Sorry about the obvious delay in getting this to you: personal conflicts plus eight (!) fights to review do not a speedy recap make. While I’m disappointed that we’re going back to the typical manufactured reality-TV drama with the next episode, at least I’ll be able to turn this around more quickly with only one fight per show. What was that? Oh, yeah–the show:
We recap the first episode, where Dana blindsides the 32 fighters by telling them that they’ll all have to fight right away just to make the final 16, and we see a very quick synopsis of last week’s fights.
Dana notes that for the first time ever, the coaches can actually evaluate the fighters by, you know, watching them fight. There are still eight spots left in the house, though, so on with the fights!
—Dan Simmler vs. Matthew Riddle: Forrest gets a quick dig in on Matt Riddle for being so damn pretty: Simmler, who trains with Matt Serra on Long Island, predicts a first-round submission win due to his crazy submission skills, while Riddle reiterates that he’s not a pussy and that he came to FIGHT, son.
Round 1: Riddle lands a sharp low kick which Simmler catches and uses to pull him into a clinch. From there, Simmler looks for the takedown, but Riddle reverses him to the mat with a beautiful throw; from the top position, Riddle tries to hold onto side control, but Simmler shrimps out and puts Riddle into his full guard. Riddle postures up and sneaks in a couple of punches over Simmler’s guard, but Simmler manages to keep a safe distance with his open guard. Riddle actually stands up in Simmler’s guard, so Simmler tries to sweep him; Riddle steps out and away from the sweep attempt, but that creates enough room for Simmler to pop up to his feet.
Both fighters circle and trade kicks: Riddle grabs one of Simmler’s legs, so Simmler tries for the FLYING ARMBAR (!) but can’t lock it in and crashes to the mat as Riddle dives into side control with punches and elbows.
“He went for the high-risk maneuver,” says Rampage, channeling Gorilla Monsoon. “That says a lot about his character.”
Simmler looks like he might be in serious trouble for a second, but keeps his hips moving and scrambles back to his feet in a clinch. Both men fight for position, but Riddle gets double underhooks and pulls Simmler down into a couple of knees. Both men continue trading places along the cage and fighting takedown attempts until, after about 90 seconds of stalemate, Riddle gets another takedown. Riddle can’t get through Simmler’s guard, so he stands up and stomps Riddle in the chest. Does Herb Dean separate the fighters and take a point away from Riddle? Of course not.
“That’s actually not legal,” Forrest chimes in dryly after an awkward pause. Dana and Rampage insist that the kid was trying for an axe kick, which is legal, but an axe kick usually requires you to get your foot above your waist before swinging down, so Dana’s credibility is even more strained here than usual. Simmler’s more than happy to chill out on his back for the rest of the round as Riddle stands and circles overhead, and every time Riddle starts in, he catches an upkick to the face from Simmler.
Round 2: Simmler comes out and starts to throw an unprotected kick, but Riddle obliterates him with an overhand right, causing him to crumple to the ground at frightening speed. Riddle dives in with three hammer fists for good measure before Herb finally stops it, and Riddle celebrates while Simmler lays there moaning. The entire gym goes silent—fighters don’t ever like it when someone reminds them what could happen to any of them—as Simmler lays there in obvious scrambled-brain mode. With this being a reality show, we’re treated to the uncomfortable sight of Simmler having to play 20 questions with his cornermen about what just happened, and to make it worse, he has to play 20 questions while they’re loading him into an ambulance.
“I mean, Matt just got Knockout of the Century,” Rampage opines.
—Luke Zachrich vs. Patrick Schultz: Both fighters are 7-1 coming in: Luke hates Patrick’s haircut, while Patrick calls the UFC “the Ivy League of mixed martial arts.”
Round 1: Zachrich throws a kick, but Schultz catches it and crushes him with a right cross, knocking him down. Schultz wants no part of a ground fight, however, and lets him back up. Both men trade punches and then clinch, where Zachrich trips Schultz down to the mat. Schultz ties Zachrich up in his half-guard and then sweeps him, but Zachrich gets his feet underneath him and pulls himself back up to his feet in a clinch, then takes Schultz back down again.
Zachrich postures up, manages to trap one of Schultz’s arms underneath him, and tries to go for the epic beatdown (think Ryan Schultz/Chris Horodecki here), prompting a wave of commentary from both Rampage and Forrest about what a lousy position that is for the guy on the bottom. Wilson gets his arm loose, but Zachrich slides into mount; Wilson tries to buck loose but ends up giving up his back, and Zachrich gets the rear naked choke in pretty short order.
—Tim Credeur vs. Erik Charles: Credeur talks about his jiu-jitsu black belt and his relentless aggression, where Charles brags on his striking ability and speed. Credeur’s been one of the prohibitive favorites going into the show, so I’m interested to see how he represents himself here.
Round 1: Credeur rushes Charles, takes him to the mat, passes his guard fairly easily, locks up an arm from side control, then switches over and straightens out a sweet armbar for the very quick tap.
—Aaron Meissner vs. Brandon Sene: Meissner comes out and sets the tone early with sharp strikes, but Sene finally gets him to his back as Meissner looks to have hurt his knee on the way down. Sene tries to lock in an armbar and misses, but manages to get Meissner’s back and hook in a rear naked choke for the finish.
More quality analysis from Rampage: “Brandon had his ass handed to him in a brown paper sack, but then he took it back out, put it on his behind, and won the fight.”
—Gerald Harris vs. Mike Marrello: Forrest gives us the quick-and-dirty recap, as Harris keeps putting Marrello on his back and mixing in big shots en route to a unanimous decision. Funny how, in Dana’s eyes, Paul Bradley’s fight was like “watching turtles f–k” while this was just a solid win.
—Daniel Kramer vs. Jeremiah Riggs: Riggs transitions from a guillotine into a sort-of triangle, prompting Rampage to say, “I don’t think he knows what the hell he’s doing.” Still, Kramer mounts Riggs and pounds away, but Riggs refuses to lay there and keeps bucking and trying to shrimp out as Kramer takes his swings. In the second, Riggs stuffs a takedown and gets a good sweep, but sure enough, he ends up mounted and taking punches as Kramer takes him through his paces en route to a unanimous decision. Dana and the coaches agree: if Riggs had any skill whatsoever to go with his heart and aggressiveness, he’d be dangerous.
Riggs explains that he just “put Mississippi on the map.” By doing what? Not quitting? Trying to fight back? Here’s a thought, Jeremiah: Alan Belcher already put Mississippi on the map by, you know, winning fights in the UFC.
—Nick Rossborough vs. Jesse Taylor: Aaand I guess we’re back to the full-length fights now.
Round 1: According to Forrest, Nick’s the Slim Shady of MMA, but Jesse gets a takedown right away against the cage. Nick gets back to his feet but ends up seated against the cage again, and Jesse simply steps over his guard right into mount. Nick tries to buck and then gives up his back, and Jesse just angles for the rear naked choke for about 20 seconds before finally locking it in and getting the tap.
—Josh Hall vs. Mark Brown: Hall’s not here to make friends, while Brown understands that you can only plan so much for an opponent you know nothing about: “I mean, it’s kill or die, right?”
Round 1: Hall jabs away and grabs a clinch, but Brown manages to balance out and stuff a few takedowns. He turns Hall into the fence and tries to work a plum clinch, but Hall works his way loose with some big left hooks. Brown looks to be in trouble but manages to back Hall away, smacking him with a Superman punch and a big left hook.
Hall gets the clinch and another takedown and starts stacking Brown up against the cage, but Brown gets a triangle and sinks it in deep. Hall tries to slam his way out of the triangle twice, but Brown only gets it tighter and rolls into the mount position with the triangle still locked in.
After about 15 seconds in mount, Brown lets the triangle go and goes for an oma plata, but Hall rolls out of it, so Brown goes to knee-in-chest and beats the living shit out of Hall with right hands until Herb jumps in and stops it. All three coaches and Dana–who had been sweating Hall pretty hard running up to the fight–are now firmly in awe of Brown and his impressive man-sweater.
–Dana, Rampage, and Forrest address the group one last time. Dana thinks that the preliminary round has weeded out the poseurs and the fakes–don’t be so sure, Dana–and tells the guys that lost to hold their heads up. Yeah, thanks for quitting your job, selling your possessions, and putting your lives on hold, guys…and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, okay?
–We’re out of time, but before we go, here’s another montage of quick clips from the upcoming season where–surprise, surprise–fighters get drunk, destroy the house, train really hard, have personality conflicts, and occasionally even fight!
Episode 2 MVP: I call this a tie between Matt Riddle and Mark Brown. Yeah, Riddle looked very nimble and got the mega-brutal knockout of Simmler, but it was painful to watch him celebrate, almost oblivious to Simmler looking like he might be at death’s door.
As for Brown, I just loved the fact that everyone spent the pre-fight and early fight talking about Hall (his good Greco-Roman, his friendship with Mac Danzig) and barely even noticing Brown (except a sideways comment from Forrest that he looked a little small for a middleweight). With that in mind, watching Brown come out and just savage Hall was infinitely rewarding, and I haven’t even mentioned the awesome man-sweater that Brown was rocking yet.
Coach of the Episode: Forrest. I have kinda low expectations for the season in this department: while both guys appear more than comfortable on camera, neither guy appears particularly comfortable actually coaching. Even with that in mind, Forrest was a little more on top of his game here.
And did anyone else notice the man’s beer gut at the end of the episode? I know that Forrest is supposed to be a weight-cutting machine, but damn. Then again, BJ Penn showed up for TUF 5 at around 190 pounds, so maybe Forrest can pull it off.
Tags: Mixed Martial Arts