One of these people will get redemption tonight ...
- Joe Stevenson, the only fighter from Team Dillashaw to lose his first fight.
- Cody Garbrandt, who seems to be auditioning for the bully role in an 80s movie remake.
The preview throws us a curveball. We're apparently going to get two fights AND the coaches’ challenge.
We go straight to Hassan's fight prep, where the assumption is that Stevenson, battered in a fight just a few days ago, is going to shoot for takedowns. Garbrandt puts him in a fight simulation, rotating teammates and coaches who go in, hold pads and then shoot.
Dillashaw comes in for training, but Garbrandt is ready to confront him about stuff Dillashaw said on social media, including the assertion that Cody is "a different person on and off camera." Given how Garbrandt has looked on camera -- which, we should always point out, could be a trick of editing -- that sounds like a compliment.
"I'm getting in his head, man," Dillashaw says, hyping an upcoming fight that has since been scrubbed.
Stevenson fight prep: Dillashaw wants Joe Daddy to work on head movement. He goes to the cage and shadowboxes while ducking under ropes. Also noteworthy: He'll be fighting on his son Tyler Ray's birthday.
Weigh-in: The guy from the Nevada commission must have all his purple jackets at the dry cleaners, so he turns up sans coat. And we're off to confessionals from other fighters, pretty much the only way they're getting screen time in episodes in which they're not fighting. The most interesting: Justin Edwards, who beat Stevenson, thinks Hassan will win in more spectacular fashion than he did. These guys this season are remarkably humble.
After the weigh-in, we get something I can't remember seeing in any previous TUF episode: Stevenson asks to pray with the guys from the other team after the fight. He says he feels mutual love from both teams and gives an impassioned confessional about the humanity of fighters. Maybe someone should hire him to mediate the UFC's current matchmaking issues.
Hassan's last pre-fight confessional: "It'll be an honor to get in and throw punches with you."
Stevenson's: Happy birthday, Tyler Ray.
Fight starts with Hassan shuffling quickly across the cage to throw punches. One uppercut lands hard. Joe falls. It's over in a matter of seconds.
Hassan prays. Garbrandt gloats.
Stevenson says the punches you don't see are the ones that knock you out. He prepared for the left hook. A right uppercut dropped him.
As promised, Stevenson goes to the Garbrandt dressing room to pray, and a lot of his teammates join him. After an eloquent speech on respecting all faiths (Hassan is a Muslim, Stevenson's a Christian) and an equally eloquent prayer, Hassan responds by leading a cheer: "1-2-3, Joe!"
So Hassan and Edwards are the only remaining fighters from Team Garbrandt, which should make quarterfinal matchup deliberation interesting ...
Or not. We see none of it. We immediately cut to the fighters in the gym, where the coaches announce the matchups.
Tom Gallicchio vs. Edwards. Tom: "Let's see if we can get fight of the season." Justin: "Damn straight."
Dhiego Lima vs. Gilbert Smith. Lima says he has to stop the takedowns, kick and keep him at distance.
Jesse Taylor vs. Hassan. Taylor, famously kicked out of the finale in his TUF season, has looked solid.
Krause says it's going to suck fighting the dude in the bunk above him. Nijem says he turned up the intensity as soon the fight was announced.
Gallicchio fight prep: Stevenson, the only fighter eliminated from Team Dillashaw, has become an assistant coach. He helps Gallicchio train to fend off the Edwards guillotine.
Edwards fight prep: Garbrandt hypes Edwards’ rear naked choke defense and has him train on it some more.
All of the above was in the first 30 minutes of this episode. Dana White wants to do the coaches' challenge. As always, he says it's his favorite part of each season.
On an obviously chilly day — we have an Octagon Girl in a robe — the teams walk into the backyard at the house for a game of balance-beam tetherball. It’s exactly as it sounds. If you fall in the water, you don’t lose the point right away, but you’d better scramble back up before the ball makes it around.
The coaches get in wet suits and ride inflatables out to the center of the pool.
Dillashaw: "If you'd told me I could've made $10,000 playing tetherball as a kid, I'd have played a lot more of it, you know?"
Or maybe Dillashaw should’ve tried gymnastics. He falls off the balance beam before the game even starts. Garbrandt slips once in the first few points and nearly lands jewels-first on the beam, but that’s the only point Dillashaw gets. It’s 5-1 Garbrandt. Dillashaw gets his bearings and fights back, but Garbrandt still pushes his lead to 8-4.
Then the unthinkable happens. Garbrandt slips into the water and messes up his hair. As he says in confessional, that’s his kryptonite.
Also distracting Garbrandt: Ramsey Nijem, who is talking trash about “Uncle Urijah (Faber)” not being there to save him.
"I don't even know what I was saying,” Nijem says. “Just out there drinking a couple of Buds."
Garbrandt isn’t amused. He pledges to work on “staying focused so I can go smack Ramsey in his mouth." That sentence has an inherent contradiction.
And indeed, Garbrandt has lost his edge. Dillashaw cuts it to 8-6. 8-7. 8-8. 8- ... OK, let’s cut to the chase — Dillashaw won the last six points and celebrated with a somersault into the pool.
"I mentally broke him," Dillashaw says. Then he tries to translate that into a prediction for the upcoming fight that won’t actually happen.
Garbrandt gets a modicum of revenge, with someone from his team tossing Nijem in the pool.
Then we do indeed rush off to the first quarterfinal. Commission Guy has a gray jacket. Gallicchio has a lot of torso hair.
The prefight confessionals are unanimous: Gallicchio doesn’t have much of a chance. Even his teammates are skeptical. Krause says Tom has an edge on the ground, but “there's a huge gap in the striking department.” Nijem, who beat Edwards, says Tom is going to have to show us something we haven’t seen yet.
Gallicchio knows he’s the underdog. He always is, he says. He takes fights he’s supposed to lose. He even took a tournament where he was supposed to lose every time, which sounds like something no commission should allow.
In the dressing room, Dillashaw and Gallicchio hug, and Gallicchio squeezes a fart out of his coach. This show is teaching us all sorts of new things about fight prep.
Last ad break at 10:50 p.m. ET. This will be a short fight. How’s the Cavs-Warriors game going? Oooh, close.
Gallicchio has a six-inch reach advantage. But after they touch gloves, the gap in striking is apparent even to a technical ignoramus like me. Gallicchio starts with a soft leg kick, and every strike looks telegraphed. Edwards lands punches at will, and within 30 seconds, Gallicchio is down. Edwards follows him to the canvas and goes for the guillotine.
But Gallicchio scoots free and takes Edwards’ back. That’s a bigger momentum swing than we saw in the tetherball game. Edwards defends for about a minute, but he eventually taps.
And Team Garbrandt is down to one fighter — Hassan.
The happy-go-lucky Gallicchio recaps the fight: “Well crap, I got clipped! All right, let’s grab a leg.”
Eddie Gordon: “We did not give Tom enough credit. The guy’s a black belt, and he can take a punch.”
Edwards: “I blew it.”
Gallicchio already has $30K for his progress thus far. He pledges to buy more candy machines. Surely someone is planning a reality show in which Dillashaw abandons the fight game to join Gallicchio’s business. Tom and T.J.’s Sweet Ride, coming soon to a network you’ve never heard of.