It took two episodes and 16 “win to get in” fights to decide the 16 men for “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 cast.
Tonight, in episode 3, the fighters finally move into the TUF house. The first fighter we hear from is outspoken Matt Brown, who’s telling another fighter, “I’m already confident, I feel I can beat anybody in this house”. Of course, since all 16 fighters are coming off wins, they all seem to be feeling a bit on the overconfident side, as we hear again and again from most of the fighters.
The first order of business as always is picking teams. Dana, and his two coaches, Forrest and Rampage enter the gym with all the fighters lined up. A flip of a dual colored coin decides who picks first. Rampage is blue and Forrest is brown. Blue wins!
Before Rampage chooses a fighter, Dana instructs him that as the winner of the toss he can either choose the first fighter or choose what the first match-up will be. As is tradition in the TUF series, the coach whose team wins a fight always gets to choose the next match-up, and Dana stresses the importance of this to Rampage even after Rampage decides he wants to choose the first fighter.
No surprise here, Rampage takes a fighter made from his mold, former collegiate all-american wrestler C.B. Dollaway. Forrest quickly chooses Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Tim Credeur, who had possibly the most impressive victory from the week before. The rest of the picks alternate back and forth.
In the order they were picked here are the final selections and the fighter’s MMA record:
1. C.B. Dollaway (6-0)
2. Matt Riddle (1-0)
3. Paul Bradley (5-0)
4. Daniel Cramer (0-0)
5. Gerald Harris (6-2)
6. Mike Dolce (3-4)
7. Jeremy May (5-5)
8. Brandon Sene (2-0)
1. Tim Credeur (10-2)
2. Amir Sadollah (0-0)
3. Jesse Taylor (6-2)
4. Matt Brown (9-6)
5. Cale Yarbrough (0-0)
6. Dante Rivera (10-2)
7. Nick Klein (3-0)
8. Luke Zachrich (7-1)
With the teams picked, Forrest chooses the first fight, Mike Dolce vs Jesse Taylor. The 6 vs 3 seed seems to make Taylor the favorite. Though not in the episode, as Forrest Griffin explains in his blog at INSIDE FIGHTING.com, Forrest was actually limited in what matches he could choose. This was because of a rule that stated that any of the fighters who fought more than one round had to have at least three days off. And since episodes 1 & 2 were filmed just a couple of days before, he could only choose certain guys.
The first bit of drama develops almost immediately upon the conclusion of the teams being picked when Rampage and a few other fighters notice a blotchy red patch on wrestling standout Paul Bradley’s neck. Some of the fighters toss around some easy-made “love-bite” jokes, and what seems like fun and games turns quickly to fear of contagion when Bradley let’s them all know that the patch on his neck is a herpes outbreak.
Some of the other guys on Rampage’s team show little sensitivity with their reactions—“cooties” and “I ain’t rolling around with that” join a building chorus of chatter that Bradley should be quarantined until his outbreak goes away.
A skin doctor is called in and tells Dana, Bradley and the coaches that it could be contagious and that stress causes these kinds of outbreaks. The doctor prescribes some pills for Paul and we cut to the first workouts by the teams.
While Bradley is relegated to a treadmill, we get to watch Rampage and his lead assistant Juanito Ibarra train TEAM RAMPAGE. Rampage doles out his wisdom with his humorous street-wise aphorisms. In what will surely join his growing list of classics, Rampage tells a fighter, while trying to show him how to push an opponent away when in guard position, “When you push a guy off, pretend like you’re in prison and he’s trying to get your booty!”.
Juanito has some good motivational one-liners too. While trying to hammer home the importance of eating right he snorts, “I can tell by your spit what you’re eating”.
Forrest’s two main assistants are a Jiu-Kitsu teacher named Clayman, who Forrest claims has no last name, and TUF 5 wrestling standout Gray Maynard.
Unlike Rampage who wants to be a coach one day, Forrest has no such aspirations, “I’ll never be a coach, but I know how to run a training camp”. His best line of the night comes while he’s extolling the virtues of hard work,”Fellas, the juice is worth the squeeze!”
When the next day of training begins, the Bradley situation finally gets resolved. Dana calls a meeting with the nervous fighter and Rampage. Dana tries to soften the coming blow by telling Bradley that this is the hardest cut he has ever had to make since the show’s inception.
In tears, Bradley tries to convince Dana to let the pills the doctor gave him have a chance to work. Dana can’t take the chance of the herpes spreading to the other fighters. Bradley pleads. “I left my other job as a wrestling coach for this. Now I got nothing”. Dana sympathetically tells him even if he wanted to he couldn’t cause it’s a legal issue.
Still in tears Bradley says goodbye to his teammates, who all now feel sincerely bad for him, except for Jeremy May, who seems mostly relieved.
The show moves closer to fight day and we get to know Mike Dolce and Jesse Taylor a bit better.
Dolce speaks proudly of being the youngest tax assessor in his state’s history. His supreme confidence borders on arrogance when he speaks about how he’s going to beat Taylor. In an odd juxtaposition, one that seems planted to give Dolce an heir of humility—we see him lying on his bed reading the Holy Bible. While he reads we hear his voice over, “I’m looking to put my hand through the back of Jesse’s head, and then I’ll cook him dinner later that night”. The audience is left wondering if Jesus would approve.
If not as well spoken, Taylor is just as confident, “I chose to *uck school. I’ll do what I’ve been dreaming of since I was a kid”. The Big John McCarthy look alike impresses Forrest with his work and prompts Forrest to exclaim,”He could be the next Matt Hamill”.
With the first elimination fight nearing, there’s one last order of business for Rampage and Dana to decide, who will replace Paul Bradley. Rampage decides he wants Aaron Meisner, who lost in last week’s episode to Brandon Sene. Dana tells him he hurt his knee in that fight and is unavailable. The choice is revealed after the commercial break. The alternate fighter that was chosen is Patrick Schultz, who was choked out by Luke Zachrich the week before. Dana says Rampage’s assistants saw something they liked in Schultz, but Dana thinks it’s a poor choice.
We finally get to spend a little time in the famous TUF house the night before the fight when Rampage makes a surprise visit to his team. He hangs out with them and gets to know his guys.
The funniest moment is when he trades barbs with Matt Riddle. Riddle confesses, unabashedly, that he lives with his mom and doesn’t even have a driver’s license. When Rampage tells the guys that he took up fighting when he was still in the ninth grade at 17 years of age, Riddle jokingly questions him about the reason behind being so old and in such a low grade. Rampage puts him back in his place without missing a beat, “same reason your dumb*ss doesn’t have a license”.
Fight day arrives and we watch Dolce and Taylor prepare for the big day. Dolce meditates in the pool, and thinks he has the mental edge. Taylor is eager, “I’d fight every week if I could”. He thinks it’ll be a brawl and that he has the edge, “I’m more of a smart brawler than him”.
Mike Dolce vs Jesse Taylor
The fight gets under way. Taylor quickly gets Dolce’s back and works for a rear-naked choke hold. Dolce is able to get a reverse and mounts Taylor. He throws some forearms and elbows, but Taylor is able to muscle out of his guard and re-mounts Taylor.
Dolce gives up his back and Taylor works most of the rest of the round trying to clamp in a rear-naked choke. Near the end of the round Taylor gives up on the hold and tries some ground and pound. He is hitting Dolce with hammerfists and elbows when the round ends.
Clearly Taylor’s round.
Dolce throws a right hand, Taylor takes him down easily. He gets into Dolce’s half-guard, and pounds on him until Dolce gives up his back. Dolce is wearing out, and after a few more hammerfists, Taylo locks on the rear-naked choke hold again, but this time he gets under Dolce’s chin and put’s him to sleep.
Jesse Taylor winner by submission (rear-naked choke).
Upon winning, Taylor pukes in his corner. According to Forrest Griffin in his blog at INSIDE FIGHTING.com Taylor downed an energy drink right before the fight because he felt tired. While Forrest wasn’t happy with Taylor’s pre-fight snack, he was very impressed with Taylor’s energy, and especially his wrestling ability, “He was very energetic, and when he got hit in the face, his wrestling came back.”
Back in the dressing room while Dolce is trying to remember what happened, Dana surprises Taylor by not only giving him the normal $5,000 for winning, but a bonus $5,000 for winning by stoppage.
Dolce, shows little grace in his post-fight interview by questioning his coaches inability to know how to train him to his liking.
So, IFL vet Mike Dolce is out, and unfortunately so is wrestling standout Paul Bradley, but Patrick Schultz gets another chance.
And while TEAM GRIFFIN strikes first, it was a rough week for TEAM RAMPAGE, who lost both their # 3 and # 6 fighters and a big “no thank you” from Dolce to boot.
16 fighters entered the house, only 15 now remain and as the booming voice of the narrator says, “Who will survive the trial by fire and emerge as the next Ultimate Fighter?”