With two more semifinal slots at stake, Episode 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter 16” wastes little time in getting down to business. Squaring off first are Team Nelson members Joey Rivera and Jon Manley. The two fighters have forged a solid friendship over the past few weeks, but they are putting personal relationships aside in the spirit of competition.
“I like him a lot, he’s a nice guy, I think he’s one of the best in the house. I think it’s gonna be a tough fight – we’re gonna bring it,” Manley says. “The friendship leaves once you enter the cage.”
Round one begins with Rivera throwing a steady diet of low kicks until Manley shoots for a takedown. Rivera defends against the fence for as long as he can and nearly reverses the position while attempting a guillotine choke. Finally Manley dumps his man to the mat. The grinding affair continues from there, as Rivera looks to take Manley's back, but Manley ultimately winds up on top and moves to side control, where he rides out the last 40 seconds of the frame.
Prior to the second frame, Rivera's corner implores him to fight with a sense of urgency. However, it is Manley who sets the tone by driving his adversary into the fence a little more than one minute into the stanza. Rivera again resists the takedown, but fails to do much of anything else in the process. Meanwhile, Manley is content to drive his foe against the cage. Finally Manley gets the takedown, and Rivera looks for a triangle choke from the bottom. Manley escapes the submission and moves to full mount with 30 seconds left. Rivera gives up his back and Manley spends the final seconds of the frame peppering away with short punches.
It is not a particularly overwhelming performance from either man, but Manley nonetheless emerges with a majority decision triumph (20-18, 20-18, 19-19). At the bout's conclusion, coach Roy Nelson likens the contest to a glorified sparring match, while UFC President Dana White expresses similar feelings of disappointment.
"I feel upset at myself because I didn't perform the way I should have,” Rivera laments.
Back at the house, tensions continue to escalate between Mike Ricci and Michael Hill, who are set to meet in the last quarterfinal bout. Once good friends, things are no longer so cozy for the two Canadians. As he prepares his dinner, Ricci has concerns that Hill might want to add an unwanted ingredient to his pasta sauce. The paranoia results in a typical in-house confrontation, and both fighters make it clear that neither is scared of the other. Meanwhile, Julian Lane looks on placidly.
As fight day approaches, Hill, who had felt betrayed by his countryman, makes peace with the fact that friendships are temporary in his current environment. With that, it’s time to settle the score.
The two welterweights begin the bout with a few exchanges in the center of the cage before tying up against the fence. Eventually, Ricci changes levels and drives Hill to the floor, where he begins to work some solid ground-and-pound from inside Hill’s guard. The Team Nelson representative tries to escape, but Ricci holds the position and lands a barrage of elbows from above. With a minute to go, Ricci takes HIll's back, where he lands some short punches while looking for a rear-naked choke. He eventually gives up on the position and pounds Hill with more elbows as the frame expires.
Hill carelessly rushes forward to begin round two, and Ricci responds by quickly landing a takedown. Hill gets to his feet and grabs a front headlock, but a determined Ricci takes him down again. Hill looks exhausted at this point, and he is struggling to mount any significant offense with Ricci attached to his back. Ricci alternates between short punches and attempts to slide his arm under Hill's chin for the rear-naked choke. Hill drops to the canvas and grabs Ricci's arm, but there is nothing there. Ricci remains glued to his foe’s back, and Hill isn't able to escape until 15 seconds are left in the frame. At that point, it's far too late to mount a rally.
There is very little suspense behind the scorecards, as Ricci captures a clear-cut unanimous decision. All three judges score it 20-18 for the Team Carwin member.
Again, White is a little disappointed with the action – he had expected that the rivalry between the two former friends would lead to fireworks in the cage.
"You could tell that Hill doesn't have much of a ground game. He got absolutely dominated by Ricci today," White said.
For Ricci, the win was another step toward proving that he deserves to be in his current position.
"A lot of people said I was too small to be in this tournament, and I want to prove those people wrong," he said.
At the show’s conclusion, White announces the semifinal pairings: Manley will square off with Colton Smith, while Ricci will lock horns with Neil Magny.