How quickly the game changes. Despite all his efforts in reminding his team to breathe, Matt Serra‘s two remaining fighters were eliminated on last night’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter. As Matt Serra himself might say, “Ouch!” Let’s take it from the top…
The episode opens tragically, with Matt Arroyo suffering a rib injury while practicing with Richie useless motherfucking Hightower. He tries to work through it, but the pain convinces him to see the doctor; the prognosis is a small crack in the rib and deep bruising. The doctor doesn’t actually forbid him from fighting, but Arroyo knows that he wouldn’t be able to get through two rounds against Mac Danzig in the shape he’s in, so he takes himself out of the competition. Dana White, who has maybe never fought with a broken rib before, pressures Arroyo into fighting hurt (“words cannot fuckin’ describe what you’re giving up”), and basically calls him a filthy quitter, but Arroyo makes the right choice and stays sidelined, which means a replacement has to be found.
Dana and Matt Serra interview War Machine, Troy, and Richie to see if they’d step in against Mac. The guys want absolutely nothing to do with him. Richie is concerned about dropping 20 pounds in three days; I’m just as concerned that he apparently gained 20 pounds in three days. Anyway, as we all knew would happen, Smilin’ John Kolosci rolls in, pleads for the fight against Mac, and he gets it.
This doesn’t sit well at all with Mac, who looks nervous for the first time all season. “I beat this guy decisively, and he gets another chance to fight me, and if he beats me he’s in the finals?” he asks. Mac starts worrying about getting caught with a shot from Kolosci, who, as Mac points out, has by now “figured out what not to do” against him.
Then there’s this awful commercial for Wahl beard trimmers, co-starring Andre Arlovski:
“Throw out your SHAY-VING CRAYYYM!”
Semi-final match 1, Mac vs. John:
Kolosci comes out swinging with a series of solid leg kicks, but not all of them hit the mark. At one point, he misses so hard that he falls to the ground, prompting Serra to yell, “Not everything’s gonna be a home run, Johnny!” Awww…I wish my kindergarten teacher had been that supportive. Frustrated by the strikes, Mac takes the first opportunity to move the fight to the ground. John winds up with his arm around Mac’s neck, but Mac slips it, moves to side-control and transitions to a silky-smooth rear-naked choke that gets John to tap out. Once again, Mac proves how big of an advantage seven years of experience is. Realizing that he’s heading for the finals, Mac becomes overwhelmed with emotion and starts crying. it’s a touching moment for the bloodless sociopath.
Semi-final match 2, George vs. Tommy:
It was a fight that nearly everyone was giving to George, and in the opening moments it looked like technique would trump strength. George completely neutralized Tommy’s wrestling, deftly scrambling away from a string of takedown attempts. But a bad turn-of-events was in the cards. As Tommy faked a head-punch before shooting in, he accidentally put his thumb directly into George’s eye. A timeout was called while George recovered; Matt Serra reminded him that he could take up to five minutes, but after only a few seconds, with his eye still sealed shut from the poke, George decided to resume the fight. Tommy capitalized on the situation, landing a couple of big punches before putting George to the mat with a huge overhand right, and then punching him out on the ground. Team Hughes goes nuts, climbing over the fence to celebrate while George tries his best to sit upright on a stool.
So if you’re wondering who might win at Saturday’s finale, let me just say this…
There are moments in the careers of certain fighters where they’re simply unstoppable. Chuck Liddell in 2005-2006 comes to mind, when Chuck beat Randy Couture to take the UFC’s light heavyweight belt, then defended it four times. Then he started living a rock star lifestyle, lost his focus, and began to lose fights. But until that point, there was just no way to beat him; as long as he had something to prove, he would win. On a smaller scale, Tommy Speer is having that same kind of moment. He is absolutely on fire right now, and he won’t lose a match simply because he’s facing a “better” fighter. George Sotiropoulos (like Mac Danzig) has so much more talent than Tommy, and he got knocked out. War Machine and Ben Saunders attempted submissions on Tommy that would have sunk 99% of fighters in his place, but never figured out a way to beat him.
Not that Mac Danzig isn’t a tremendously skilled fighter (who will probably leave with a UFC contract no matter what happens on Saturday), but it comes down to this: We haven’t seen him in trouble yet. We’ve certainly seen what happens when Tommy’s in trouble — he summons the strength of the thunder gods. Can Mac be that resilient and mentally tough? Nobody knows yet. But it’s almost certain that Tommy will put him in a position where we’ll find out.
All I’m saying is, you should know by now not to bet against Tommy Speer.