‘TUF 24’ Recap: Episode 11

By Mike Sloan Nov 23, 2016
The season is getting down to the nitty gritty as the final four of “The Ultimate Fighter 24” is set. Wednesday’s episode will have two fights, which is what everybody wants. Up first will be No. 1 seed Alexandre Pantoja taking on No. 5 seed Hiromasa Ogikubo while the other side of the bracket will see No. 15 seed Eric Shelton taking on No. 3 seed Tim Elliott.

The show begins with Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White pumped about the final four fighters and he believes it’s a toss-up as to which ones will emerge at the end for a chance to fight Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight championship. Coaches Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo are anxious and excited and both men feel their combatant will prevail.

No time is wasted the action begins within minutes, Ogikubo is already walking to the Octagon and Team Benavidez has his back in full. The same goes for Pantoja and Team Cejudo and before we know it, the fight is underway with Jason Herzog serving as the third man in the cage.

Round one begins with Ogikubo keeping away while Pantoja presses the action. A low kick takes the Japanese fighter off his feet, but he quickly pops right back up. After trading low kicks, another shot to the leg sweeps Ogikubo off his feet and from there, he dives into Pantoja and tries for a takedown. The Brazilian fighter defends well, but Ogikubo forces him into the cage. From there, the Shooto champ digs several knees to the body and legs. Pantoja escapes the grasp, but for only mere seconds as Ogikubo is relentless and eventually takes him down. On the way down, Pantoja pulls guard and is terrific early on in preventing the pass to side control. Ogikubo is all over his opponent with pressure, but the Japanese titlist isn’t landing any noteworthy strikes from on top. The Resurrection Fighting Alliance champ is squirming from the bottom and though he eventually breaks free and explodes to his feet, Ogikubo scoops him up and suplexes him back down. Hiromasa can’t keep his rival down, though, as Pantoja again explodes to his feet but this time, he creates enough space to reset. From there, the two flyweights rip into each other with vicious kicks to the legs and body and punches to the head. Ogikubo shoots in with only a few seconds remaining and scores a critical takedown, winning the round 10-9.

As the second is about to begin, Herzog readies the warriors but before he can allow them to begin, Pantoja darts out of his corner and goes right after Ogikubo. Herzog grabs him and forces him back to his corner in a stern, but professional manner. From there, the frame begins and Pantoja is aggressive, just like his corner wants. Ogikubo thwacks the Brazilian with a pair of nasty kicks to the ribs, but his follow-up takedown is stuffed. Pantoja tosses out a few jabs and front kicks, but they are inches short of their target. Pantoja catches a somewhat lazy right high kick and sweeps out Hiro’s leg, taking him down. Pantoja can’t keep him there, though, and back up Ogikubo pops. After trading a few jabs and a left hook, the Shooto star scores another takedown, much to the chagrin of Cejudo. Pantoja scrambles back up to his feet, but again, Ogikubo takes him right back down and into open guard. Both men are weary with two minutes remaining because of their torrid pace, but Ogikubo continues to pressure from the top, though he’s not letting any punches or elbows fly. With minute left on the clock, Pantoja is shrimping like a crazy man to escape but he can’t free himself. The RFA champ complains to Herzog that there should be a stand-up and finally, Herzog obliges. Pantoja unloads a series of kicks to his opponent’s arms and body but winds up getting clinched into the cage. It’s a close round but Ogikubo wins it 10-9 and should get the nod.

After the usual highlights of the fight where the coaches and White recap what happened, it’s announced that Ogikubo is the winner -- bumping team Cejudo out of the rest of the tournament -- and he’s the one who moves on the final fight.

It’s not long before the second fight of the episode is underway as Elliott and Shelton make their way to the cage. John McCarthy is the ref for this duel and Elliott comes right after the younger man as soon as it begins. About 20 seconds into the contest, Shelton is taken down but he’s threatening with a triangle choke from off his back. Elliott fends that off and then has to get past the triangle armbar, which he does. Elliott slams down a series of pestering lefts and rights but Shelton defends them well, going again for the triangle. The Titan Fighting Championships champ shrugs it off and moves to half guard, where he’s slamming punches into Shelton’s body and legs. The Caged Aggression titlist isn’t too fond of the strikes but when he tries to scramble up, he is caught in a guillotine. Shelton fights his way out of the submission and, now that he’s on top, turns the tides and tosses out plenty of punches to the head and body. Elliott is unfazed by the attacks but when he tries to get up to his feet, Shelton is all over him and takes his back. Elliott easily shakes him off and then fishes for another guillotine after the ensuing scramble. It’s not too threatening and Shelton pops out of it quickly. After the two accidentally clash heads -- with no cuts or injuries to either -- the fight resumes and Shelton is immediately taken down. Again, Shelton finds himself caught in a guillotine, but Elliott can’t finish him off before the horn ends the frame. 10-9 Elliott.

Just like in the first, Elliott storms out of his corner and swarms the younger man with a volley of punches. None of them land cleanly but Shelton has to defend two takedown attempts. Shelton is sticking and moving well, forcing the veteran to chase after him and miss most of his punches. Shelton shoots in but, per the norm, he finds himself in a guillotine. Elliott doesn’t have the choke and relinquishes it rather quickly, but he’s inching his guard up Shelton’s back, looking for another submission. Shelton feels it coming and opens up a mini flurry of punches, though they are almost all blocked. They scramble back to their feet with two minutes left and the fight is hanging in the balance. Shelton shoots in but he’s easily stuffed, though Elliott can’t keep him where he wants him. Shelton scrambles around and takes his foe’s back, but the veteran is too slick and pops back up to his feet. Shelton hangs on his back and drags him back down, and from there, the flyweights reverse each other and over and over. With about 30 seconds left, Elliott takes him back down and then goes for one final guillotine but Shelton again fends it off until the horn. The round is about as close as they come and Shelton probably got it 10-9.

Surprisingly, the fight is over, though Benavidez is begging for a third round for his two fighters. Again, the coaches and White recap the battle before it’s announced that the winner is Elliott, who barley edges Shelton via majority decision and will take on Ogikubo for the right to fight “Mighty Mouse.” Afterward, Elliott admits that the fight should have gone to a third round or even to Shelton, who takes the loss in stride.

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