By Jesse Holland
Round two of the quarterfinals featuring Gray vs. BrandonÃ‚Â begins withÃ‚Â a brief recap of the Cole/Lauzon fight before gettingÃ‚Â right to a Team Pulver training session where Brandon suffers from yet another sore extremity.
He also appears to be breaking down mentally from being sequestered in the house for so long. In the booth he slams everyone from Coach Pulver to his fellow team members.
In fact he's so sick of Jens inspirational style of coaching he gets into a contentious tÃƒÂªte-ÃƒÂ -tÃƒÂªte with the man himself.
Jens apparently doesn't like playing second fiddle to an Airdyne and Brandon doesn't like playing, period. Jens dismisses the severity of the sore hand by informing the viewing audience that he broke the same hand fourteen times.
I guess Jens went to the Marlon Sims school of mathematics.
He then tries to reach Brandon's inner altar boy by rubbing his head and calling him "Son" but Brandon just hides his face and later talks more trash in the interview booth.
Brandon wants to defect to Team Penn and decides that honesty is the best policy. He confronts Jens and Andy. Yes Andy, who is now the Danny Abbadi to Brandon's Matt Hamill.
Brandon tells Jens he wants to train with Team Penn – but only for the experience. He neglects to mention all the hatred he was spewing into the camera behind his back. So much for the honesty policy!
Jens is having none of it and tells Brandon he'll bleed yellow for the entire six weeks. Brandon nods in agreement and they embrace. WTF? I am Brandon, Antipodes Rex.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Gray Maynard kicking it into high gear for Team Penn. Although they have a history of training together, I was still pleased to see them hard-sparring.
I know conventional wisdom saysÃ‚Â the day before a fight you'reÃ‚Â supposed to put away your gloves, turn out the lights and climb back into your mother's womb, but watching a gamer like Gray laugh in the face ofÃ‚Â potential injuryÃ‚Â was refreshing to say the least.
Or maybe I was just tired of hearing about Brandon's sore hand.
BJ rewards Gray's efforts with a surprise visit from UFC Heavyweight champion Randy "The Natural" Couture. My favorite part of the entire segment was watching The Master speak as the entire cast – BJ included – watched in complete silence.
Or was that awe? Name another UFC fighter who commands that kind of respect.
An interesting piece of trivia for this season: Randy Couture's first stint as commentator was during Penn/Pulver 1.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Cole and Nate are feeling a little frisky and have a punk-off. First, Nate slaps Cole in his sleep with (cue the Goldberg voice) 4 OZ. GLOVES.
Cole responds in a disturbing manner by stabbing an innocent piÃƒÂ±ata to death and dumping its carcass on Nate's bed. A little confetti shower and Nate is ready to rumble.
They take it outside and roll around on the grass like a couple of precocious squirrels. Nate takes it to the next level and throws Cole's bed into the pool and whaddaya know, Cole does the same.
This little exchange reminds me of that old Bugs Bunny cartoon where Bugs and Marvin Martian face off. Each take turns pulling out weapons of increasing size and capacity until the world explodes.
Speaking of exploding worlds, does anyone else remember that classic Frankie Goes to Hollywood video Two Tribes where they have Reagan and Gorbachev pit fighting?
Sorry, I got a little off topic. I guess Brandon isn't the only one who's mentally fatigued by this whole experience.
Anyhow, Nate and Cole call a truce (sleeping in the pool will do that to you) but I guess Nate had his fingers crossed because at 3am he douses Cole with ice water and has Manny "Antique" him (Step 1: Wet mark; Step 2: Cover him with baby powder).
Boys will be boys!
It's the day of the weigh-ins (finally) and Brandon is anxious about making weight. He refuses to become the next Gabe and enlists Andy to help him gut it out in the sauna. Andy is happy to oblige and actually does an adequate job of keeping him focused.
BJ is concerned that Gray is overtraining and but doesn't dwell on it. We get the requisite predictions from each fighter and no surprise – they both think they're going to win. Randy is at ringside and I wonder if that will put any additional pressure on Gray.
Round one is underway and Gray immediately shoots and gets the takedown. Brandon has wrist control and gets to his feet. Gray takes it back down and looks for the rear naked choke.
Brandon's in a little trouble but rolls out of it and gets top position. Gray escapes and shoots again. Brandon has an arm and is working for a kimura but Gray finds a way out of it.
Back on their feet, Gray gets another takedown. Gray is controlling the fight. Brandon rolls and keeps himself out of danger. Back up, right back down. Lots of action in round one but the guys look gassed at the 0:45 mark.
They get back to their feet and the horn sounds just as Gray gets Brandon down to the mat.
In between rounds Gray is really sucking wind. Brandon looks a little more together. They come back out and Brandon goes for a flying knee.Ã‚Â Gray evades and cracks him one.
Brandon tries all kinds of funky moves and Gray has seen enough. He shoots and gets the takedown but looks completely winded.
Brandon scores a nice reversal and starts dropping some bombs from the top. Gray reverses andÃ‚Â lands a limp hammer fist. Brandon's bleeding above the eye.
Back on their feet, a spent Gray shoots in slow motion and gets caught in a guillotine. Gray's wincing but finds a way out. He drops back in and almost gets triangled. Gray spins and secures a deep guillotine forcing Brandon to tap.
Overall it was a great fight. Dana White said it best: "It was up, down, all over the place." Gray gets back to the locker room and collapses from exhaustion.
BJ calls his performance less than what it could have been and again mentions overtraining as a possible cause.
Brandon is disappointed but well composed and happy that he put up a fight. I can say with great certainty that he's not the only one. I wasn't expecting much from Brandon so this performance was a pleasant surprise.
Whether or not it had more to do with Gray being wound too tight or Brandon being a better fighter than I thought is irrelevant. The fight was fast-paced and exciting. A few more of these and this season might just redeem itself after all.
Stay tuned next week as we get two fights in one episode (hold for applause). Nate takes on Corey (but not before defecting to Team Penn) and Manny calls in cousin Karo for help against Wiman's good looks.
See you then!