TEAM RASHAD’s remaining fighters:
Justin Wren (Rashad’s #3 pick), Darrill Schoonover (#6), Matt Mitrione (#7), Mike Wessel (#8)
TEAM RAMPAGE’s remaining fighters:
Wes Sims (Rampage’s #4 pick), Scott Junk (#5), Marcus Jones (#7), Zak Jensen (#8)
Thanks to a couple of boneheaded fight picks by Quinton Jackson, followed by a couple of spot-on matchups by Rashad Evans, Team Rashad has gone up 4-0 on this season of The Ultimate Fighter. We’ve seen this kind of thing happen before on TUF, where one side takes an early lead and has the other team playing catchup. But this feels different. Rampage started off as an inept coach, and last night’s episode showed that he’s basically stopped trying. His team is absolutely rudderless. The psychological advantages that Rashad’s guys have over Rampage’s are profound. Could Team Rashad actually sweep the first round of fights, 8-0?
Strictly based on talent, it’ll be a close race from here on out. Obviously, the order in which the fighters were picked by their coaches isn’t a direct correlation to their talent levels — otherwise Roy Nelson would have been picked second overall and Kimbo Slice would have been picked ninth, not the other way around — but for the last four preliminary fights, each team is now left with one top-eight pick, and three bottom-eight picks. If Rashad is smart (and he absolutely is), he’ll do the following…
— Realize that Darrill Schoonover, despite his soft-spoken manner and man-boobs, is just as dangerous and well-rounded as Justin Wren. Since Wren backed out of the fight with his homeboy Scott Junk, Team Rashad will need someone else to take on the big, tough Hawaiian. With a pro record of 10-0 (all wins by stoppage), Titties is a dark horse candidate to win the entire show, and his chances against Junk are solid.
— Don’t put Matt Mitrione up against Marcus Jones, since he’s clearly intimidated by the Big Baby. If Rashad wanted to teach Matt a lesson for his snitchin’, he might let that match go on as planned. But if the goal is to shut out Team Rampage, the weak-willed Mitrione should be thrown at Rampage’s last pick, Zak Jensen. We haven’t seen enough of Jensen to completely pass judgment yet, but he didn’t seem to impress anybody during the workouts in the first episode, and that should tell you something.
— Match Wren up with the next toughest guy on Team Rampage, which is probably half-crazy veteran Wes Sims. Sims is damn near seven feet tall, and has had more pro fights than any other contestant on the show. Does that make him unbeatable? Not even close. Someone with strong wrestling fundamentals and heavy hands like Wren could give an excitable fighter like Sims big trouble. MMA math time: Wren’s last fight before coming on the show was a TKO victory over Chris Guillen; in 2007, Guillen beat Sims twice.
— By default, send in the very capable Mike Wessel against Marcus Jones, and hope that Jones’s questionable gas tank, boiling emotions, and shaky form conspire to give the Big Baby a loss. Being a monster in practice doesn’t mean you’ll be a monster in an actual fight, and Jones could easily go out wheezing like Wes Shivers.