’s Guide to TUF 9

By Scott Holmes May 28, 2009
Last week on “The Ultimate Fighter,” UFC President Dana White took Jason Pierce out of contention after the fighter’s poor medical condition yielded an even poorer mental disposition.

White and Co. now have to decide who will be taking Pierce’s place to fight David Faulkner from the U.K. team. If you’ll remember, there are some questions surrounding Faulkner as well. Like, can he keep his mouth guard in?

White brings in eliminated fighters Mark Miller and Frank Lester to talk with them about replacing Pierce.

“It’s just a nose, I’m not getting any prettier,” says Miller when White asks him if he is good to go.

Miller’s nose is broken and Lester isn’t fairing too well either since he lost four of his teeth in a fight just days earlier.

“The teeth don’t matter. Dan [Henderson] fights toothless all the time,” says Lester, getting a laugh from White.

In the meantime, Lester’s American squad is still trying to figure out why Pierce isn’t fighting. His teammates are back in the “bash room,” where they like to talk smack. The big topic is Pierce’s situation.

“This is ‘Lord of the Flies’-esque coming on here, and Pierce is Piggy about to get the knife,” says Santino Defranco.

“I knew he wasn’t going to man up,” adds Lester.

Damarques Johnson thinks they should take all of Pierce’s training gear away and burn it.

However, Lester has more on his mind than Pierce’s inadequacies. The way Lester sees it, the TUF title might be his by divine right.

“I got here as an alternate, right? I made it in the house with a crazy-ass win. I fought my heart out, lost some teeth. Got beat up pretty bad,” Lester explains to housemate Cameron Dollar. “If I can get like a f---ing fifth opportunity to fight? Oh, I’m winning. It’s meant for me to win. God meant for me to win.”

Who needs God when you have Dana White on your side?

“When somebody comes up to me that determined, that fired up and basically he’s like, ‘they’re just teeth,’ when I talk about what real fighters are, that’s what I’m talking about,” says White. “I’ll give a kid like that an opportunity all day long, every day of the week.”

Coach Henderson fills the U.S. team in on Pierce’s replacement. Miller’s nose is too fudged up and with White’s blessing, Lester is back in.

Hendo’s worries about Lester’s face, however. It got pretty roughed up last time and it’s only been a few days and he hasn’t had time to heal.

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Faulkner let Bisping down.
“He will give it 100 percent, no matter what, with that beat-up face,” says Henderson following a training session where Lester looks a little spacey.

Hendo also decides to change up his team’s training times, making Bisping’s team alter their current schedule from evening to morning sessions. Bisping just won’t have it and tries to get his entire team to back him up and back Henderson down.

Rules are the rules and Henderson has the right to switch things up, no matter if the U.K. group will spend the week bleary-eyed and groggy.

It’s always fun and important to remember that TUF is a reality show with an out-of-whack timeline. It’s only been a few days, or even hours, since Henderson beat Bisping in tennis and some of the commentary from the cheap seats that day still has him fuming.

Bisping, upset that he isn’t getting his way with this training-time nonsense, decides to squirt half a glass of water into Damarques Johnson’s face as he walks past. Cooler heads prevail, but there’s trouble brewing between these two. Of course, the one season where most of the fighters are under control, we have a coach starting s---.

“I would fight Bisping in a f---ing parking lot,” says Johnson after he takes a few moments outside to collect himself.

Faulkner versus Lester is officially announced and Faulkner begins to focus on his biggest task -- keeping his mouthpiece in.

“The only worry I have going into fights is me gag reflex,” says Faulkner.

A hypnotist is brought in and she puts Faulkner through all the steps -- curing him, I’m sure.

Lester is becoming one of the guys to root for this season. In a conversation with DeFranco, Lester figures that going back out into the Octagon one more time to prove himself will lead to him being a good father and husband down the line.

With Lester’s teeth out and Faulkner’s mouthpiece in, we have a fight on our hands. Faulkner takes the first round, landing a few flush punches that effect the banged-up Lester. Henderson implores Lester to use his reach advantage, repeating “Jab, jab” at least one hundred times during the first round. Lester doesn’t listen, letting Faulkner get in close where he scores a takedown or two. Faulkner is able to connect on that touchy face of Lester’s several times while they separate out of the clinch.

Between rounds, Dana White explains to the visiting Tapout crew how Lester lost his teeth in the last fight. It was good to see Mask, even for a moment, wincing and laughing with the rest of the crew at the thought of Lester’s painful dilemma.

In the second round, Lester battles back. Lester often loads up and swings with big hooks. He connects whenever Faulkner steps forward. Faulkner begins to wilt from fatigue, aided by knees to the midsection from Lester. Faulkner gets in a few shots, but there is nothing behind them anymore and Lester out-muscles the Brit anytime he tries to get in close. Faulkner is spent and nothing is getting any easier with Lester controlling him in the clinch.

It’s now one round apiece.

White announces a third, sudden-death round and Faulkner is balking.

Bisping get in his student’s face and pleads with him.

“Think of your kids,” says Bisping, but Faulkner shakes his head. “Think of all you worked hard for.”

Faulkner continues to say no.

“You’ll regret this forever,” adds Bisping, but Faulkner refuses to answer the bell.

This week, the story writes itself.

Frankie Lester joined the show as an alternate, fighting every step of the way. He lost his second fight and came back to make one of the U.K.’s strongest members quit on his stool.

“Good s---,” says Dana White in approval. “Good s---.”

“U.S.A., U.S.A.!”

The chants rise through the gym and Bisping looks like someone just keyed his car. Back in the locker room, Bisping hears Faulkner explain how dry his mouth was and Bisping’s skin is crawling. He pulls his remaining four fighters out of the room and gives them a talk.

“If you want it, you got to take it,” he says. “You can’t sit on a stool and expect it to fall into your lap.”

The remaining lads nod.

So what’s next for David Faulkner? In his post-fight interview, he says that it’s on to horror movies or pro wrestling. So, let me get this straight. This guy is supposed to be one of the premiere U.K. up-and-comers and he can’t get through three rounds?

“I’m one step closer to being an official badass,” says a victorious Lester.

You don’t need a notary to make it official Lester -- you are a badass indeed.
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