Hey readers, remember when I said I’d be ranking the best looking Ultimate Fighter contestants...
Okay, I didn’t quite lie, but I’ve made the decision to turn it into a separate post at some undetermined point in the future. There’s some political speak for ya. For now, let’s concentrate on what really matters:
TEAM CANADA 3-0 BABY WHOO WHOOOOOOO! Surely, nothing can go wrong.
In the aftermath of last week’s brawl, Chris Indich expresses his displeasure at the Canadians saying they’re going to sweep. Nordine Taleb is hanging around and it falls on him to explain the unkind criticisms he and his team have had of Team Australia. Indich says that all the talk of a sweep is premature, a comment that is in itself premature since he didn’t actually do anything to disprove that argument. Don’t get me wrong, he definitely showed that he belongs in this competition, but I’d say he takes a punch better than he takes insults. I wouldn’t be surprised if he suffered a concussion during that fight even though he wasn’t knocked out. I won’t hold him accountable for his indignant attitude.
Just to remind everyone that us Canucks are all class, Chad Laprise makes sure to give Indich the first slice of his celebratory cheesecake. That’s a nice way of apologizing for f**king someone’s face up.
"Matt Riddle got an Xbox 360 and all I got was this lousy cheesecake."
They get to talking about their respective strategies. Both men are surprised that the other wanted to keep it standing, especially Laprise who inquires about Indich’s jiu-jitsu credentials:
Laprise: You’re a purple belt, aren’t you?
Laprise: Thought so.
Laprise: I don’t really train a whole lot of gi.
Indich: I should have took you down.
The good vibes continue with a short scene featuring the Australians having a snowball fight. That has to be a new thing for most of them. I wish I could remember what it was like seeing snow for the first time. Though after having to shovel my driveway several times in the past week, I also wish I never had to see it again.
Manawaroa: "It’s so soft, but then it can be hard as well." That’s what she said...wait, what?
There’s not much to say about this episode since they’ve done a solid job of laying out the groundwork for the Taleb/Tyler Manawaroa matchup over the previous weeks. It’s a good thing too because the fight itself ends up taking up a huge chunk of the program. All we need to know is that Taleb is the intense killer and Manawaroa is the wild card. Here’s what Vik Grujic has to say:
Tyler’s our madman. He’s a crazy son of a bitch! He’s wild as all hell. When you spar, when you train with the guy that’s pretty much what you get. Martial arts is about self-expression so, you know, when you’re watching somebody like Tyler fight that’s just him expressing himself.
I like Grujic. I’m actually rooting for him to make it past the first round so that he and Elias Theodorou can battle over the nickname "The Spartan". The stakes could not be higher.
The boys engage in some slap fighting after weighing in. There’s a noticeable difference in musculature, which you’d think I’d have learned to overlook by now. I just can’t help but think that Taleb is going to kill this kid. All of the testimonials back me up, which actually makes me worry about misdirection. Do I sense an upset?
If this were proposed as a bodybuilding contest, no commission would authorize it.
Earlier in the episode, I thought Indich had overstated the effect that his performance had on Team Australia’s morale. I may have spoken too soon.
Manawaroa has a decent jab. It lands often, particularly when Taleb is trying to set up his heavy stuff. Taleb seems unsure of how to proceed. Nothing he throws lands with any real impact, not enough to slow Manawaroa down anyway. Neither fighter can find any sort of rhythm. Team Australia has to be encouraged by Manawaroa hanging in there with Taleb who had been established as one of Team Canada’s aces. It’s a tough round to score. I’d lean towards a draw, but the judges might give Taleb the 10-9 due to some good knees in the clinch. Coaches will need to make adjustments.
There’s a rough looking low blow by Taleb to start the second. Manawaroa foregoes the standard five minute recovery period. He wants to scrap!
The Canadians have been trying to steal points with coordinated cheering. It’s most noticeable in this fight due to Taleb’s sporadic offence. The tactic reminds me of Greg Jackson’s constant chatter when he corners.
A nice jab by Manawaroa causes Taleb to fall or maybe trip. Either way, it’s the most significant blow of the fight and Manawaroa is definitely winning the second round. Taleb throws an awful spinning backfist as time winds down, made only worse by the fact that he’d taken a spinning elbow from Manawaroa seconds earlier. We’re headed to a third (I would have given a 20-19 win to Manawaroa) and neither man looks fresh.
Taleb continues to stalk Manawaroa, but he doesn’t cut him off. He hasn’t cut him off the whole fight. Manawaroa lands just enough to stay ahead. It’s not looking good for Team Canada. Taleb almost steals the round with a takedown. He manages to get to side control and that should clinch it...but Manawaroa sweeps into full mount! He fights hard for a rear naked choke that’s going to look good to the judges even if he doesn’t get it.
The fight is almost too close to call. Manawaroa takes it and I can’t argue. I can, however, disagree with the assessment that it was a great fight. It reminded me of the praise that was heaped upon Jessamyn Duke and Raquel Pennington last year. Tough? Gritty? Hard fought? No doubt. But I don’t think either fight was particularly entertaining. The personal investment of the fighters and the live atmosphere obviously add a lot to the experience, something anyone who’s attended even a minor league MMA event can attest to.
The Aussies, terrifying in victory.
It turns out Taleb injured his foot in the first round, which explains a lot about his performance. He and Manawaroa get to talk and recount the battle in the hospital afterwards and it’s kind of awesome. Taleb talks about how impressed he was with the younger man’s ability to control distance and Manawaroa compliments Taleb on a punch that messed up his nose. I’m surprised we haven’t got more scenes like this in the past. I like to think this is how it usually goes when fighters meet up in the hospital (*cough* Joe Riggs, Nick Diaz *cough*).
The glitz and the glamour of professional cage fighting.
The upset of Taleb got me thinking of other TUF favourites who were supposed to have their way with the competition. This isn’t the first time the show has built someone up only to see them fall flat. Here are some past contestants who suffered ignominious flameouts.
· Bobby Southworth – the future Strikeforce light heavyweight champion struggled to make weight, but did manage to knock off Lodune Sincaid in short fashion. He would lose to Stephan Bonnar and then Sam Hoger at the first TUF finale, Southworth’s only fight in the UFC.
· Chris Leben – Leben was nigh-unstoppable before entering the house, even having knocked out fellow contestant Mike Swick in the past (something he was not shy about bringing up). He was blanketed by hated rival Josh Koscheck and then brought back as an injury replacement. His second chance resulted in an emotional upset loss to Kenny Florian.
· Kimbo Slice – in retrospect, can any Kimbo loss really be considered an upset?
· Marc Stevens – Georges St-Pierre pretended to be invested in Stevens, only to trick Coach Koscheck into picking his boy first overall. It was all downhill for Stevens after that as he lost by guillotine choke in both his elimination round and wild card appearances. He never made an official UFC appearance.
· Justin Lawrence – it might be unfair to list Lawrence here, since he did win his first fight in impressive fashion; however, he came into the tournament with a gaudy kickboxing record and flashy striking skills and it wasn’t enough to overcome the spirited Michael Chiesa in the quarterfinals.
· Bubba McDaniel – Jon Jones’s friend and training partner, he had a huge experience advantage over his first round opponent: Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum turned out to be pretty good. Bubba was then given a wild card spot, which did net him a win before he was stopped in the quarterfinals by Uriah Hall.
· Shayna Baszler – in a battle of 1st overall picks, Baszler was submitted by Julianna Peña, a talented upstart who would go on to become the first female TUF champion.
The funny thing is, there have also been plenty of situations where a fighter was expected to destroy his competition and they did exactly that. I always enjoy an audience getting suckered into believing some schlub has a chance. Sorry Jason Thacker and Wayne Weems, the fight gods care not for your underdog story. Here’s a short list of fighters who lived up to or surpassed their lofty expectations (TUF champs only):
· Diego Brandão
Next week: Finally, Kyle Noke got to pick a fight! He goes with Australian Richard "Filthy Rich" Walsh v. Canadian Matt Desroches. Also, I continue my elusive hunt for the Canadian ring girl. Until then...KAHILI!