(‘Just ignore him. He’s trying to get a reaction out of us. Let’s not give him the satisfac…dammit, I looked. Now I’m confused about everything.’ Photo courtesy of Promma.)
Today is a very special day. No, not because of some lame April Fool’s pranks, but because we get to break up the soul-sucking monotony of the week with an evening of free fights (which we’ll be liveblogging, of course) followed by the premiere of a new season of "The Ultimate Fighter" that’s hell bent on re-fighting the Revolutionary War (and guess who won that son of a bitch). In the latest edition of Ben vs. Ben we debate the merits of the show, tonight’s fight card, and so much more. Enjoy.
Besides the main event, which fight are you most looking forward to at UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Kampmann?
BG: Call me a TUF rube, but I’m really curious to see how Junie Browning does against Cole Miller. On paper, Miller subs out the Lunatic even worse than Efrain Escudero did. But who knows? The Junie we saw on the last season of The Ultimate Fighter was a guy who didn’t come from reputable camp, didn’t concern himself with cardio training, and acted like a psycho for the benefit of the cameras. Feel free to still hate him, but he’s really not the same guy anymore. He’s woodshedding at Xtreme Couture these days, and he beat the living piss out of Dave Kaplan in his last outing. Judging from recent interviews, you get the sense that Miller is writing Browning off as a joke, in the same way that many fans are. That could turn out to be a really bad idea.
BF: You freaking TUF rube, you. Okay, I’ll admit to a certain level of curiosity about the Miller/Browning fight, particularly since Miller has taken to insisting that Junie is the worst fighter this side of Allen Berube. But I don’t really feel like it’s going to be the best or most interesting fight.
Instead, I’m really hoping to see Tim Credeur vs. Nick Catone. Call me crazy, but I think that has the makings of a great scrap. Credeur looked vicious his last time in the Octagon, and Catone is an undefeated prospect that the UFC seems hot on. I think Credeur takes it, but I also think it will be fun to watch. That is, assuming they have time to show it after Tyson "You Might as Well Go Make a Sandwich For the Next Fifteen Minutes" Griffin gets done doing his thing.
Is TUF 9′s USA vs. UK gimmick enough to get you excited about the new season, or will it end up being the same predictable antics and mostly mediocre fights, only with different accents this time around?
BF: The thing about any new season of TUF is, you have to keep your expectations realistic. If you think some nationalistic rivalries and British hooliganism is going to magically change the show in some fundamental way, you deserve to be disappointed. It’s going to be basically the same show, again. The two things we can hope for is that the cultural differences make for at least one hilarious misunderstanding, and the teams actually mean something to these guys since it’s not just colored jerseys that separate them.
If you go into it hoping for this and not much more (aside from one or two good fights amid a bunch of forgettable ones), you’ll enjoy yourself. And what else are you going to watch on TV, “Bully Beatdown”? Well, probably, yeah. But that still leaves six other days in the week to lose yourself in TV, and it’s not as if you’re going to do something stupid like leave the house.
BG: Well, I know I’m going to lose my shit the first time a British fighter complains that someone ate his spotted dick. But I can’t think of many other reality shows that have gone even close to nine seasons without significantly altering their approach. (Remember when Bret Michaels put all his whores on a bus? That was a stroke of genius.) U.S. vs. U.K. isn’t a big enough gimmick to get me psyched about TUF again, and the only thing I’m actually looking forward to is the dynamic between the coaches.
Like “Minotauro” Nogueira before him, Bisping will be the team father figure who doesn’t have patience for pranks; I think he understands the importance of this moment for the reputation of British MMA. By contrast, Hendo will show up to the house only when he has to, and will respond to any tales of bodily-fluid-sharing with a “boys will be boys” shrug. Trust me, Bisping’s stock will rise 100% by the time this season is over. Other than that, I’ll also be keeping my expectations low, and hoping that at some point Junie Browning shows up as guest house-destroyer.
Who’s most likely to get cut if they can’t pull out a win on Wednesday night?
BF: With the UFC’s ‘what have you done for me in the last five minutes?’ mentality, there’s always a danger that anyone who is either a) not coming off a win, or b) making their UFC debut, could be cut if they perform poorly. That said, Matt Horwich needs to be more worried than everyone else.
I like Horwich, and he’s nothing if not unique, but if gets beat by Ricardo Almeida (and he probably will) he drops to 0-2 in the UFC. He’s already been demoted from pay-per-view to Fight Night, and let’s be honest, his general weirdness makes him a little difficult to market. If he can’t beat Almeida, there’s really no reason to keep him in the UFC.
Also on the chopping block is Jorge Rivera. He’s lost two of his last three and seems like he’s being used as a test to see whether Nissen Osterneck is for real. He is, and if he puts a beating on Rivera the unemployment line might be the next stop for “El Conquistador.”
BG: Even if Ryan Jensen hadn’t tested positive for unapproved ADHD meds, he’d be my #1 pick for “Most Likely to Get Cut.” He’s gone 0-3 in the Octagon, and there’s no way the UFC would keep around an 0-4 fighter. The way things stand now, I think his firing is imminent.
As for fighters who will actually be competing tonight, Rafael Dos Anjos and Joe Vedepo are just as likely to get axed as Horwich and Rivera. Both men became highlight-reel knockout-victims in their UFC debuts last year; similar losses tonight would prove their uselessness.
And though their layoffs are somewhat less likely, Carmelo Marrero, Gleison Tibau, and Jeremy Stephens should be on elevated alert as well. Marrero has already washed out of the UFC once, and he needs to prove himself all over again (and not get demolished by Ryan Bader). Meanwhile, the loser of the Tibau/Stephens match will eat his third defeat in four attempts. The over/under on fighters getting released by the UFC after tonight is four. Place your bets.
Can you predict any early front-runners to go all the way on this season of TUF?
BG: Not to sound like Randy Jackson, but here’s the weird thing about tonight, dog. While past seasons of TUF have been packed with promising yet relatively inexperienced prospects, there are just as many guys in TUF 9’s round of 32 with expansive records who simply aren’t very good. One Team U.K. hopeful has actually lost his last six fights. One of the American fighters has already gone 0-2 in the UFC and is trying to sneak back in through the reality show. To be honest, it seems like a talent-poor field with few standouts. But as always, surprises will emerge.
I’ve got my eye on welterweight Mark Miller, an IFL vet whose unimpressive 8-5 record is highlighted by wins over UFC fighters Josh Neer and Brad Blackburn. The fact that he’s already fought for a national organization against good competition puts him ahead of 90% of the TUF 9 cast, and I see him making the finals against another solid veteran like Kevin Knabjian or Che Mills. In the lightweight bracket, Jeff Lawson’s submission prowess will make him a standout among his fellow Brits (most of them stereotypical brawlers), and maybe even earn him that six-figure contract. Until the first couple of episodes air, it’ll be hard to predict if any of the American 155’ers have an actual shot at winning this thing.
BF: Miller should definitely be considered a threat to make it into the finals of the welterweight division. His experience means a lot, as does his ability to knock people stupid with one punch (isn’t that right, Josh Neer?). He’s also a good guy who’s mature enough to keep from drinking or property-damaging himself out of contention, so there’s that.
Other than Miller, I have to confess to not knowing much about the rest of the field, especially the Brits (although I’m hoping Gary Kelly and his unintelligible remarks make it into the finals, just because I love when TV shows have to add subtitles for a native English-speaker).
Santino DeFranco is aiiiight, but unless he’s gotten a lot better since Rafael Dias (who’s good, but no world-beater himself) subbed him in the IFL, it’s hard for me to get too pumped about him. The guys from the Miletich Camp, like Jason Pierce, ought to at least have good cardio and know how to take a beating by now, so maybe that will be enough. Who knows. If there’s one thing we’ve learned through TUF, it’s that you can’t base everything off a guy’s record. With the tournament format a guy with raw ability, a good head on his shoulders, and a little luck on his side can land in the finals even if he’s only had a handful of fights. However, we’ve also learned that every season has guys who are there to get serious and kick ass, and guys who are there to make those other guys look better than they are.