frustrate and overwhelm whoever he faces.

Glenn: They call Buscapé “The Flea” in the gym because once he’s on you, you can’t get him off.

It’s neat that the teams get to practice in a home gym, though I imagine the relatively small size of it might drive them crazy. Case in point, Kamaru and Jason have themselves a minor dust-up.

TensionNo subtitles necessary.

Kamaru acknowledges that he’s still feeling the effects of fatigue from preparation for his last fight. He apologizes to Jason and that’s that.

It’s weigh-in time and Dan is confident that they’ll win this week and never have to fight in the Blackzilians gym again.

Dan: Ready to see this place for the last time?
Hayder: Yeah, f**k this place.
Dan: F**k this place.

The emphasis during the faceoff is once again on Dan and Glenn. They unload on each other with insults, some of which aren’t bad. But seriously, ten more weeks of this? Dana White continues to be overly excited about the rivalry, which only makes it worse.

Dan And GlennBecause I know we all love dedicating time to a confrontation between two men that will never be resolved in any meaningful way.

American Top Team’s Uros Jurisic (4-0) v. Team Blackzilians’ Buscapé (18-6)

Prior to the fight, Buscapé is shown getting a lot of 1-on-1 time with Tyrone Spong, arguably the best light heavyweight striker in MMA. If he can handle that, I don’t think Uros is going to give him much trouble on the feet.

Alas, the Spong training proves unnecessary since Buscapé is able to get a takedown early in the fight. That spells trouble for Uros who is completely neutralized on his back.

Buscape On TopSee this screenshot? You just saw the first round of this fight.

Round 1: 10-9 Buscapé.

Uros’s corner tells him to keep it on the feet, which seems sensible. Of course, the first thing Uros does is shoot for a takedown.

Buscape On Top AgainUnwise.

Uros actually does manage to get back up, but the ease with which his takedown was reversed means we won’t be seeing that again. Buscapé is able to wade in and throw hooks without any fear of Uros changing strategy. And, of course, he can go all out on takedowns with maximum confidence.

I’m disappointed that Dan employs the Rampage Jackson coaching method of yelling Get up! over and over again. Then again, when they do give Uros advice, he has problems implementing it. The ATT corner is begging him to let go of Buscapé’s head, but he panics. His inability to disengage results in him being tripped or taken down repeatedly. Buscapé does enough to take a lopsided decision win.

Buscape VictoriousDana didn’t like the fight this week either and I’m inclined to agree with him. While I don’t think the referee should have stood them up (Buscapé was always active from the top, even if he failed to pass), I do understand his disappointment in Uros. He looked lost out there. What Dana should really be upset about is that Dan is clearly saving his best fighters for the later stages of the competition instead of putting his best foot forward.

The score: Blackzilians lead 50-0

Next Week: Maybe Dan picks someone to fight who has had more than four professional appearances?

The Ultimate Fighter 21: American Top Team v. Blackzilians – Week 1 Recap

Here’s what I wrote back in September 2012 in a post about fixing The Ultimate Fighter:

Camp wars

This is an idea that I’d like to elaborate further on some other time, but how about a season dedicated to two prominent camps? It would be good publicity for the camps themselves and their young fighters. The cast mates wouldn’t be forced into a team dynamic, instead training with friends who they already like and trust. There’s even the possibility of including more than two teams (something that Survivor has done before with great success). Just imagine the possibilities: American Top Team v. TristarJackson’s MMA v. Xtreme CoutureTeam Nogueira v. Alliance MMANova União v. Team Alpha Male? If a team is too dominant, it could even result in teammates having to face each other (though their reluctance to do so would be a major hurdle for the show).

I’ll admit, I’m embarrassed. I had no idea that Dana White and the UFC put so much stock in my ideas. Lorenzo, my preferred method of payment is check, though I’m not against the sack with a dollar sign on it.

Team Colours

American Top Team
Blackzilians (actually black on the show)

In all seriousness though (yes, that was me being funny), I can’t express enough how much I appreciate the show runners making a major overhaul to the program.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the show, TUF invited two of the most prominent teams in MMA to participate in a head to head battle for camp superiority. On one side, we have American Top Team cofounded and owned by Dan Lambert. On the other, we have the Blackzilians owned by Glenn Robinson. I’m not going to lie, the first few times I saw Glenn Robinson’s name in MMA articles, I thought that “Big Dog” had invested in an MMA gym.

This is the first domestic edition of TUF to not take place in Las Vegas. Instead, we’re in sunny South Florida, the site of both gyms as well as the all-new TUF house. One major difference is that the fighters have to travel there by water.

Boat RideYup, they’re on a boat.

Let’s get the nitty-gritty of the season out of the way for those of you who, like me, might not have been keeping up with the previews leading up to the show:

  • There will be 12 fights during the regular season and unlike previous editions, not everyone has to fight.
  • A fighter can fight up to a maximum of three times.
  • The 12 fights will be broken into three tiers, each worth a different amount of points. So the last four weeks will be more important than the first four weeks.

Scoring SystemI miss the IFL.

  • The fighters are selected by their teams before the weigh-in, but until then they have no idea who they will be facing At last, the Blind Date/TUF mash-up I’ve been begging for.
  • You will only be able to fight in the TUF finale if you fought at least two times during the “regular season” (as Dana calls it). It is unclear if this means you have to have fought twice to be on the card at all, or to be in consideration for the TUF Final (if there even is a traditional final match this season).
  • The team with the most points at the end of the regular season gets $200,000.
  • The team with the winning fighter in the finale gets $300,000 and the TUF trophy.

TUF TrophyPretty.

Call me crazy, but these are ideas that could be expanded on outside of the TUF format, no? Especially with all the programming the UFC has, it is not unreasonable to think they could establish some sort of regular season with major rewards at the end. Just something to consider.

They highlight Robbie Lawler’s recent world title win, a first for ATT after a handful of missed opportunities. Unfortunately, we soon go from highlighting ATT to slinging mud at the Blackzilians. Dan says that Glenn is simply a student who had enough money to buy his way into martial arts relevancy. He accuses Glenn of bringing in big name fighters to comprise his camp as opposed to developing his own.

Glenn’s side of the story is that Dan became upset with him after he became professionally involved with other fellow ATT members Jorge Santiago, JZ Cavalcante, and the Villefort brothers. This resulted in Glenn being banned from ATT. Jorge, JZ, and the Villeforts would follow him to his new enterprise, soon joined by Rashad Evans and Anthony Johnson.

Rashad & The BoysFor those of you keeping score at home, by my unofficial count (only fighters who have already made at least one appearance) ATT has 33 fighters currently signed to the UFC, while the Blackzilians have 12.

It’s cool that they show us some of the ATT roster selection process. I’ll take that over elimination fights any day. Heck, even if they don’t do camp wars every year, I’d love to see how those responsible for casting select the people for the show. Anyone who has watched DVD extras of any previous TUF season knows that the unseen auditions and table discussions are highly entertaining.

Here is a quick and dirty reference guide for the ATT team:

  • Marcelo “Grilo” Alfaya (16-7 [1 NC])
    • Crazy man
  • Hayder Hassan (6-1)
    • Knockout artist
    • In his last two fights, he knocked out a pair of Blackzilians (Jason Jackson and Felipe Portela)
  • Nathan Coy (14-5)
    • The captain
    • Grinder
    • Has fought for both Bellator and Strikeforce
  • “Creepy” Steve Montgomery (8-2)
    • 6’4”, Southpaw
  • Michael Graves (4-0)
    • Fast paced
  • Sabah Homasi (8-4)
    • Underachiever
  • Uros Jurisic (4-0)
  • Steve Carl (21-4)
    • Former WSOF welterweight champion

ATTHayder likens ATT to playing for the New York Yankees. He gets a lot of play in this episode and based on his past experiences with the Blackzilians, expect him to be a prominent character this season.

On the Blackzilian side:

  • Jason Jackson (4-2)
    • Top cardio
  • Luiz “Buscape” Firmino (18-6)
    • WSOF and PRIDE veteran
    • His last three wins were against Luis Palomino, Jacob Volkmann, and Tyson Griffin
    • Natural 155er
  • Kamaru Usman (5-1)
    • Olympic alternate wrestler
  • Andrews Nakahara (4-2-2)
    • Karate world champion
  • Carrington Banks (3-0)
  • Vicente Luque (7-4-1)
    • Most improved
    • Ground game
  • Felipe Portela (8-2)
    • Sick mustache
    • Originally an alternate
  • Valdir “BBMonstro” Araujo (14-5)
    • Ground game and power

BlackziliansThe South Beach mansion somehow looks even more opulent and unnecessary than the Las Vegas location. When I’d heard that the show would focus on actual teams this year, I had hoped they would move away from the reality show house format. I love the team concept, I love the points system, I HATE that the fighters still have to live in the same house. How does that make any sense? This went from fresh to disturbingly familiar real quick.

Creepy Steve: The initial reaction was a little bit of awkwardness. Tension. Competitiveness. You could tell everyone was semi-sizing each other up, but at the same time not necessarily trying to be seen sizing the other up.

This year, the coin flip determines home gym advantage. I hate when there is no consolation prize for the losing team because it puts too much importance on random chance. Especially this season where the winning team gets to keep the fights in their gym. The Blackzilians get it.

We move to the home of Glenn where he has invited the Blackzilians over to watch the UFC on Fox event where Rumble took out Alexander Gustafsson. It is neat to see how the owner and his team react to Rumble pulling off the upset. Glenn’s home set-up looks pretty sweet and we get another glimpse into his resources later in the show when he has a war room to discuss the fighter picks with some of his crew overseas via satellite. That was in contrast to ATT who are shown discussing their business inside the cage. We could have ourselves a “haves” vs. “have nots” angle.

Dana comes to the house to give the traditional pep talk and go over the points system. It might not make for exciting television, but it’s a smart thing to do because it’s so different from how every other season has been handled.

After that, we get a great quote from Jason: I’m only living by three codes: Whup ass. Cash checks. And take gold. That’s all.

For ATT the plan is simple: to stick with their best four to have the best chance of winning everything. Michael is up first.

Michael is a wrestler, but he calls his style “madness”, which probably falls somewhere between “Trap Fighting” and “Ranger International Performance” (RIP). MMA used to be all fun and games but now that he has a fiancée it is time to get down to business. Dan says that Michael came to the camp with little experience. It didn’t take long before he was proving to be a handful for most guys in the gym, even those in the UFC.

There is some kitchen drama revolving around labelling of items in the fridge and (*sigh*) not cleaning the dishes. For the rest of the season, that’s the last I’m going to write about that.

On the Blackzilian side is Kamaru. He was called in during the fight selection meeting and asked if he wanted to fight this early in the season. After some hesitation, he agreed. Glenn tells everyone to make it a point to deceive the other team as to who they might have picked.

I’ll say this: halfway through the episode, the show has a different feel and that’s a good thing. People might not find the emphasis on the coaches and their decisions to be that interesting, but it’s a change of pace from manufactured house drama and generic training footage.

Kamaru is from Nigeria, raised in Texas. He moved to Colorado Springs to compete for an Olympic spot and then…they don’t tell us why he decided to make the switch to MMA. There is actually a pause for dramatic effect and then nothing. Let’s assume this is a blank to be filled in later.

When we get to the weigh-ins, Dan admits to being surprised when Kamaru steps forward to fight. ATT was expecting the Blackzilians to lead off with Buscape. Kamaru had been watching the habits of the ATT members closely and he suspected it would be Michael or Nathan, so credit to him for his observational skills. That doesn’t mean he should be rocking the shades in-doors look though.

Kamaru CoolWatch out guys, we’re dealing with a badass over here.

The emphasis during the faceoff is actually on the two coaches standing behind their fighters. This rivalry could get tiresome quickly if they don’t lay off on it.

Welterweight Bout: Kamaru Usman (5-1) v. Michael Graves (4-0)

There is a big fight feel with recognizable fighters from both camps in the audience. It reminds me of one of the things I do like about past season’s elimination fights, friends and family of the competitors being allowed to attend. Kamaru comes out in a crouch and…

Interesting Approach…it goes poorly for him.

Kamaru catches a kick and gets the first takedown of the fight, though Michael is able to recover. He tries to switch position but Kamaru is hanging onto that single leg like a rabid dog. We move to some clinching against the cage and Michael is able to slip out and start connecting with kicks.

Great balance and flexibility by Michael keeps him on his feet where is able to score a lot of points. On the other hand, he is also allowing Kamaru to land, which isn’t good because Kamaru is supposed to be a one-dimensional wrestler. Kamaru connects with straight rights and shoots in again, but Michael’s takedown defence holds up. I had the first round for Michael 10-9, though I wasn’t sure whether to credit Kamaru with several somewhat successful takedowns that didn’t go anywhere.

I can’t believe I’m saying his, but these ring girls seem superfluous in this environment. It’s one thing to have them in neutral territory like the usual TUF gym, it’s another to have them where these teams do their actual training.

In round two, Kamaru can’t seem to land a clean takedown. Even when it looks like Michael is headed for a fall, he has the magical ability to levitate his butt from the canvas.

Graves DefenceSeriously, how is he doing this?

Michael gets away with grabbing the cage in both rounds (oh, maybe that’s how he does it), which drives me nuts. Just take the point, ref! A sloppy takedown attempt by Kamaru bounces Michael off the cage and he dives in to take Kamaru’s back. Kamaru is forced to carry Michael’s weight as he stands up, with Michael looking for a choke the whole time. Kamaru shakes Michael loose and is able get his first real top position in the fight…with 30 seconds to go.

Kamaru ThrowToo little too late on my scorecard. Michael should have this one.

It’s a majority decision win for Kamaru. I guess they did count those takedowns. This is why I don’t gamble on fights and why I should never be allowed to judge them.

Post-fight, Dan concedes that the stand-up was even, something they hadn’t accounted for. He also says Michael shouldn’t have accepted bottom position to close out the fight as it likely cost him the round. I like Dan already. He’s not going to cry too much over a close fight.

Hayder refuses to go quietly from ringside. He calls Kamaru out and Dan tells Hayden to keep it “in the cage”. We’re already seeing the benefits of this format, since this fight could still happen without both guys having to advance to another round. The coaches could simply agree to let them step into the octagon and we have ourselves a fight. If only Joe Silva’s job was so easy.

Surprisingly, Dana doesn’t feel the guys from either team showed him enough. I thought the fight was alright, so I don’t know why they felt the need to show that criticism this early in the season. Let’s hope it’s because they want us to know that the best is yet to come.

Kamaru VictoriousThe score: Blackzilians lead ATT 25-0

Next Week: American Top Team’s…s**t, they don’t announce the fights ahead of time anymore. How am I going to do these this season?