Last week UFC president Dana White introduced a new concept to “The Ultimate Fighter”. For the first time in the history of Spike TV’s popular MMA reality series, the cast members would have to fight there way on to the show.
Unlike previous renditions, where the two coaches would begin by picking their teams, the first two weeks of Season 7 have acted as an audition for 32 hungry fighters fighting for 16 spots.
The “win your in” concept is a new twist that has allowed coaches Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Forrest Griffin to conduct a scouting mission as they prepare to choose their team of Middleweights.
In Episode 1 last week, former collegiate All-American wrestler C.B. Dollaway, former IFL fighter Mike Dolce, and the well-rounded amateur kick boxer Amir Sadollah turned in possibly the most impressive performances, as the first eight fighters to win entry into the TUF house were revealed. The other winners were Cale Yarbrough, Dante Rivera, Nick Klein, Paul Bradley and Jeremy May.
In Episode 2, Wednesday night, the final eight spots were up for grabs.
Dan Simmler (1-0) vs Matthew Riddle (1-0)
The night began with a bang and a broken jaw. In what was likely the most violent knockout in TUF history. Matthew “The Answer” Riddle provided the bang, when at the beginning of round two he stepped into a front kick from Matt Serra trained Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu specialist Dan Simmler, and with full force connected a perfectly executed right hook to Simmler’s jaw. Simmler immediately crumpled to the canvas and appeared to lose consciousness. Riddle pounced and landed three more hard punches to Simmler’s face before referee Herb Dean could step in to stop the fight.
While Riddle and his corner celebrated with excitement, the situation quickly turned tense, as a semi-conscious Simmler let out a series of loud eerie moans that fortold the seriousness of his injuries. The ring doctor quickly arrived on the scene and while applying ice to Simmler’s face said, in an uncomfortably concerned tone, that Simmler’s “jaw is a mess”.
When Simmler finally gains back the awareness of his surroundings, he can’t remember what has happened, and while in the locker room repeatedly asks if he was in a fight or was it just practice. An ambulance arrives and he is taken on a stretcher to the hospital.
Luke Zachrich (7-1) vs Patrick Schultz (7-1-1)
The second fight of the night pitted two of the more experienced fighters on the show, when former King of the Cage grappler Luke Zachrich took on the Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu trained Patrick Schultz.
In the pre-fight interviews both appear extremely confident. Zachrich sounds off about the damage he’s going to inflict, and tries to psyche himself up with a number of insults aimed at his opponent’s punkish hair style.
Once the fight begins Schultz gets off to a quick start by catching a kick from Zachrich and tossing him to the mat. But, instead of mounting he lets Zachrich stand. From that point on Zachrich imposes his will. After landing some nice combinations, the two clinch, before Zachrich takes Schultz to the mat, or as Rampage Jackson amusingly says about Schultz, “He took himself down”.
Schultz tries to reverse his position a couple of times, but ends up with his arm trapped beneath him, and Zachrich pounds away at Schultz’ unprotected face. Eventually, Zachrich mounts his confused opponent, who quickly gives up his back. The fight ends soon after when Zachrich clamps on a rear-naked choke to submit Schultz.
Timothy Credeur (10-2) vs Erik Charles (10-5)
The most dominant performance of the night belonged to Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Timothy Credeur.
Credeur gets a single-leg take down almost immediately. He maneuvers into Charles’ half-guard, grabs an arm, peppers him with a couple of punches, and locks on an arm bar for the quick submission victory.
White, Griffin and Jackson all are very impressed, and seem to come to a consensus that he is the best Jiu-Jitsu guy in the tournament.
After another commercial for the climax of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7, the much anticipated Rampage Jackson vs Forrest Griffin fight at UFC 86 on July 5th, the next three fights are presented in a highlight package.
Brandon Sene (2-0) vs Aaron Meisner (2-0)
Feeling like he needed to be more active as a coach, Rampage Jackson decided to go up to the cage to help out an overmatched Aaron Meisner. But Rampage’s advice fell on deaf ears, leading him to the frustrated conclusion that Meisner “doesn’t listen”. Gracie Tampa fighter and Marine Brandon “Sweet Dreams” Sene easily disposed of Meisner with a rear-naked choke hold mid-way through the first round.
Mike Marrello (7-1-1) vs Gerald Harris (6-2)
He’s big, strong, fast and reminiscent of a slightly smaller Rampage Jackson. He’s also a high school history teacher and a stand-up comedian. And now he is a member of the TUF house. Former IFL fighter Gerald Harris was just too strong for Team Jeff Curran fighter and King of the Cage veteran Mike Marrello.
Harris repeatedly took Marrello down with superior wrestling ability, and added some vicious slams for emphasis, on his way to a unanimous decision victory.
Daniel Cramer (0-0) vs Jeremiah Riggs (1-0)
In the sloppiest fight of the night, the inexperienced Daniel Cramer used an onslaught of ground and pound to score a second round TKO over the even more inexperienced Jeremiah Riggs.
Though Riggs lost handily, White, Jackson, and Griffin were extremely impressed with his heart and scrappiness. The tough kid from Mississippi could do little in the fight other than a few illegal upkicks to Cramer’s face. But, when all was said and done, Dana White heaped praise on Riggs when he exclaimed, “If he had any technique, he’d be scary”.
The last two fights were shown in their entirety.
Nick Rossborough (8-3) vs Jesse Taylor (6-2)
Upon entering the cage, White and Griffin quickly coin a nickname for the tattooed, young Rossborough. They think he’s a double for Eminem, so they call him the Slim Shady of MMA.
Though tagged with a nifty nickname, Rossborough is quickly thrown to the mat and mounted by Jesse Taylor. Taylor throws Rossborough around with his superior wrestling skills, which prompts Griffin to exclaim, “Slim Shady can’t wrestle”.
Rossborough, worn down by Taylor’s throws and ground and pound, eventually gives up his back and Taylor locks in a rear-naked choke to end it.
As Taylor’s hand is raised, Griffin seems impressed with Taylor and then indulges himself with one last Eminem reference, “Slim Shady’s going back to 8-Mile”. Rampage is not as impressed and calls Taylor a “one trick pony”.
Josh Hall (3-2) vs Matt Brown (9-6)
Sometimes they save the best for last. In the fight of the night, Josh Hall, TUF Season 6 winner Mac Danzig’s good friend and former training mate of Rampage Jackson, was pitted against Team Jorge Gurgal fighter Matt Brown.
Brown, who once defeated TUF Season 6 standout Matt Arroyo and was praised by UFC veteran Chris Lytle after facing him last summer, says in the pre-fight interview that there’s no strategy for this fight, “it’s kill or die”.
Once the fight gets underway, Hall shows off his strength and wrestling ability by going for a double-leg takedown. He almost gets it, but Brown counters with great balance and a nice take down defense.
Hall has some success up against the cage with some dirty boxing. He lands a couple of leg kicks, but Brown snaps some sharp jabs and throws a few heavy kicks of his own. Hall keeps working until he finally gets Brown down. Brown stays calm and uses his Jiu-Jitsu to fend off Hall’s punches.
After a bit of a stalemate with Hall in Brown’s guard, Brown is able to lock in a triangle choke. Hall tries a few times to slam out of it. Griffin thinks he’s expending too much energy with his slam attempts and shouts out warnings to Hall.
Hall finally rolls out of it, but leaves himself open, and Brown takes advantage by mounting him and unloading a relentless ground and pound of hammerfists. With the clock winding down, Hall tries to hang on. Brown’s punches are clearly hurting Hall, and with only 2 seconds left in the round, Herb Dean steps in and stops it.
Rampage calls Brown, “relentless”, Griffin has a look of surprise at how good Brown is, and White says,”That kid, he’s an animal, right there, he’s an animal”.
The show ends with Dana White complementing all the fighters, “We came up with this concept to get rid of the p***ies and the posers. I can say there’s none here today”.
As the credits roll, the narrator sums it all up:
“After a baptism of blood 16 men remain. Who will be able to run the gauntlet and become the next Ultimate Fighter?”
The 16-man cast for TUF Season 7