Wow, it’s finally the end of Season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter, huh? A spectacular two – hour special greets us this season ender, which promises loads of content and the semi-final matchups.
The episode begins exactly when the last one left off, with Rich Franklin introducing his assistant coaches to the team and surprise, surprise (unless you were massively spoiled like I unfortunately was)! It’s Forrest Griffin, Gray Maynard, and Tyson Griffin. We then immediately cut to the next semi-final matchup: Court McGee vs. Brad Tavares.
I really like this matchup. McGee and Tavares are both extremely talented and extraordinarily tough individuals, and having them both engage in the octagon will mean a guaranteed, all – out war, and that’s exactly what this fight was. Classic stand – up wars, aside, this was, unfortunately, not as exciting as one would have hoped. Both fighters fought their hearts out for sure, but both were also a bit tentative, and defensive at times, showing that each was aware of the consequences of what would happen if they simply let it out and became sloppy. Both were thus technically savvy of each others’ skills, looking for openings and capitalizing on them when properly presented, and retreating if necessary. Though the match was fairly even all throughout, McGee seemed the more active and more skilled among the two. Chuck mentions after the fight is over that he thought McGee won the first two rounds by at least a small margin, and I completely agree, which is why I was a bit shocked when the judges declared a third and final round. Fans of groin kicks rejoice for this round, though, as fatigue obviously dulled both fighters' senses somewhat giving us most probably the most groiun kicks ever in a single round. Near the end, though, McGee absolutely refused to let this go to the judges' scorecards like last time and literally puts Tavares to sleep with a rear naked choke.
This makes me very, very happy. Ever since McGee first fought, he pretty much became my favorite fighter of this season. He showed great skills, heart and cardio that could possibly take him all the way to the end, and it did. I am definitely rooting for him to win the finale next week.
The next segment of the show pretty much expands on Dana’s massive support of the US armed forces. Several marines show up and take over the fighters’ training for a day. They show them combat techniques used in actual war situations, such as disarming an opponent with a gun or a knife, and sparring with bayonets. Their band of brothers style conditioning regimen is also pretty unique, such as simultaneous push ups with four people, whose legs are on the others’ necks, forming a rather odd square in motion. This supposedly not only conditions your body, but also builds trust in your teammates, which is, of course, vitally important to do-or-die situations.
What I found more interesting was what the soldiers wanted to learn from the UFC fighters next. Their primary concern was how to quickly get up off the ground. They could take their opponent down if they wanted to, or get taken down, but the point was that, in war, they should always be alert on their feet at all times. They apparently have not had much training in this department because of lack of experts on their side, but fortunately for them, the Ultimate Fighters had plenty of masters of wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques for them to learn from. The day ends with the marines having a fun barbecue party over at the Ultimate Fighter House.
After pretty much devoting a vast majority of the season to inside the gym and outside the house, this special seems to want to catch up in a tremendous way. Pretty much everyone plays pranks on each other for entire segments of the show, a lot of people get pissed, and tons of stuff get thrown out of high places. In the end, though, all the finger pointing wound up on the same person the show already previously set up: Jamie Yager. Clearly the bad boy of the show, he wasn’t nearly as annoying or as entertaining as Season 8’s infamous Junie Browning . After that Dude, you’ve pretty much seen everything the show has to offer in terms of criminal behavior in the house, so I’m really not that impressed about how the show seems to want to frame Yager.
The show ends, of course, with the last semi-final matchup between Josh Bryant and Kris McCray. Bryant is the obvious favorite here, being extremely impressive in his wins within the show, but Rich Franklin pointed out something that I, and many others, may not have realized. Kris McCray may not be one of the more impressive and entertaining fighters in the house, but he was, without a doubt, the most hard working. This is because, prior to this one, he had already fought four times during his six week stay in the house, which means that he pretty much fought every Tuesday that he was there, according to Dana White. I was never impressed with McCray. Never. But you have to really admire the heart and dedication of such an athlete. Incredible stuff.
This fight was also an all-out war similar to the first one, but, as others who have seen McCray’s past fights know, his strategies mainly revolve around his wrestling, which means pinning his opponent onto the cage, and wearing them out. McCray managed to overpower Bryant during the first round with this strategy and obviously take the most points, but Bryant manages to reverse McCray during the second round and overpower him much of the time. Interesting stuff, which found both fighters, really gassed out by this point, meeting in a third round. Not much for tactics at this point, both fighters come out swinging like Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar. Only, since they were both gassed, it was almost like it was in slow motion. Both fighters threw and landed massive bombs, though, and tested each others’ chins time and time again during that last round of their lives. In the end, though, the judges declared that McCray did just enough to win via unanimous decision. Hard work and dedication pay off once again. Rich Franklin also jokingly says after the match that this officially makes him the only undefeated coach in "The Ultimate Fighter History", which I found hilarious.
So, the finals in Las Vegas next week will be between Team Liddell’s Court McGee and Team Franklin’s Kris McCray. As mentioned, I’m rooting for Court to take this one, but McCray time and time again (four times in a row in fact), that his heart and dedication can overcome pretty much any obstacle, so we’ll see. Either way, this is definitely going to be an exciting matchup!
The main event that evening is also between Ultimate Fighter alums Matt “The Hammer” Hamill and Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine. I really like both these fighters, but think Jardine can take Hamill out. Both are tough, though, so this is also going to be a very explosive matchup!
As for Chuck vs. Rich? well, I already predicted that Rich would take this fight for one reason or another, but however it ultimately winds up, I sincerely hope that Chukc shows up in the best shape of his life. The UFC 115 Countdown hypes him up as usual, but I hope it's all true. Chuck may deny it all he wants, but he definitely did not look his former self in his last few fights. Hopefully, even thought Chuck loses this one, he'll put on a fantastic show and prove that he's worthy of several more years in the UFC.
But, wait, there’s more! Yes, despite us knowing the results of the show, we still have another episode on the way. Next week promises us outtakes and never before seen footage during the taping of the show. I actually like this format way better than the ones they’ve used in the past. Before, they would sprinkle out these “house moments” throughout every episode and make sure they get their fair share. I was never really interested in that, as all I really cared about were the fights. Sure, these kinds of things are fun during the first few seasons, but after ten straight seasons of the same thing? Ugh, gotta change it up. And they did. Now, we got to see the important part of the show: the fights, and this last episode is more akin to a bonus of sorts to fans who followed the season through and through, which, I believe gives a much better effect. More fun next week in the last episode of The Ultimate Fighter Season 11, as well as the The Ultimate Finale 11! I can’t wait!