“I’m all out of love,” a great poet once wrote. “I’m so lost without you.” He wrote those words exactly one week ago, to capture the desolation he felt upon witnessing the defeat of Kimbo Slice, that noble warrior with a heart as tender as the tenderest loin perfectly prepared at the BBQ he will always be the toughest man at. He then traveled back in time – our poet, not Kimbo – and formed the band Air Supply. It was, in short, amazing. But no more amazing than the journey of personal discovery that Kimbo Slice has undertaken before our very eyes. And that journey continues, win or lose. Kimbo is on the path, friends. Let us join him.
We begin by revisiting the horrible inevitably of Kimbo’s loss at the hands of Roy Nelson, who has a belly that frowns out overtop his shorts. It is, despite its enormous success, an unmistakably sad belly, which makes you think. That belly has it all – fame, enormousness, lots of rubs – and yet it’s obviously not satisfied. It makes you think of all those run-of-the-mill, everyday bellies out there that have managed to content themselves with so much less, and you wonder if Big Country’s belly will ever know that peace. Honestly it’s hard to say. Anyway, Nelson took Kimbo down and held him pretty good and hit him a bunch of times and that was that. It was a finish not without controversy on these internets of ours, with more than a few thinking the fight shouldn’t have been stopped with Nelson only landing relatively light blows on Kimbo’s thoroughly trapped dome. But here’s Kimbo on that: “He was pounding the sh– outta me over here. I felt, I counted like twenty.” Are you cool with that, the internet?
Back at the house, Kimbo reflects on the loss with his likable roommate Abe Wagner. Abe, his stitches looking cool as hell, is still more than a little down after losing the first fight of the series. Kimbo, on the other hand, is a man who believes in the power of positive thinking. “This is the only time they could beat me up. Like, right now. Two more weeks learning this stuff, three more weeks, they ain’t gonna be able to touch me, man, because I’m gonna have answers for sh–.” It is my hope and indeed my expectation that these and other Kimbo maxims (and reflections!) will soon be collected in the mode of The Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s commentaries on the soul of the samurai which I have mentioned previously in these pages. Tsunetomo’s work, the title of which literally translates to “In the Shadow, the Leaves” or “Hidden Leaves,” will provide a model for Kimbo’s “In the Shadow, the Bread,” or “Hidden Bread.” And he will not sell this volume but give it freely, as a kindness. Kimbo, now a true student of the martial arts, will realize that the bread he has so long sought is illusory, and that he must seek the bread that is beyond all bread. And he will attain it.
But first, Marcus is having what looks like some kind of anxiety attack, coming over all sweaty and lightheaded, needing to chill for no apparent reason. Could this mean the return of Kimbo? “If you don’t want to do this man, let me step up, you know? Tag me in, know what I’m saying?” We do know what Kimbo’s saying, but Marcus is apparently fine. Expect Kimbo’s return to be teased every time a fighter so much as forgets their rash guard. “If you a little chafed, man, let me step up, you know? Tag me in.”
With three wins under their belts, Team Rashad meets to map out the match-ups for the weeks ahead. The coaching staff has a game plan pretty firmly in mind, but Justin Wren’s relationship with Scott Junk complicates things slightly. They were fast friends before the competition even began. Rashad, who has talked publicly about being completely unwilling to fight any of his close friends or training partners, is sympathetic with Wren’s situation, even if it forces them to reconsider the fights they had determined to be best for the team as a whole.
Team Rampage’s training session features big Marcus Jones messing up and hurting people, and his coaches are charitably chalking it up to Marcus not knowing his own strength. It’s probably more likely a consequence about Marcus not knowing what is up in the least, but that’s mere speculation. Hurting guys with armbars in training is at best careless and at worst a complete jerk move, but Marcus seems like a lovely guy so let us think the best of him.
Back at the house, Matt Mitrione – “a cool dude, but just such a meathead,” in Scott Junk’s assessment – lets Team Rashad’s whole strategy slip, and breaks down the match-ups they’d been crafting. While nobody is pleased with this pretty ridiculous screw up, his teammates mostly just give him a good-natured hard time about it, which is pretty charitable considering what’s at stake here. Both James McSweeney and Rashad seem to think it was a bit of strategy, with Mitrione deliberately “dropping the beans,” in his words, in order to get everything switched around so he could avoid big Marcus, his planned opponent. They’re obviously much closer to this situation, but from here, it’s hard to see Mitrione coming up with anything that clever. In the end, the fight Team Rashad settles on is Brendan Schaub against Demico Rogers.
After the fight announcement, Rashad and Rampage get into it pretty good in the parking lot as Rampage makes his way to his Audi R8 (a fine choice!). He saves his best for his alone time with the camera, though, explaining his “bad thoughts”: “I’m actually ashamed of the thoughts I’m having. Really ashamed of ’em. Have you ever thought about just punching someone in the face and just your fist just keep going through the back of their brain and in through the nose and you pull out the brain like ARRRGGGH and you throw it down and you spit on it you know what I’m saying then you kick him in the nuts?” Not in years, my man, but yes.
All that rage is making Rampage hungry, apparently. When Demico Rogers arrives at the gym on fight day to warm up and get ready he finds only Big Marcus in the dressing room, there to tell him that the coaches had gone to get something to eat. Brendan Schaub, on the other hand, is getting the full treatment from Team Rashad, a thorough warm-up and all kinds of positive talk to get him in the right state of mind. And still Demico sits. “One thing you should not do right now,” Kimbo advises, “is stress or worry.” He’s right. But an unidentifiable member of Team Rampage is right, too, when he says about his coaches, “They should know better than to mumblemumblemumble.” Because they seriously should. When they finally roll in, all joking and laughing with Tiki beat boxing like somebody’s uncle after someone says it’s time for “wraps,” Rampage concedes that at least one of them should have stayed behind while everybody else went out to eat.
But let’s put all of that to one side. Because it’s fight time! Josh Rosenthal is your slightly creepy looking but totally competent referee. Only seconds in, this fight looks like it will have a better pace than any we’ve seen so far this season. Schaub stuffs an early takedown attempt and tries to slip in an anaconda choke, but Rogers rolls with it and gets back to his feet. Rogers definitely wants no part of Schaub standing, though, and plants Schaub on his back less than a minute in. Rogers is at first tentative within Schaub’s guard but eventually postures up and unloads. For like a thirty seconds, anyway. He passes to side control and lands a couple decent elbows, but as he attempts to hop over to the mount, Schaub sweeps and ends up on top. After a brief scramble, Schaub locks in the anaconda choke (or gator roll, if you prefer) he was looking for earlier, and that’s a wrap (take it Tiki!).
A dejected and disgusted Rampage Jackson decides that his fighter doesn’t even deserve a stool to sit on after the fight. “What does he need a stool for? What the hell does he need a stool for?” For sitting, my man. Come on now. Team Rampage is nowhere to be seen in the cage after the fight, strangely leaving Rashad the job of consoling Rogers after the loss while Rampage pouts on the outside. He loudly announces his lack of faith in “all that passing the guard crap when you’re in a good position to punch – I don’t believe in all that stuff, man.”
“I can’t deal with all this stuff,” Rampage admits in a coaches meeting. As he idly checks his cell phone, he adds, “It’s too much for me.” And it definitely looks that way. In Rampage’s previous coaching stint in season seven, he didn’t come off particularly well, but here he looks completely out of his depth and inexplicably callous towards his fighters. Sure, Jackson just had an enormous falling out with Dana White, and it’s possible the series has been edited to cast Jackson in the worst possible light either before or after that (and one assumes before, given the timing of everything). There’s no way to know to what extent the impression we’re getting of Jackson here is true to what actually went down or to what extent it’s the product of the narrative imposed on the events after the fact, but man he comes off terribly in all of this. And since that’s all we really have to go on, let’s all just agree that Quinton Jackson is in fact really terrible and Rashad Evans is great in every way.
Next week, more on that, as Rashad addresses Rampage’s lack of respect for his own fighters. But that’s not all: Matt Mitrione claims he’s hurt, but others are doubtful! And hazing begins in earnest! Wes Sims finally gets some face time! Remember Wes Sims? We are long, long overdue on some Wes Sims. That guy is crazy.
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