(The completed TUF 9 lightweight bracket; click above for larger image. Props to Wikipedia.)
With Damarques Johnson taking the first finale spot in the welterweight bracket, Team U.S. has momentum, and Dan Henderson says he wants to make the finale "Dana’s nightmare, no U.K. guys." But the Brits have other ideas. First up in the lightweight semis will be Team U.K.’s Andre Winner vs. Team U.S.’s Cameron Dollar, who’s struggling in practice due to injured cartilage in his ribs. "I catch a body shot or a kick, I’m gonna fold in half," he says.
Andre says Jason Pierce gave him some insight into Cameron’s striking, and all he really needs to do is stay away from the big right hook. He looks tight on the focus mitts. Andre also sucks his thumb, it turns out. Cameron says he can’t lose to a thumb-sucker, and prays he has God’s speed and the Devil’s rage.
Andre Winner vs. Cameron Dollar
Round 1: Cameron lands first with big punches, and both of them start swinging wildly. Cameron is going for the walk-off home-run shot. After they settle down a bit, Andre connects with a hook and an uppercut, stuffs a takedown, and fires a knee to the ribs in the clinch that doubles Cameron over. Andre tries to finish, but Cameron grabs his legs and gets on top. Andre escapes, and lands more knees that drop Cameron. As Cameron hangs onto Andre’s leg, struggling for a takedown, Andre repeatedly slugs him in the face. They separate. Cameron lands a big right and takes Andre down, but Andre reverses to mount, sets up a triangle, and Cameron eventually taps. Andre Winner will advance to the lightweight finals.
The other lightweight semi is Ross Pearson vs. Jason Dent. Ross dislocates his shoulder in practice, and Bisping has to pull it out, but Ross isn’t too worried; it happens all the time. Meanwhile, Dent seems to be the only guy in the house without a torn-up face, nasty infection, bruised ribs, crippling gag reflex, or other handicap. Dent says he owes his health to his smart fighting style — which Dana criticizes as too safe and unimpressive — but plans to let it all hang out against Pearson.
Ross Pearson vs. Jason Dent
Round 1: Dent comes out with a strangely low stance, throwing leg kicks. Ross rushes in with punches, and clinches when Dent is against the cage. Dent punches out and presses Ross against the cage. Ross falls while throwing a high knee, but gets up and pushes Dent against cage where they exchange some dirty boxing. Dent shakes out and makes the hand gesture for "bring it." Ross throws a body kick and punches to the body and head. Dent returns some punches. Ross tries a high kick and fires some hard punches, and Dent grabs a Thai clinch and gets in a knee. Ross throws another big high kick off Dent’s glove. Dent scores with punches. They briefly clinch and trade knees. Dent lands some punches and misses a spinning back kick. Ross plays the aggressor again, backing Dent into the cage with punches. Dent clinches. "Take him down, Dent, Take him down," Henderson shouts. "He can’t take him down, Dan," Bisping replies. They slug it out to finish the round, with Ross eating most of the shots.
Round 2: A leg kick from Dent, and a nice 1-2 from Ross. Dent tries more kicks, and a knee in his trusty thai clinch. Ross lands some punches. Dent throws another leg kick and Ross swarms with punches. They clinch again, with Dent trying for the takedown. Ross defends it and gets in a body shot. Dent tries a flying knee before returning to his knees in the clinch. Ross takes Dent down, but he works to his feet. Dent starts beating Ross up in the clinch. He shoots, but Ross defends and throws down punches from the top until the bell.
Round 3: Dent is the aggressor at first, throwing heavy leather. But Ross lands some shots of his own and scores a takedown. The entire round is spent with Ross on top, throwing punches and elbows. After a failed armbar attempt, Dent rolls and turtles. Ross throws punches to the side of Dent’s head. Dent tries hard to get to his feet, but Ross is a bulldog on top of him, smothering him until the final horn. The judges give Ross Pearson the unanimous decision.
Dana says Dent gained more respect in his loss than in his two previous wins. Fittingly, Dent’s face isn’t so unscathed anymore. It’ll be Andre vs. Ross in the all-U.K. lightweight final. Judging from last night’s performances, Andre has this one in the bag. And next week, Frank Lester tries to redeem himself against the man who knocked his teeth out (James Wilks) in the second welterweight semifinal.