The Ultimate Fighter 17, Episode 8: Much more Mr. Nice Guy

Previously on The Ultimate Fighter: Nothing of interest. Not in the mini-recap, anyway. We’re quickly on to what passes for the theme music this season, a couple of French horn notes while Dana White squints.

Adam Cella thinks no one deserves a contract more than Bubba, based on his sacrifices and work ethic. I think he deserves because he stumbles over his cliches and ends up with something like “ducks in a basket with eggs in a hat.”

Jon Jones touts his last pick, Dylan Andrews, in advance of his fight against Zak Cummings. Of Cummings, Jones says he thinks he’s right-handed. Great scouting.

Andrews grew up with his brothers’ marijuana plants surrounding his bed. While many MMA fans seem to think that’s a cool thing, those brothers have apparently wasted their talents, while he was lucky enough to wander into a gym.

Uriah Hall bonds with Andrews over their fears of fighting. We only know that from Hall’s confessional. In their actual conversation, Hall looks like he’s staring daggers at Andrews. But we have to remind ourselves:

Next we hear that Cummings thinks Andrews is a really nice guy.

Coaches’ challenge time! Each guy is supposed to use heavy equipment to fill a dumpster, move tires and other stuff.

Dana White says this is the first time they’ve had a challenge that wasn’t some sort of sports challenge. Apparently, the Faber-Cruz “take large weapons and blow stuff up” challenge was sports-related.

“My father-in-law owns an excavation company,” Sonnen says. If he had known this would be the challenge, he would have called him.

But we get a thrilling back-and-forth battle. Jones gets the first scoop of dirt, then loses the hang of it. Sonnen races out to a big lead but has trouble with the third tire. Jones reclaims the lead and comes within one bad bounce of winning, leaving the door open for Sonnen.

Everything is going Sonnen’s way this season. Everything. The best we can say for Jones is that he’s taking it well.

Weigh-in goes smoothly. Dylan talks about his family. Sonnen generously says this looks like an even matchup because Dylan may not have stood out in the prelims, but Zak’s KO was a bit of a fluke. Let’s go back and check the draft — Zak Cummings was Sonnen’s third pick.

Herb Dean is the ref. He starts the fight. My closed-captioning tells me Sonnen says, “Need water.” We get 30 seconds of the anticipated strike duel before Zak presses for a takedown. Dylan defends that, but then Zak drops him. Dylan covers up. Zak gets in Dylan’s half-guard and lands elbows. Zak moves to mount but, to the shock of everyone, Dylan sweeps. Dylan gets in Zak’s guard and drips blood on him, but he also gets space for a good ground-and-pound assault.

Zak looks uncomfortable, but he does make things a little tricky by snaking his legs up. Dylan shrugs that off and advances to half-guard, raining elbows while Zak’s face shows the wear and tear of a tough first round. The horn sounds too soon for Dylan.

Round 2: Zak goes for an acrobatic spinning back kick, bringing a smile to Dylan’s face. Zak smiles back, and they touch gloves. A few seconds later, Zak touches his left glove to Zak’s face in a little less friendly manner. He chases a reeling Dylan across the cage, but Dylan recovers to dump him down. Dylan once again has a great position in Zak’s half-guard, with his corner yelling at him not to pass. Zak is trapped against the cage and can do little but defend and try to get Herb Dean to stand them up. Dean issues a couple of warnings, which encourages Zak to tie up Dylan tightly. But Dylan improves his position just a bit and gets some punches in there.

While this is going on, I have a great idea for a workout app. Call it “Herb Dean: Personal Trainer.” It’s a heart monitor. When your heart rate drops below a certain point, Herb says, “Work. Need some work.” When someone designs this, please send me a little portion of the royalties.

Anyway, Zak never figures out a way to get away from the cage. The horn sounds, Zak and Dylan hug, and Dylan raises his arms … in victory? We’ll have to see. Round 2 is definitely his. But Round 1?

Ad break builds the suspense, and …

We come back to see both fighters prepping for a third round. But no! Keith Kizer says that’s it.

Dylan admits he was close to tapping in Round 1 but somehow found another gear. “I went to another place, I don’t know what it is.”

It’s officially a majority decision. Cummings, like everyone else, hopes for a wild-card slot.

Ah, the ever-contentious wild-card discussion. Dana decides to leave it up to the coaches. He says two guys from each side are eligible: Team Sonnen’s Kevin Casey and Zak Cummings, Team Jones’s Clint Hester and Bubba McDaniel.

Sonnen says he’s an easier spot because Kevin clearly deserves it. And he empathizes with Jones having a tough call.

Remember when we all thought Sonnen and Jones were going to have nasty trash-talking sessions? Didn’t happen.

It’s all laughter in Jones’s dressing room as he jokes about being Bubba’s teammate but having a cool dude in Hester. “And he’s black!”

Ultimately, Jones decides to go with the guy who has put in more years. That’s not a bad criterion. Bubba gets the spot, and Hester immediately hugs him.

So it’s Bubba vs. the King. They wanted this fight all along. They’ve got it. The staredown is intense.

Next week: It’s a Thanksgiving dinner. And “one of the most shocking finishes in TUF history.” So the cage is electrified now?