The Ultimate Fighter 17, Episode 11: Bubba bounced

Last week … a couple of quarterfinals, and Ronda Rousey turned up for some grappleflirting. I was out of town, so check with Danny Downes.

This week … Uriah Hall finally fights again? That’s so exciting, I could swear Dana blinked more than usual in the opening credits.

Bubba McDaniel is worn down. Three fights and a lot of training in a short time will do that to you. Clint Hester starts getting his weight down just in case Bubba can’t go.

Also with Team Jones, Josh Samman, is pretty sure Jimmy Quinlan isn’t going to stand with him. “Jimmy’s going to shoot all the way from the other side of the cage.”

His teammates aren’t as confident, in part because Jimmy can hold people down and in part because Josh keeps getting hurt.

It’s a Frank Mir sighting! Anyone catch what he said?

Back to the ailing Bubba. “I don’t want to quit,” Bubba says. Jones says he had been waiting to hear that. “I don’t want to quit,” he says again. OK, good. “I don’t want to quit.” OK, we got it. “I lift things up and put them down.”

(Has anyone seen the techno mix of that ad? It’s not great, but it’s worth a quick peek. Here goes:)

We go to Team Sonnen briefly to hear Mr. Positive Chael tell Jimmy he’s fighting a lot better than he was a few weeks … oh, sorry, we’re back to Bubba. He goes for a blood test.

Fight day, but it’s Samman-Quinlan. So unless they reveal the blood test results between rounds, we’ll put the Bubba saga on hold briefly.

Round 1 — Jimmy does indeed virtually shoot from across the cage. Josh fights him off briefly, but Jimmy gets underneath and picks him for a slam. Josh tilts his weight, though, so Jimmy doesn’t get good control right away. Josh lands a few good elbows from the bottom, and Jimmy drips blood. Then Josh works a submission game from his guard. Then some simultaneous ear punches. It’s rare these days to see the fighter on the bottom dominating the fight, but that’s just what Josh is doing.

I see London, I see France, I see Jimmy Quinlan’s underpants. He should pull up his shorts so that he’ll at least be doing SOMETHING from top control.

Josh finally stands up and lands three big knees to the head. Jimmy crumples and turtles. Josh lands more double ear punches, this time atop Jimmy’s back. Jimmy taps to strikes, which is somewhat unusual unless Steve Mazzagatti is reffing. Which he is.

So now we’re back to Team Jones and Bubba. The blood tests are fine. Bubba may have a pulled muscle, but he’s got some adrenaline now that he knows he’s not having kidney failure or something.

Over to Team Sonnen, Chael thinks Uriah Hall is the greatest talent in the history of talent in any sport on any planet in any universe. But he sometimes lacks confidence. Chael takes Hall aside to do a Sonnen Mind Meld.

Summing up the next segment: They make weight. Uriah’s confident. Bubba isn’t. It’s about the closest you’ll ever come to seeing a guy say “I have no chance” in pre-fight hype.

Fight starts, Herb Dean is the … it’s over. Bubba’s on the mat, asking why his eye is messed up. Sonnen tells Hall he’s a contender. Replay shows a knee to the body, a straight right to Bubba’s eye, then a couple of punches on the ground before Herb Dean wisely stepped in.

Dana White on Hall’s KOs: “You don’t even wanna clap. You feel bad clapping. … This guy is the nastiest guy in Ultimate Fighter history.”

The remaining fighters: Each team’s No. 2 pick (Samman, Hall) and … each team’s last pick (Dylan Andrews, Kelvin Gastelum). So the fairest thing would be Samman-Gastelum and Hall-Andrews. Right?

The guys come in. Samman says everyone knows the final is made for him and Hall. He wants to beat Gastelum and set up the “biggest finale in TUF history.” Andrews says nothing. Hall can’t stand Josh and wants to fight him, but he knows that’s just an emotional thing. Gastelum wants Andrews because he thinks he can beat him. When the other options are Samman and Hall, that makes sense.

But the coaches want to see their top guys fight right away. Will Dana go with his coaches or his promotional instincts telling him a Samman-Hall finale could be huge?

The answer is … promotional instincts. It’s Josh vs. Kelvin. Then Uriah vs. Dylan. That’s why Dana makes the big bucks.

He explains: “My educated guess – Josh and Uriah are probably the best. Now we’re going to find out if I’m right or I’m wrong.”

Scenes from the next episode: Only four battle-tested competitors … does¬†anything¬†happen in the house in the last couple of weeks?

The Ultimate Fighter 17, Episode 9: Pores of a champion

The recap: Bubba wanted to fight Kevin, but Kevin fought Collin instead. And he stunk. But he’s happy to get another chance. The stitches in his forehead are frowning.

Bubba has a tearful confessional about wanting to see his daughter more. Then Team Jones’s coaches pump him up, saying he’s one of the best fighters in the house. The bad news: Bubba looks nervous. To drill that home, we get another confessional with an EXTREME CLOSEUP! SEE INSIDE BUBBA’S PORES! HE HAS THE PORES OF A CHAMPION!

The housemates recalled that Bubba’s callout of Kevin was the only callout of the season. Josh Samman can’t cede the spotlight that easily, so he calls out Jimmy Quinlan, mostly on the grounds that he’s … in the room.

But in practice, Uriah wants to fight Josh. And Jimmy, who tends to grapple people rather than knock them unconscious, says he wants to see Uriah beat the piss out of him.

Chael Sonnen then continues his transformation from trash-talking court-maneuvering bad boy to the Guru of Positive Coaching. “If his opponent is better, we can live with that. But we’ve got to see the real Kevin Casey.”

Casey has been practicing with a mask on to protect his cut. It looks like he’s auditioning for an MMA-themed remake of Silence of the Lambs.

Now it’s Thanksgiving dinner, and Sonnen proves himself the toastmaster. “Jon, it is a sheer disappointment, finding out what a nice gentleman you are.”

Some people are griping about not getting enough food. Bubba is cutting weight. Bubba angry. Bubba smash. Someone’s saving some food for after the fight, right?

But after another wholly unnecessary EXTREME CLOSEUP of Josh, Bubba steps up and makes weight. Kevin, on the other hand, needs to drop his drawers and step behind the Towel of Shame. He has trouble putting his pants back on. “I just don’t know what to do right now,” Sonnen says. He thinks maybe he should help, but …

Is it too late to have Chael replace Charlie Sheen on Anger Management? I’d watch that.

Dylan Andrews is afraid that Bubba might go crazy if he loses. Me too. Especially after the third “I should be able to smash this guy” confessional from Bubba in this episode.

Bubba and Kevin talk more. And more. And some ads. And Dana tells us it’s the wild-card fight. Finally, Steve Mazzagatti gets us started.

Kevin immediately gives up a takedown. I’d say he pulled guard, but he didn’t seem happy there, and he wall-walks his way up and out. Then he gets a takedown of his own, bending Bubba in all sorts of uncomfortable ways. Through 2:30 of the fight, it’s hard to recall a single strike.

Bubba eventually stands. Kevin holds him against the fence, but Bubba still manages to land some knees. Unfortunately, Kevin trips him down in the last 30 seconds, and Bubba just looks irritated for the rest of the round.

The second round finds Bubba again unable to remain at optimum kickboxing distance. He’s effective at dirty boxing, though, and he takes down Kevin in side control. Then he remembers the “pound” part of “ground and pound,” which Kevin doesn’t seem to enjoy.

An elbow sends Kevin’s mouthpiece flying, leading to some unusual corner advice: “You want that mouthpiece! Go get it!” Kevin works his way closer to it, but Bubba is effectively beating him up with good fists and elbows. The Sonnen staff is reduced to the Rampage-style corner advice of “Get up!”

So did the judges give a 10-8 in the second round? Of course not. We’re going to a third round. Kevin has to be helped to his corner.

We were promised a big finish, and we don’t have much time for much else. In fact, we have NO time, because Kevin can’t get up off his stool.

Bubba yells to Dana White, “Does that count as a finish?” Dana, smiling: “Good question! Yeah, we’ll give it to you.”

Fight recap: Chael is pleased that Kevin turned it into a grappling match rather than a fight in the first round. Then one of Chael’s team yelled into the cage that Bubba was breaking. Bubba angry. Bubba smash — for real this time. Afterwards, Bubba yelled not to tell him he’s breaking. Point taken.

Kevin’s departure puzzles Chael. “This was new to me,” the coach/philosopher says. Kevin says he once had kidney failure in a fight. He leaves in an ambulance. So we’re supposed to infer that he had kidney failure again?

Quarterfinal time. Dana says he usually brings in the fighters to get their preferences. This time … he also will do that. OK then.

One person (Collin?) actually calls out Uriah. But Uriah calls out Josh. They ask Josh about that, and he says Uriah is ducking Collin. Right.

As with Lesnar and dos Santos, the coaches surprisingly agree on everything. Dylan and Luke called each other out, so that’s easy.

But Dana has final say:

– Collin vs. Kelvin
– Dylan vs. Luke (New Zealand vs. UK)
– Josh vs. Jimmy
– Uriah vs. Bubba

Aw, come on. That’s not fair. Uriah: We all had this Scooby-Doo look on our faces. He does a good sound effect to illustrate — ah, the limitations of print render it impossible for me to replicate it.

So Josh and Jimmy get the fight that one of them really wanted and one sort of wanted. Dylan and Luke get their Battle of the Accents. The other four are going back to the house wondering what they did to piss off Dana.

On the next episode, we get an overhead shot of Brittney Palmer’s cleavage. Then two fights. And Ronda Rousey visits. Never say the producers don’t understand their demographic.

The Ultimate Fighter 17, Episode 5: Sonnen the good guy?

The funny thing about this season: Chael Sonnen is making it difficult to hate him.

His pep talks to his team feel sincere and inspiring. He does a twist of the Hoosiers scene measuring the height of each basket, telling his fighters about a researcher finding people had no trouble walking across a 2×4 when it’s down on the ground but unwilling to do it when it’s suspended between two ladders. It’s not the fight making you nervous, he says — it’s the environment, with “Uncle Dana” watching.

While he drops the occasional Muhammad Ali rhyme (“How you gonna deal with the team of steel?”), he isn’t trash-talking. He and Jon Jones have had a cordial relationship throughout. They agree far more than they disagree. (We’ll see if that changes when the time comes to pick the wild cards.)

He’s impressed with Team Jones’ Bubba McDaniel, praising him for running on his day off and saying he wanted to push for a wild-card slot for whoever faces him.

This week, he called on his cool friends to help out. He got Ronda Rousey on the phone to talk with a smitten Kelvin Gastelum, promising to come out to Vegas to teach a session if he upsets Bubba McDaniel. (He does, and she calls back again while his teammates tease him.)

More surprisingly, he brought in Mickey Rourke, who has been a bit more successful as an actor than he was a boxer but is eager to tell stories of dealing with adversity. “Discipline into my life came very late,” he says to an attentive group of fighters.

In today’s MMA Fighting live chat, Luke Thomas said we may be seeing the real Sonnen now that he has talked and postured his way to comfortable positions as an analyst who is getting his third title fight. He no longer needs to do the act.

The counterargument to that would be that Sonnen did some bad stuff that wasn’t part of the act. His non-UFC career led him to court. He had a muddled testosterone-therapy case that may have affected the performance against Anderson Silva that vaulted him up the UFC respectability ladder.

But if that’s in the past, and this is “the real Sonnen” with a bit more maturity and responsibility, then a lot of people are going to like him.

Oh, and then his fighter upset Bubba. Not a bad fight at all, though Bubba broke down in tears of disappointment afterward. Kelvin, blasted by Josh Sannan as having “the worst diet in the house,” looked solid on his feet and terrific on the ground. After a first round that featured more sweeps than the 1-vs-8 matchups of the NBA playoffs (“Quit floppin’ around!” yells Sonnen from the corner), Kelvin established better control in the second round and eventually sunk a deep rear naked choke on the startled veteran.

Sonnen called it the best fight of the tournament so far, again complimenting Bubba. “One more for the bad guys,” he says, still willing to play the heel even if he isn’t acting like one.

We didn’t see much in the house other than an entertaining game of charades. Bubba didn’t participate, opting to stare at the fire and reflect on his troubled youth. “The law sometimes doesn’t agree with me.”

We also hear once again that Kelvin is the youngest fighter in TUF history. Not true. His TUF bio gives his age as 20. Patrick Iodice, who fought in TUF Smashes, is still just 19.

The next fight is Tor Troeng (Sonnen) vs. Josh Sannan (Jones). Sonnen says they made the matchup because everyone else in the house is scared of them. Everyone’s also scared of Uriah Hall. Maybe they should just let Hall fight the Troeng-Sannan winner?

But earlier in the episode, we see that all is not well with the show’s favorites. Samman is dealing with a few injuries to his finger and knee, and he asked the Team Jones coaches not to pick him next if Bubba gains control for the team. Jones appreciates the communication but worries that the better fighters are starting to dictate things on the team.

And in the scenes from the next episode, Josh is describing a nasty hamstring injury in his past. Over on Team Sonnen, Uriah Hall is falling into the old way of annoying TUF teammates, punching too hard in training. Ouch.