Last week, Cathal Pendred outpointed Hector Urbina to give Team Penn the first victory of the season. Retaining control of the fight pick, coach B.J. Penn selects Dan Spohn to meet Frankie Edgar’s Todd Monaghan.
Following his victory, Pendred thanks Urbina for the fight and asks him if he had fun during the hard-fought defeat. Urbina seems irked by the question, and, after Pendred leaves the room, he jokingly tells his teammates that he might “shank” the Irishman later.
During the Team Edgar training session, “The Answer” gives his squad a special treat by bringing in Renzo Gracie for a surprise coaching session. The jiu-jitsu master and vale tudo veteran takes the red team through some technical drills, and Monaghan is particularly appreciative of Gracie’s instruction.
Penn, a former opponent of Gracie’s and a fellow jiu-jitsu champion, takes the blue team through an armbar drill and then puts them through the ringer with clinch work.
“Every practice is a fight,” says Team Penn’s Roger Zapata.
Later, at the fighter house, Monaghan relays that he is a Christian first and a fighter second. Monaghan is also a preacher and an evangelist, and he throws on his Sunday best before inviting his castmates to attend a sermon.
Monaghan was born in Texas and adopted by a white family in Iowa. Though Monaghan says that his adopted parents did right by him, he also confesses that he was the target of bullying from his black peers, resulting in some street fights. Monaghan also alludes to a drug dealing past and the material wealth that came from such a profession, after which he converted to Christianity and stopped his illegal activities.
However, he then goes on to explain that although material riches are not the most important thing, God has nevertheless “blessed” him with money and cars and a boat and a camper.
Monaghan’s housemates are respectful during the sermon, but Pendred later takes issue with his message.
“He’s here for TV time. That’s all he wants,” Pendred says. “And how is he a man of God while he’s walking around with these big gold watches and gold rings and s---? He drives a Tahoe, and he’s got a boat. If you’re really a man of God, why don’t you give your money to the poor? Actions speak louder than words. He’s full of words. No actions, though.”
Several of Pendred’s teammates chime in on their ride to the training center.
“You’re beating a man to a pulp for money, for glory,” says Anton Berzin. “If you want to do it, fine. That’s you. But don’t try to justify it with religion or the Bible. The Bible says turn the other cheek, you know?”
During Spohn’s training session, Penn and his assistant coaches work diligently with the southpaw on improving his already well-rounded game. As Spohn delivered a big knockout in the preliminary round, Penn wants his fighter to surprise Monaghan and take him to the floor.
Later, Edgar tells Monaghan that he is “so much better” when he comes forward with his standup attack. When the unorthodox light heavyweight retreats, however, he exposes more openings for his opponent.
Back at the fighter house, Pendred has managed to snag some extra mats to put in his bedroom. He and his roommates roll and work on their technique. A traditional martial artist, Spohn then takes his teammates through the first 10 minutes of a 90-minute endurance regimen known as “iron body training.” It does not look fun.
That night, Monaghan’s teammate, Corey Anderson, worries that the light heavyweight might be entering into his fight with an overconfident mindset. He attempts to talk to Monaghan about considering worst-case scenarios as a strategy to develop mental toughness, but Monaghan dismisses the concerns.
Both men make their final pre-fight preparations and then enter the cage. Spohn takes charge early, clipping Edgar’s man with a nice left cross before hitting a double-leg takedown. Spohn takes his time in half-guard and then effortlessly passes to mount. Monaghan looks lost for a minute but then escapes the mount and explodes to his feet in an impressive display of fluidity. However, Spohn immediately grabs a single-leg and drags him right back down. Spohn takes his back briefly, but Monaghan shakes him off and escapes an armbar attempt. Penn’s fighter recovers and ends up in top position, passing to side control and then to mount as the round expires.
Monaghan charges forward with a barrage of punches to start the second stanza, but he leaves himself exposed for another double-leg takedown. Spohn passes to side control but gets rolled when he tries to mount, though he quickly explodes to his feet and scores with a single-leg. Monaghan attempts to counter with a guillotine and then a kimura, but Spohn continues to control him. Penn’s fighter briefly passes to mount, though Monaghan quickly shoves him back into half-guard. Monaghan does what he can to buck and roll and escape, but Spohn hops on his back and nearly finishes him with a rear-naked choke as the horn sounds.
Spohn is awarded a clear-cut, if unspectacular, unanimous decision victory, and Penn retains control of the fight pick, selecting Tim Williams to do battle with Team Edgar’s Dhiego Lima next week.