The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) returned to FOX Sports 1 (FS1) last night (Weds., June 13, 2018) for episode nine 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.
Episode nine kicks off the semifinals and we have two familiar faces returning from elimination, thanks to a pair of fight-related injuries. Replacing Luis Pena is lightweight John Gunther while Jay Cucciniello takes over for Ricky Steele at featherweight.
Tonight, Gunther looks for redemption against Mike Trizano.
Before we can worry about fighting, the squads head over to Exotics Racing in Las Vegas, where they get to drive luxury supercars around the track. Lamborghini, Ferrari, you name it, they got it. “Tires were squealing, rubber was burning, it was awesome,” according to resident hayseed Bryce Mitchell.
Now it’s time to hit the gym and Trizano is working on his hands. Coach Miocic won’t be coaching him — or Gunther — because they both come from his team. That’s where the assistant coaches come in so that each fighter gets a fair shake.
One of the best parts of the semifinals is that we can skip the slow piano music and grainy home footage of each combatant, since we’ve already endured the exposition earlier in the season when they first took the cage. Not that it will stop producers from shoehorning silly segments into the show, including a TUF 27 talent show.
Each fighter gets five minutes to show what they can do, from breakdancing to stand-up midget comedy. Mitchell was running around the house dressed like an Indian and shot an arrow through an apple ... resting on Pena’s head.
Coach Cormier has nothing to do this week, since none of his fighters are competing, so he calls upon longtime friends Max Holloway (UFC featherweight champion) and Luke Rockhold (former UFC middleweight champion), who come to the TUF gym to help train his younglings. As expected, “Blessed” makes a huge impact on his fellow featherweights, as they compete in the same weight class and the Hawaiian has the shine they’re all currently chasing.
Enough fluff, it’s time for the weigh ins and both fighters make weight without incident. Three rounds now instead of two because it’s the semifinals, so let’s get the show on the proverbial road to see who advances.
155 lbs.: Mike Trizano (6-0) vs. John Gunther (6-0)
Round 1: No touch of gloves and Gunther fakes the shot. Trizano pawing the jab trying to find his range. Gunther bends over and just sort of clasps the leg in the weirdest takedown attempt I’ve ever seen. Trizano just steps backwards and gets free. Gunther tries to stalk his opponent until there is no more space and his plan works. Trizano backed into the cage then easily taken down when Gunther shoots. Trizano gets to his butt and Gunther roasts the ribs. The referee is unimpressed and calls for action. Gunther tries to posture up and Trizano lazily looks for a guillotine. Nothing there. Trizano muscles his way up and tries to escape but Gunther takes him for a ride with a sweet hip toss. The momentum is so great, Trizano is able to roll to his feet and they go back to the striking. Gunther tries to repeat what he did but Trizano is playing keep away. Gunther eats a straight right and starts leaking plasma. Bell sounds and I give it to Gunther 10-9 for the control.
Round 2: Fists are flying to open the round and Gunther is the more aggressive of the two. He tries to do that Soda Popinsky dance and gets jabbed for his efforts. Trizano draws a warning for extended fingers. Gunther shoots and gets kneed in the face, but he’s able to finish the takedown. Trizano smushed against the fence getting mugged and slugged. Trizano not taking a ton of damage, but at the same time he’s not really doing much from the bottom. Just as I type that, we wall walks and gets back to his feet. Gunther stays aggressive and walks forward — right into a Trizano takedown. Now Gunther has to work from his back and he slaps on a triangle but he’s in a weird position and gets the hold turned into a north-south. It’s kinda nasty to look at but whatever. Round over. The benches are calling it 1-1 but I have it 10-9 Gunther.
Round 3: Gunther opens with an overhand right. Trizano pumping the jab. Gunther looks afraid to get inside and as a result, is getting sliced and diced from range. Two uppercuts land for Trizano. Then a leg kick. Gunther with a body shot and tries to walk him down. Gunther with a lazy shot and gets denied. Trizano with two solid shots and Gunther shoots against the cage. Trizano is fighting him off and the referee wants more work. Trizano reverses position and breaks free. Gunther walking forward and eating punches, probably not the best strategy. Time is called as Gunther loses his mouthpiece. They restart and Trizano is using movement and angles to stay away from the shot. Not sure where this defense was in rounds one and two but better late than never, I suppose. Less than a minute left and Gunther gets taken down with authority. This fight has done a complete 180 and time expires with Trizano unloading punches (and landing). 10-9 Trizano.
Final result: Trizano def. Gunther by unanimous decision
After the fight, Gunther admits he had a shitty gameplan but is happy he got to fight. He’ll be going to the hospital to get his dome examined after taking so many shots and suffering a handful of lacerations.
Here’s the TUF 27 semifinal line up heading into episode 10:
155 lbs.: Mike Trizano vs.
145 lbs.: Brad Katona vs. Bryce Mitchell
155 lbs.: Joe Giannetti vs. Allan Zuniga
145 lbs.: Tyler Diamond vs. Jay Cucciniello
Stay tuned next week as we get the Brad Katona vs. Bryce Mitchell featherweight semifinal bout, as well as a special guest appearance from UFC lightweight contender and TUF 15 winner Michael Chiesa.
See you in seven!