Tony Ferguson is in the finals. | Photo Courtesy: Spike TV
They left us with a cliffhanger a week ago, thanks to the last-minute drama coming from Tony Ferguson’s drunken blowout with Charlie Rader. What started as a minor slight of the pouring of beer over one’s head turned into an unabashed fiasco, as Ferguson threw an otherwise tranquil house into a tailspin while bringing Rader’s son into the equation.
We rejoin the boys the next morning, and it appears Ferguson will not be getting out of the doghouse anytime soon, as he receives the cold shoulder from fellow “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 13 cast members.
“A drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts” says Chuck O'Neil, Ferguson’s semi-final opponent. “He’s burned a bridge with everybody.”
Later that night, Ferguson tries to mend fences.
“I want to say I’m sorry to everybody,” he says, admitting he had too much to drink and claiming he does not remember anything.
O’Neil is not buying it.
“I’m not bashful so I took the bull by the horns” says O’Neil, before openly taking Ferguson to task and telling him how everyone was disgusted by his words.
Ferguson reiterates his apology.
“I could sit here and apologize to you guys over and over again,” he says, “but I know you guys won’t listen.”
Fight day follows, as Ramsey Nijem and Chris Cope meet in the first semi-final.
“He’s a goofball; none of us thought he’d be a force to reckon with,” says. Cope. “I go into every fight now thinking that the person I’m about to fight is the most crazy, ludicrous, insane athlete that I’ve ever faced, but when that cage closes, that’s the moment I tell myself, ‘You know what? I’m better.”
Soon, it was time to put those words to the test, as Nijem races straight at Cope and throws a bevy of punches. Several connect, but Cope stays upright and staves off a takedown attempt. Nijem looks eager to finish the fight early, throwing some combinations to set up another shot, but Cope keeps him at bay.
After a minute or two of inaction, the two welterweights are separated. Cope finally scores, as Nijem walks right into a stiff jab, snapping his head back. Cope misses wildly with an overhand before taking a foot to the midsection from Nijem. Both get a few more licks in before the end of the round, but Nijem’s aggressiveness likely won him the first.
Nijem asks his corner for ice on the inside portion of his leg between rounds. Meanwhile, Cope’s coach, former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar, tells him he did a good job.
Cope aims for the tender spot to start the second round, tagging Nijem’s inner thigh with another leg kick. Nijem connects with a jab and, moments later, throws the most looping of looping overhand rights that hits its mark. In response Cope smiles and lets out his primal “Whoo!”
Nijem goes for it all again, as they tangle against the cage. This time, his flurry finds Cope’s chin several times, slowing him to a crawl before finally dropping him. Cope remains lucid but defenseless, and Nijem jumps on to finish, as referee Steve Mazzagatti stops the bout just a minute or two into the second round.
“That’s probably the best feeling I’ve had -- ever,” Nijem says.
The show moves right into the next weigh-in between budding enemies Ferguson and O’Neil.
“Lesnar thinks Tony is the toughest guy here,” says UFC President Dana White. “I personally have become a Chuck fan. I think he’s tough and gritty and really wants to win”
The first round between these two was a calculated slugfest, as they connect often with leg kicks and crisp punching. O’Neil stands up straight, while Ferguson keeps his head low and tucked into his chest. They are fast on the draw, as they knocking each other around and maintain their distance. Ferguson lands a short Superman punch that backs up O’Neil. Ferguson catches a kick and pushes his foe to the ground, only to let him right back up. He then finishes the round with some crisp shots that knocked around O’Neil.
Though he catches Ferguson occasionally when he steps in, O’Neil has a hard time with the constant movement. Rader corners “Cold Steel” and warns him to move more often.
“Your straight punches are good,” Rader says, “but you have to give him something to fear.”
Ferguson takes over in the second round. Stalking O’Neil, he becomes more comfortable with each exchange and begins to connect almost at will. O’Neil scores with some leg kicks and jabs, but Ferguson’s feints and movements have him always adjusting and reacting too late. Ferguson appears content to settle down in the pocket, where he outboxes O’Neil and keeps him on the edge of looking a little lost.
Ferguson is masterful with his inside leg kicks. Against anyone but O’Neil, he probably would have sewn up the semi-final much sooner, but “Cold Steel” is one tough nut to crack. He withstands the peppering and occasionally catches Ferguson.
In the third round, Ferguson is relentless with his attacks on the lead leg. O’Neil is forced to take steps backwards and hobble around, a move which only serves to make him slower in a fight where he is already the tortoise. Every time Tony changes things up and goes to the body, he lands it, and every time he throws a kick, O’Neil is thrown off his base. It becomes painful to watch.
Ferguson throws a left and right that crumble O’Neil against the fence, but referee Herb Dean allows him to rise after Ferguson allows it. By now, O’Neil’s face is a bloody mess. This is the first moment he has been truly rocked, but the summation of damage is taking its toll.
Ferguson again kicks to the inside part of the leg and follows it with a straight to the head and a shot to the body. O’Neil is on his way down before it lands. Dean sees that O’Neil has nothing left and waves it off, sending Ferguson into a final matchup with Nijem at “The Ultimate Fighter 13” Finale on Saturday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
Said White: “Tony, in this fight today, proved he’s the real deal.”