(Props: The Ultimate Fighter on Hulu)
After Collin Hart’s decision win over Kevin Casey returned matchup-control to Team Jones, it’s fan-favorite Robert “Bubba” McDaniel‘s time to shine — or crash-and-burn, whichever the case may be. Here are the major plot points from last night’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen, which you can watch above in its entirety.
- This week’s fight will be Bubba vs. Kelvin Gastelum, a 5-0 prospect (and full-time bail bondsman) from Arizona who, at 21 years old, is apparently the youngest competitor ever allowed onto The Ultimate Fighter. Jones picked the matchup because he sees Kelvin as Team Sonnen’s weakest link, and feels that Bubba’s vast experience edge and overall skills will make the difference in the fight. As usual, Coach Chael Sonnen tries to stay positive: “They don’t know what they handed you,” he tells Kelvin. “They handed you a big opportunity. Everybody here’s gotta win this tournament to get in the UFC. You just gotta beat this guy. This is your ticket, right here.”
- Kelvin is apparently a big Ronda Rousey fan, so Chael sweetens the pot by arranging for Ronda to call Kelvin and wish him luck, then promises that Ronda will come down and train with him if he wins. Man, that devious bastard.
- Chael Sonnen’s friendliness is still throwing Jon Jones for a loop; the champ likes to keep a “mystique” about himself and maintain a distance from future opponents, but Sonnen is making that difficult by constantly engaging Jones in pleasant conversation. Seriously, Chael, when are you going to start fucking with his parking spot and hiding his sandals?
- Luke Barnatt finds it a bit “cheap” that Bubba, with his size and experience advantages, is going in to fight the youngest/smallest guy in the house.
- Gilbert Smith teaches the guys the rules of gay movie charades, or something. It seems like a great time, but Bubba isolates himself outside. He tells us how having his daughter got him to stop being a punk and take his life seriously. “It’s been a long, sad road in my life to be where I’m at MMA,” he said, “but I believe, on the other hand, MMA helped save my life.”
- I’m not going to transcribe Chael’s lesson about the people walking on the 2×4, and how the only thing that changes on fight day is the environment, but I’ll be first in line to pre-order his motivational DVD set when it comes out. Hopefully that freestyle rhyme about the “reflection of perfection” will stay on the cutting room floor, though.
- Team Jones’s Josh Samman is battling a laundry list of injuries, and wants to postpone his first fight another week. Of course, if Team Jones loses matchup-control and Team Sonnen calls Josh out, he’ll fight — but the implication is that he’ll probably get his ass kicked if it came to that. Jones’s coaching staff wonders if Josh’s injury excuses are legit, or if Josh is trying to stay out of action for other reasons.
- Chael Sonnen brings in A-list Hollywood weirdo Mickey Rourke (!) to talk to his boys, and discuss his own experiences in pro boxing and overcoming the dark moments in his life. It’s kind of awesome. We might need to update this list.
- Fight time: Bubba has five inches in height on Kelvin, three inches in reach, and 21 more professional fights on his record. Kelvin takes the center of the cage after the opening bell and drags Bubba to the mat first, but Bubba is crafty and quickly escapes. Kelvin gets the fight back to the mat and starts to work his jiu-jitsu before Bubba reverses him and takes his back. It looks dicey for a moment but Kelvin survives, gets to his feet, and goes back to his own ground-attacks. Once again, Bubba defends and takes Kelvin’s back, threatening with a choke. And again, Kelvin escapes and takes the top position, before Bubba does the same damn thing to him. Let’s just say there’s a lot of “scrambling,” and put it at that. Kelvin dives in with a rather dramatic flying punch as the round ends.
Kelvin starts round two with a sharp leg-kick, and Bubba returns kicks to the body and head. Kelvin takes Bubba to the mat, and loses position after a guillotine attempt. Bubba takes Kelvin’s back but slips off when Kelvin gets to his feet, and Kelvin is back on top. Bubba tries a triangle but is rebuffed. Kelvin rolls to Bubba’s back and tries a rear-naked choke. “Oh my God, he might have it,” says a genuinely-surprised Coach Sonnen. And he does. Holy crap, Kelvin Gastelum chokes out Bubba McDaniel. It was a great fight, and it puts Team Sonnen up 3-1 in the preliminary round. Or as Chael puts it, “One more for the bad guys.”
- Bubba is completely broken up after the fight. Jones tells him that the wild card spot is still a possibility, and he’ll fight Kelvin harder the next time. Meanwhile, Kelvin gets a congratulatory phone call from Ronda Rousey, who says that she can’t wait to meet him. (“Really! Really!”) And so begins the catfishing of another promising young athlete. Still, it’s awesome to see how happy Kelvin is in that moment. “I’m on top of the world, meng,” he says.
- For next week’s fight, Chael selects Tor Troeng to fight the achy, breaky Josh Samman. This is not looking promising for Team Bones.
Luke Barnatt – quarterfinalist, defeated Gilbert Smith
Uriah Hall – quarterfinalist, defeated Adam Cella
Kelvin Gastelum – quarterfinalist, defeated Robert “Bubba” McDaniel
Robert “Bubba” McDaniel
Collin Hart – quarterfinalist, defeated Kevin Casey