Sherdog’s Guide to ‘The Ultimate Fighter’

By Scott Holmes May 18, 2011
It was time for the TUF 13 semifinals to begin. |

“I did something to my back,” complains Shamar Bailey to teammate Justin Edwards at the start of this week’s episode, shortly before Bailey’s upcoming opponent and resident snake-in-the-grass Chris Cope slinks by.

Once outside, Cope lets unleashes one of his now-traditional “Whooo!” screams, which have really gotten under Shamar’s skin in recent days. Bailey can’t wait to get in the ring and convince Chris to abandon his morning bellows.

UFC President Dana White surprises the fighters this morning by corralling them for an impromptu meeting with UFC fighter and former U.S. Marine Brian Stann. The “All-American” gives the contestants a little speech on how being a Marine has benefited him as a fighter. The talk stops short of a recruiting speech when Stann transitions into how high-level fighters have to be just as disciplined as the men in the military.

“Success breeds success,” says Stann, imploring the young men to “live your life at that level.” It’s like the UFC’s version of the “don’t be a jackass” and “surround yourself with the right people” talks that rookies get when they enter the NFL and NBA.

The first quarterfinal matchup is between Team Dos Santos standout Ramsey Nijem and Team Lesnar’s Clay Harvison. Coach Junior dos Santos works with Ramsey on a striking plan, and they talk about adjusting the range when fighting Harvison. Nijem speaks about being a Palestinian-American and his feelings on his current position, geographically speaking.

“I’ve been to Palestine and I’ve been through the stops. I’ve seen the guns and the walls,” says Ramsey, all too happy to be able to do his fighting in the cage.

Nijem’s opponent, Clay Harvison, is still suffering from a dislocated finger with a limited range of motion.

“Gotta make do with what you got,” shrugs Harvison, ready to fight just a week after his bone first poked out of his pinkie.

Coach Brock Lesnar is prepping Harvison for the eventuality that Ramsey will shoot in for a takedown. Lesnar draws on his experience fighting Shane Carwin and demos a Carwin maneuver as an example of how to cancel Nijem out. Whether it’s the editing or a change of heart for Lesnar, he’s started to appear more “coachey” in the past few weeks. It’s becoming less about Brock and more about what Brock can do to help. Winning might have had a little something to do with that, too.

Heading into the weigh-in, Dana gives a quick breakdown of Harvison.

"Clay’s a kid I have a lot of respect for,” says White, who has grown accustomed to calling just about anybody on his payroll under 40 a “kid.” It’s unclear whether they seem like young kids to him, or if it’s a keep-you-in-your-place thing. Maybe he just knows too many dang fighters, and “kid” is much easier than having to remember their names.

At the weigh-in, “Stripper” Ramsey lives up to his billing, pulling down his pants to reveal some very revealing briefs. Dos Santos buries his laughing, ruby-red face into his hands. Nijem squares off with Harvison and then feigns a slight turn of the head, as if going in for a kiss. Harvison pulls back before a Heath Herring-type situation can surface. Everyone loves Nijem, though, and they laugh it up. Even Brock sports a grin.

Just before the fight, Ramsey pukes to relieve some of his pre-fight jitters, while Harvison whacks away at the focus mitts, blocking out any pain in his injured finger.

“Just got to turn it on and hit the switch,” says Harvison. “When we’re done, we’ll be cool again. We won’t be making out, though.”

Harvison comes out swinging with big shots, but Nijem slips under his second set of strikes, shooting low for the takedown. Harvison turns, allowing Nijem to take his back, where Ramsey methodically lands a few set-up strikes to get his rear-naked choke. Harvison taps within the first minute.

Junior dos Santos might be right,” says an impressed White. “This might be the kid to beat.”

Nijem celebrates while Harvison is dejected by his performance, despite some accolades from Dana on his toughness.

“I’d much rather get taken three rounds and just beaten to a bloody pulp than fall for a rear-naked choke,” says Harvison. “I’m pissed at myself.”

Next up are Bailey and Cope. White explains that the fighters think that Chris is the weakest guy, with Shamar being the toughest.

Dos Santos speaks on Shamar’s back injury, saying that it’s getting much better and won’t be a problem in his fight. The wrestler Bailey plans to keep Cope backing up and take him down at will.

“Even though he doesn’t like me much, I like him a lot. I think he’s a nice guy,” says Cope, who has drawn the ire of Shamar. Cope’s hearty war-yelps used to stir Shamar from slumber each morning; now that Bailey has put him on notice for it, Cope seems to do it every five minutes.

“I guess Chris has been staying too positive for him in the house,” laughs Lesnar.

“He’s like an action figure,” whispers Charlie Rader as the ripped Bailey steps onto the scale.

“I honestly think the toughest guy is Shamar,” Chuck O’Neil says, adding that “Chris is going to be the guy that outworks you and takes your heart away. And if you let that happen, Chris is going to beat you every time.”

White’s not fooled by the musculature of Bailey, and the UFC boss notes that he wasn’t impressed with Shamar’s first fight. Shamar plans on changing that impression; unfortunately for him, he gets nowhere with it in the cage. Cope’s length and upright stance has Bailey bent backwards and out of the camera’s frame, much less within punching distance.

Shamar rushes forward, swinging at where Cope used to be. Cope dances around until he’s pinned against the fence. This same sequence repeats for the duration of the fight. Shamar tries to knock or take down Cope, but Cope stays far away, stuffing shots and adding up points with ear punches and body blows whenever Bailey stalls.

Dana figures that Shamar hit the wall: once he realized Cope couldn’t be taken down easily, Bailey got frustrated and folded. After two rounds, the scores read 20-18 on all cards and Cope upsets the favored Bailey. Dos Santos and Bailey are both fully convinced that Shamar won since Cope was always running away, but Shamar never really mounted any offense. Shamar feels like Cope did nothing but hide, and is increasingly convinced that he really put on a show.

“I just want to let you know I took a risk,” Bailey says as he corners White in the hallway. “I could have took the easy way out and just took him down, but I just wanted to let you know I could do some other things too.”

Dana shakes his hand, but says, “It looks like you tried to take him down a bunch of times.”

“Well,” Shamar says, pausing. “Back.”

Bailey tells Dana how his injury played a major role in his inability to put Cope on the ground. Dana doesn’t press him further, but later he muses about Bailey’s situation.

“What’s funny is, Shamar came in and said he wants this fight so he can come in and kick Chris’ ass for waking him up every morning,” laughs White. “Hey, Shamar, I bet you’re going to get woken up now every day for the rest of the competition.”

Proving Dana’s point, Cope lets out one more of his war-whoops as he struts out the training center door.
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