When Michael Bisping went AWOL during Dean Amasinger‘s fight against Damarques Johnson, the nation wanted answers. Had he been in a car wreck? Was he holed up in a motel room with a crack pipe? Did he finally get picked up on his outstanding buggery warrants? Nah, the dude just overslept. He was badly jet-lagged, and was sawing logs while Dean was getting his ass kicked. Not exactly the cliffhanger we were hoping for, and the whole thing was resolved in about 20 seconds.
Other than that, last night’s episode was very satisfying, with two fights (I’m liking this trend) and some highly ironic tooth-loss thrown in at the end. To begin at the beginning…
Hostility among the Americans continues, with Jason Pierce talking shit about Cameron Dollar while he’s in earshot, after Cameron tries to give Dean advice about what he should have done when he was caught in Damarques’s triangle. Cameron thinks he’s going to be the next Team U.S. member to be picked to fight, and he’s right: Bisping selects Martin Stapleton vs. Cameron Dollar as the second lightweight quarterfinal.
Team U.K. talks about Martin Stapleton like he’s Bill Brasky. Apparently, Stapleton is a trainer for the Royal Marines, and is considered the strongest wrestler on the U.K. lightweight team. He’s clearly more confident than the self-doubt-filled Cameron, which comes across during their interactions in the house: Cameron is sullen and quiet, while Stapes is jovial and enjoys taking the piss out of the Americans.
Cameron is concerned about adrenaline dumps and "wiggin’ out." Fighting scares him to death, as he repeatedly tells his team, who try to tell him that that’s normal. (Sure, but for a professional fighter?) Mentally, he should be at a disadvantage. But then, Stapleton writes the names of his wife and child on his hat, which seems to be a curse on TUF — and on most competitive reality shows, really. Once they show you going on about your family, that tends to be the episode you’re sent packing. If you haven’t noticed that before, you will from now on.
The Dollar/Stapleton fight is susprisingly brief. After a feeling out process, Cameron hits Martin in the back of the head as he shoots for a takedown, which seems to stun him. Cameron is able to clinch, then toss Martin to the ground and get on top. Martin gives up his back in an attempt to escape, and Cameron immediately begins to work for the rear-naked choke. After some struggle, he gets it. The series is tied at 2-2 and Bisping no longer has his bragging rights.
The fight selections are back in the hands of the Americans, who choose Frank Lester against James Wilks. Hendo judges James to be "a pussy on his feet." Frank is a tightly-wound ball of violent energy. He will not stop shadow-boxing, ever. He also considers Wilks something of a carpet-bagger (as the Brit has been living in California for years) and is obsessed with the idea of destroying him. Says Frank: "He’s not an American, he’s not a Brit, he’s just an asshole."
Frank’s hyperactive anger is obvious to his coaches, who try to settle him down during practice. Frank tells Henderson and Cyrille that he’s "having trouble just controlling my brain," and he feels "like I’m going to put my hand through a window." Hendo tries to explain that a clear, relaxed mind is more beneficial in a fight. Then, Damarques offers Frank $100 for each tooth he knocks out of James’s mouth. FORESHADOWING, Y’ALL.
The Lester/Wilks fight is a thriller. In round 1, Frank comes out throwing his wild overhand rights, as expected. He lands two hard lefts when James charges in, and James responds with a leg kick. After some striking exchanges, Frank knocks James down with punches, but James goes for a leg lock, then follows Frank to the mat when he tries to escape. In side control, James goes for a kimura, loses it, then goes to north-south position. He returns to side control, drops some elbows, and tries for the leg lock again, but loses it. Frank gets up and James tries a guillotine, eats some punches, then lands some big knees. More clinch fighting, with Frank working some dirty boxing and James throwing in knees wherever he can find them. In the last 30 seconds of the round, James scores a takedown, lays on Frank for a while, then tries for an arm triangle choke as the round ends.
Between rounds, Lester says his front teeth (which were fake anyway, but still) got knocked out by James’s knees. The fight is stalled while Frank’s corner tries to pry his teeth out of his mouthpiece, which causes Bisping to freak out in protest. To his annoyance, the fight is allowed to go on, but Frank is clearly rattled by the tooth situation, and throws big, scared, looping punches. James snaps a kick into the side of Frank’s face. They clinch after a failed takedown from James and exchange punches. James drags Frank to the mat and throws down a punch. Frank briefly gets to his feet but is taken down again, and James easily passes from side-control to mount. Frank rolls to escape, and James grabs his arm and extends it, immediately causing Frank to shout "TAP!" Game over.
And that makes it 3-2, Team U.K. The American who was terrified of fighting won, and the American who was dying to fight lost. It’s like rain on your wedding day. It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid.