Let me begin by saying this was the best episode of the season so far. Hands down.
This show began right off the bat with the fight pick. No BS at the beginning, no high fives in the locker room, no recap of the last fight. Good, I didn’t want to see that crap anyways.
Team Serra has the pick and he chooses his guy Ben Saunders to fight against one of Hughes’ top guys, Dan Barrera.
There is something they can learn from this episode to do in future episodes. Spend part of the show profiling one fighter, spend another part of the show profiling another fighter, then they fight. For instance, tonight I learned a lot about Dan Barrera. He’s a really likable guy, seems super determined, and seems to have a fantastic work ethic. He has a dedication to his beliefs, to training, and to his wife. I felt like this episode actually let us get to know a fighter instead of trying to show us fighters at their worst moments for the entertainment of those at home.
Dan trains hard. Maybe a little too hard, according to his teammates. He goes a little too hard in practice with Blake Bowman and Jared Rollins, even kneeing Rollins in the nuts at one point. After the knee, Rollins and Barrera train pretty damn hard, going at it. Rollins is going for kneebars, Barrera is stuffing Rollins’ takedowns, and there’s even some shit talking going on. Good shit. I like watching the training sequences, they’re much better than fighters sitting at the house saving fucking bees from drowning.
The funniest part of this sequence was that Barrera kept asking to use the restroom and disappearing for like 10 or 15 minutes at a time. All his teammates are asking what the hell he’s doing. A few minutes later they show video from the bathroom. At one point Barrera is standing there with his pants down, shadowboxing in front of the mirror. Other times he’s just making sure he looks good, and then the rest of the time he’s shadowboxing in the mirror. At the end he’s shown walking out of the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to his foot. Classic.
Over in Team Serra’s camp, we get a glimpse of what Ben Saunders is like. He’s been a pretty nonexistent part of the show so far, yet made a small appearance on the last episode. I don’t know why we haven’t seen much of him, but he seems like a really likable guy as well, someone fans can latch onto. He’s a little crazy, it seems, and he is looking forward to a good scrap. Good, so am I.
The next morning they show Barrera getting up at 4:15 AM to go on a four or five mile run and do a workout. It’s sort of a montage with him talking about his beliefs, his life, his family. It’s pretty cool to hear the guy talk, he’s very grounded.
The next day in practice, Hughes thinks he’s going to teach Barrera a lesson about training too hard and pretty much works him in practice. I mean, Hughes manhandles Barrera. Manhandles him so bad that Barrera’s hand looks like a balloon at the end of the training session. When they get into the van after practice, all of his fingers and the top part of his palm are black and blue and his hand looks like a grapefruit. Most of the fighters look at him like it’s broken, he just thinks he popped some blood vessels. Either way, it looks real nasty.
At this point I’m thinking Hughes is going to be sick to his stomach if he’s the one who broke Barrera’s hand. How awful would that have been and how bad would Hughes have come off? I was ready to rip him to shreds in this column tonight.
Barrera eventually goes to the doc, gets an X-Ray, and is cleared to fight. Whew. They didn’t show it, but I bet Hughes was the most relieved of anyone besides Dan himself. So, he’s been cleared to fight and that drama’s over and now we can move onto the fight.
Or can we? For the second week in a row, a fighter gets a call from home. Dan is allowed to call his wife, who seems to have had some sort of panic attack or seizure. She says the devil is doing this to her purposely while he’s away and that she’s been saying her last prayers. I mean, it was some wild shit. Dan stays on the phone with her and prays with her until she calms down. He then gets her sister to go stay with her until he returns.
So not only is the guy dealing with injury, he’s dealing with drama at home. He’s got some serious balls.
The fight itself started at about 10:35 EST, so I knew it was probably going to be decent. Decent is an understatement. This was one of the best fights in the history of The Ultimate Fighter and I don’t think that’s overstating it. The one thing I’m noticing about these fights is that Serra seems to be the better corner. He is always yelling out instructions while you hear Hughes just throw something out every now and then. Or, maybe it’s just that Serra’s louder.
Anyways, these two guys came to scrap. They both come out of the box firing, Dan with punches and Ben with knees and kicks to the legs and body. Dan is more active throughout the round, punching in bunches and scoring in the clinch. At one point he lands a huge overhand right that drops Saunders to the mat. Ben’s nose is bleeding pretty profusely and Dan just stands above him while Saunders lies on his back. Herb Dean finally stands them up and after a failed takedown attempt, Saunders ends up back on the floor with Dan standing over him. Herb Dean again stands Saunders up. Dan lands a nice right hand at the end of the round and Saunders lands a couple of knees, one of which cuts Dan’s forehead. Round ends and both fighters are dripping with blood.
I’ve got the round score 10-9, as did most everyone, mainly due to the overhand right that rocked Saunders earlier in the round. Overall he was more active and did more damage in round one.
Round two is a different story. Ben dominates this round with combinations of knees, kicks, and punches. He kept Barrera outside of the clinch and used his range to pick Barrera apart. The cut on Barrera’s forehead looks to be a pretty nasty cut and the blood is running down into Barrera’s eyes. At one point Herb Dean stops the fight and asks him if he wants to fight and he says yes. They continue to trade strikes and Saunders lands a solid knee that drops Barrera for a moment and he’s right back up, trading punches. Horn sounds.
I’ve got the round 10-9 for Ben Saunders, one round apiece. We’re headed to Sudden Victory, baby. Round three.
Or are we? Dana seems to think so. Corners seem to think so. That is, until wise Herb Dean tells them there is no round three and that there’s a winner. Ben Saunders. Turns out two of the judges score the first round for Saunders. Hughes is livid. I’m livid. Dana’s livid. These guys deserve a third round. There is no clear winner.
Dana says “I don’t want to bash the judges, but that was some horrible judging.” You got that right, Dana.
Hughes asks NSAC commish Keith Kizer where his judges go to school and if they are trained judges. Kizer tells Hughes he thought he was a little more professional than that. All the while he has a really guilty and nervous smile on his face. He knew it was bullshit.
In the locker room, Matt Arroyo tells Dana he should give Ben a $5,000 bonus for putting on such a good fight. Dana says he’ll give it to the both of them. In Team Hughes’ locker room, Hughes is pissed, Dan looks like his face has been pounded on with a hammer, and Dana tells Dan great fight and says he’ll get a $5,000 bonus. Dan is grateful, says he can help out his family with that money. Very grounded guy, I’m positive we’ll see him in a prime time spot on the TUF 6 Finale card.
Solid show this week. Real solid and a great fight to boot.
Team Serra goes up 5-1 and Hughes gets no say in the quarterfinal pairings.
Next week, Hughes looks like he wants to take the way of Noah Inhoefer and Joe Scarola and leave the show. Seems like more of a motivational tool, but that’s how they were playing it on the teaser. Also, he is raging pissed that his team is losing and decides to be rough on them in practice, yet again.