On last week’s episode, Kamaru Usman earned a two-round decision over Michael Graves to win the first bout of the season and maintain home-gym advantage for the Blackzilians.
Under the show’s new point system, both Usman and Blackzilians now own a 25-0 lead. Tonight’s matchup, which will be revealed at weigh-ins, is also worth 25 points.
At the fighter house, members of American Top Team try to console Graves, who has just tasted defeat for the first time in his MMA career. ATT believes their squad has a stronger bond than the rival gym and that their wealth of shared experiences will help them conquer the relatively new Blackzilians. Hayder Hassan, who was seen shouting “I’m next” at Usman after last week’s fight, seems particularly anxious to avenge his teammate’s loss.
Later, Hassan tries to strike up a conversation with Usman in the kitchen to rachet up the “psychological warfare,” but “The Nigerian Nightmare” is having none of it.
“Some guys, they love to do that. Some guys can get in another guy’s head by doing that. That’s just not a strategy that I choose to partake in,” says Usman in a confessional, noting that he sees holes in Hassan’s wrestling and ground game.
With two days left before the next bout, both teams get down to the business of picking their next representative. Despite Hassan’s froggy attitude, the “Hulk” won’t be ready to compete for another week due to a preexisting hand injury. ATT’s coaches consider sending former World Series of Fighting champ Steve Carl into battle, but they ultimately settle on unbeaten Slovenian grappler Uros Jurisic. ATT boss Dan Lambert says that Jurisic’s skills have been improving by the day, while head coach Ricardo Liborio jokes that the 22-year-old is one of the team’s ugliest fighters.
Over at Jaco Hybrid Training Center, the Blackzilians are weighing a few options: karateka Andrews Nakahara, college wrestling convert Carrington Banks and veteran Luiz “Buscape” Firmino. The team opts for 33-year-old Firmino, one of the season’s most experienced competitors.
“Luiz is very well-rounded and he’s as strong as an ox,” says Blackzilians owner Glenn Robinson. “He’s got incredible takedowns and incredible takedown defense.”
A natural lightweight, Firmino has fought the likes of Tatsuya Kawajiri, Luis Palomino and Tyson Griffin over the course of his 15 year career. The former Pride fighter traveled to Florida to train with the Blackzilians in hopes of earning a spot in the UFC, while his wife and young daughter wait for him in his native Brazil.
Later that night at the fighter house, tensions arise between Blackzilians teammates Usman and Jason Jackson during drills in the in-house gym. Usman storms out of the room, shouting at Jackson to “do the f--king drill right,” but he’s soon corralled by coach Tyrone Spong. Usman apologizes to Jackson, blaming the outburst on post-fight tension and a lack of sleep.
“That’s an infestation that we don’t want in the team to tear us apart from the inside out,” Usman tells the camera.
The next day, the teams head to the Blackzilians’ gym for weigh-ins, where both Jurisic and Firmino tip the scales at an even 170 pounds. Lambert says his younger, taller fighter will try to keep the fight at range and expoit Firmino’s standup game. Robinson is “not remotely concerned” about the outcome of the fight, believing Firmino’s ground game will overwhelm the greener Jurisic.
“I don’t have a strategy,” says Firmino. “I wanna kill him, you know?”
Come fight day, the Blackzilians create a raucous environment in their gym with shouts and chants in a mix of English and Portuguese, although the ATT guys can’t understand exactly what’s being said.
“I feel like I’m at a f--king soccer game in some s--thole country,” Lambert tells one of his fighters.
As round one begins, Firmino rushes out of his corner to try and close the distance with a Gracie-style front kick, but he’s swept back out of range by the longer Jurisic’s wide hooks. Firmino takes a left hook on the ear and nearly drops to the ground before springing back up and hitting a high double-leg on his charging opponent. Jurisic grabs for a guillotine on his way down, but it’s easily broken up by Firmino, who threatens with an arm-triangle choke as he works to pass guard. Referee Jorge Alonso warns Jurisic for lacing his toes in the chain-link fence, then Firmino renders the warning moot by pushing the Slovenian toward the center of the cage. Jurisic tries to kick away Firmino, but the veteran is sticky and maintains top position through the middle of the round.
Firmino is scoring with some solid ground-and-pound and has opened a cut underneath Jurisic’s left eye. Refree Alonso calls for action, while the ATT corner calls for a stand-up. Firmino does just enough to keep the fight on the floor in the final minute and finishes the round throwing knees to the arms of the kneeling Jurisic from north-south position.
Between rounds, Jurisic’s coaches order him to keep the fight standing. In the other corner, Spong tells Firmino to use his “stand-up, striking [and] speed.”
In the opening minute of round two, Jurisic tries to keep Firmino at bay with leaping knees and long kicks. Jurisic shoots for a takedown of his own, but Buscape easily reverses and shoves him to the ground, landing in side control on the right. Jurisic explodes out the left side and jumps back to his feet; once there, he is noticeably slower, swinging at Firmino with tired right-handed haymakers. Firmino waits for an opening, changes levels and floors Jurisic with another takedown in the middle of the cage. The Brazilian once again works from guard, scoring with sporadic punches while Jurisic scoots backward toward the fence.
Jurisic posts and stands with less than two minutes remaining, Firmino’s arms still wrapped around his waist. Firmino spins to take the back, forcing Jurisic into a sacrifice throw that puts the ATT fighter on his back again. Jurisic stands again and tries rolling through to shake his opponent loose, but he cannot. He pops the kneeling Firmino with an illegal upkick, but Buscape motions to referee Alonso that he’s fine to keep fighting. Inside the final minute, Jurisic tries a kimura off his back, but the submission attempt is thwarted when Firmino passes to side control. Jurisic lands elbows from underneath in the closing seconds, but it’s too little, too late.
All three judges score the fight 20-18 for the winner by unanimous decision, Luiz “Buscape” Firmino.
“Well, that fight sucked,” declares Dana White, the phrase having become a sort of “TUF” mantra for the UFC president. White criticizes Jurisic, who “did nothing” while Firmino “laid on top of him,” as well as referee Alonso for not bringing the fighters back to their feet.
“Too much is on the line to let a guy blanket another guy for two rounds,” he fumes.
Regardless, the Blackzilians have taken a 50-0 lead on the scoreboard and will get to fight in their own gym again next week.