The final episode of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 features semifinal showdowns pitting alpha dogs against underdogs, as Uriah Hall faces Dylan Andrews and Josh Samman meets Kelvin Gastelum.
Should Hall and Samman advance, it would set up arguably the most anticipated “TUF” finale in the history of the show. This fact is obviously not lost on White, who chose the semifinal pairings last week. However, both Andrews and Gastelum have proven themselves to be worthy competitors, so an upset on either side would not be shocking.
Tonight’s episode opens with the semifinalists and coaches Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen hanging with White at the Harley-Davidson store in Las Vegas. The fighters observe the high-speed hardware and are reminded that the season’s winner and his coach will each win one of these babies.
Gastelum and Samman make their final preparations and step in the cage, where referee Herb Dean starts the action. Samman touches the southpaw with kicks to his lead leg and ribs before Gastelum initiates a clinch and takes the fight to the floor. Jones’ man fishes for an armbar off his back and then uses a kimura grip to regain his vertical base. He tries a body-lock takedown but again ends up on the bottom, where he must fend off ground-and-pound from Sonnen’s charge. Gastelum then nimbly transitions to side control and takes Samman’s back, cinching a fight-ending rear-naked choke. Upset No. 1 is in the books, and Gastelum is headed to the live finale.
Up next, Andrews will lock horns with Hall, who, despite owning two of the most spectacular knockouts in “TUF” history, is still suffering from confidence issues, according to Sonnen.
“I was in the Top 10 of this weight class for five years. I’ve fought these guys and studied these guys. Coach [Scott McQuary] and I know everybody in this weight. You can beat them all,” Sonnen tells Hall in front of the whole team as he points to a giant photo of former nemesis Anderson Silva. “No exceptions. I’m not saying that puke’s name, but you can beat them all right now.”
On the other side of the fence, Andrews receives a pep talk from Stonehorse Goeman before launching into his training. Jones tells the New Zealander to establish a rhythm standing to lull Hall into range before putting the New Yorker on his back with a takedown. Goeman adds that Andrews should take Hall into deep water and drown him.
Hall and Andrews touch gloves after referee Steve Mazzagatti starts the second semifinal. Hall dances on the outside and works a stiff jab followed by a right uppercut. Andrews steps in with a left hook and tries to clinch but Hall shucks him off easily and returns to his preferred range. Sonnen’s fighter is simply the quicker man in the cage, and Andrews’ reddened face reflects that fact. Hall’s jackhammer jab is a thing of beauty, and he mixes up his attack with a hard spinning back kick. Andrews fires off a nice overhand right that connects flush but does not hurt the Tiger Schulmann rep. Hall finishes the frame with more crisp strikes from the outside.
Though Jones tells Andrews to go get his opponent in between rounds, it is Hall who comes out aggressive to start the second stanza, popping the New Zealander with more jabs and grazing him with a head kick. Andrews finally gets inside on a single-leg, but Hall limp-legs out and pushes his bloody foe to the floor. Andrews slips a right hand but can’t capitalize and eats another jab as he charges forward with wild punches.
Midway through the round, Andrews manages to close the gap once more and this time is successful with a double-leg. Hall defends with a kimura attempt, but he can’t complete the submission from half-guard. Andrews delivers a stream of minor blows to the ribs during the attempt, but Hall recovers full guard and lands a nice series of shots off his back that apparently hurts his foe. Andrews falls to his side, and Hall pivots right into mount, where he rains down punches until Mazzagatti calls the fight.
“[Hall] is the nastiest, deadliest, meanest kid that we have ever seen in the history of ‘TUF,’” White says.
With Hall and Gastelum headed to the live finale, it will be an all-Sonnen middleweight final, meaning that the gangster from West Linn, Ore., can ride a Harley to his UFC 159 showdown with Jones if he so desires.