Episode three (which has already won me over with its title "The Heebie-Jeebies") starts us off with a quick recap of the middleweight elimination tournament from episodes one and two including the bone-crunching knockout of Dan Simmler.
After narrowing down the field from 32 to 16, the pace begins to slow a bit as the guys pile into the TUF house and set up shop. Mike Dolce makes it clear that they're not just reality TV stars anymore - they're real fighters.
Having diligently watched seasons 1-6, I can say (not unjustly) that Dolce doesn't speak for everyone in the house.
Matt Brown immediately knocks me from my editorial perch by countering: "We all had to fight our way in here so there's no reason to ever discount anybody."
Touche Mr. Brown.
Day one at the gym means team selections and no selection would be complete without the Dana White coin toss. Watching him assign Coach Griffin the color brown kind of had me hoping Forrest would go into a rant about color association like Mr. Pink from Reservoir Dogs.
No such luck.
Coach Rampage (Team Blue) gets his choice between first fighter or first fight and he wisely chooses first fighter. That fighter is CB Dolloway who impressed Rampage with his TKO victory over David Baggett on episode one.
I find it unusual that the producers would opt to show just the highlights of his fight during that episode considering he was selected #1 for Team Blue. Anyway, an undaunted Coach Griffin picks Tim Credeur without hesitation which makes me think he may have been Forrest's first choice anyway.
Here's how the teams stack up:
Team Blue (Rampage):
Team Brown (Griffin):
The winning teams control the fights until they lose. Both Forrest and Rampage seem content with their picks. Rampage affectionately refers to Team Brown as Team Brown-Nose. I waited for Griffin to counter with Team Blue-Balls but once again he left me hanging.
Uh, no pun intended.
Paul Bradley gets into the Team Rampage huddle and no one can seem to concentrate since Bradley is sporting a gruesome skin deformation on his neck. Normally man-law would direct you to pass this off as a hickey but this looks more like untreated eczema.
Not surprisingly the rest of the group is already treating him like a leper and Bradley gets a one-way pass to the doctor. I quietly nod to myself as the episode title starts to make a lot more sense.
Team Blue has its first group training session and Rampage admits that this is just as much a learning experience for him as it is the cast. He introduces his coaches Zack Light and the incomparable Juanito Ibarra - who has the uncanny ability to tell what a person is eating by their spit.
Dana White brings in a dermatologist that he's known his whole life to examine Paul Bradley. I would question why Dana has known him his whole life but I wish to continue working in this field so I'll just let it go.
"Bad News" Bradley gets the thumbs down from the doctor as it turns out to be a form of herpes that is indeed contagious. Like most medical oddities, Bradley gets exiled to a dark corner and is forced to run off his sins on the treadmill.
Over at Team Brown, Forrest basically admits that he'll never be a coach but does know how to run a training camp. With him is jiu-jitsu coach Cameron Diffley, Muy Thai coach Mark Beecher and wrestling coach (and TUF alum) Gray Maynard.
Forrest leaves his guys with a nice piece of wisdom regarding the hard work and suffering they're in for: "The juice is worth the squeeze." We also learn that Forrest hates clapping. But not as much as Dana hates Herpes. He calls Paul Bradley into the office and hands him the pink slip.
Afterwards they move to fight selection and since Coach Griffin has control he puts Jesse Taylor against Mike Dolce. Jesse admits to looking like "Big" John McCarthy and Nicolas Cage - only better looking. Forrest calls him a meathead but likes his potential.
Mike Dolce gets his Hughes on and conducts a little bible study before training. Rampage thinks Dolce is only a few inches taller than a Hobbit. Anyone from Dolce's hometown of Belmar, New Jersey may find that remark complimentary.
With Bradley gone that means there's an opening for a new competitor. It's still early in the season so it may not be much of an adjustment. Dana looks to Rampage for his pick and he first selects an injured alternate and then picks someone who's already on the show. I guess Rampage doesn't like to bog himself down with the finer details.
Comedy ensues but they eventually settle on Patrick Schultz who as you may remember got choked out by Luke Zachrich in episode two's back-and-forth elimination bout. Not everyone is impressed by the selection, Dana included.
Rampage stops by the house to boost his team's morale. He gets Matt Riddle to admit he's still living at home with no job and no driver's license. Internet trolls have finally found their champion. The team sees Jackson's visit as a mental victory.
It's fight day and Taylor and Dolce size each other up. Since we skipped the weigh-ins I'll assume each fighter came in where they needed to be. Before I can wonder why there is a gratuitous Burger King logo in the center of the Octagon, Dana announces that BK will be coughing up $5k for the winner. Having sampled the 700-calorie Enormous Omelet breakfast sandwich, I hope for the winner's sake the five grand is not in the form of a BK gift certificate.
Team Blue's Mike Dolce (4-4) vs. Team Brown's Jesse Taylor (6-2)
Round 1: Taylor shoots and gets stuffed. He gets back to his feet and pulls off a nice spin move before wrestling Dolce to the ground. Taylor quickly gets his back and works diligently for the rear naked choke. Dolce miraculously survives and rolls out of it but Taylor is still clinging to his back. They fall to the mat and Taylor works for the RNC again. Dolce twists into a nice reversal and is now on top landing elbows. Taylor muscles his way out of it and gets himself into top position. Good back-and-forth action. Dolce gives up his back and Taylor flattens him out. He tries again for the RNC but Dolce sees it coming and escapes. Taylor now in side control. Both guys staying busy but expending a lot of energy. The round ends with Taylor on top landing bombs.
Round 2: The ring girl has just KOed half of the viewing audience with her two biggest assets. Taylor opens with a shoot and Dolce goes down easily. An exhausted Dolce is starting to take punishment. He tries to escape but Taylor methodically lures him into another RNC. This time Dolce is too gassed to defend and gets that glazed-over look before Herb Dean can step in to save him.
Jesse Taylor defeats Mike Dolce via submission (rear naked choke)
After the fight Jesse pukes into a bucket. No word if Coach Ibarra was immediately able to identify its contents. There may have been a time in my life when vomiting on screen would have bothered me but after watching Gabe Ruediger grimace his way through a colonic in season five I think I'm pretty much desensitized at this point.
Taylor gets an additional $5k for the stoppage. Rampage is visibly deflated after opening up with a loss but Mike Dolce is surprisingly upbeat and knows a lot can still happen in six weeks.
Overall it was a decent episode. The format was more in line with what we're used to from seasons past but a decent fight is all we can hope for and this week's episode delivered in that sense.
Stay tuned next week as Rampage steps up his training, Riddle and Rivera verbally spar, and Burger King hands away some more flame-broiled cash.
See you then!