(They’ve come so far, and ingested so much of each other’s bodily fluids.)
With The Ultimate Fighter 8 Finale on Spike TV just one day away, we go head-to-head on some of the most pressing issues surrounding this reality TV-generated fight card. As usual, we’ll be liveblogging the action right here on the Potato come Saturday night. Don’t miss it.
Who will emerge as the winners of TUF 8, and of the two, who has a brighter future in the UFC?
BF: Phillipe Nover and Ryan Bader are the two guys who will end up hoisting those weird transparent trophies over their heads on Saturday night. Nover will win because he’s an animal, a straight-up criminal, dog. Even though Efrain Escudero has some skills of his own, I don’t think he’s as well-rounded or aggressive as Nover, and I think it will cost him in the form of a late TKO.
Bader will win because even though Vinny Magalhaes is a hell of a jiu-jitsu fighter, he doesn’t have a whole lot else in the toolbox from what I’ve seen. Bader has plenty of time to get his submissions defense in order, and if he can sharpen his stand-up and/or ground-and-pound at all, he’ll do just enough to win a decision.
Of those two, Nover has a better chance of really doing something in the UFC. I’d love to see him jump right in and face one of the many tough lightweights hanging around these days rather than be brought along at a Nate Diaz-type pace, but the opposite will probably happen. Bader, he’ll probably end up dropping to middleweight and getting schooled by the first guy he comes across with good sprawl-and-brawl. But that’s life.
BG: I’m going to have to go ahead and sort of disagree with you there, buddy. If Bader has time to expand his toolbox beyond lay-and-snore, then Vinny can learn to do something other than viciously pull guard and tap his opponents in the first round, hot-knife-through-butter style. But why should he? Magalhaes is one of the scariest jiu-jitsu practitioners to ever appear on TUF and I’m not sure if Bader’s top-game will be tight enough to avoid being submitted if he decides to take Vinny to the ground. (Trust me, Magalhaes is not Eliot Marshall.) The Brazilian finishes fights, and I say he takes it via submission in the second frame.
To me, Nover vs. Escudero is a toss-up – they’ve both looked impressive against mediocre competition. But then you look at Efrain’s record and think, okay, this guy submits people; that’s what he does. And he’s never lost a fight. And he wrote all those blog posts for us, so shouldn’t we be backing him? It’s called loyalty, Fowlkes. So just to be difficult, I’ll predict Double E wins a split decision in the card’s Fight of the Night.
But no matter who takes home the lightweight trophy, both Nover and Escudero are coming into the TUF finale with very little experience against quality opponents, and a stint in the UFC could be a rude awakening. I think a Nate Diaz-type pace would actually be fitting in their case. Vinny on the other hand, will do well knocking off some light-heavyweight gatekeepers and may quickly settle in just below all the marquee-name killers in the UFC’s light-heavyweight top ten. The dude has serious potential. Unfortunately, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira made it clear on the show that Vinny is his enemy for life, which means he’ll probably be found dead in the Everglades before he gets a title shot.
Of the other TUF 8 cast members on the undercard, who would you most like to see in the UFC after Saturday night?
BG: Is this a trick question? Did anybody impress you besides K-Sos? Not that he blew people’s minds either, but he at least performed like the professional that he is, and it would be nice to see him brought aboard if he beats Shane Primm tomorrow. As much as the TUF 8 cast talked about how talent-rich this season was, it was more like the top four were awesome and the rest were just sent in to eat semen and get armbarred. (Sounds like your average Friday night, eh Fowlkes?)
In this era of fat-free UFC rosters, there is absolutely no place for TUF also-rans like Kyle Kingsbury, George Roop, and John “The Hugging Bandit” Polakowski. Roli Delgado would get his ass kicked by WishKid12, for God’s sake. And even she would question him about where he got his black belt.
BF: Yeah, I think it is a trick question, but the trick is that it makes you realize how TUF casts are always populated with a bunch of guys the UFC knows it can’t/won’t use, and though this is nothing new it’s a lesson you get to learn all over again with every finale show.
Obviously, K-Sos deserves a shot. But he’s my boy from the old IFL days, so I’m probably biased, though I am a little sad to see that in the UFC his nickname has changed from simply “The Experiment” to “The Polish Experiment,” which I think is a mistake. Dude’s name is Soszynski. You don’t need to tell people he’s Polish.
Note, however, that the question wasn’t simply “who impressed you,” but “who would you most like to see in the UFC.” If we both agree that K-Sos was the most impressive non-finalist (honestly, I’d rather see him fight than Bader), we should also admit that a part of us wants to see that nice Kyle Kingsbury boy make it. Sure, he seems like one the TUF also-rans you mentioned (btw, the Friday night you described sounds considerably better than average…but wait, what type of armbar?). Still, I think we need his self-deprecating humor in the UFC, even if he loses every single bout, just to lighten the mood a little. Plus, his Stankie impression is dead-on.
BF: Can he? Yes. Will he? Doubtful, but not impossible. If I could give Junie Browning any advice at all, it would be to quit drinking and take up full-time residence at a good gym like Xtreme Couture. That’s what he says he’s doing, so he’s off to a good start. I’m not sure he’s been there long enough to be a completely different fighter yet, like he says he will be against Kaplan, but I also don’t think it will take the performance of a lifetime to beat "Diamond" Dave.
What’s most troubling with Browning is the mental game. His self-sabotaging meltdown at the end of the season indicates that he may not be ready for the tremendous pressure of fighting in the UFC. Maybe I’m wrong and it was all just the rigors of the TUF house, which we’ve heard about innumerable times by now, but plenty of guys of questionable mental stability have gone through there by now, and almost all of them handled it better than Junie.
I think he knocks out Kaplan, as impossible as we’re told that is to do, but he still needs to mature a lot to last in the pressure-cooker that is the UFC.
BG: I’m surprised you’re still giving it to Junie, even after acknowledging his profound mental deficiencies. If Browning can suffer a full-on breakdown before fighting on a reality show set in front of a crowd of 30 people, his head might literally fly off his shoulders when the cage door closes behind him and he’s looking out on a packed arena in Las Vegas. Celine Dion can handle that shit. Junie Browning is no Celine Dion.
And I wouldn’t even call Junie’s chemical imbalance his biggest drawback as a fighter. I’m sure he’s absorbing a lot of great guidance and instruction at Xtreme Couture, but no man can take his cardio from woeful to sufficient in just a few months. The gaping hole in Junie’s game was the fact that he couldn’t go more than a round without gassing out completely. Maybe he can go two rounds now. If Diamond Dave can avoid getting Lawlor’d early, it’s his fight to win.
But let’s be serious – could you name two current UFC lightweights that Browning has the tools to beat? He’s just not ready for this yet. Defeating Dave Kaplan is like winning a bronze medal at the Special Olympics – it’s a nice accomplishment, but Gray Maynard will still stomp the crap out of you afterwards.