Sherdog’s Guide to ‘The Ultimate Fighter’

By Scott Holmes Jun 11, 2010
With Tito Ortiz out, Rich Franklin is in and Dana White wastes no time giving him a tour of the upgrades made to the TUF training facility. After extolling the virtues of the new treadmills, the two head into an office for the exchanging of signatures on a fight contract. Then Dana has the red team file in so he can introduce the new assistant coaches: Forrest Griffin, Tyson Griffin and Gray Maynard magically appear.

Franklin didn’t know he’d be coaching when he agreed to fight Chuck Liddell, hence the special helpers. They all agree to build on Kris McCray’s existing skills as opposed to rocking his boat so late in the game. Of course having those four pick him apart helps McCray out immensely.

On the other team, Liddell and Hackleman are trying to adjust to a change in opponent for Liddell.

“I go from fighting a guy I hate to one of the nicest guys in MMA,” sighs Liddell.

Brad Tavares isn’t thrilled to be facing teammate Court McGee either: “It’s impossible not to form a bond with these guys.”

Those bonds strain the coaches as well.

“We figured it would come down to this eventually,” says Hackleman, explaining the difficulties of training both guys equally while still giving them distance.

This season the preferred method of hazing at the TUF house has been late-night sleep disturbances based on the use of air horns. This time the tables have turned on the usual suspects Jamie Yager, Brad Tavares and Kyle Noke, as air horns and Silly String are employed. Tavares doesn’t enjoy it since he has a fight slated for the next morning. Tavares explains that he never woke people up when he was being loud -- OK -- but in the heat of the moment, he drops the red team’s prized chess set off of the landing.

It is a different type of chess the next morning when McGee and Tavares step into the cage. After a very thorough feeling-out process, McGee closes the distance and wills Tavares to the ground. McGee looks for position, but Tavares kicks him off with a foot to the hip. Back on their feet, any tentativeness is out the window and they both wade in with flurries. After glancing blows, blocked kicks and punches to the face, McGee lifts Tavares up for a last-minute takedown to end a busy first round.

Tavares steps into a big right hand from McGee and gets back up in the second, earning an “ooh” from the spectators. Most takedown attempts from McGee are stuffed by Tavares, and they tag each other enough that when Dana White says, “He’s got a chin on him,” he could have been talking about either fighter.

Going into the third round, Chuck tells White he hates watching and not coaching. He has to wince when there are two stops in the action for kicks to the apple bag. McGee receives a warning, but it won’t matter after some frantic swinging leaves Tavares staggering to the floor. McGee had connected with some big follow-up shots before, but this one puts the hurt on Tavares, giving McGee the lift and dump he’d been looking for the whole fight.

Quickly McGee takes Tavares’ back and chokes him out completely with seconds to spare. McGee leaps from Tavares’ limp body and does a one-handed cartwheel of pure joy. “Wooo daddy” is all Dana White can say, pleased as punch at the effort given by both men.

Court McGee was a sleeper this season, but now he has secured his spot in the finals and Brad Tavares has his very first loss.

The next day Dana calls in the troops to meet some actual troops from the USMC. The Marines spend the day training the fighters in self-defense. Ironic you say? Well, this is the kind of defense revolving around knives and revolvers. After a day spent disarming each other, the soldiers show up at the UFC house for some food and camaraderie. It is clear the fighters are genuinely interested in these soldiers and their stories. Thank God no one peed in their BBQ.

Later, Yager wants to take everyone’s left shoe. Uh oh, this never ends well. Sure enough, once the shoes go missing, rice is tossed, flour is dropped and trash is thrown, resulting in James Hammortree and Yager nose to nose and ready to settle this shoe-rice-flour-trash issue like men.

After Hammortree, Kyacey Uscola and Clayton McKinley began to hammer Yager about quitting on the stool during his fight. Eventually it escalates to Uscola challenging Yager to a fight in the yard, but while Uscola paces outside, Yager looks out the window like a sick child wishing he could play with the rest of the children.

“He has a problem answering that bell, doesn’t he?” says Uscola.

I guess you can add Hammortree and McKinley to the list of people hoping to fight Yager during the finale.

“I’m going to break his fro in half,” says McKinley.

Now it’s time for the lone remaining red team member, Kris McCray, to attempt to get some revenge on Josh Bryant.

“We’ve taken the things that Kris does and honed in on them collectively as coaches,” says Franklin, hoping that McCray will use the tricks given to him by the motley crew of coaches.

McCray points out that if he wins, he’ll have had the toughest road to glory since it will be his fourth fight in four weeks.

Bryant versus McCray isn’t as technical an affair as the first semifinal, but it never has more than eight seconds without some slugging. Bryant is his usual self, absorbing plenty of damage while remaining dangerous. He starts to get off as McCray slows down toward the end of the first.

McCray earns a frank rebuke from Rich Franklin to get off the fence after letting Bryant push him around in the first. McCray then does a much better job of not hovering around in the pocket after separating from the clinch. It is another three close rounds of put-your-head-down-and-swing, but this time McCray is able to dictate the pace. In the end he takes the decision.

Chuck’s disappointed for Josh mostly because he’s convinced that he “sat back” and allowed McCray to steal the show. Shaking his head and sporting a super fat lip, Bryant keeps it pithy and uses the word “gay” to describe what it was like to lose to someone he’d beaten before.

After the fight, Franklin deadpans that he had never been an undefeated TUF coach, until now. He then gives all the praise to the crew of all-star assistant coaches, and McCray calls his win a “storybook ending.” But as we all know, the final chapter has yet to be written.

Kris McCray’s story will conclude when he and Court “Courtpanzee” McGee meet for all the marbles in the June 19 finale, and it has all the makings of a great one. With McCray you have someone making the most of a second chance. He defeated the man who knocked him out of contention, and McGee is an admitted former drug addict who seems to get better by the second and will be looking to redeem himself by becoming “The Ultimate Fighter.” Good night and good luck.
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