Tony Ferguson (file photo) was impressive against Justin Edwards. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
We’re six weeks into the 13th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and anyone hoping to see Junior dos Santos and Brock Lesnar at each other’s throats has been sorely disappointed thus far.
Both men have been focusing their energies on the triumphs and trials of their teams and skipping the smack talk between one another. Oddly enough, the only real friction thus far has been between Dos Santos and his own coaching staff, particularly assistant coach Lew Polley. They just aren’t on the same page, leading to a good cop-bad cop situation where “Cigano” likes to coddle his boys, while Polley would rather throttle them.
Dos Santos doesn’t read as an emotional guy on camera, but he’s clearly fuming underneath. In a scenario that’s becoming a little too familiar for the UFC heavyweight contender, Polley is once again contradicting him as Dos Santos tries to build up losing team member Mick Bowman. We’ll get back to that later.
Brock Lesnar’s got no coaching issues, just health concerns. He’s already lost one fighter to an ACL tear and now, with Clay Harvison’s pinkie bone jutting out of the skin, he’s obviously going to lose another. Putting a positive spin on it, Brock tells fighter Len Bentley that all this misfortune has put Bentley in a good position to be chosen for the wild card fight.
Smash cut to Bentley writhing in agony and grabbing his knee after a takedown in practice goes bad.
“I’m speechless,” says Lesnar. “I just want to exit the building,” he adds, before doing just that.
In a nearby emergency room, Harvison is in the midst of having his broken pinkie stitched up when Bentley is wheeled into the same room.
“Look at my knee, man,” Bentley says, causing Harvison to drop back in disgust. Luckily, the doctor on duty says it’s just a patella dislocation, which should be mild enough to allow Len to stay in the game.
Back at the training center, the Dos Santos-Polley saga is coming to a head. Junior has caught wind that his assistant coach attempted to enter the fighters’ house “unsupervised” earlier that morning. Dos Santos has been clear that he wants all coaching decisions to be discussed beforehand, so he considers this to be a disrespectful and calculated move. He pulls Polley aside to have a talk about it.
“I talked to you the night before,” pleads Polley, trying to build a case, but the damage is already done.
“You can leave. I don’t need you here anymore,” says Dos Santos, stunning Polley. “I don’t like how’s the vibe here now.” Dos Santos’ English is broken, but the message is clear. He’s not looking to argue about it, either. Polley walks out the door, ending possibly the most civil argument in reality television history. No histrionics; just calm discussion followed by a calm exit. Of course, UFC boss Dana White famously sent home Tito Ortiz during the show’s 11th season after Ortiz bowed out of his fight with opposing coach Chuck Liddell, but this is the first time anyone’s sent home one of their own coaching staff.
Later in the evening, Team Dos Santos discusses the fallout of losing Polley over dinner.
“Lew will be missed, but in the end, it’s Team Dos Santos,” says Zach Davis. Teammate Ramsey Nijem is more worried about not having somebody who speaks fluent English in his corner.
While Team Dos Santos deals with that void, Team Lesnar prepares for the wild card eventuality.
“I feel like the wild card spot is mine,” says Bentley. “I don’t feel anyone on this show fought as hard as me, is good as me, or looks as pretty as me, so I feel one of those wild card spots is reserved for me.”
With two opening-round fights still remaining, this feels like a foreshadowing of disappointment for the “Liger.”
Following their win last week, Team Lesnar has regained control of the matchup choices. Brock chooses his own Tony Ferguson to face Dos Santos charge Justin Edwards, whom Lesnar refers to as “Randy Couture’s long lost son.” With only two fighters remaining, the final fight is also chosen by default. Team Lesnar’s Chuck O'Neil will finish out the prelims against Zach Davis, who earns the mantle of “Gary Busey Jr.”
Edwards calls himself the “alternate to the alternate” and knows he’s got a big opportunity, considering he wasn’t originally slated to be on the show. His opponent, Ferguson, feels like he’s right where he needs to be and shows up to their fight wearing a suit and looking all business. It’s also Ferguson’s birthday and he presents a little box given to him by his parents.
“Inside this little box, it has my dream,” says Ferguson. “Every single day, I kiss it and I hold on to it tight.”
It’s soon time to see if that dream box works. The title of this week’s episode is “Mean Streak,” a designation Brock gave to Ferguson, but it’s Edwards who comes out with guns blazing. Ferguson backs up as Edwards rushes forward with a barrage of kicks and punches to start the fight.
“He just blew his wad,” says Lesnar, commenting on Edwards’ breakneck pace in the opening minute.
Ferguson begins to use his jab and length to try and keep the slowing Justin at bay. Edwards is not fully gassed, though, and he bullies forward with wild, looping shots, trying to take Tony’s head off. Whenever Edwards covers up, Ferguson loads up with big body shots, hooks and uppercuts shot from the hip.
Edwards makes a great level change during one furious exchange, going low and planting Ferguson on his back. After receiving a few elbows to his shaved dome, Edwards chooses to stand back up, where he wings a few punches from on high as Ferguson lies prone. Ferguson makes his opponent pay for staying in the danger zone, turning his hips and landing a big upkick to the chin which drops Edwards for good. Ferguson pounces and lands a few more shots, but Edwards is gone and it’s a done deal.
“We were looking for the knockout all of the time,” Dos Santos says afterward, admitting “that was a little bit dangerous.”
“Great fight. Great fight,” says White, shortly after announcing that he was glad to get out of bed on a Saturday for this.
Soon after the abrupt end to that fight, we go straight into the final preliminary matchup between Davis and O’Neil.
“I don’t think Zach understands what he’s about to get into to,” says O’Neil in the pre-fight hype. “I’m going to go in there and I’m going to pull that trigger, simple as that.”
“Chuck really isn’t a physical specimen, so I know he’s not going to rely on his physical attributes,” says Davis. “He’s probably got a trick up his sleeve, so I don’t want to underestimate him.”
The fight starts and Davis scores a takedown a split-second after they touch gloves, setting the stage for a ground battle. Chuck works his way back to his feet, staving off an early exit. The two battle for position a bit until Davis goes low for another takedown and forces O’Neil onto his back. Davis planned on smashing O’Neil against the fence, but Chuck locks onto a wrist for a sub attempt-slash-sweep, allowing him to slip out and get on top.
O’Neil drops a few heavy shots on Zach’s face as Davis is briefly stuck in the position he hoped to have Chuck in. Before O’Neil can get much offense going, though, Zach adjusts his position slaps on a quick triangle choke, forcing O’Neil to tap inside the first round.
Chuck storms off to the locker room, incredulous at the outcome.
“I never get caught in triangles!” he shouts.
“Never’s not a word in fighting,” replies Lesnar.
“It doesn’t have to be a standup war,” says White, thoroughly impressed with Zach and Chuck’s ground skills and fully appreciative of the fact that both constantly worked for the finish. With White so hyped over the final two fights, it’s suddenly looking like Bentley’s wild card RSVP might be lost in the mail.
With all the prelims out of the way, White pulls both coaches into his office to discuss the wild card matchup. First, Dana has good news and bad news for Justin Edwards. The good news is that both White and the coaches wanted Edwards in the wild card fight. The bad news is that a 90-day medical suspension courtesy of his KO loss will keep him from continuing on.
With that resolved, White and the coaches begin parading the remaining candidates into the office, one-by-one, asking each, “You want it?”
None of the fighters show much enthusiasm and White’s not particularly convinced by any of the answers. Lesnar and Dos Santos pretty much agree and give White some frank appraisals of the prospects.
“Not only are they giving me their honest opinion,” says White of the coaches, “but they’re actually talking with each other and agreeing with each other. It was very, very weird.”
Once the final decision has been made, White sets forth to serve notice to the hopefuls. He calls Javier Torres and Chuck O’Neil to step forward, and that’s that. They square off before the episode ends with an incredulous Len Bentley looking into the camera.
“I’m just... I’m just, honestly, I’m confused,” says Bentley.
Looks like the prettiest girl at the prom didn’t get asked to dance.