On last week’s episode, veteran Luiz “Buscape” Firmino ground out the relatively inexperienced Uros Jurisic in a two-round unanimous decision, moving the Blackzilians to 2-0 on the season and giving them a 50-0 lead in points over American Top Team. Equally important, the Blackzilians retain home-gym advantage for this week’s bout, which will be worth an additional 25 points.
ATT is looking down in the dumps after Jurisic’s loss, but head coach Ricardo Liborio reminds his team that there are still 10 fights left and they can’t allow themselves to get accustomed to the taste of defeat.
“This has to taste so bad for you guys right now. If you get used to losing, you’re f--king gonna lose the rest of your life,” says Liborio. “This f--king thing has to be painful. It has to be f--king disgusting.”
The next day, at the fighter house, Valdir Araujo is doing some sleuthing, trying to figure out who nipped a bottle of red wine that he ordered. “BBMonstro” is convinced that one of the ATT fighters is the culprit, and he’s right: Michael Graves, who lost to Kamaru Usman in week one, admits to his teammates that he necked the booze.
Two days remain until the next fight, so ATT’s coaches get right down to the task of selecting their next representative. After sending a few untested prospects into battle, it seems Dan Lambert’s squad is ready to trot out one of its veterans. Steve Montgomery and Marcelo Alfaya are dicussed as potential candidates before ATT settles on Steve Carl, a former World Series of Fighting titleholder and one of the team’s most seasoned welterweights. The 30-year-old Iowa native says he’s ready and hopes to compete three or four times before the season is over.
“I kind of want to fight all of the Blackzilians,” Carl says. “I think the real question is, which one of them wants to fight me?”
Over at the Blackzilians gym, owner Glenn Robinson consults with his coaching staff after practice to see who they feel is ready to get in the cage. Araujo and Andrews Nakahara seem to be in top shape, while Robinson believes Jason Jackson and Felipe Portela “would be gassed out by round two” based on their recovery during training. Coach Rashad Evans feels the team needs to strike while ATT’s morale is low and send out a heavy hitter for fight three. They ultimately select Araujo, who, like Carl, has experience in Bellator and WSOF.
Back at the house, ATT’s Montgomery and Sabah Homasi discuss their concerns about Graves, who has been drinking every day since his loss. It’s not an unusual occurrence for “TUF,” but unlike in past seasons, Graves has not been eliminated and could still compete again. In contrast, they say, Jurisic was back to training and helping his teammates just hours after he lost to Firmino.
Meanwhile, Carl has some concerns of his own regarding the weight-cutting process for his rapidly approaching fight.
“We got limited means to cut weight here in the house,” he says. “Unfortunately, there is a spa and a steam room, but it’s located on the Blackzilians’ side, so the weight cutting for them seems to be a lot easier than it is for us.”
Sure enough, at the official weigh-in, Carl tips the scales at 171.75 pounds, while Araujo comes in at 170 on the nose. Carl is given one hour to shed an additional three-quarters of a pound, and the ATT squad hits the sauna while Araujo chugs coconut water to rehydrate.
Coach Tyrone Spong is unhappy that ATT is using the Blackzilians’ steam room to cut the weight, and teammate Michael Johnson agrees that Carl should have to go for a run or “go down the street to LA Fitness.”
“It’s a game. It’s a strategy,” Spong admits. “We’re in our gym. I don’t know who the f--k said that he could use our sauna.”
Spong and Johnson go to confront ATT in the locker room but are cut off at the pass by team captain Nathan Coy, who asks them to “man up” and let Carl make the weight. Coy promises that ATT will have another plan in place if the situation should come up again. Lambert feels the move unsportsmanlike and says that ATT would gladly allow Blackzilians to use their sauna were the positions reversed.
“In war, there’s no rules,” says Spong, “and we’re in a war right now.”
“We’re just gonna stand right there, then, if there’s no rules,” responds Coy. “If there are no rules, we’ll stand here and barricade the f--king sauna.”
Spong gets in Coy’s face, but in the end, all the posturing is for naught: Carl leaves the sauna soon after and makes weight at an even 170 pounds.
After weigh-ins, ATT reviews tape on Araujo, who is a black belt in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. They acknowledge that Araujo’s takedowns and clinch pressure could pose problems for Carl, but Hayder Hassan declares the Blackzilians fighter’s jaw to be “weak as glass.” On the other side, Araujo believes he has a great opponent in Carl, whom “BBMonstro” says has nothing that can surprise him.
The fight begins with a hesitant touch of gloves, then Araujo strikes first with an overhand right and a pair of leg kicks. Carl stuffs the Brazilian’s first takedown attempt but pays for it with a clinch knee to the face on the exit. More low kicks score for Araujo, then a single-leg takedown briefly puts Carl on his seat. Carl stands, gets slammed back to the canvas and then pops up again to reverse Araujo against the fence. As the welterweights fight for position in the clinch, Carl is warned for grabbing the cage by referee Jorge Alonso.
Neither man is doing much offensively in the latter half of the round, as Carl digs for a takedown and Araujo plays defense. Araujo reverses in the final 30 seconds and botches a throw, almost allowing Carl to take his back. Instead, both men scramble to their feet and wind up back in the clinch, where Araujo thumps his opponent with a couple solid left hands and knees to the body before the horn.
“Carl had a lot more time grinding on the cage,” Lambert says in the ATT corner. It’s the truth, but Araujo undoubtedly landed better strikes from range, while the extended periods of clinching appeared more neutral.
Araujo resumes leg-kicking early in round two, as coach Spong told him in the corner that the strikes were doing damage in the opening round. Carl throws out a few combinations but comes up short, then jumps backward as Araujo fakes another low kick. Just as Araujo starts to attack the body with kicks, Carl shoots in and pins him against the cage with another takedown attempt. Araujo defends well, hooking Carl’s arms when the American drops to his knees to try a double-leg.
Araujo uses a standing D’arce choke to reverse the position halfway through the round. Carl gets his head free, but Araujo is on the outside now and puts a forearm across the ATT representative’s throat to make things uncomfortable. Carl gets underhooks and reverses but still can’t complete a takedown. Araujo catches the shooting Carl in a loose guillotine; the choke doesn’t look tight at first, but when “BBMonstro” jumps guard, it gets much tighter. Araujo rolls into mount, and Carl’s face goes red. After a moment’s hesitation, Carl taps out at the 4:13 mark.
The Blackzilians corner explodes, their shutout of ATT now at 3-0. Araujo, Firmino and Usman have put their team up 75-0 on the scoreboard, ensuring that the final 25-point bout will take place at the Blackzilians’ gym next week.