In the latest installment of his TUF 11 guest-blog for CagePotato.com, Team Liddell’s Rich Attonito breaks down the Seth vs. Joe matchup from last night’s episode, his chess rivalry with Charles Blanchard, and his self-destructive method of coping with being sidelined. We hope you get into treatment soon, Rich…
After Court McGee and Nick Ring’s fight, we catch a glimpse of Nick’s emerging knee problem. How bad was it, only time will tell. But it definitely was a cause of concern for him. Especially when it gave out and brought him to the ground during training. At the time, no one on our team had any idea of Nick’s injury.
The last of the preliminary fights is announced: Seth Baczynski and Joe Henle will close out the first round of competition in the house. Seth definitely seemed like the favorite in this matchup due to his experience and well-rounded skills. I remember the fight him and Court had to get into the house being a war. Seth looked like The Terminator; he never stopped coming forward the entire fight like a machine. When Chris was forced to leave due to his broken jaw, I knew they were going to bring Seth back. He was the best guy out of all of the fighters that lost, and I knew Tito wanted to bring back a guy who would only strengthen his team.
Joe, nicknamed the Geico Caveman, had only started fighting six months earlier and was very new to MMA. He pulled out a late submission in his fight to get into the house, in which he was losing. Because of that Joe was perceived to be the weak link in the house. But perception can be deceiving. While he didn’t have some of the polished skills that a lot of the guys had, he had a ton of heart and potential. You could see him absorbing the techniques we learned daily and improving rapidly. Joe’s grappling is definitely his strength and we knew that if he could ground Seth and get on top, that he could definitely win. The Terminator versus The Caveman was certainly gonna be a fight to watch.
Back at the house it was the usual repertoire to pass time. I would write in my journal to my wife every night. I missed her and my family a lot. Not being able to pick the phone up to tell people what was going on and all the exciting things that were happening was tough. There was so much you wanted to share but were unable to. I remember thinking, this certainly can’t be as bad as being locked up, but they even get phone calls in prison. I’ve never been to jail, not that it’s an accomplishment or anything, but being confined in two places every day for six weeks was bad enough, and the closest thing to prison I ever plan on experiencing.
Charles Blanchard and I would play a lot of Chess. At least ten or more games a day against each other. Some days I’d get the better of him, other days he’d get the better of me. For some reason the more I played him the more aggravated I’d get if I lost. When it was obvious he was gonna win the game, he had a way of getting under my skin like my little brother used to do when I was growing up.
For example, he’d have several power pieces on the board and I’d be left with my King and a few pawns. He’d methodically start to kill all of my pieces one by one, even if it wasn’t necessary. He’d get this little snickering laugh every time he’d kill a piece. Eventually, he’d put me in check, which was always followed by an antagonistic smile from him. So it would go, me moving my piece and Charlie saying "check", followed by the annoying smile of course. Move, check, move, check, move, check, move, check. Finally, I’d smack the chess pieces off of the board and say, "GO F— YOURSELF!" Which means "good game" in Jersey lingo.
Joe and Seth’s fight was a three-round battle. Sticking mostly to his grappling seemed to exhaust Joe by the third round. When the last round started it was obvious he didn’t have a lot of gas left in the tank. Seth grinded him out for the victory to put the team score at 4-3, still in favor of Team Liddell.
With the close of the preliminary fights there was a lot of speculation about who will be selected for the Wild Cards. Most of the guys still healthy enough to fight all had a good argument as to why they should be selected. I remember Hammortree was basically counted out of the running because of his back injury. He was bummed out and I felt for the guy. He had a great shot at being in the Wild Card fight and now he wasn’t even gonna be a consideration.
Dana announces that Kaycey and Kris will be the two wild cards. It was the first time in the competition that we would see two guys from the same team have to fight it out. Everyone knew that fighting a teammate could become a possibility on the show, now it was a reality.
Next Dana decided that Court would take my place in the quarterfinals due to the circumstances of his fight. I was happy Court was gonna fill my spot and felt like he really deserved it. I thought to myself that maybe my injury was unfortunate for me, but a blessing in disguise for Court. God works in mysterious ways and this could certainly be one of those circumstances. At least that’s what I chose to believe, and it helped keep things in perspective for me. My only hope was that he was going to be able to capitalize on the opportunity and go all the way. I knew all three guys who were revived from their losses and still alive in the competition, were back in the mix, and as dangerous as ever.
With the Wild Card fight in the waiting, the rest of the guys prepped themselves for what was surely to be an eventful quarterfinal round. As for myself, I did what I could to compensate for being sidelined. Everyone has different coping mechanisms, the most obvious one being alcohol, which there was certainly no shortage of in the house. Being the wild man that I am, I saw this as my opportunity to let loose. So I ate a lot of mint chocolate chip ice cream, with whip cream and walnuts on top. Wow, look out world cause I’m reckless!