Now that TUF 10‘s round-of-16 is in the books, we all have a better sense of who these guys are and how far they’ll go in the competition. So, it’s time to rank the Elite 8 based on their performances. Going from valedictorian to dunce…
Wren put an MMA veteran to sleep, took zero damage in the fight, and made it look easy. You couldn’t ask for a more successful first match than that. Few people knew who this guy was when he came into the house, but suddenly he’s a front-runner. Grade: A
Like Wren, Nelson used a methodical grappling attack to take his opponent completely out of the game. The only difference is, Wren finished his fight, while Nelson was content to pile on pitty-pat punches until the ref stopped it for him. Not taking any undue risks is a smart strategy when you’re looking at three fights in six weeks, but hopefully he’ll show some killer instinct in his next fights. Grade: A-
His ground-game looked sharp last night (except for when he botched the rear-naked choke attempt and Wessel got on top of him), but I still have concerns about Big Baby. How will his questionable cardio hold up in a fight that lasts longer than a minute? How will he do against an opponent that can stick to a gameplan? I’m impressed, but I’m not quite ready to call Darkness a favorite to go all the way. Grade: B+
We have to give Schaub credit for taking on an opponent who wasn’t a total scrub, surviving some early trouble, and walking away with a submission win. It wasn’t pretty, but he definitely proved that he belongs there. Grade: B
I liked how calm Schoonover was as he set up the triangle on Zak Jensen, who was raining punches down on him — yet another smooth submission victory in a preliminary round that was full of them. But did he need to take so much damage? Other than Mitrione’s achy brain, Darrill might be the most worse-for-the-wear fighter going into the quarterfinals. Grade: B-
At best, he’s a dependable lay-and-pray artist. At worst, he’ll be exposed the first time he draws an opponent with a decent sprawl. Madsen had a solid gameplan during his lopsided victory over Abe Wagner, scoring takedowns at will. But despite all the blood he pulled out of Abe’s head, there didn’t seem to be much finishing ability on display. Grade: C
He fought with heart, and dominating a well-traveled veteran like Scott Junk has to count for something. Still, gassing out before the end of the first round isn’t a sign of continued success. Grade: D+
Thoughts on the quarter-final matchups…
Roy Nelson vs. Justin Wren: They look the same, and fight the same — the only difference here is age and level of experience. The 22-year-old Viking isn’t quite on Nelson’s level yet, and I’ll be surprised if Big Country doesn’t grind out another methodical victory.
Brendan Schaub vs. Jon Madsen: I think Schaub might be too well-rounded for Madsen. Provided that Schaub can stop the takedown, he’ll control this fight with his striking.
James McSweeney vs. Matt Mitrione: It bothers me that one of these jokers is guaranteed a spot in the semis. Obviously, the fight will be decided by who can last longer. I’ll say McSweeney by ugly decision.
Marcus Jones vs. Darrill Schoonover: This looks like it could be the best matchup of the quarterfinals. Jones looks like a monster now, but if Darrill can take him into deep waters, I see him pulling off a TKO win once Big Baby starts to suck air.