The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 12, featuring welterweight coaches (and division rivals) Josh Koscheck and Georges St. Pierre, gets underway with Episode 9 and Sako is hoping to succeed where fellow Armenian Sevak failed by defeating Jonathan Brookins.
Team GSP switches to "tactical" training which means it's time to lay off the hard sparring and full contact mat work to mimic the Canadian's fight prep just a few days before a contest. "Rush" wants to leave them hungry and ready to burst by fight night, which hopefully will work for Brookins, one of his few remaining pupils.
On the other side of things, Coach Koscheck is focusing heavily on grappling defense and he wants Sako to avoid giving up his back. Kos acknowledges it will be a tough fight but also a winnable fight if Sako can keep it standing for the majority of the bout.
Later that night there is some kind of bizarre male revue in the TUF house complete with jiggling junk and monkey calls. Brookins has wisely retreated to the backyard in an effort to reach his inner self. Sako hopes Jon-boy is "ready to get down and dirty because he's ready to fight 'til round 30."
In case you missed it, there was a quick cutaway to a cricket riding a tumbleweed (log roller style).
Prior to the fight, UFC President Dana White weighs in with another stellar prediction: "Uh, yeah, this is definitely gonna be an interesting fight."
Way to break it down for us, boss.
Quarterfinal elimination fight #1: Jonathan Brookins (11-2) vs. Sako Chivitchian (5-0)
Round 1: Quick trade of jabs and Brookins bumrushes. Sako pins him to the cage and gets souffled for his efforts. He tries to power up and (whoops!) gives up his back. They both take a quick coffee break to catch their breath and Brookins is working the rear naked choke shortly thereafter. Sako hopelessly squirms and has nowhere to go but tapsville.
Jonathan Brookins def. Sako Chivitchian via submission (rear naked choke)
After the fight, Sako is taking it hard and calling himself an idiot. As expected, Team GSP is all smiles and is the first to reach the semifinals.
The next day, the focus shifts to Cody McKenzie, who is master of the (not flying) guillotine. St. Pierre can't believe how confident Cody is going into every fight though it's hard to criticize his approach while he's still winning. His biggest concern is what Cody will do when his opponent neutralizes the choke.
Is it his only weapon?
Coach Koscheck tells Nam Phan that if he gets caught in a guillotine that he can expect a WWE-style chairshot after the fight. It's pretty obvious that Kos really wants this win, probably more to shut McKenzie up than to see Phan advance to the semis.
Both fighters make weight without incident. Dana gives us yet another winner: "We'll see if Nam Phan can stay out of Cody's guillotine."
Each fighter gives a pre-fight interview and of course they say all the usual things. McKenzie doesn't want to be underestimated, Phan has to fight his hardest, blah blah blah whatever just start punching already.
Quarterfinal elimination fight #2: Nam Phan (16-7) vs. Cody McKenzie (10-0)
Round 1: Cody runs in, shoots and pushes Phan to the cage. Phan down to one knee and right back up. Cody working hard and again Phan down to one knee but right back up. Cody changes levels and gets the takedown. Phan looking a bit flustered on the ground, especially for a black belt. Cody gets greedy in transition and Phan escapes. On the feet, Phan lunges with punches and kicks and gets nothing but air. Cody shoots and they go to the cage. Cody drops a level but Phan fights it off. Phan working hard to stay upright. Phan breaks away but looks absolutely lost. Phan punches in slow motion but still connects. A visibly tired Cody lunges with a desperation shoot and it's stuffed. Phan lets him up and they trade sloppy strikes. Cody with an ugly shoot to close it out.
Round 2: Phan with some long distance striking and Cody grunts out a few blows of his own. Cody shoots and they go to the cage. Phan works his way back out but Cody just shoots again. Phan fights off two more and tries to stay busy with strikes but can't connect cleanly save for a few body shots. Cody finally runs out of gas, allowing Phan to utilize his 8-inch reach. A couple of bonks to the head rattle him and then Phan positively creams him with a body shot. McKenzie crumbles and Phan pounces until it's stopped.
Nam Phan def. Cody McKenzie via TKO (strikes)
Koscheck storms the cage to celebrate and Phan lets loose with a poorly-executed Hadoken. Somewhere out there in TV land, Carlos Newton is face-palming.
Coach GSP doesn't appreciate Koscheck's lack of sportsmanship but Kos doesn't care, he said this one was "personal." Backstage McKenzie doesn't respond well to his first loss. "It sucks," he declares.
Stay tuned next week as the remaining two quarterfinal fights get underway while tension mounts between Michael Johnson and Bruce Leroy. Who will have the last laugh when they step into the cage? All this plus the semifinal match-ups are announced!
See you in seven!