The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights Episode 3 Recap

Friends, it is upon us at last, the most anticipated fight in the kind-of-illustrious history of The Ultimate Fighter. The hard-knock street fighter Kimbo Slice has readied himself for the skilful, tubby onslaught of Roy Nelson. Three weeks into its tenth season, The Ultimate Fighter offers its eager audience a bout that is undoubtedly the hottest new thing, but at the same time, simply another iteration of the sport’s timeless match-up: the heavy-handed striker against the slick grappler. That’s the oldest story we have in mixed martial arts. But no one thing defines this fight. Kimbo Slice vs. Roy Nelson is also the story of a relative novice against a man of poise and experience. A contest between a man who has had fame thrust upon him and a man who toiled for years in relative obscurity. A bout pitting a man who will stop at nothing to get his bread against a man who should probably think about limiting his carbs. At least after dark, maybe, for starters, to see if that helps any. Because he is heavy. Roy Nelson is heavy.

We begin with another glimpse inside the mind of Kimbo Slice, whose humility, emotional complexity, and capacity for reflection and honest self-appraisal remain legitimately inspiring. Who would have suspected that a man who entrusts his business dealings to a guy named Icy Mike would contain within him the soul of a poet? This isn’t Kimbo talking, this is Kevin Ferguson, the man behind the beard. “I guess whenever I decide to shave the beard, that’s when I’ll put Kimbo at rest. But will Kimbo ever be at rest?” That is real talk. “I always felt like, I’ll fight anybody, because everybody’s the enemy, the enemy, enemy, the enemy, you know? And now I’m here, without nothing, away from everyone, and I really took the time to find out, you know, who the enemy was, and it’s not that it was the enemy. It was the ene-me. The ene-me. The inner me. The inner. Me. The inner me. Sometimes you realize the true you is the enemy.” And that is the realest talk.

“You can’t be a hater on him,” is Roy Nelson’s absolutely one-hundred-percent-correct take on Kimbo. Hating on Kimbo has always been a pretty suspicious undertaking, but at this point, seeing what we’ve seen, knowing what we’ve come to know, it’s downright shameful.

Sparks fly, a little, when Team Rashad brings Keith Jardine into the picture. “The Dean of Mean” – having recently returned to that office after a successful two-semester interim appointment as Vice President (Academic) of Mean – Keith Jardine lost a very competitive fight to Jackson at UFC 96. The story has always been that Jackson suffered a jaw injury in that match that put a title fight against Evans on hold, but Jackson insists it was a training injury and is sick of hearing otherwise. Evans and Jackson get into a lukewarm exchange over who ducked who when and why before Rampage resorts to his old standby: breath jokes. Why even go down that road, Rampage? Halitosis doesn’t invalidate anyone’s argument. That’s a fallacy.

The camera lingers over Kimbo’s custom mouth guard, which isn’t just custom in the sense that one boils, then bites, and then has in their possession a custom mouth guard. No, this bears his likeness not once but twice, with a Reality Kings logo centered between those two pretty awesome cartoon Kimbos. I had heard that these Reality Kings are purveyors of internet pornography, and, after typing their URL into my browser, I can now tell you that that is totally a fact. In immediate and artful juxtaposition to that image of the Reality Kings logo and all it connotes, the camera pulls back to reveal Kimbo looking oddly biblical with a long towel draped across his head and hanging to his waist. Cinematographically, that’s the strongest moment in the season so far, and as the Reality Kings could probably tell you, it takes a hell of a DP to pull off the money shots.

We get a look at fight preparation . . . and strategy! Rampage is rightly concerned with Kimbo’s ability to defend from the bottom against Nelson, a Renzo Gracie black belt who, as previously mentioned, has a belly. “That’s a big belly,” Jackson begins. “The biggest belly I ever seen. I wonder if his feet get wet when he take a shower. I bet he hasn’t seen his little friend in years. I wonder where it hang when he take a pee.” Showing the kind of comic flair that gets a man cast in the A-Team movie, Rampage concludes, “That belly’s big.” Kimbo, always eager to learn, is bombarded with perhaps too much information re: belly tactics, and is reminded to focus on what he knows.

Nelson and his teammates are shown talking strategy poolside, and Big Country makes a pretty crafty veteran observation: if you get your opponent in a crucifix position – that is, a side mount with one arm trapped between your legs and his other arm pinned, you don’t have to actually do much from there to end a fight. As long as you are so much as patting your opponent on the face, the referee will ultimately be compelled to stop the fight. This is a game, Roy Nelson knows the rules, and he’s ready to exploit them to the best of his abilities. “You just go and count ’em. You count to the ref. One. Two. The ref has to acknowledge – it’s unanswered. You gotta defend yourself intelligently. That’s the rule.”

In case you were worried there might not be much to look forward to in a post-Kimbo vs. Big Country world, we’re introduced to Marcus Jones, a sensitive giant of a man who is a passionate Dungeons and Dragons player (AD&D, 2nd edition would be my guess), comic book enthusiast, and gardener. So take heart. Marcus and Kimbo talk about Kimbo’s days fighting for money on the street and the craziness between rival crews that went along with it, and the gentle Marcus quite rightly has a look on his face throughout the conversation that is beyond shook.

And, hard as it is to believe, the fight is finally here! Before we begin, let me say two things in all sincerity: (i) whatever happens, Kimbo, we love you, and (ii) oh man. Referee Herb Dean starts the action, and we are underway. Round one opens cautiously, with Nelson too wary of Kimbo’s power to just dash in for the takedown. He instead decides to hold back a little and work behind the jab. Kimbo lands a pretty damn thunderous leg kick. Up against the cage, Kimbo connects with some decent shots to the head, and Nelson all of a sudden looks determined to get this fight to the ground. Kimbo does well to stay on his feet as long as he does, but ultimately he’s felled by a smooth outside trip and mounted immediately. This is exactly the situation Team Rampage was worried about. Nelson traps Kimbo’s arm and looks for the crucifix position he talked about poolside – and although Kimbo nearly reverses position by pushing off the cage, Nelson flattens him out and starts landing the short, unanswered punches he talked about. But with only ten seconds to go in the round, Herb Dean is reluctant to stop the fight with no truly damaging blows being landed. He tells Kimbo he’s got to defend himself, but the round ends with Nelson walking away with an exasperated, “Come on, ref!”

Kimbo comes out blazing to start the second, and lands some solid blows that might well have Nelson a little dazed, but after an ill-timed knee to the body Kimbo is pushed to the ground, collapsing under the vaunted gut. With more than three full minutes left in the round, Nelson secures the same crucifix position, and this time his corner counts along with every soft but unanswered punch he lands. After twenty shots, and no work from Kimbo on the bottom, Dean has no choice but to stop the fight.

Dana White immediately undersells the result, saying “Roy did just enough to win, but not get hit.” Which is… a problem? If everything goes his way, Nelson is going to have to fight several times within a narrow window. And then he’ll live a life after fighting with the burden of whatever damage he’s putting his brain through in this awesome yet kind of dumb line of work. If you can decisively win a contest without taking any real damage – and without really damaging your opponent in any serious way, for that matter – that’s not squeaking by on some kind of technicality; that’s a clear demonstration of superior technique. Which is probably the point of the martial arts, mixed or otherwise. But you can’t argue with the STAND AND BANG ethos if that’s the boss’s deal.

The preview for next week’s episode – and presumably every episode after that – is built around the possibility of a fighter being unable to continue in the tournament due to injury which could mean… the return of Kimbo! Although we are all saddened at his loss, the merest possibility that Kimbo could return to contention for the six-figure UFC contract/his bread is more than enough to warrant our attention.

Check out our full archive of The Ultimate Fighter recaps.