The Ultimate Fighter 21, Episode 5: The streak ends

What we learned this week:

– My cable company doesn’t have The Ultimate Fighter on demand. I had to wait to catch the Sunday rerun.

– Some guy from American Top Team is really good at climbing ropes.

– American Top Team finally picks Hayder Hassan to fight. They don’t mention the hand injury ruled him out of the last four.

– The Blackzilians pick Andrews Nakahara, who claims a world championship in Kyokushin karate. He is seen training on a beach. Then a 250-pound guy comes up to kick sand in his face, and Nakahara signs up for a Charles Atlas course.

– (The last sentence is fictional.)

– Hayder confronts Blackzilian Jason Jackson, saying Jackson has been spreading rumors that he’s a dirty fighter. It seems Hayder knocked out Jackson in 2013. Jackson at first plays down the “dirty fighter” thing, but says all he knows is that Hayder pulled his hair. Then Jackson says not to call him a bitch. Hayder doesn’t care to continue the discussion. In confessional, he says if he’s matched up with Jackson, he’ll just hit rewind and then play and beat him up again.

– We’ve established that Michael Graves was drinking a good bit. This time, he drank too much to wake up to roll out with the American Top Team van in the morning. The editors cleverly cut to shots of Graves looking very cozy in bed. When ATT leader Dan Lambert gets the news, he’s calm but unhappy. Will they kick him out of the house? Stay tuned.

– Oops — after the ad break, Graves shows up. The ATT guys don’t jump up and greet him like the prodigal son. “(Bleep) you, Graves” is heard from someone off camera.

– Both fighters make weight. Hayder smiles. Nakamura winks. Dana White, reporting from his bunker in a gym equipment warehouse, is intrigued with the striker-vs.-striker matchup. Jackson says Hayder only has an overhand and a hook, because no fighters ever add anything to their arsenals in more than 12 months of training.

– Hayder talks about his faith — he’s a Muslim who prays five times a day and feels totally at peace, which might be a surprise if you’ve been watching the show.

– Andrews is confident. That’s about all we hear. And it’s getting late in this episode, so we know it won’t be a three-rounder. Maybe not even a two-rounder.

– We go back to Hayder, who has all the good lines in this one. He says he’s going to get so close to Nakamura that the guy will know what he had for breakfast this morning. The Blackzilians, he says, just wrestle and hump you to kill time.

– Din Thomas! The TUF alum and ATT coach says Hayder has dynamite in his hands. Lambert reminds us that Hayder has never been to a decision.

– Fight time: They touch gloves. Nakamura tries several high kicks. Hayder just keeps walking him down. Then a little more than 40 seconds in, it’s left-RIGHT-LEFT. The combo bounces Nakamura off the cage and sends him down. Hayder pounces right away. The ref warns Nakamura to fight back, but it’s not happening. TKO in 48 seconds.

– Hayder jumps on the fence, says a few things that are bleeped, then bounces down and puts his finger to his lips to shush the Blackzilians.

– Blackzilians owner Glenn Robinson just shrugs. “It happens.”

– At the decision, Hayder again shows respect for Nakamura at least. They bow to each other, and Hayder raises Nakamura’s hand. It’s the first time Nakamura has been knocked out.

So now ATT gets home gym advantage at last. Robinson just feels bad for Nakamura.

“This season …” promo again tells us nothing about what’s coming up.

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The Ultimate Fighter 21, Episode 3: Please, please throw a punch

A few observations on this week’s episode of the biggest fight series in South Florida since Kimbo beat Afropuff and Big Mac on the same day in the boat yard.

– The new theme song is as lame as it gets. The credits tell us nothing. No idea why they did this.

– Is American Top Team saving its best fighters for when the point values increase? But then the best fighters don’t get to fight twice. Are they just not that good?

– Was Valdir “Baby Monster” Araujo motivated by ATT’s Michael Graves stealing his wine?

– Does the house really have a spa and sauna — only on the Blackzilians’ side of the house?

– Where is Dana White filming all his cutaways? Is NORAD involved?

– Lots of cameos by TUF alumni: Rashad Evans (Blackzilians), Din Thomas (ATT), Robbie Lawler (ATT), Michael Johnson (Blackzilians).

– Will Florida refs ever break up the fight when it’s stalemated against the cage?

– ATT’s Nathan Coy might have made the snappiest comeback in TUF history. ATT’s Steve Carl missed weight and needed to cut a bit, so he headed for the Blackzilian sauna. A couple of Blackzilians took issue, to which the incredulous Florida commission guy asked, “Um, you guys didn’t work this out in advance?” Blackzilian Tyrone Spong tried to kick Carl out, justifying it with a trite “In war, there are no rules.” Coy: “If there’s no rules, we’ll stand here and barricade the (bleep) sauna.” Gotcha there.

– If your corner tells you to punch … punch! Steve Carl didn’t, and ATT is down 75-0.

The Ultimate Fighter 21, Episode 2: Psych!

Coincidentally, after the Jon Jones news, I found this fun recap from Jones’ stint on TUF.

Back to this year: Hey, we have a new theme song! It’s … short. It tells us nothing.

The Blackzilians won the first fight. sending top prospect Kamaru Usman against the underconfident Michael Graves. Back in the house, seven hours after the fight (guess they’re fighting in the early afternoon), Graves is beating himself up worse than Usman did. His American Top Team-mates try to build him back up but sound frustrated with the process.

Hayder Hassan, the one last seen yelling at Usman about being “next,” moves on from trying to pick up Graves to trying to psych out Usman by telling him how much he respects him. Usman seems either bemused or amused. Maybe both. But Usman chats about it with his teammates in the van, so maybe it’s working? No, probably not.

Speaking of people who are psyched out, the American Top Team brain trust is trying to figure out who to pick next. Hassan really wants to fight, but, oops, he actually has a hand injury. They call in Uros Jurisic of Slovenia, a student/postman, to tell him he’s getting the nod. His English is a little stilted, and the conversation with the ATT guys sounds like Slim Pickens telling Mongo he’s going to go into town to shake things up in Blazing Saddles. Mongo only pawn in game of life.

Speaking of pawns, Dana White shows up to remind us that the matchups are literally like a chess match. You might end up with a striker-grappler matchup. That sounds more like bridge to me. I bid two Muay Thais.

And it sounds like they’re just picking the best, healthiest fighters, anyway. That makes sense — whoever fights now has a good chance of fighting twice, and the winners earn more points as the season goes on. In that sense, it’s more like backgammon.

The Blackzilians pick Luiz “Buscape” Firmino, a strong grappler they call “the flea” because he’s impossible to escape. He has been around a while, fighting in PRIDE and other Japanese promotions before beating UFC vets Tyson Griffin and Jacob Volkmann in the World Series of Fighting.

Meanwhile, back in the house, some people are training in the small gym in the house. And someone gets mad, yelling “Do the drill right!” before storming through a door. The door looks more solid than the ones frequently destroyed in the old TUF training complex in Vegas, and it survives in tact. It seems the dispute is between Usman and Jason Jackson, but they bury it quickly. That’s either foreshadowing or a dull day at the house.

The weigh-ins will be fun this year because the fighters will learn what we already know — who’s fighting whom. Neither Uros nor Buscape seems especially perturbed by the matchup, a change from last week’s edition with Graves going into a shell when he saw Usman.

ATT boss Dan Lambert decides to bring the heat, ridiculing Blackzilian owner Glenn Robinson for standing there behind his fighter looking tough. “A makeup artist would kick your ass,” Lambert said. Dana White, broadcasting from his undisclosed location, seems happy. The fighters all have a look that screams “whatever.”

White has also told us Uros wants to keep the fight standing. These days, does that ever work?

Uros, incidentally, is 22. He’s 4-0 but hasn’t fought anyone. Maybe Lambert should quit worrying about Robinson being a tough guy and figure out how to get some matchups he can win. The good news — Uros has three wins by submission.

Uros and the coaches meet to do some game-planning, which is something TUF should do more often. Hardcores will love it, but it’s also accessible for casual fans. It ends with a nice new slogan: “Unleash the Uros!” If he changed his name to “Fury,” we’d have the Washington Capitals’ third-period rallying cry.

Fight day. Robinson tells Buscape this is nothing. This is the warmup fight. This is the guy you beat up on your way to a big fight. The Blackzilians chant like it’s a soccer game, which irritates Lambert. What doesn’t irritate Lambert?

Unnamed ref with heavy accent gives the “two five-minute rounds” speech. Robinson reminds Buscape to keep his hands up. Then he comes out throwing a kick straight up the pike. Then he gets stunned from a left hook, but it gives him the perfect position for a takedown less than 20 seconds into the fight. Uros has his head locked up for a possible guillotine, but no. Buscape works his way to guard and lands several punches from one inch away while Uros tries again to lock in a guillotine. Or an armbar. Or whatever. He’s surprisingly effective at nullifying Buscape’s offense by threatening so many submissions. You’d think a guy with Buscape’s experience would keep his head and arm out of danger.

Yeah, it’s a grinding fight. With 1:40 left in the round, Lambert is left yelling the rallying cry of the defeated coach: “GET UP!”

Round 2: Uros tentatively steps out, then tries a kick. Then a spinning kick. Then a takedown. They clinch at the cage, and then Buscape takes down Uros in side control. Maybe I should just hit fast-forward. Nothing else is going to … hey, Uros escaped! And he looks mad! He throws some punches. Including a wild right that may have left the gym entirely and scraped the castle at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando before returning to the gym and hitting nothing. Buscape takes him down again. Lambert yells “Get up!” again. Buscape isn’t doing anything. Uros looks like he’s checking his watch. I’ll be happy to never see either of these men fight ever again.

Buscape wins the unanimous decision.

Third ad for the Women’s World Cup!

“Uros is definitely not experienced enough to be in with a guy like Buscape,” Robinson says, almost sympathetically.

“Well, that fight sucked,” Dana White says. Again. He complains about Uros not doing anything his corner said, and he complains about the ref letting Buscape lay and pray for two rounds.

Next week, we see that an ATT fighter turns up ¾ of a pound overweight, and the Blackzilians make a stink about letting him use their sauna.

By this point, the only thing we can say about these teams is this: A plague on both your houses. (Oh, right … they’re all staying in the same one. Good. That’ll save time.)