All of a sudden, the UFC’s heavyweight division is looking a little light. Between Brock Lesnar’s career-threatening cluster of mystery illnesses, Shane Carwin’s strained MCL, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s second serious staph infection in less than a year (someone, anyone, please: wash the mats), things are pretty thin at the very top of the division. And actually, the middle rank isn’t particularly robust these days, either. But the bottom! What a glorious, full bottom the heavyweight division shall have! Because soon it will be fattened by the collective girth of the cast of The Ultimate Fighter: the ham-pink Justin Wren, the thoroughly bosomed Darrill “Titties” Schoonover, the just-plain-fat Roy “Big Country” Nelson. And all their pals! Yes sir, just a big, fat heavyweight bottom for a big, fat heavyweight division. The kind of thing you can see from the front. That’s what the sport needs right now, and that’s what it’s going to get.
We kick things off this week with more of the malingering Matt “Meathead” Mitrione, who has spent much of the season – indeed too much of the season, if I may be so bold – making implausible complaints about his health. What did they tell you at the hospital, Meathead? “They said my brain swelled real big and it turned into a migraine.” Oh word, Meathead? “It wasn’t a concussion, it was just swelled up.” Team Rashad assistant coach Trevor Wittman isn’t buying any of it: “Dude, if you have swelling of the brain, it’s like life threatening.” Assistant Coach Mike Van Arsdale thinks Mitrione is looking for a way out of the tournament; Wittman thinks he needs to find his way out of the sport completely. “He has to want it more than we want it for him,” Rashad rightly says, and there’s absolutely no indication that that’s the case.
In fact, Mitrione “kind of feels, like, a little bit” that his coaches are forcing him to fight, which of course couldn’t be farther from the truth. Rashad wisely takes the decision out of Mitrione’s hands, and calls Dana White to tell him his man isn’t ready. All this dithering and drama culminates, predictably enough, in a “Do you want to be a f—king fighter?” speech, and you know what, those are always pretty good. “It happens every f—king season,” White tells the whole group. “People find out that they don’t want to fight.” Before his next fight, Mitrione will have to get medically cleared. If he doesn’t, or if he decides not to fight in spite of his clearance, that opens up a spot for a previously eliminated fighter to re-enter the tournament.
And so… Kimbo? Not so fast: rolling with Demico, Kimbo feels his knee give out a little bit. James McSweeney, the fighter Kimbo would face in Meathead’s stead, is a man of the leg kick, which has Kimbo rightly worried about how his bum knee would hold up. An orthopedic surgeon has some bad news: Kimbo’s knee seems to be a little short on cartilage; it’s basically just worn out. That doesn’t really get any better ever. There’s some fluid floating around in the there, too, and a cortisone shot might help, but Kimbo has an aversion to needles that makes that less than possible. If not Kimbo, then who?
But that’s down the road a ways. This week, we’ve got the crisp striking of Brendan Schaub matched against the serious, serious wrestling of Jon Madsen, a Division II national champion at South Dakota State. We’ve also got the coaches challenge, which pits Rashad and Mike Van Arsdale against Rampage and Tiki in a closely contested beach volleyball game that ultimately nets $10,000 for Rashad for the win and $1,500 for every man on his team. Bonus points to Dana White for rocking a Pride t-shirt and calling Van Arsdale “Maverick,” demerits to Rashad for taunting Rampage with the cash after the game. Rashad comes off less impressively than usual during the fight prep, too. Both Schaub and Madsen are his fighters, so Rashad had agreed that he wouldn’t coach either of them leading up to their all-important quarterfinal fight. But we see him spending time working with his fellow wrester Madsen, ignoring Schaub. Roy Nelson half-jokingly calls Rashad out on this, and although he looks a little sheepish about it, it doesn’t stop.
Fight day is upon us in what seems like no time. James McSweeney continues to get dudes ready by slapping them in the face and getting all up in their grill saying hard-sounding stuff. It would all sound even harder except that McSweeney has a strikingly similar accent and cadence to Martin the GEICO gecko, and that little guy is adorable! And we’re underway. Madsen and Shaub circle cautiously in the opening minute before Madsen shoots in and Schaub basically concedes the slam by wrapping his arm around Madsen’s head in a half-hearted guillotine attempt. Madsen really, really likes hanging out in half-guard, almost as much as Schaub enjoys grabbing the fence. They’re stood up due to inactivity, and Schaub does a better job of avoiding the takedown as the two clinch against the fence, working hard. When Madsen goes low for the single-leg takedown, however, Schaub again basically concedes the slam with another half-attempt at a guillotine. Interestingly, Madsen seems to prefer the half-guard position, with one of his legs entangled between both of Schaub’s, to the dominant side control position. Not a bad place to hang out and work elbow strikes, as we’ve seen from top wrestlers before, but there really aren’t a lot of elbow strikes here. Not any, really.
Madsen looks winded to start the second round, and Schaub shakes off his takedown attempts. And grabs the fence a bunch, which is also effective. Less than two minutes in, Schaub connects with a straight right hand down the middle that sends Madsen twisting to the mat and ends the fight. Schaub follows this up with a pretty dumb little combination bow and throat-cutting gesture, taunts that would probably work well enough independently but together are just a conceptual nightmare. “Shouldn’t have put my hands down, huh?” Madsen asks his corner, but he already knows the answer: “F—k.”
Next week! There will be nothing because it’s pretty much Thanksgiving. But after that! In two weeks’ time! All will be revealed as we get the final two episodes of the series back-to-back! That’s four fights in two hours! MacSweeney! Marcus Jones! Roy Nelson! Mitrione? KIMBO? There’s only way to find out, my friends, and let us find this out together.
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