Dustin Pague is a champion in the 'good guy' department. | Photo: Keith Mills
We begin this week with members of Team Miller directing their van driver to a nearby curb. One might think that with the biggest fight of his life looming, Dustin Pague would only have himself on his mind, but standing near the curb is a homeless man and Pague leans out to hand him a Ziploc bag filled with fruit.
“Here you go, sir. God loves you, brother,” Pague says. It's a true good deed from a member of the group known as the “Bible Study” boys.
“We don’t do too much other than train and pick on each other,” says Pague, who hopes to make a little difference in the man’s life, if only for a full belly.
Another member of group Bible Study is teammate Johnny Bedford, who explains that it’s great to have a guy like Pague around. Bedford says that fighters are always battling negative stereotypes, and that Pague helps debunk some of them.
“There are hooligans and bad people,” says Bedford, adding that given the size and scope of the sport of MMA there are all sorts of characters within its ranks, even good guys like Dustin.
At the same time Pague’s moral training is peaking, his fight preparation is coming along nicely as well according to Coach Mayhem. Lately Pague’s spent time working on moving his feet to avoid takedowns and create angles which will be crucial in his fight with T.J. Dillashaw.
“I think I’m the underdog,” says Pague, who knows he’s got an uphill battle against Team Bisping’s second-best bantamweight after finishing off their first pick, Louis Gaudinot.
After training, Jason Miller’s tires screech outside at the TUF mansion, as he and his coaching crew roll into the house for a BBQ. Following the feast, a group is shooting the breeze outside when a challenge is laid out: eat a cockroach, win money.
“Show me the money and I’ll eat a cockroach,” says Pague and instantly the patio posse sets out to find la cucaracha.
“They are like castaways on an internet-less island,” says Miller, happy to prey on their boredom. “It was only natural that we go into a Joe Rogan, 'Fear Factor'-esque challenge.”
The search party returns with a tiny roach, a roly poly and a baby beetle, stuffing them into a Gatorade bottle that still has some fluid in it. Pague takes it all down to the delight of peers and his Mayhem is delighted to pay the "Fear Factor" winner's fee.
“I am freaked out by spiders and crawly things, and I put them in my mouth and I chewed them. What is wrong with me?” laughs Pague.
The next day, both teams arrive at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, where Dana White is awaiting them at the Ghost Bar on the roof. Before him stands an air hockey table which can mean only one thing: it’s time for the coaches’ challenge. Neither of the coaches is thrilled with the choice of air hockey.
“This isn’t my cup of tea, I’ll put it that way,” says Bisping, while Miller mutters “Damn it, I should have trained for this."
White lays out the stakes, with the winner earning $10,000 and each of his team members receiving $1,500 if their coach wins. It’s the 14th season and approximately the 14th time Dana has said that this is his favorite part of the season, mostly because it provides relief for the fighters. Bisping wins the first two games easily and begins to trash-talk, leading to his boss throwing some cold water on his optimism.
“To be honest with you,” says White, before pausing, “... they both suck.”
Most of Miller’s points come from Bisping’s own shots. Once Bisping begins jawing at his rival coach, White thinks the Brit might blow it. Miller promptly fights back to take the third game, and White thinks Bisping just might lose.
“That was a damn stressful situation honestly,” says Miller, who succumbs to the pressure and allows Bisping to take the final game.
A jubilant Bisping jumps up on the table to wave around his winnings, only to fall flat on his back when attempting to hop back down. Both teams erupt in laughter.
“One minute, you're celebrating, 'I’m the king of the world,' and then you are laying on your ass looking like a jackass in front of millions of people on television," explains White. Bisping says his elbow is a little sore but that the cash took away any sting from the fall. Afterward, Miller laments not being able to score any cash for his team members since they could all use it. but he assures the home viewer that “the real coaches challenge is on Dec. 3."
Back to tonight’s matchup of T.J. Dillashaw and Dustin Pague. Team Bisping assistant coach Tiki Ghosn calls T.J. the best wrestler on the show and says his combination of ground skills, strength and punching power put him in position to “impose his will” on his opponents.
In the first round, Dillashaw and Pague spend a minute trying to find one another’s range before the Team Alpha Male fighter blows right throw Pague with a tackle takedown. Pague angles for a submission attempt off his back, but Dillashaw powers through and continues to look for some ground-and-pound. Eventually, Pague gets to his feet and rocks Dillashaw with a knee that lands flush on his face, but he brushes it off wins the first round easily.
In round two, it's more of the same as Dillashaw gets another takedown. This time, he lands some knees to the body and almost mounts Pague but those long legs keep getting in the way. Dillashaw cuts Pague’s face with some hard ground-and-pound shots, but Pague returns the favor by throwing some elbows from off his back that bloody Dillashaw's face enough to earn a third round.
Round three is more repetition, with Pague on his back early and absorbing more punishment from Dillashaw. This time, Dillashaw begins to separate in the scoring, giving Pague a complete tune-up and landing all sorts of punches and elbows from on top while keeping Pague from mounting any sort of real offense.
Dillashaw takes the third-round decision, securing his spot as the first entry in the bantamweight finals. Coach Bisping is confident that his charge will win the show and go on to have a great UFC career.
“To Dillashaw’s credit, he’s got a chin on him because Dustin landed a solid knee right to his face piece,” says Miller.
“You just got to move forward,” offers a disappointed Pague afterwards and his coach heads over to console him and tell him he's proud of him, while Pague thanks him for all the help this season.
“Dustin Pague doesn’t need to concern himself about this loss,” says Miller “Just use it for fuel for his fire because he has a bright future.”
Next week, we’ll find out if Team Miller traitor John Dodson will receive Texas justice from teammate Johnny Bedford, and Bryan Caraway will face all his fears in the form of Brazilian Diego Brandao.