Goodbye Las Vegas, hello South Florida!
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) is back with season 21 (not including the international bastard children) and the latest gimmick pits American Top Team (ATT) against Blackzilians, because this town isn't big enough for the two of us, or something like that.
Dan Lambert runs ATT, while Glenn Robinson heads up Blackzilians.
That means 12 weeks of welterweight hopefuls slugging it out for a contract with Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), one that also comes with a boatload of cash. And since these are popular fight camps, expect plenty of cameos from top stars like Robbie Lawler (ATT) and Anthony Johnson (Blackzilians), among others.
This season works on a convoluted point system, meaning each contestant earns points for their fights. The later in the season you fight, the more points you earn, and opponents are not revealed until the weigh ins. Some guys might fight a few times, others may not fight at all.
1-4 = 25 points
5-8 = 50 points
9-12 = 100 points
At the end of the show, the two fighters with the most points get $200,000 and a spot in the live finale.
Here are the line ups:
Marcelo "Grilo" Alfaya (16-7, 1 NC)
Hayder "Hulk" Hassan (6-1)
Nathan "Soul Force" Coy (14-5)
"Creepy" Steve Montgomery (8-2)
Michael Graves (4-0)
Sabah "The Punisher" Homasi (8-4)
Uros Jurisic (4-0)
Steve Carl (21-4)
Jason Jackson (4-2)
Luiz "Buscape" Firmino (18-6)
Kamaru "The Nigerian Nightmare" Usman (5-1)
Andrews Nakahara (4-2-2)
Carrington Banks (3-0)
Vincente Luque (7-4-1)
Felipe "Balboa" Portela (8-2)
Valdir "BBMonstro" Araujo (14-5)
The fighters arrive at the TUF mansion by way of separate boats with opposing flags, sort of like rival pirate gangs. There's some brief exposition about the rivalry between the teams and it's basically a trickle-down effect from the bad blood between Lambert and Robinson.
Past friends, present enemies.
After the cast gets settled in, UFC President Dana White shows up to give his Do you wanna be a fucking fighter? speech. We get a quick coin toss and the first fight is controlled by the Blackzilians; meaning, the fights will take place at their gym and they'll stay there unless ATT wins.
If so, the festivities head to the ATT gym.
Later that night, the Blackzilians team gets to hang out with Robinson at his Florida pad to watch Anthony Johnson smash Alexander Gustafsson. As you might expect, they are elated when "Rumble" runs right over the Swede and earns a crack at the crown.
We then get a few clips of both squads training.
ATT chooses Michael Graves for the first fight because the coaches believe he is the top pick and they want to get the proceedings back under their roof. Blackzilians counter with Kamaru Usman -- but neither team knows who from the other squad is fighting because it remains undisclosed until weigh ins.
Both fighters weigh in without incident and the ATT guys are a bit surprised that Blackzilians didn't open with "Buscape," who is one of the strongest combatants on either team. Dana White doesn't like the choice of Kamaru Usman, because he believes the Blackzilian coaches are hoping to wrestle their way into the win column.
We shall see.
170 lbs.: Kamaru "The Nigerian Nightmare" Usman (5-1) vs. Michael Graves (4-0)
Round 1: Usman crawls out like Jon Jones, so Graves reaches down and punches him in the head. I lol'd. Usman walks him down and gets his first takedown, pushing Graves into the fence. Graves works his way back to his feet and they jockey for position before Graves escapes. They return to the center of the cage and Usman getting lit up, so he shoots and scores. Both sides yelling unintelligibly. Graves back to his feet and eats a knee to the breadbasket, then the thigh before circling out. Center of the cage and it's a bangfest, albeit a sloppy one. For a striker, Graves is not terribly busy with his hands. Usman uses the lull in action to score another takedown, but can't keep his foe on the ground. Graves circles out and the round ends with no action. I have it 10-9 for Usman based on takedowns.
Round 2: Graves comes out busy with his hands and finds his mark early. Usman counterpunching, then resorts to the shoot but can only press Graves into the fence. Graves out and gets pressed into the cage once again. Boy, Dana White saw this one coming from a mile away. Usman with a big takedown and Graves pops up. He escapes and tries to make it a kickboxing match, far away from the wall, but he's striking in fear of the takedown and not doing so well. Usman drives him into the cage then dumps him onto the floor. Graves needs a finish here. As I type that, Graves escapes, reverses a takedown attempt, and locks in a rear-naked choke. Both benches erupt in screams. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the leverage to finish it and Usman is able to flip him over and land on top, closing out the round in half guard. I have it 10-9 Usman.
Final result: Usman def. Graves via majority decision
After the fight, a "frustrated" Dana White bags on the fighters for not going out there and "going for broke." Lambert was unsympathetic toward Graves for coming up lame in the big spot. Usman could be seen yelling at someone from ATT before leaving the cage.
That's a wrap. See you next week!