(The conclusion of the Tavares/McGee semi-final battle. Props: WWELegendKillerV1)
The two-hour last-actual-episode of TUF 11 begins with Tito Ortiz being whitewashed out of the production. Rich Franklin is slotted into the opening credits. His poster replaces Tito’s in the gym. Ace signs the bout agreement to fight Chuck Liddell. It’s almost as if Tito…never existed.
Rich was under the impression that he was just coming by to promote his fight with Chuck; he didn’t know Tito was completely off the show, and that he’d have to help Kris McCray train for his semi-final fight against Josh Bryant. Dana White calls up a few notables from the Xtreme Couture camp to help out as assistant coaches: Forrest Griffin, Gray Maynard, and Tyson Griffin. The guys help Kris with wrestling techniques, and Kris is surprised at how smooth the transition is.
It takes some getting used to for Chuck, though: "I go from fighting a guy I hate, to fighting one of the nicest guys in MMA." But when the time comes, he’ll be ready to rumble.
The Court McGee/Brad Tavares matchup is very awkward for Team Liddell. Court McGee and Brad Tavares have to go from training partners to combatants, and their coaches have to work on game-plans for both of them.
The Minority Report, who have a reputation for loudness, are about to get their comeuppance. A pack of TUF guys roll up with airhorns and silly string one morning and assault their bedrooms. McCray takes it well, but Tavares and Yager are furious. Tavares is so mad at being woken up early that he drops a chess board off the second floor. Anyway, you’ll be seeing more of that kind of bullshit later.
The first semi-final fight will be Brad Tavares vs. Court McGee. Everyone gives the striking advantage to Tavares, and the wrestling/grappling edge to Court. Dana predicts Court will win. Court is three inches shorter, but has a two-inch ape-arm advantage…
Round 1: Court opens with a leg kick. Both swing and miss. Court with a leg kick and a teep. Leg kick Brad. Court tries a high kick. Court clinches, wraps up Brad’s body and takes him down, landing in half guard. Brad shrimps and establishes full guard. Brad works some rubber guard, kicks Court off of him and gets up. Brad lands the jab, and they brawl for a bit. Court tries to clinch but gets punched off. Leg kick Court. Court with a jab, followed by a clinch and some dirty boxing. Brad rolls out. Court with a high kick. Court throws an overhand right to set up another clinch. He picks Brad up and dumps him, but Brad pops back up. Court lands a huge elbow from a clinch. He tries for another takedown as the clock runs out. I score the round 10-9 for Court.
Round 2: Tavares sticks the jab. And again. He lands a stiff counter after taking a leg kick from Court. Brad seems to be waking up. Another jab. Court kicks to the body and leg. Leg kick Brad, and Court counters hard with a right. Court shoots and locks onto Brad’s body. Brad defends and escapes. They trade punches. Brad lands a jab and a leg kick. Court with a hook. Court shoots, Brad defends, a lands a hook on the way out. Leg kick Court, jab from Brad, and another leg kick from Court. Court catches a leg kick, bulls Brad into the cage, and the round ends. It’s closer than the first frame, but it’s probably another one for Court.
Round 3: Brad kicks Court in the junk after a wild punching exchange. It’s a dogfight when the action starts again. Both guys still have gas in the tank, and understand the stakes. Brad with a hook, Court returns a pair of leg kicks. Brad attacks with a hook and an uppercut. Court’s leg kicks have less pop on them now. Brad works some punches, and a body kick. Court clinches, then works some punches against the fence. Body kick Brad. Court lands a right and Brad stumbles. Court locks on and Brad lands a hard knee in the clinch, and Court looks stunned, but he quickly collects himself. Brad tries a footstomp. Now Brad gets kicked in the nuts. He takes a breath and comes back to trade with Court. Court with a leg kick and straight punch. Court rushes forward with strikes, but kicks Brad in the balls again, and is warned by Josh Rosenthal. Court rocks Brad with a punch in a firefight, then slams him, and sets up a rear-naked choke. He sinks it, and puts Brad to sleep. Talk about finishing strong. Both guys fought like warriors, but Court is iron-clad, tough as nails, and he earned his shot to the finals like a son of a bitch.
Dana White brings by some Marines to hang out at the TUF gym. They show the fighters their group pushups and weapon disarmament techniques, and hold some pugil-stick matches. In return, the TUF guys teach the Marines some grappling. Later, the TUF house hosts a barbecue for the Marines. Kris comes from a military family, and was in the Army reserves, so he feels a special bond with these guys.
Kris has fought five times in six weeks. Who knows how his body is feeling right now, but he looks remarkably well-preserved. Rich and Gray teach him some tricks to conserve his energy so he won’t gas again. Rich is confident that he’ll beat Bryant this time.
Yager and Tavares want revenge for the earlier assault by their housemates. Yager steals a bunch of their shoes and hides them. Tavares throws beans and rice at Hammortree, who is sunbathing outside. A bag of flour is also thrown, possibly by Yager through he denies it later. Hammortree is furious, takes a trash bin and empties it in Yager’s room. Yager takes more food and scatters it in Hammortree’s room. There’s a standoff, some macho posturing. "His bark’s a lot bigger than his bite, as he showed in his fight," Hammortree says.
Uscola gets it into with Yager, and calls him a quitter. They jaw at each other for a bit. Uscola challenges Yager to fisticuffs outside, and waits in the backyard. Yager doesn’t follow. "Another fight he didn’t show up for," Uscola says. "He has a problem answering that bell, doesn’t he?" Uscola, Hammortree, and McKinney all want to fight Yager in the finale. But none of them will get their wish, as Yager will actually be fighting our boy Rich Attonito. Nice!
Time for semi-final #2: Kris McCray vs. Josh Bryant.
Round 1: They hug it out in the middle of the Octagon. Josh catches Kris with a hook, and Kris tumbles to the mat. He bounces up, clinches and takes Josh down. Josh tries to get up, but Kris slams him. Josh gets up again, and Kris pushes him against the fence. Another takedown. Josh gets up again. Kris with a knee to the body, and they separate. Josh jabs, Kris returns a body kick. Kris with punches and a body kick. Leg kick Josh. Kris jabs, they clinch, and Josh pushes him off. Kris lands a jab and a nice uppercut. They clinch, Josh gets out. Knees from Kris in another clinch. Bryant lands a hard hook and an uppercut. Kris throws a looping right as the horn sounds. The early takedowns might have secured the round for Kris, who is already sucking air.
Round 2: Overhand right from Kris, and a clinch. Josh defends. Kris punches to head and body, Josh gives it right back, and they clinch again. Josh works out and grabs onto Kris’s leg. Knee to the body from Kris. And again. Josh gives it back. Mazzagtti breaks ‘em. They trade punches, clinch, and Josh nearly gets Kris down. Kris circles out of the clinch. Josh jabs. They clinch and exchange knees and dirty boxing. Josh grabs onto a leg but can’t convert. He lands some punches to the body, and Kris returns a knee. Josh punches out of th clinch. Kris tries for a takedown but it’s stuffed. Josh rushes in to clinch and ends the round pressing Kris into the fence. It’s a close round; Rich tells Kris to stay off the fence and win the third frame, or he’ll lose the fight.
Round 3: Jabs from both sides. Kris with a knee to the body. Leg kick Josh. Kris lands two jabs, and Josh returns. Kris grabs on and pushes Josh into the fence, but Josh escapes. Josh lands a left hook. Kris fires back with uppercuts. Josh misses flying knee and Kris tries to take him down, but Bryant is soon out of his clutches. Josh snaps Kris’s head back with an uppercut. Kris attacks with an uppercut and jab. They brawl, with both guys landing. A knee from Kris. Josh is now as gassed as Kris. They trade knees in a clinch. Both guys land punches. Kris clinches, walks Josh over to the fence, and takes his back standing. Josh escapes and lands a punch, then another one, harder this time. Both guys swing at each other with dead arms. Kris grabs onto Josh’s leg. Josh drives an elbow into Kris’s body as the fight ends. Another ballsy performance for both sides.
The scores are 30-27, 29-28, and 30-27 — all for Kris McCray, who will join Court McGee in the finals. Interesting. Every round was close, but I figured Josh would have gotten the nod from at least one judge. 30-27 suggests "rout," and it definitely wasn’t that. Anyway, Bryant has a future at welterweight.
Even more interesting: Court and Kris have made it to the finals after losing previous fights in the house, which is unprecedented. Kris’s five TUF fights in six weeks sets a record that will hopefully never be broken. Rich Franklin ends the season undefeated. Dana predicts a sick fight for the finals. I predict a rather slow grind that will still be impressive due to the sheer willpower of these two men. Next week: the outtakes show, for those of you who can’t get enough of Yager’s trash talk.