The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 10: The finalists are …

After a slow start to the season, everything has perked up in the last couple of weeks. We’ve seen some decent fights, some brazen efforts to grab reality-show infamy, some heartwarming kindness and some drunken idiocy. Tonight, we have a pair of semifinals, each compelling in its own right. And I get to find out who’ll need to put up with my stupid interview questions this weekend.

Credits roll — hey, does anyone remember seeing Mick Bowman or Justin Edwards say anything over the course of the season? Justin was unlucky to miss out on a wild-card spot due to injury, but he has been awfully quiet since then. Nordin Asrih was silent for several weeks until he gave Chris Cope some mildly enthusiastic advice on fighting Shamar Bailey.

We start by seeing much more of the house than we have in the rest of the season. Tony, who alienated the rest of the house with his inebriated comments about Charlie’s custody battle, asks where Charlie is. Chuck doesn’t seem to answer.

But we cut quickly to the weigh-in between two of the funnier guys of the season, Chris Cope and “Stripper” Ramsey Nijem. They exchange “Whoo!”s and laugh.

Back quickly to the house, where Tony tries to apologize. Chuck isn’t buying it. He tells him he crossed the line by bringing Charlie’s kid into things, and Charlie showed a lot of character by not punching him in the face when the rest of the team wanted to pound him. Tony tries again. Blank stares.

Awkward cut back to the gym for the first semifinal. Chris is the big surprise, upsetting Javier Torres and Shamar Bailey to get here. Ramsey is an awesome wrestler and Team Dos Santos’ last hope.

Round 1: Chris is on the same path he trod to beat Shamar — defend the takedown and land short punches while his opponent leans on him. But Ramsey is showing more adaptability than Shamar, and he lands a lot of solid punches and a couple of good knees. Chris gets a mark or two on his face. 10-9 Ramsey.

Round 2: Finally, an actual takedown, but Ramsey can’t hold it. He does give Chris a good body kick as he slips away. I swear I actualy saw blood fly from Chris’ face on one punch, just before they smile at each other for the 100th time. Then Ramsey finds another way to get Chris down — he overwhelms him with punches. Chris staggers against, the cage, then falls. Ramsey keeps throwing punches, but Steve Mazzagatti quickly and correctly stops it. Team Dos Santos will have a fighter in the final.

FINALIST: Ramsey Nijem by second-round TKO

Not even an ad break before the next weigh-in. Just judging by the clock, we may be looking at a three-rounder in the second semifinal. After the events of last week, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Tony Ferguson’s immediate family rooting for him, but he has been one of the most impressive fighters on the show.

Herb Dean starts our second fight at 9:32 p.m., leaving us plenty of time for three rounds and a wrapup.

Round 1: Chuck lands the first punches in a tepid opening. But Tony looks better boxing — his chin is tucked and his head is moving, while Chuck’s chin is just sitting there. Chuck catches Tony low, and despite the events in the house, they do the sportsmanlike thing and tap gloves. Tony feints a takedown, waits a few seconds, then snaps Chuck’s head back with a straight punch. Chuck’s nose is getting redder, and Tony’s getting more comfortable. Near the one-minute mark, Tony catches a Chuck kick and sends Chuck to the mat, but he backs away to keep the fight standing. Tony finishes the round with a good right cross and a left hook. 10-9 Tony

Round 2: Again, Chuck strikes first, Tony strikes more cleanly and crisper. Tony starts doing an Ali shuffle for some reason. Chuck needs to find someplace to be other than directly in front of Tony, who again snaps Chuck’s head with a clean punch. Tony spends the rest of the round turning Chuck’s face into a bloody Forrest Griffin-esque mess. 10-9 Tony

Round 3: Tony lands several good shots to the head. Then the body. Then the leg. This is really worse than a 1-minute knockout or submission. With 1:50 left, Chuck tumbles, and Herb Dean has seen enough.

FINALIST: Tony Ferguson by third-round TKO

Quick postscript: We see Dana getting the call from Brock Lesnar. The diverticulitis is back with a vengeance, and Brock can’t fight Junior. Enter Shane Carwin.

Any other cast members on the TUF13 finale card? They don’t announce anything. Press release likely coming in 5, 4, 3, 2 …

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 9: Shocking end

We start fast, with Zach telling us he may keep things standing against Chuck since he took him down last time. In other words, he wants to do the opposite of what he did when he beat him.

Chuck says he’s giving half of his win bonus to Charlie because Charlie has been going through a rough child support situation. Charlie says he can’t take it.

Quick look at training: Brock tells Chuck to use his head to pin Zach’s head against the cage.

Then we’re already at the walkout for the fight, though Zach puts a couple of holes in the perennially flimsy UFC Training Center doors on his way to the cage.

Returning from the ad break, we get a few more reminders that Chuck’s nickname is “Cold Steel.” He also has more experience than Zach.

Round 1: Zach immediately lands a sharp jab and fares pretty well in the stand-up. Chuck lands a good leg kick. Zach takes him to the cage to land some solid knees, and Chuck is showing little capacity to get out. Ref Steve Mazzagatti gets bored nearly halfway through the round and returns them to the center, where we see a cut under Zach’s left eye. They trade again, and Chuck lands a good variety of strikes. One punch staggers Zach, who comes back with a takedown attempt and again puts Chuck against the cage. His position isn’t as good this time, and Chuck lands a lot of hammerfists. They break, and Chuck lands a powerful combo that sends Zach reeling. And another. The last 20 seconds is a barrage from Chuck. The only bad news for Brock’s fighter is that he seems tired when he gets back to the corner. 10-9 Chuck

Between rounds, Brock tells Chuck that Zach’s tired. Junior, perhaps for the first time all season, sounds mad at someone other than Lew Polley and the judges, telling Zach he HAS to take Chuck down.

Round 2: Well, Zach gets down, but it’s the result of a leg kick that his him awkwardly. Chuck gets on top for a few seconds but lets him up. Chuck again staggers Zach, but Junior’s fighter responds with a near-takedown. Chuck manages to pick his way out, and we repeat — Chuck 1-2, Zach takedown attempt, Zach pressing Chuck to the cage. Chuck reverses momentarily but can’t keep Zach against the cage. That’s all Zach can manage, though — he’s the living picture of a tired fighter leaning on his opponent. They slow-dance a bit more, and Mazzagatti has again seen enough. They go back to the center, where Zach will need a miracle in the last 90 seconds. He lands one nice punch up the middle, but Chuck bides his time and then responds. Then another Chuck combo with 20 seconds left. Zach shoots, and Chuck immediately scrambles away. Horn sounds, and Zach immediately hangs his head.

They don’t even go to the pretense of pretending we might have a third round. They go straight to the fight recap, and it’s all Chuck.

And yes, it’s 20-18 across the board for Chuck O’Neil, who put on a performance that will earn him a couple of UFC paydays. The former alternate and wild card is now a semifinalist.

Doctor checks out Chuck. “Headache?” “No.  A little horny, though.”

“Cold Steel,” yes, but the wit is still there.

Immediately to the second fight, and Brock is a little concerned that Tony gets too fancy when he has a dominant position.

But after the break, we get a quick look in the house with a lot of Miller Lite placement. Chuck pays tribute to Zach’s toughness.

Then the bad news — Zach tore BOTH retinas. He had immediate surgery, and the doctors say he can’t fight any more. Chuck hears the news and gives Zach a sympathetic hug.

Two words for Zach: Second opinion.

Junior and Ryan posit him as the underdog. That’s a little strange for Junior’s second pick and the guy who took out Brock’s top pick, Len Bentley.

Ryan also tears up talking about his daughter, to whom he has been writing letters in the hopes that she’ll read them later and know how much he was thinking of her during this six-week experience.

Round 1 … oh, it’s over. Tony lands an uppercut that staggers Ryan and finishes up.

Junior consoles Ryan and tells him never to give up. Then he asks everyone to put all their positive energy toward Ramsey.

Yes, Ramsey is the only Dos Santos fighter remaining in the competition. Call it the curse of Lew Polley. Anyone who thought Brock was embarrassing himself should be thinking again.

Dana says the coaches think Ramsey and Tony are the best fighters here. Dana doesn’t necessarily disagree, but he’s impressed with Chuck and says Chris just keeps beating the odds.

Matchups: Ramsey vs. Chris Cope, Tony vs. Chuck.

So that’s a wrap, and … oh, wait. We haven’t had the drunken brawl we were promised in the previews.

Ramsey strips on the pool table and is doused with various beverages. Everyone’s having fun.

Until … Charlie pours a drink in Tony’s hair. Tony charges him, falling over a sofa and into a coffee table that luckily doesn’t shatter. We hear people yelling to restrain Tony as we go to commercial. Are we going to see a Jesse Taylor-style removal from the house? We’ll find out after Schick razors take a page from the Axe “use this product and have sex” advertising book.

Charlie tries to calm Tony down. Tony isn’t responding. Then the talk starts. Tony brings up Charlie’s kid, possibly the worst below-the-belt argument since Bobby Southworth yelled “fatherless bastard” at Chris Leben in Season 1. Tony keeps yelling, “Hit me and see your kid!”

The rest of the house is shocked. Shamar says he lost a lot of respect for Tony.

Tony comes back in the house and keeps talking about Charlie’s son. Charlie has to be held back, but Clay looks ready to take on Tony himself.

Chuck was initially reluctant to fight his teammate. Not any more. Chuck says he’s ready to “take away Tony’s dreams.” And the rest of the house is surely pulling for him.

You wanted drama this season? You’ve got it. And Tony has some explaining to do.

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 8: Not how you shut someone up

Missing TUF in its regular time slot is one thing. Forgetting to record it is another. The site doesn’t upload the full episode for a few days, and then you’re stuck watching that Miller Lite ad with the drill sergeant training female lifeguards to save men from making poor beer-drinking decisions. No time to ponder the many ironies of all that — we’ve got two fights this week, and though I know the results, I’m looking forward to seeing them.

Shamar Bailey hurt his back in training. He’s whispering because Chris Cope, who has already been accused of spying on the whole house, is lurking as always.

Team Dos Santos practice finds Ramsey Nijem piling on the weight-cutting gear while he works out with Junior, who reiterates praise of Ramsey’s wrestling prowess.

We get a little bit of Ramsey’s backstory. “Being Palestianian helps me be the fighter I am.”

Brian Stann stops by to chat at the request of the U.S. Marine Corps. He gives what seems like a recruiting speech, either for the Marines or the UFC. Brock Lesnar jokes that Stann should’ve brough a few applications to get some of these guys to join the USMC.

Clay Harvison, who knows Brian out in the real world, has to prepare for Ramsey. Brock, opening up quite a bit as a coach, gives Ramsey a tip based on something Shane Carwin used against him.

Miller Lite ad. Yes, I’m so afraid of making an “unmanly” choice. I’m 41 with two kids. That’s my first priority. (To be fair, it’s not their fault I’m out of the demographic.)

The Ramsey-Clay weigh-in is spiced up by Ramsey’s thong. Dana reminds us that Clay’s finger was grotesquely dislocated.
Ramsey gets a little nauseous before the fight. That could be an advantage. Would you hesitate a little if you knew someone might vomit on you?

Tale of the tape: Clay is 30. Ramsey is 22. Steve Mazzagatti is the ref.

Round 1: Ramsey throws awkwardly. Clay throws wildly, giving Ramsey the easy opening for a takedown. He hops on Clay’s back, sinks in hooks, hits him a couple of times, locks in the rear naked choke and gets the tap before the one-minute mark. Not sure Ramsey’s even sweating.

“That’s how you fight when you get sick?!” Junior asks.

Dana reassures Clay that he’s impressed with the guy’s toughness. Brock also accentuates the positive. Clay is ticked at himself for falling into something so quickly.

Different Miller Lite ad makes fun of those of us who like emo bands.

On to the second fight and the rather contrived conflict between Shamar and Chris. Brock smiles as he tells Chris just to weather the first 30 seconds. It’s another wrestler vs. striker matchup — or, as Brock puts it, “wrestler vs. … Chris.”

Brock works with Chris and points to the logo at the center of the cage. “Own Burger King,” Brock says. Shamar was Dos Santos’ first pick. Chris was picked a little later. Shamar is ripped. Chris is … Chris. Shamar glares. Chris smiles.

Dana points out the upset potential — Shamar looked one-dimensional in his first fight. That’s especially true if “boring” is a dimension.
Chris picks the brain of Nordin, who lost that borefest and gets some rare screen time. They end up arguing about Chris’ approach.
The main Miller Lite ad returns, after the Hugh Hefner Stoli ad. Am I supposed to be wasted by this point?

Round 1: As expected, Shamar spends about 90 seconds working on a takedown against the cage, but Chris defends well. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And Chris lands punches in quantity, if not quality, each time he’s tied up. 10-9 for Chris.

Another Stoli ad, this one with Julia Stiles. Pretty cool, actually.

Round 2: Chris concedes the Burger King logo too easily, which surely annoys Brock. But he outpunches Shamar to keep him at bay for about 80 seconds. Then we’re back to the cage, where Chris defends the takedown again. Back to the center, where Chris is again outboxing Shamar, and Shamar finally charges to push him to the cage. Still can’t get the takedown. That’s 0-for-7, approaching the success rate of apocalyptic prophets. Shamar lands a couple of punches but doesn’t even follow up with a takedown attempt. More boxing and another Shamar charge, with Chris reverses and presses Shamar to the cage. Shamar reverses, but Chris again fights his way out. 30 seconds left, and Shamar goes for takedown attempt #9, taking a whole bunch of punches to his ear. Chris reverses and gets back to the center as the round ends.

Dos Santos tells Shamar “your fight, your fight.” Not sure what he was watching.

Dana sums it up well: Shamar couldn’t do anything. But Chris wouldn’t let his hands go. Brock says Chris was in defensive mode but landing defensive punches.

All three judges score it 20-18 for Chris. “What?!” yells Dos Santos. “I don’t know about that,” says Shamar.

Shamar says he wanted to come out and put on a show for Dana, not just wrestle. He tells Dana he wants to show he could bang rather than trying to take the easy way out and taking him down. Dana: “Looks like you TRIED to take him down a bunch of times.” Shamar then plays the injured-back card.

Great fight? No. Just an amusing look at how to beat a one-dimensional fighter and some reassurance that you can’t win a fight by simply pressing someone against a cage.

Next week, Tony Ferguson apparently goes ballistic in the house, but they tell us he will indeed fight Ryan McGillivray in what should be one of the best fights of the season. We’ll get both quarterfinals, then the semifinal announcements. Yes, this season is going fast.

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 7: Close shave

(Incidentally, apologies for lack of recent posts — been “on assignment,” as it were. In a related note, next week’s recap will be one day late.)

A quick reminder: Javier Torres and Chuck O’Neil are in the wild card, and Len Bentley is not happy.

Len chases Dana White, eager to get a rematch with Ryan McGillivray after their close decision. Dana says Len should’ve showed that spirit when they were talking to guys about the wild card, saying if he had, they wouldn’t be having this conversation. Len is rather perplexed, wondering what else he could’ve/should’ve said.

And so, let’s present this Memo To Future TUF Contenders: When asked if you want to take a fight, respond with this: “BLEEP YEAH! I’LL FIGHT RIGHT NOW! I’LL FIGHT BROCK LESNAR, GSP AND ANDERSON SILVA SIMULTANEOUSLY JUST SO I CAN GET IN THE CAGE AGAIN! I’LL CUT FROM 230 TO BANTAMWEIGHT IN THREE HOURS! PLEASE, PLEASE, DANA, JUST GIVE ME ONE MORE BLEEPING SHOT IN THE BLEEPING CAGE!!!!!”

Back in the house, we get the Len complaint montage, complete with scenes from the outdoor hot tub and the kitchen. Charlie Rader: “Len’s being a little dramatic about the situation.”

Ryan tells Len that Junior said Brock said Brock was worried about Len’s knee. In elementary school, that’s called “telephone” or “gossip.”

Someone else calls Len a ginger. His hair seems rather black to me, and I have high-def.

Continue reading The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 7: Close shave

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 6: You’re fired

Looks like it’ll be a no-nonsense week, with two fights scheduled and the wild card selection, along with a few possible injury replacements.

Well, except that assistant coach Lew Polley directly undercuts Junior dos Santos’ message to the team after Mick’s loss. Junior tries to rebuild them, telling them everyone loses sometimes and you just have to shake them off. Lew follows that up by saying you just have to win, even if you’re a little boring. Junior points out that really wasn’t what he was saying. Lew seems surprised.

Brock Lesnar all but promises Len the wild-card slot because Clay’s hurt and he had a close fight. Len’s excited. Until he goes in the cage in training and ends up hollering in pain, holding his knee.

Clay says his finger looks like it was smashed with a tire iron. But here’s the good news — the finger isn’t broken. It’s just dislocated. The bottom segment of the pinky is in place. The other two are somewhere in California. But that’s GOOD news.

Continue reading The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 6: You’re fired

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 5: Agent Cope

Len Bentley walks out of Brock Lesnar’s firm but relaxed tirade. He’s coaxed back in. Brock continues to chew out his team with the same tone and body language of someone discussing interior design, sitting back in a comfortable chair and speaking in monotone.

Brock wants someone to “wow” him. Chris did that. Charlie Rader, whose loss has prompted this lecture, apparently did not. Neither did Nordin Asrih, who left such a slight impression in his Episode 1 fight that it’s easy to forget he’s on the show.

Back in the house — Len says he’s not going to stay in the room and let someone he doesn’t care about go name-calling. He hates negative energy.

The fight announcement comes early. Junior dos Santos points out in confessional that his team has already beaten Brock’s top two picks, Len and Charlie. Junior sends Mick Bowman to face Clay Harvison. Chuck O’Neil calls Clay a tough bastard. Len thinks it could be another highlight fight.

Continue reading The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 5: Agent Cope

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 4: Underestimate this

Team Lesnar’s remaining fighters are “The Four Horsemen”: Tony Ferguson, Chuck O’Neil, Clay Harvison and Charlie Rader.

But Clay struggles in practice and says his head isn’t in it. Brock says Charlie also is lollygagging. Great Bull Durham shoutout.

To the house, where we’ve seen few shenanigans. Chuck is the jokester, clowning around with his buddy Charlie. Chuck also makes Charlie eat his vegetables. “What would I do without you?” Charlie asked. “You’d be at 183,” Chuck says.

Fight announcement comes early. Junior dos Santos picks Ramsey Nijem, whom he calls his No. 1 wrestler, to fight Charlie. Chuck says Charlie was a high school champion wrestler with hard hands. It’s a daring pick, definitely — Charlie has beaten a couple of quality opponents in Bellator and was Lesnar’s second pick.

Continue reading The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 4: Underestimate this

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 3: Turning points

So far, we’ve met some likable guys and seen two forgettable fights. And a lot of shots of Brock Lesnar talking about making chicken salad out of chicken (bleep).

Brock’s team doesn’t find that particularly inspiring. Chuck O’Neil confessional: “Did he call me chicken (bleep)? What the hell?” Lesnar decides to clarify it. “Before you were on the show, you were just one of 2 million. But now, you’re chicken salad. That’s what I’m trying to say.” The team stares blankly, as if Lesnar were ranting on the Canadian health care system.

Team Dos Santos waits for a replacement for the departed Keon, and Zach Davis says he’s worried that someone new might disrupt the team’s solid chemistry. The new guy is Justin Edwards, who breaks the ice by talking about getting confused for Randy Couture all the time. “I look good for 43, don’t I?”

Sherdog check: Edwards is 5-0, with a win over TUF alum Josh Rafferty and another win in Bellator. The Bellator fight clocked 4:12, longer than his other four fights combined. And that’s two guys in this cast who beat Rafferty — the other is Lesnar’s No. 2 pick, Charlie Rader.

As promised, we have conflict on Team Dos Santos within the coaching staff. Lew Polley says everyone is too nice and should start training like men, not kids. Sure enough, we get a big cut on Shamar Bailey’s face. Junior says he doesn’t like screaming and saying bad things. He says people should be nice. Ryan McGillivray: “I’m Canadian, we’re always nice.”

Fight announcement: Lesnar has been worried that top pick Len Bentley is drifting away in training, and he wants to keep him focused by getting him in the cage now. That’s understandable. Less understandable: He sends Bentley against Junior’s No. 2 pick, McGillivray. That’s the toughest matchup available.

Junior says Len has the wrestling advantage, but Ryan has the striking advantage.

Hey! There’s a house on this show! That’s where we learn that Team Lesnar is worried that Chris Cope is spending so much time with the other team and giving away their secret handshake.

Continue reading The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 3: Turning points

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 2: Bigger upset than VCU

In our last episode, the blogosphere panicked because Brock Lesnar was boring. Even worse, Myles Jury was hurt and replaced by Chuck “Cold Stew” O’Neil. Wait, wait — that’s “Cold STEEL.” And Junior Dos Santos put his top pick, Shamar Bailey, against Lesnar’s last pick, Nordin Asrih, with predictable results.

We see the credits for the first time, and they have a new style. I like it. A little less chaotic.

Dos Santos makes his guys run in what appear to be WWI gas masks. He’s thinking Javier Torres (third pick) or Ramsey Nijem (fourth) might go next.

Keon Caldwell, the last draft pick, is “mentally struggling,” we’re told. The coaches push him. Dos Santos tries to encourage him. Keon says he needs to throw up, which the English-impaired Dos Santos doesn’t understand until Keon makes a universal motion for “You don’t want to be standing in front of me right now.”

Lesnar says all the guys here lack wrestling, and that’s what they’re working on. He says you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken (bleep), and you can’t polish turds.

Keon’s daughter is 6. He misses her and says he wants to go home. Seems like it’s been a few seasons since someone wanted to go home. Dana White walks in and says he’s looking for Keon. Uh oh. Ad break.

Dana asks if he really wants to be here. He says yes. If you think that’s not the end of this subplot, you’re right.

Continue reading The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 2: Bigger upset than VCU

The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 1: Unlucky 13th

“They said he didn’t belong in the UFC” are the first words we hear. They’re referring to Lesnar? Who said that?

Dana is wearing a Saturday Night Live shirt. Is he bidding to host?

Quick glimpses of a couple of fighters. Nordin Asrih is the first German, but unlike the English fighters, he doesn’t get subtitle treatment.

Dana says Junior dos Santos stepped aside from his title shot to come in and teach on TUF.

Brock Lesnar doesn’t want guys who’ve been spending the last month sitting aroud eating pizza and drinking beer. That rules me out.

Lesnar goes scientific in his evaluation. His strength and conditioning coach puts heart-rate monitors on the fighters and puts them on the bike. A couple of guys get up to 160. One is at 110. Either that guy was slacking, or he’s Lance Armstrong.

Continue reading The Ultimate Fighter: Season 13, Episode 1: Unlucky 13th