Okay, so this is pretty much the best episode of the season thus far. Containing literally the best fight of the season, and several memorable twists and surprises, this episode makes me incredibly happy that this show is still continuing after being on the air for so long.
The show starts off immediately after the last one, with Chuck steaming after Dana tells him that he won’t get to fight Tito anymore. Aside from a lot of expletives from Chuck, nothing really materializes out of it, though. He doesn’t come crashing into Tito’s room like Rampage or Rashad would’ve in their season. Tito looks to have overheard all of Chuck’s badmouthing, though, but is shown to not do anything about it. It looks as though Tito’s merely accepted the fact, and expects Chuck to become angry and call him names. Both fighters come off as incredibly mature in this moment, though, with neither starting any sort of ruckus after the news is dropped.
The last quarter final match, which is between Team Ortiz bad boy Jamie Yager and Josh Bryant, follows immediately. Yager was very impressive in his last match, overpowering and knocking his opponent out very early in the first round. Like his last fight, Yager is again the much larger man, and is the clear favorite in this matchup.
Yager quickly rushes in with the same straight right that knocked his previous opponent onto the mat, but Bryant narrowly evades it and effectively counters with a right of his own. Yager is clearly hurt, and staggers toward the cage. Bryant charges after him and Yager attempts another knockout blow via a leaping right head kick. The kick being so high, Bryant easily ducks under it and goes for a take down, and presses Yager hard onto the cage.
The rest of the round, Yager seems more tentative and careful of his attacks. Though still aggressive, it is clear that he did not like Bryant’s early clean hit and wishes to avoid another. The round continues with Yager’s multiple leaping head kick attempts and Bryant’s counter punches and takedowns and ends with Bryant landing another clean punch and knocking Yager down onto the mat.
The second round continues the same way, with plenty of Yager’s leaping kicks, and Bryant’s clean counter punches and takedowns; in short, a complete stand up war. The battle rages on, and midway through the round, Yager slows down while Bryant becomes aggressive, which, I think, is something nobody expected of this match: the larger, stronger Yager is being overpowered by the smaller man! The bout continues until Bryant lands yet another clear punch and knocks Yager down a second time. Bryant leaps in with a side mount and unleash a series of ground and pound strikes until the end of the round.
Very excellent fight. Oddly enough, though, the judges announce it as a draw and a third round ensues. I totally disagree with that as I gave Bryant both rounds. Despite the fact that Yager looked the more impressive throughout the first round because of his leaping kicks and whatnot, his strikes weren’t nearly as effective as Bryant’s, plus the fact that he slowed down considerably during the second round and Bryant knocked him to the mat once in both rounds.
Judging oddities aside, what follows is something that was previously seen in episode one of the season: a fighter quitting. That’s right, big, bad ass Yager is unable to get up off his stool after a third round is announced. Tito walks away in disgust and literally everyone is disappointed. Who would have thought, right? Not only did the smaller man outperform his larger opponent, but he made him quit! Some would say that’s even more satisfying than knocking an opponent out or submitting him. A great fight is topped off with one of the oddest outcomes in Ultimate Fighter history.
After Yager is taken to the hospital by an ambulance, Dana White takes Tito aside and, here’s another Ultimate Fighter milestone for you, takes him off the show. That’s right: for the first time in Ultimate Fighter history, Dana White fires one of the head coaches during the taping of the show. Wow.
Tito doesn’t even argue. He did voluntarily pull out of his fight with Chuck and Dana offered all the expert medical attention the UFC can give to him. The only condition is that he has to leave the show this very instant to start whatever medical procedures he needs to get so that he can get back into the octagon as soon as possible. Tito agrees and leaves the gym, silent as a ghost, and aghast.
As Team Ortiz gets on their van to return home, they see their coach walk slowly and sullenly to his car. Clayton McKinney comments, “looks like he got fired or something”. We have a mind reader in the house. Dana is shocked that Tito immediately leaves and doesn’t bother to tell his team. He calls Team Ortiz out of the van and back into the gym to give them the devastating news. As expected, nobody believes it. If it is true, nobody in the team swallows that Tito would just take off and leave them cold. McCray surmises that Tito possibly went off to gather his thoughts first before leaving for good.
Thankfully, McCray’s right and Tito arrives at the TUF house several moments later. He explains what happened and properly says goodbye to his fighters. Tito has always been portrayed as an excellent coach on this series. He has always genuinely cared for his fighters, and constantly pushed them to their limits in order for them to become the best that they can possibly be. He showed this in The Ultimate Fighter Season 3 and once again, in The Ultimate Fighter Season 11. Despite a lot of his shortcomings, Tito showed some excellent heart throughout this show, and I honestly wish him the best for whatever’s to come his way.
The semi-final matchups are then announced. They are Brad Tavares vs. Court McGee and Kris McCray vs. Josh Bryant. The first matchup is a bit difficult to call since both are very excellent fighters, but I like McGee just slightly better in this one. Truthfully, though, I wish Dana had picked the fights slightly different, because this is the matchup I would have liked to see in the finale at Las Vegas. The second matchup is much easier to call. I’m pretty sure that Bryant will be able to easily win over McCray. McCray, despite being the only Team Ortiz fighter to reach it to the semi-finals, never really impressed me during the season. He does show plenty of promise, though, as he did showcase many clear improvements to his game as the show went on.
Something we’ve been expecting for some time now finally takes place on the show. Rich “Ace” Franklin finally officially replaces Tito Ortiz as a head coach on Season 11 of the Ultimate Fighter, and will fight Chuck Liddell at UFC 115. [LINK] What do I think of this matchup? Well, I like it way better than Chuck vs. Tito (though I honestly would have liked to see Chuck knock Tito out once again). This is, again, is a pretty hard fight to call, and while I really like Chuck Liddell and want him to win because he’s had so many straight losses in the UFC, I’d have to give this one to Rich. Rich is younger, and I personally believe, more skilled than Chuck. This is very much Rampage vs. Rashad, though: the stronger fighter vs. the more skilled one. And Rashad took that win mighty easily. I’m pretty sure it won’t be the same for Rich, though. Despite Chuck being older and, some have said, on his last legs in the game, he’s much hungrier now because of his series of losses, and if he catches Rich with one of his sledgehammers like Vitor Belfort did, Rich is going bye-bye. Either way, I’m sure it’ll be a very exciting matchup. It always is when these two are involved.
Before the show ends, however, Dana announces to “Team Franklin” that he overcompensated after taking Tito away from them. So, he’s given Rich a team of UFC fighters as assistant coaches, one of them is even a former champion! Who could they be??? IMPORTANT NOTE: If you absolutely do not want to be spoiled, I suggest you stay away from UFC.com, The Ultimate Fighter Season 11 Wikipedia page, and the MMA news sources for the time being, because the assistant coaches’ identities have been revealed prematurely. You have been warned!
The coaches’ identities will be revealed during the next episode, which will be a special two-hour season ender. It will also showcase both semi-final matchups and transition into The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale at Las Vegas. It’s gonna be good!