Last week's episode of UFC's The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen saw the first two semifinalists named, as Kelvin Gastelum and Dylan Andrews advanced in a pair of upset wins. This week, we see who joins them before next week's semifinals and live finale. The fights last week were excellent - a quick and violent KO in one, and a drawn out war with a dramatic KO ending in the other. Not much more you can ask for than that. This week's episode has the definite potential for more fireworks. Join us as we break down the fights in this preview.
Good fight here, with the more experienced and more favored Samman against the submission specialist Quinlan.
Josh Samman has carried himself with a lot of confidence this season, rubbing some people the wrong way. He's an accomplished fighter, with a solid record against some notable opponents. He holds wins over Chris Cope and Mikey Gomez, plus a loss to Dan Cramer in Bellator. Samman is a very relaxed fighter who just does things the right way for the most part. His fight with Troeng was almost deceptively straightforward as he worked the clinch against the cage, then ended Troeng's night with punches. That is typical of Samman's style - he likes to gain control, find an opening, then go for the kill. Normally, that control comes on the ground, where he does a good job riding opponents before looking for the ground and pound. If he can, he'll use his double punch to get that ground and pound win - a surprisingly effective technique that you wouldn't expect to come from the more reserved seeming Samman.
The undefeated Jimmy Quinlan is a clear specialist as he's a submission fighter all the way with a decorated grappling resume. Quinlan's gameplan is clear and no mystery at all - go for the takedown with everything you have, then, once the fight is down, get the submission. He's been successful with this strategy so far, though all of his pro wins have come against a very low level of opponent. Against Hester, this strategy worked, but it was a rough road getting there as Quinlan took a lot of damage trying to secure that takedown. He definitely has a serious submission game, and is the kind of fighter that can capitalize on a single ground mistake to secure the win.
On the feet, it's clearly advantage Samman, though given Quinlan's relentless takedown style, I doubt that stand-up game will play much of a factor. Specialists often do well on TUF, as they have the specific skill to exploit an opponent's weakness. The trouble for Quinlan is that Samman is a solid fighter who is no slouch on the ground himself. He's clearly not the sub fighter Quinlan is, but I see him punishing Quinlan on the takedown much like Hester did. The main difference? Samman won't gas, and will keep that pressure on until the last bell. Quinlan could score the flash sub here, but I see Samman grinding him down too much.
Prediction: Josh Samman by decision
Along with Samman, these are the "stars" of this season so far - the fighters who have most intrigued with their personalities, for good or for bad depending on your perspective. Now they meet in what could be an intense fight.
It's been a tough road for Bubba McDaniel to make this quarterfinal. With over 7 years experience and 26 pro fights against the likes of Alexander Shlemenko, Bubba came in to the show as a favorite. His time training with Greg Jackson and, notably, Jon Jones helped in that regard. The trouble is, Bubba certainly viewed himself as the favorite, and the result has been a weird battle with his own head. Against Gastelum, Bubba seemed to freeze up and lost. He got back in through the wildcard fight, punishing Casey to the point of exhaustion. Bubba is a weird fighter who I have a hard time putting my finger on. He's more of a kickboxer, yet the majority of his wins come via submission. Jones speaks very highly of him, but he hasn't shown a ton in TUF. In the end, I suspect Bubba may be one of those Keith Jardine types who training partners swear is the best guy in the gym, but can't seem to hit that same level inside the cage for whatever reason. In his last fight before TUF, I think the announcer summed Bubba's career up best, noting he "kind of expected more by now."
Before TUF started airing this season, Dana White made some waves by declaring that one of the fighters was a "monster" who no one wanted to fight. Uriah Hall is that monster. His spinning hook kick KO of Cella was a thing of brutal beauty that demonstrated his superb striking skills. On the feet, Hall is a real talent, favoring a wide range of kicks - all of which pack power. He does have grappling skills, though they tend to be a plan B in his game behind those kicks. While Hall is yet to score a win over a notable opponent, he has faced a tough level of competition, with his only MMA losses coming against Chris Weidman and Costa Philippou - no shame in either of those. Hall too has been struggling with his emotions so far on the show, though it's yet to get in his way inside the cage.
When you look at these two head to head, Hall is the superior striker, has more power, is better on the mat, and is mentally tougher. I just can't see a path to a Bubba victory here. Dana promised violence from this "monster" - was the Cella KO just the beginning?
Prediction: Uriah Hall by KO
Join us Tuesday night on Bloody Elbow for live discussion to see who moves on.