The Ultimate Fighter 16: The final recap

The final episode of TUF Smashes, the UK-vs.-Australia season, also concluded a few days ago. The last episode featured good-natured toasts between two teams who have come to respect each other, then a stellar submission by Colin Fletcher. Maybe Fletcher’s fight against the far smaller Richie Vaculik looked like a giraffe fighting a gnat, but give actor/surfer Vaculik some credit for taking the fight to him.

We also saw Valentino Petrescu showcasing his juggling skills from his circus days. And a lot of laughter. If you saw any of these guys on a fight card, you’d be likely to root for them.

Back to the USA. Yes, we have to.

Team Nelson seems unhappy. Joey Rivera says he feels “jaded” by Roy’s practices.

The word “jaded” can mean “worn out or worried, as by overwork or overuse,” but the team has griped all season over a lack of practice time, so that can’t be it. Another meaning: “dulled or satiated by overindulgence.” Is that some sort of crack about Roy’s belly?

Rivera also complains that there was no synergy. OK, now we’re in a Dilbert cartoon. Maybe Roy should’ve proactively enabled his team to feel empowered to streamline operations into a client-based operation. Bingo!

Of course, we don’t get much of a discussion of Nelson’s assistant coaches, one of whom is fighting for the UFC lightweight championship Saturday night. Well, maybe a passing reference to the Skrap Pack.

Then we go straight to the fights. Colton Smith fights in the second-tightest shorts ever seen in the Octagon without losing a bet (tightest: Mike Easton) and wears down Jon Manley in the 12th fight out of 13 this season to go the distance. And just as the Knockout of the Season bonus is about to go unclaimed, Mike Ricci knocks Neil Magny cold with an elbow. Magny awakes and starts grappling with referee Steve Mazzagatti, thinking he’s still in a fight.

Ricci says he choked up a bit afterward because he hurt a friend of his. Somewhere in Canada, Michael Hill is throwing a shoe at a TV screen, remembering the days when HE was Ricci’s BFF.

So the final features the ultrasmug Ricci, who threw fellow Canadian Hill under the bus, against Smith, who won his prelim after he faked the traditional touch of gloves at the beginning. In fairness, Smith seemed to be a good guy in the house, but the “liberal tree-huggers” among my neighbors would like a word with him.

The top talent of the season is clearly Danny Downes. No, he wasn’t on the show, but the fighter is a terrific episode recapper.

Someone might surprise us. Smith and Ricci could mature. Magny is one to watch, even if Dana White has followed through on his threat to keep all these guys off the finale. Manley and Sam Alvey have a bit of potential.

But this fall’s TUF experience raises a big question: If the UFC is running a good solid version of The Ultimate Fighter somewhere else on the planet, why do an inferior version at “home”?

The Ultimate Fighter 16, Episode 11: Blame Canada!

Time for the showdown of friends and teammates — Jon Manley and Joey Rivera. They praise each other and hug. And Team Carwin thinks Team Nelson hasn’t bonded …

Colton Smith is cornering Manley. Cameron Diffley is cornering Rivera. Dana White is giddy. Denny’s is the sponsor. Herb Dean is the ref. They’re both 7-1. We haven’t heard anything from Julian Lane yet. This is exciting stuff.

After some standing exchanges, Manley rushes into Rivera and pushes him to the cage. Smith and Diffley keep up steady streams of positive reinforcement, like coaches who just walked out of a Positive Coaching Alliance workshop. (Hey, it’s a good program. Based on John Wooden’s ideals, so you can’t say it’s not old-school.)

Rivera reverses and gets a grip on a guillotine, but Manley reverses and finally gets the takedown. But somehow, he ends up in awful positions. The momentum swings back and forth like a table tennis referee’s eyes following the ball. (Sorry — I’ve seen that “bad high school analogies” meme maybe 10 times this week on Facebook.) Rivera gets Manley’s back and goes for the choke. Manley slips out and gets back on top. Rivera gets a triangle attempt. Manley escapes. Rivera goes for an armbar. Manley gets side control. That’s where Round 1 ends, and that probably means Manley took it 10-9.

In Round 2, Rivera spends the first 3:30 showing off his outstanding takedown defense. Manley finally gets the takedown and gets in side control. Somehow Rivera gets a triangle attempt. But Manley slips out.

Dana White recap: Rivera looked like he was on Xanax.

Jarman had it 19-19, but the other two judges correctly scored it 20-18 for Manley. Not a great fight — the friendship certainly played a factor. Manley, who has THE ONLY FINISH SO FAR THIS SEASON, is disappointed in his performance despite the win.

Then we go to the former best buds from Canada, Mike Ricci and Michael Hill, who start arguing in the house over something having to do with sauce being sabotaged. This leads to one of the dumbest trash-talk exchanges in TUF history.

Ricci: “You’ll get your chance.”

Hill: “You’ll get YOUR chance.”

Then we have an ad for the U.S. Marines, with Mike Ricci. Who’s Canadian. This is the most embarrassing moment for Canada since Bryan Adams released “Summer of ’69.”

Hill actually reminds us of a mulleted Bruce McCullough character from Kids in the Hall.

The fight starts with some modest fireworks, and Hill lands one or two decent shots. But when Ricci gets Hill to the ground, Hill’s defense sags. Ricci looks like he’s posturing up to try the Michael Scott “spit in Dwight’s mouth” technique, which is indeed illegal under the Unified Rules of MMA.

But instead, Ricci does a bit of damage. The horn sounds before he can do any significant work toward a submission.

In Round 2, Ricci gets it to the ground quickly and takes Hill’s back. Hill stands, but Ricci drapes himself on Hill’s back as they do the Pilobolus. They fall to the mat with Ricci punching away, and coach Roy Nelson is reduced to profanities. Hill manages to stand again, but Ricci gets a good solid grip on a rear naked choke and … loses it. Hill actually stands and lands a couple of consolation strikes before the horn sounds.

Judges couldn’t get it wrong if they tried. 20-18 x3 for Ricci.

Shane Carwin speaks for the first time in the episode. Don’t remember what he said. Dana White isn’t impressed with Hill’s ground game.

In the three remaining minutes, we get the semifinal pairings:

Jon Manley (Nelson) vs. Colton Smith (Nelson). Another buddy vs. buddy.
Mike Ricci (Carwin) vs. Neil Magny (Carwin)

On the next episode … the semifinals. And they say one thing is for sure — there will be a knockout. That means there’s another thing for sure — a semifinalist is getting the Knockout of the Season bonus, unless they give it for one of the prelims.

But before we leave, let’s forget about Ricci and Hill, remembering some of the many good things about Canada:

  • Sarah McLachlan
  • Rush
  • Whistler
  • Kids in the Hall
  • Toronto
  • Dwayne De Rosario
  • Christine Sinclair
  • Kara Lang
  • Health care
  • European candies not available in the USA
  • The CBC
  • Curling

The Ultimate Fighter 16, Episode 9: Friends and fighting

In life and The Ultimate Fighter, stepping up and apologizing is a Good Thing. From a utilitarian perspective, apologies add much to the greater good. They free society of the need to do excessive policing, allowing that society to focus on more positive efforts. They also establish norms of decency that reduce the risk of society members being victimized.

Dana White might not be a utilitarian philosophy student, but he appreciates a good solid apology. So when he brought in James Chaney to confront him about potentially biting Jon Manley in the previous fight, he was impressed that Chaney immediately confessed and said he was sorry. White reiterated that there’s no place for biting in fighting, but with Chaney showing nothing but remorse, White accepted the apology.

In the house, things aren’t resolved in such a civil utilitarian fashion. Julian Lane says something about the military that his buddy Colton Smith doesn’t like. Colton says he’s doing something positive with his life. Julian says he is, too. Colton is surprised to hear that acting “a fool” on television is “positive,” and he piles on. “OK, Junie Browning.”

Oh, it’s on. Maybe you can call a TUF castmate “Chris Leben,” after the show’s original meltdown artist. Maybe even “Jamie Yager.” But “Junie Browning”? Oh, Julian doesn’t like that one bit.

Dom Waters steps in “Junie”/Julian’s way but says in confessional he was tempted to let ’em go.

Colton actually handles everything himself. He repeats “Chill, man” about 15 times. He then tells Julian, “We started this together, we’ll finish this together.”

We do see a bit of friendship in the house. Fellow Canadians Mike Ricci and Michael Hill like each other. This is what we in the media business call “foreshadowing.”

Moving on to meet this week’s fighters: Dom learned MMA late in his military career. Ricci learned it from a Renzo Gracie book, practicing moves with his buddies, then from Georges St. Pierre.

Carwin thinks Ricci is the most technically sound fighter in the house and just needs to watch for Dom’s power … zzzzzzz … huh? Hey, Carwin said something funny! He jokingly says Mike’s kind of a pretty boy! That’s a joke, right?

At no time in the prefight buildup or the first round did Dom look like he was going to win this fight. He spends most of the first round refusing to throw his fists. Mike does a little bit more but doesn’t do anything huge. The only thing that happened — Mike landed a good kick to the liver.

Second round: Dom presses Mike face-first to the cage. Finally gets takedown. Roy Nelson yells, “Use your bony elbows, Dom!” But Mike easily drags himself to the cage and wall-walks his way up.

But Dom wears him down along the cage, drags him down and briefly has his back. Unfortunately, Dom’s grappling is just a little sloppy, so even after pressing him to the cage again and dragging him down, he lets him back up.

Again Dom pushes Mike down onto all fours and makes a bit of an effort for the choke. As time runs down, Nelson yells at him to give up on the choke and pound him, which Dom does.

We’ve got a third round, to no one’s shock. Dom looks passive again but suddenly shoots for a single-leg takedown. Mike tries to defend by grabbing a guillotine, but Dom picks him up and slams him, landing in side control. Somehow, he gives up that position, and Mike ends up on top in Dom’s guard. From there, Dom just fades away.

So Ricci advances. Meanwhile, half of the UFC’s welterweights are calling Dana White asking to matched up with either of these guys.

Dana White brings in all the fighters to ask them which castmates they want to fight. This is usually an exercise in predictability. If a couple of guys hate each other, they’ll say so. Otherwise, they all want to prove to Dana that they’ll fight anyone.

But we get one shocker. Mike Ricci wants to fight Michael Hill. And Hill is dumbfounded when he comes in to say he’ll fight anyone except his best buddy and fellow Canadian, only to hear from Roy Nelson that Ricci picked him.

This is so un-Canadian. Rush has had the same lineup since 1975. Loverboy is still touring with its debut-album lineup except for late bass player Scott Smith. Ricci and Hill’s split is the worst Canadian in-fighting since Bob and Doug McKenzie last told each other to take off.

The quarterfinal matchups are interesting in another sense:

Bristol Marunde vs. Neil Magny. Team Carwin’s most impressive fighters in the first round. Neil isn’t happy.

Igor Araujo vs. Colton Smith. They hate each other for reasons I can’t quite remember.

Joey Rivera vs. Jon Manley. Teammates and buddies, a little puzzled to be matched up.

Ricci vs. Hill. Ricci says he beat the top pick on Team Nelson, so let’s fight the second. But Hill was also the least impressive winner.

Next week: More people hate each other and fight each other. They have to plow through six fights (four quarterfinals, two semis) in the remaining episodes, so the drama in the house won’t have much time to play out.