The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 returned to FOX Sports 1 on Wednesday night (September 7, 2016), with episode two of the combat sports reality show, coached by Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) flyweight contenders, Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo.
In the first episode, the 16 contestants were split into two groups of eight and seeded in a tournament format. The final two fighters will meet at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale on December 3, 2016, which will be headlined by Benavidez and Cejudo. The champion of TUF 24 will meet current UFC flyweight champion, Demetrious Johnson at a later date.
In the opening two bouts last week, No.1 seed Alexandre Pontoja (Team Cejudo) defeated No.16 Brandon Moreno (Team Benavidez) via submission and No. 9 seed Kai-Kara France (Team Cejudo) knocked out No.8 Terrence Mitchell (Team Benavidez) to put Team Cejudo up 2-0.
This week's episode begins with UFC president Dana White waxing hyperbole about this week's matchup between Hiromasa Ogikubo and Nkazimulo Zulu. Team Benavidez member Jaimie Alvarez is chatting in the kitchen with teammate Eric Shelton about Zulu--who is from South Africa--being much different than anyone else in the house and being very difficult to get along with.
Damacio Page of Team Benavidez and Zulu get into an argument over the use of the kitchen sink. Full disclosure: Zulu should've waited for Page to finish washing his sweet potatoes. Hey, it's more amusing then the usual dust ups over stolen whey protein powder.
Zulu claims his innocence and that he just wanted to get water and meant no disrespect.
Zulu heads to the gym to prepare for the big showdown with Ogikubo. He's hitting pads and Dana White returns with more pre-fight hype coupled with highlights of Zulu from his EFC wins. Coach Cejudo weighs in on Zulu's striking prowess and how he needs to work on his wrestling and jiu-jitsu. We then see Zulu working in the cage with the coaches on his ground game.
Ogikubo introduces himself mixed in with a video montage of him in Japan. We learn he has a four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. Ogikubo makes his living working at nights as an instructor at his gym and teaches a kid's class once a week. He hugs his wife and kids at the airport before departing for TUF 24. FS1 loves to pull on the heart strings eh?
Benavidez says he thinks Ogikubo is going to "surprise everyone." Dana White is back, this time to hype up Ogikubo while highlights of Ogikubo play from his wins in Shooto. Team Benavidez gives instructions to Ogikubo at the gym, but a lot of their communication is through hand gestures and broken English. Benavidez is impressed with his ability to pick up on things despite the language barrier and he believes Ogikubo is more well-rounded then Zulu.
Ronaldo Candido of Team Benevidez has befriended Ogikiubo, and teaches him how to play pool. Perhaps trick shots during future episodes?
Zulu bonds with his teammates and shows them pictures of his daughters, one is six and one is four. When he isn't fighting, Zulu reveals he is also a car mechanic because he can't get by on just fighting alone.
Time for the weigh ins. Cejudo is talking trash to Benavidez about being up 2-0. Benavidez--you guessed it--isn't happy. He resorts to doing the repeater and mimics every word Cejudo says right after he says it. Benavidez kicks it up a notch and tells Cejudo to "shut up," but Cejudo is not impressed.
Dana White is back to let you know "THESE GUYS HATE EACH OTHER!"
Benavidez and Cejudo engage in more trash talk before the fighters get called to the scale. Ogikubo tips the scales at 126 pounds. Zulu comes in at 125.5 pounds.
Ogikubo and then Zulu tell you why the fight is important to them. I give Ogikubo the slight edge because he's about to slice up an eel for lunch, which is much manlier than Zulu's peanut butter on wheat (more points off for creamy).
Dana White visits both locker rooms to wish each fighter and team good luck and we are moments away from fight time.
No. 5 Hiromasa Ogikubo 15-3-2 (Team Benavidez) vs. No. 12 Nkazimulo Zulu 7-2-1 (Team Cejudo)
Round 1: Zulu and Ogikubo both miss high kicks to start. Zulu lands a kick to the body and a low kick moments later. Ogikubo shoots in for a single-leg takedown and gets it. He lands some short elbows inside the half guard of Zulu and then follows that up with some punches. Zulu recovers to full guard, but Ogikubo continues with punches to the body and head. Zulu lands some solid elbows from his back. There is blood on the face of Zulu, but it could be Ogikubo's from those elbows. Ogikubo passes to full mount, forcing Zulu to give up his back and Ogikubo goes for the rear-naked choke. The blood is coming from a cut on Zulu's forehead. For some odd reason, Ogikubo--who had him dead to rights--could not lock up the submission to end it and Zulu survives to make round two.
Round 2: Twenty seconds into the second, Ogikubo failed on getting Zulu to the ground after securing another single leg. Zulu marches forward with a combination and Ogikubo wasted no time and dropped down for a double-leg takedown and put Zulu on the canvas for the second time in the fight. Ogikubo attempted to pass the guard of Zulu and briefly got to half guard before Zulu recovered to full. On his second attempt, Ogikubo passed to half and then transitioned to mount, where Zulu gave up his back just like he did in the first. Ogikubo began hammering away with strikes and locked up a rear-naked choke (with an S grip) to force the tap and end the fight.
Final result: Hiromasa Ogikubo def Nkazimulo Zulu via submission (rear-naked choke) Round 2
Dana White after the fight: "So we just had the third straight finish of the tournament and I'm feeling pretty confident that this season we are going to find somebody that is going to challenge Demetrious Johnson."
Let's just go with suspension of disbelief for television purposes.
Here are the brackets after two episodes:
#1 Alexandre Patoja Resurrection Fighting Alliance (Team Cejudo) vs. #16
Brandon Moreno, World Fighting Federation (Team Benavidez)
Terrence Mitchell, Alaska Fighting Championship (Team Benavidez) vs. #9 Kai Kara-France, Bragging Rights Fight Series (Team Cejudo)
#5 Hiromasa Ogikubo, Shooto Japan (Team Benavidez) vs. #12
Nkazimulo ZuluExtreme Fighting Championship (Team Cejudo)
#4 Damacio Page, Legacy Fighting Championship (Team Benavidez) vs. #13 Adam Antolin, Tachi Palace Fights (Team Cejudo)
#2 Yoni Sherbatov, Xcessive Force Fighting Championship (Team Cejudo) vs. #15 Eric Shelton, Caged Agression MMA (Team Benavidez)
#7 Ronaldo Candido, Shoot South America (Team Benavidez) vs. #10 Jamie Alvarez, Absolute Fighting Championship (Team Cejudo)
#6 Matt Schnell, Legacy Fighting Championship (Team Cejudo) vs. #11 Matt Rizzo, Ring of Combat (Team Benavidez)
#3 Tim Elliot, Titan Fighting Championship (Team Benavidez) vs. #14 Charlie Alaniz, Hex Fight Series (Team Cejudo)
Next week's matchup will be No. 4 seed Damacio Page (Team Benavidez) vs. No. 13 Adam Anatolin (Team Cejudo). The winner will face Ogikubo.
That's a wrap. See you next week!