Is the world ready for a kinder, gentler BJ Penn? Based on what we’ve seen in these first three episodes, Penn is relaxed. Humble. Mature. Zen-like even. None of this is to say that he was some raving egomaniac before, but there was always some element of haughtiness and arrogance surrounding the old Penn (that he was able to back up more often than not). I’m not sure what I expected. He’s been on the shelf for so long and been through so many ups and downs career-wise, it’s good to see that he’s settled down.
Still, it’d be nice to see him just rear back and slap Frankie Edgar in the face for no reason, right? I’d laugh.
Tension is rising. First blood has been spilt (figuratively speaking, last week’s fight devoid of any bloodshed) and Team Penn is up one to zip. Cathal Pendred plays the good sportsman even as Hector Urbina stares a hole through him. After Pendred leaves, Urbina jokes that he might just "shank his ass later". It’s funnier when you actually hear him say it.
Sleep with one eye open, Irish.
Renzo Gracie, er, graces Team Edgar with his presence. It’s unfortunate that my last memory of him is that brutal fight with Matt Hughes. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, I mean "brutal" as in unwatchable, not in terms of actual violence. At one point, Hughes actually helped Renzo to stand up off the mat he was so gassed. That one made Pendred/Urbina look like Don Frye/Yoshihiro Takayama.
I do always enjoy watching Renzo talk and teach. He has such an upbeat attitude. He pumps up Team Edgar by telling him that when he was younger he would have to beat up his larger, younger brothers all the time. It’s a fun story that reeks of Gracie revisionism. I bet his brothers tell it differently.
Penn demonstrates how he spins like a break dancer to get an armbar from bottom position. It looks awesome. Does he think the others are going to be able to do it like him? He forgets that he’s BJ Penn sometimes.
This week’s storyline revolves around Todd Monaghan’s life as an evangelist and a preacher. He decides to preach to the team every Sunday. Many religious fighters have passed through the TUF house. I can’t recall any of them being so eager to integrate their spirituality into the house. Were this to happen on a previous season, I can imagine the segment being played for laughs with lots of shots of bored or disapproving faces and wonky music cues.
Hector and the others feeling the Holy Ghost.
Instead, like everything else on the show these days, they play it straight. Monaghan’s opponent, Daniel Spohn, attends out of respect and also to see where Monaghan’s head is at. Questions about Monaghan’s mindset dominate the episode. None of Team Penn is convinced by his schtick, particularly Pendred who seems downright annoyed that Monaghan would feel the need to muddy up his message by emphasizing the material things that God had blessed him with.
Pendred: "Actions speak louder than words. He’s full of words, no actions though."
Later, Corey Anderson expresses his concern that Monaghan might be overconfident. The team fears that he only focuses on positive results, a consequence of his faith perhaps? Team Edgar is smart to advise caution, but on some level they might have messed with his head too much.
Spohn has a certain intensity about him as well, though it’s channeled more noticeably through his training and exercise. He rings Josh Clark’s bell when they’re sparring, a callback to the vicious knockout he dished out to get into the house. Penn has him pegged as a dark horse. The team suggests that Spohn go for ground and pound rather than a one punch KO. They believe Monaghan will be looking to stand. Penn pegs Spohn as a dark horse to win the competition.
Pendred gets the smart idea to have gym mats brought to his room. Has nobody done this before? Now Team Penn guys can train whenever they want. I anticipate conflict over whether or not Team Edgar guys can roll on them followed by the mats being destroyed or disposed of in some inappropriate way.
I think this qualifies as a fight club.
Spohn is a sensei at his gym and he teaches his team the "iron body" technique, which is supposed to help them relax. It just ends up making them really sweaty. Those mats are going to be friggin’ disgusting after a couple of days.
These #HowDoYouKFC segments are rough. That’s the last time I’ll mention them unless something interesting happens.
Everyone describes Monaghan as a go-getter with a big heart. He’s all offence and no defence, something which Spohn takes full advantage of. As soon as he starts coming forward, Monaghan freezes up. Two hard punches land and then Spohn gets a takedown just like Team Penn instructed.
From there, the action becomes nearly non-existent. I wouldn’t describe it as "lay and pray" since Spohn executes some nice guard passes. However, his ability to improve position so skillfully only makes his lack of output even more noticeable. He is so reluctant to throw punches or elbows or go for submissions that there is legitimate risk of the action being reset even though Spohn is in full mount. I haven’t seen that happen since Bobby Lashley had the same thing happen to him against Chad Griggs.
At one point, Spohn gets too high on the back and Monaghan decides to duck down and spike him into the mat. I’m not sure how legal that was and it looked like it could have gone poorly for both guys.
Ugh.An arm bar escape by Monaghan puts him in good position to throw hands from up top. Somehow he trips and falls right back to the floor. He’s certainly…unorthodox.
And this with the "Godfather of Ground and Pound" cageside.
This is the second straight fight where Edgar’s fighter has looked flat in the wrestling department. Monaghan would later say that he anticipated a stand up battle and neglected his takedown defence. Well that was f**king dumb.
Dana White is furious at both guys: Spohn for not letting his hands go and Monaghan for not listening to his coaches.
White: So then you’ve got Todd Monaghan who has Renzo Gracie and Frankie Edgar in his corner yelling instructions…and [Monaghan] literally did not do one thing that they said. These guys who are unbelievable cornermen are telling you how to get out of the mount, telling you to do these things…he literally did nothing that they said! You may as well have me in your corner or somebody else that knows nothing.
Spohn takes the decision (though Monaghan almost tapped out to a rear naked choke at the very last second), which is somehow both one-sided and lacklustre. He failed to impress the most important judge: Dana White. If Spohn doesn’t make it to the finals, don’t be surprised if neither guy gets scheduled for a fight after the show. This one made Hughes/Renzo look like Don Frye/Yoshihiro Takayama.
Next week: Tim Williams v. Dhiego Lima. Also, is a good fight too much to ask for? That’s two snoozers in a row with no heat or storyline between the competitors. Has TUF season ever been cancelled before? Hang in there everybody. We made it through Shane Carwin, Roy Nelson, Julian Lane, and Colton Smith, we can make it through this.