"I understand why don’t they don’t use veterans. Frankly, we’re boring. We train, eat and sleep right. We’re not drinking three days before a fight. That makes for boring TV. That’s why you’ll never see a veterans season again."
So far in this "Redemption" season, Thompson has proved prescient. Nothing has happened in the house except for Cody Garbrandt's visit, which introduced "hanging with my boyzzzzz" to Tommy Toe Hold's palette of imitable moments.
Meanwhile, the T.J. Dillashaw team is 5-0 against Team Garbrandt.
So a nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Julian Lane. Can he stop the Garbrandt slump? Or can he at least have an epic house meltdown as he did in his previous stint on the show?
Julian's home video says he has no gyms back home in Ohio, so he had to go to New Jersey to work with another TUF alum, Dante Rivera. He also shoots some video back home in Ohio to see his kids. The video has a Friday Night Lights feel to it, as if we're going to see Tim Riggins pop out of the woods and preen for a while. But instead, we meet his daughters, who are ridiculously adorable. He and the daughters' mom aren't together, but they're getting along well.
The girls cry when Julian leaves. After that, it's hard not to root for him to do very well so he can afford to be with them during his training camps. Or maybe he could do very poorly so he quits fighting and stays home with them. Either way.
The remarkably coherent first segment ends, and we're off to meet Lane’s opponent, Ramsey Nijem. He describes his first TUF appearance as "unique." He said he'd never do it again. And yet, here he is.
Yes, he was called "Stripper Ramsey" in recognition of his frequent nudity, and to this day, he gets offers to ... well, strip. But he could also fight. He made it to the final, where Tony Ferguson knocked him cold. He calls that a wake-up call.
And he got some more UFC fights at what he calls his natural weight, 155. He was 5-5, but a split decision loss to Andrew Holbrook -- one that didn't sit well with Nijem -- was the end of the road. He says he didn't want to sign the contract the UFC offered, so he walked away from fighting.
The next year was rough. Not much money. A car accident. Then he decided to come back.
Not mentioned: He signed with World Series of Fighting. But he never fought for them and hasn't fought since the loss to Holbrook in July 2015.
Then we cut back to Julian, who flashes back to his TUF 16 experience, starting with his loss to Bristol Marunde. "I was young and immature," he says. "There are a couple of incidents where I blew up in the house. I'm sure everybody knows about it. One was 'Let me bang, bro.'"
He doesn't lack for self-awareness. Or self-reliance -- he's his own manager. "I took a lot of fights I shouldn't have," fighting on short notice against hometown guys.
They've done a lot to make Lane look likeable. Wonder how that'll jibe with the supposed weigh-in scuffle we've been promised in the ads.
Back to Ramsey -- because of the accident, this is the longest break he's had from sports since he was about 5 or 6. We see him doing a bit of yoga, which was a novelty when Diego Sanchez did it but now part of the deal.
Over to Ramsey's home video, and he's in one of the best places in the world -- Park City, Utah. He and his girlfriend, Whitney, work out and stay super healthy together. His late-night drinking binges are over.
Weigh-in time. Our unnamed commission guy is there again.
Dana White is candid in assessing the fighters. He's not sure Lane is UFC material. Nijem definitely is.
After each fighter steps on the scale, we get the much-hyped conflict. Let's see if we can go through it slowly and make sense of it:
- Lane gets up in Nijem's face. Unnamed Commission Guy sticks a hand in and says, "Easy, easy."
- Duane Ludwig, serving as a Team Dillashaw coach, stands up. Garbrandt says he'd better sit down.
- Garbrandt (in confessional, so obviously after the fact) says Julian is a hard-core dude, so you know he was going to come out like this. But Ramsey "came out of left field" with his elbows out. That ... means something? Apparently?
- Lane yells "What!" a couple of times before Unnamed Commission Guy steps in.
And that’s it. Nijem and Lane walk away, and ...
Oh, right. The coaches. Team Garbrandt coach Justin Buchholz starts chirping at Ludwig. He gets a confessional, which he decides to do shirtless, and he claims Ludwig hasn’t been around much. While Lane looks confused by a couple of assistant coaches stealing his spotlight over absolutely nothing, Ludwig finally responds that he has a family and business. Buchholz: "What, you've got Intro to Kickboxing?"
Buchholz crows that Team Alpha Male has the world champion. Ludwig says "Good job" and comes over to shake hands.
Garbrandt confessional: "They're going to act calm and play like they're the good guys. But really, they're the bad guys. That's fake to me. That's something I won't stand for."
Buchholz to Ludwig: "How about we fight on the prelims." Ludwig laughs and taps him on the shoulders.
Someone in the Garbrandt entourage finally gets tired of being unable to bait Team Dillashaw into acting like idiots, so he throws a jab. A big guy in a Dillashaw shirt steps in to be the voice of reason.
Ad break. We return to a bunch of bleeps and Garbrandt hopping onto the cage apron to try to get around the crowd. His own fighters step in.
And then we realize. On this episode, the fighters are the boring veterans Nick Thompson mentioned. The coaches are the immature youngsters. When Nijem fought Tony Ferguson on the TUF 13 finale, Garbrandt was a 19-year-old amateur.
The gym clears out, but Buchholz wants to continue his filibuster, both to Ludwig and the confessional camera. They seem to be finishing up — Ludwig again offers his congratulations for Alpha Male’s success, Buchholz apologizes for picking on the old guy, and Ludwig smiles.
Back to confessional again. Buchholz is getting the most screen time of any assistant coach since Lew Polley in TUF 13. That didn't go so well for Polley. Buchholz takes credit for coaching Dillashaw, saying he taught T.J. how to throw his first jab.
Finally, Ludwig gets a confessional, saying they're acting like they're in junior high and obsessed with hounding Ludwig for reasons he doesn't understand.
And again (must be a short fight this week), we're back to the gym. Ludwig says Buchholz is looking for attention. He drapes an arm around his former teammate and points to a camera to give Buchholz the attention he craves.
Then someone sprints in from out of nowhere to try to swing at people. It's ... Cody! And practically everyone in the gym tells him to cut it out. Fighters from both teams, showing no animosity toward each other, shuffle out the gym door with the resigned expressions of fans who just saw a boring 0-0 soccer game.
Dillashaw confessional: "You know, my take on Cody ... he's not very smart and can't put things into words."
The closed captioning tells the final bit perfectly:
Man #1: I felt like I was watching my parents fight.
Man #2: Who gets the kids?
And we're off to fight day.
Ramsey's excited. It's been a long time. And he's fought people who are a lot better than Julian in his UFC tenure.
Julian believes God put him here for a reason. He has no fear and will be UFC champ one day. Shoutout to his daughter for her fourth birthday.
Round 1: They both come out throwing. Lane throws a lot of jabs and moves out quickly when Nijem changes levels. Then Lane tags him. Good start for Lane.
Nijem shoots for the takedown but gets caught in a guillotine. Team Garbrandt yells that he's tapping. Then they change to "He's hurt." Nijem spends a painfully long time fighting out of it and pressing Lane to the cage. But Nijem apparently lands a low blow, and the ref pauses the action. Then we get one of the strangest questions a ref has ever asked: "Do you want the same position?" Really? My back up against the cage? Um, no thanks.
We repeat. Nijem goes for a takedown but leaves his neck exposed. He looks like he’s about to go to sleep.
But again, Nijem survives and stands. Then another takedown, and Nijem easily moves to mount. His ground-and-pound is brutal. The ref warns Lane that he to fight back. Lane's mouthpiece goes flying, and the ref says, “That’s it.” Garbrandt can't believe it's stopped and has a few words in response.
In the fight recap, Dillashaw wonders if Lane verbally tapped. But he also floats the possibility that Lane might come back for the wild-card bout.
Ramsey and Julian exchange compliments. Lane may not have won, but he may have "redemption" on his image.
And in TUF Talk, we learn that Ramsey -- the one who convinced Dana White to offer a $5,000 finish bonus -- spent that money on a trip to Hawaii with his girlfriend. And he bought a ring. His girlfriend is now his fiancee.
The fight announcement is anti-climactic. The only fighters left are Joe Stevenson -- yes, the TUF 2 champion and a one-time challenger to B.J. Penn's title -- and Justin Edwards, the last pick in the draft and now the only person standing in the way of a Dillashaw landslide. It's 6-0 T.J.
Meanwhile, the discussion topic on TUF Talk: Have the coaches made it about themselves?