The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) returned to FOX Sports 1 (FS1) last night (Weds., May 9, 2018) for episode four of its first-ever “Undefeated” season. Coaching the cast of 16 mixed martial arts (MMA) hopefuls — split between the featherweight and lightweight divisions — are UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and UFC 205-pound kingpin Daniel Cormier.
“DC” is jumping up in weight to challenge Miocic at UFC 226 in July.
Last week’s episode featured a unanimous decision win for Luis Pena (Team Cormier) — also known as “Violent Bob Ross” — over Jose Martinez (Team Miocic). “DC” and his squad will try to make it 4-0 by sending Bryce Mitchell into battle against fellow featherweight Jay Cucciniello.
Coach Cormier has to abandon ship due to commitments back home in Louisiana, so he turns the squad over to former heavyweight champion and ex-TUF: “Latin America” coach Cain Velasquez, who trains with “DC” at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA). Interesting that Velasquez and Miocic will come face-to-face at some point.
We get back to the TUF house and Pena reflects on his victory ... then reflects on his injured foot, which ballooned up as a result of post-fight swelling and put him on crutches. That’s what happens when you kick someone for 15 minutes. The pain gets bad enough to send him for X-Rays and the results show a fracture. That means a splint and no contact for four-to-six weeks. Pena breaks down in tears because he knows that spells the end of his TUF run ... at least for now. He FaceTimes coach Cormier to explain the bad news and “DC” gives him the rah-rah pep talk about coming back stronger. Pena gathers his teammates and asks them to not only win, but to punish the fool who gets to come back as his replacement.
Time to focus on this week’s fight.
Cucciniello, 31, starts getting ready for his fight and wants to improve team morale, which not surprisingly, is in the toilet being down 0-3. He holds the IFL 145-pound title in Spain (where he lives) and attributes his success to his aggressive fighting style. We get highlights of his international wins including his fifth pro fight, when he learned his brother died and still continued on and won. He also joined the military and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan where he “lost nine blokes on that tour” and got blown up twice with land mines. I can understand now why he’s so mentally tough, though I’m not sure why he owns a tiny yellow bird that looks like Tweety.
We switch over to Mitchell, 23, and he takes one of those Crocodile Dundee knives, cuts down a tree branch behind the TUF house, then constructs a working bow and arrow with his bare hands. When the zombie apocalypse hits, he can be our Darryl Dixon. We get the obligatory background video where Mitchell is seen hunting wild cat in Arkansas which he catches, carves, and feeds to his girlfriend. We’re talking about a guy who dreams about chasing baby deer. Is normal. As for his fighting style, he labels it “ghetto” because he just runs into the cage and throws “whatever.” That might explain his “Thug Nasty” nickname. Mitchell owns five championship titles on the regional circuit, three amateur and two pro.
Both fighters make weight without incident.
145 lbs.: Team Miocic’s Jay Cucciniello (8-0) vs. Team Cormier’s Bryce Mitchell (9-0)
Round 1: Quick touch of gloves and Mitchell paws the jab before firing off a push kick. Cucciniello returns with a low kick. Mitchell shoots and gets denied. Wild overhands from Cucciniello. Coach Velasquez calling for the jab. He gets a high kick instead. Mitchell shoots again and pushes Cucciniello to the fence before dragging him to the floor. Cucciniello gives up his back for reasons not quite apparent and Mitchell gator rolls him in search of the neck. He tries for the body triangle but loses position and Cucciniello gets to his feet. Nice one-two lands for Cucciniello. Low kick connects for Mitchell, who then puts fist on jaw and follows up with a powerful takedown. Cucciniello is flattened out but manages to roll over and secure guard. Mitchell postures up and drops hammer fists. Cucciniello gives up his back again and turtles. Mitchell uses his legs for a head scissors and starts pounding away but runs out of time. 10-9 Mitchell.
Round 2: Cucciniello opens with a low kick and gets taken down for his efforts. Mitchell immediately secures the back and we’re right back where we were in round one. Cucciniello lazily sits up like it’s 6am and his alarm went off so Mitchell grabs his neck and tries for the choke. Cucciniello fights him off and gets back to safety but Mitchell still has his back and is landing punches in bunches. This goes on for about two minutes. Mitchell clings to his back and they roll around on the ground while Cucciniello absorbs damage. Mitchell does just enough to keep the referee from standing them up, but not enough to put Cucciniello in any sort of mortal danger. Mitchell goes for the arm and tries to lock up an armbar but Cucciniello rolls out and tries to get to his feet. Mitchell grabs him and drags him back down and goes back to ground control to run out the clock. 10-8 Mitchell.
Final result: Mitchell defeat Cucciniello by unanimous decision
Here’s where we stand after episode four:
Jay Cucciniello Kyler Phillips
Joe Martinez John Gunther
Miocic is bummed that his team is down 0-4 but praises Cucciniello for surviving the attack. Pena hobbles over to promotion president Dana White and grovels for a spot on the roster and White promises him a fight at the live finale. Dulani Perry starts talking shit after the fight and the teams have to be separated before a brawl ensues. The gang later gathers for the next fight announcement and Team Miocic’s No. 1 pick Mike Trizano gets lightweight loudmouth Thailand Clark.
See you in seven!