Seven weeks ago, nearly one out of every thousand people alive on this earth watched the pendulous-bellied Roy Nelson pitter-pat his way one step closer to glory. The supremely confident Nelson – his frowning gut filled to the brim with whatever was in that slow cooker of his – took to the cage firm in his belief that the street fighting fury of Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson would prove no match for a wily man of tactics such as himself. Nelson fought patiently, strategically, technically, and in so doing earned himself two things: first, a berth in the heavyweight tournament quarterfinals, and secondly, no love from UFC President Dana White. None. Really not any love at all. White wants wide open fights and wide open fighters, and Nelson just wants the safe win. But it’s not just that gets under White’s skin; it’s that Roy Nelson is kind of an arrogant jerk. Nelson’s confidence borders on an aloof cockiness just as surely as his belly borders on his upper thighs. Which is to say: pretty surely. And this week, much to Dana White’s chagrin, Roy Nelson is back.
As the show begins we are reminded that Matt Mitrione had his “brain rattled” in his win over Scott Junk a couple of episodes ago, and seems at first to be pretty clearly concussed. We’re also reminded that “Big Baby” Marcus Jones is a delightful man with a surprisingly quick armbar from the guard position. He’s also the only member of Team Rampage to make it to the quarterfinal round, putting Team Rashad in an enviable but nonetheless awkward position. How do you train a team of fighters who are all going to face each other within a week? If Rashad gives extra attention to Justin Wren, for example, how would that be fair to his opponent, Roy Nelson? Not that Roy Nelson is worried about this: he’s laying around on the mats in exactly the same posture as . . . well . . . you know when you go to the zoo, and you’re expecting to see the lions in all their majesty, and once you get there the dude lions are all just lounging around on rocks and basically just sunning their balls? That’s exactly how Roy Nelson is lying around on the mats. Like a lazy lion. Nevertheless, Rashad decides that there won’t be any real coaching as such, no strategic talk, just basic cardio and mitt-work and wrestling. This is a good plan.
It looks like Matt Mitrione – who you’ll remember as the guy with the probably fake shoulder injury that lasted right up until the very second somebody at the house dissed him and he freaked out in training – might be really hurt. He’s claiming symptoms that sound pretty concussiony, but not everyone is buying it. Wren, in particular, thinks Mitrione is “milking it” by coughing weekly and feigning semi-consciousness in the van while everybody else is talking steaks and cheesy broccoli on the ride home from the gym. Brendan Schaub seems to be the only one taking him seriously. And what if he’s right? What if Mitrione really is concussed? What if the overnight stay at the hospital turns into something more? “If Matt ends up diagnosed with a concussion,” Brendan says, “My money’s probably on Kimbo coming back.”
Kimbo digs this idea, naturally, and he feels that he’s much improved and ready to go: “This is how I’m looking at it. I’m a fight contractor. I’m putting more tools on my belt. So when it’s time for me to build a foundation, I have every tool that I need to build a solid fight foundation.” He says this with complete conviction. After a hallway run-in with a woozy Mitrione, Kimbo considers the future. “Do I think Matt’s gonna pull out? Matt already got sand in his vagina. He already has sand in his vagina.” I guess we’ll see!
You might have noticed that this season has been low on pranks, pretty tame in comparison with the bed spritzings and sushi masturbation of TUFs past. Aside from the pretty tame caricatures Team Rampage commissioned and posted where Team Rashad couldn’t help but see them, there hasn’t been much at all, has there? That changes in a hurry, though, when Rampage and Tiki leave live chickens in Team Rashad’s rental cars. They make a mess, these chickens, they get mistreated a little, and then they’re set loose to fend for themselves rather than turned over to animal control. Good, good job guys.
Dana White pops in at the house to see if Mitrione is going to be able to fight despite his self-diagnosed concussion. Mitrione is evasive in his answers and transparently plays at forgetting who he fought in the first round. “Justin,” he says and then looks from side to side, “No . . . Junk. Junk. I fought Junk.” Allowing for the usual reality show editing shenanigans that can no doubt twist events and personalities in any number of ways, it has to be said that Matt Mitrione comes across like a complete weasel and a fraud here. Contrast this with Roy Nelson and Kimbo, who are shown working on Boston Crab attacks, and therefore come across as really awesome.
Any hopes of “Big Country” pulling out a shoot Boston Crab against Justin Wren are quickly dashed, however. As their fight gets underway, Nelson, a Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu black belt, and Wren, an accomplished Greco-Roman wrestler, show absolutely no interest in grappling, and instead choose to stand . . . and bang. Wren is the far more aggressive fighter early, landing shots and evading Nelson’s predictable one-two combinations. As the round wears on, Nelson seems to find himself a little, and although he’s not pressing the action, he’s taking punches off his arms and shoulders for the most part. Wren throws more and lands more, but he’s not landing significantly. Nelson looks like he’s finally settled in with about a minute left in the first as Wren starts to tire, but this looks like a 10-9 round for the much busier Justin Wren all the same. A surprising and impressive round from Wren to be sure. In the second we see more standing; we see more banging. But now Wren is tired, and pink like ham. Nelson isn’t getting hit, and he lands his jab and left hook with regularity – a 10-9 round for Nelson, but Nelson really pulls ahead towards the end of the round as Wren runs out of steam. It doesn’t look good for Wren heading into the third.
Or rather, it wouldn’t have looked good for Wren if the third round had ever happened. Kind of stunningly, actually, two judges scored both rounds for Nelson in a decision I can’t quite figure out. But this is one of those rare situations where the judges may have misjudged the rounds, but got the fight as a whole right, arriving at the proper decision almost despite themselves. Wren could have come out for the third, sure, but there probably wouldn’t have been much left of him. And so “Big Country” rolls on! That much we know, and yet so many questions remain unanswered. Is Matt Mitrione legitimately injured, or is he a total crybaby drama queen weasel? Will he be shamed into admitting his ruse and accept his fight, or will he drop out of the competition, opening the door for someone who isn’t a total crybaby drama queen weasel? Will Kimbo get another shot? And if not Kimbo then who . . . will become . . . THE ALTERNATE FIGHTER?