And the stage is set! Fresh off arguably the best hour of The Ultimate Fighter in years, we’re back for the final two bouts of the season as Roy Nelson and his belly full of fighting secrets takes on James McSweeney, the meanest of muggers, while the somewhat emotional Marcus Jones meets fellow ex-NFLer Brendan Schaub in what looks to be the least chubby match we’ve seen thus far. Four dudes, two fights, one tournament final to be contested this Saturday night on a live Spike TV special. Let’s get to it.
Unsurprisingly, Rampage’s game plan for Marcus Jones is to close the distance and put the quicker Brandan Schaub on the ground as soon as possible and work his unequalled jiu-jitsu mastery. Jones doesn’t disagree, but hastens to point out that as a man who has caught Barry Sanders and tackled him in the open field, he is not without a certain measure of quickness himself, despite his, you know, unbelievable enormity. All of Team Rampage’s hopes rest with Jones, and although Jackson might have fallen short in his coaching throughout the course of the season, he refuses to fall short when it comes to redecorating the opposing dressing room in pink paint and adorable little stuffed animals. You can let that kind of thing slide if you want to, but you’re going to pay for it in the end. And so you do it, you repaint the room, and you bring those animals in – and you do it right, damn it.
The bullying of Zak Jensen continues apace, as the fairly deplorable James McSweeney writes “LINDAGAY” on the side of Jensen’s head in an unkind and sort of confusing twist on the Linderman nickname Kimbo pinned on him weeks ago. Jensen can’t quite see it, and no one will tell him what it says, so he strains pathetically in the mirror with a digital camera to try and figure it out. That James McSweeney is just a mean old bully and that is all there is to it – and there are no cool, enlightened bullies out there, kids, they’re all just jerks. Neither Sims nor Rogers elect to help end bullying now, and egg McSweeney on a little later as he wedges the bathroom door shut, trapping the somewhat claustrophobic Jensen and making him freak right out. Jensen has finally had enough, and makes an unsuccessful run at McSweeney, who puts him in a guillotine and chills him out. McSweeney is “a prostitute’s used douche bag” in Jensen’s vivid analysis, which is I guess a particularly bad kind. Of one.
On fight day, Team Rashad’s boxing coach Trevor Wittman tries to get McSweeney into the right frame with some lesser known sayings of the Buddha. “The past is gone; the future will come; the most important part is the present. It is a gift – that’s why they call it ‘present.'” Nothing particularly remarkable there, right? But get a load of this: “When you are in the room getting your hands wrapped up tight, you are ready for this big ass fight. You feel much lighter. Are you ready to be The Ultimate Fighter? Keep your focus. This ain’t hocus pocus.” I have never missed Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira’s boxing trainer Al Stankiewicz more than I do right now, and believe me that not a day passes that I do not think of Stankie.
McSweeney warms up in a re-redecorated Team Rashad dressing room, now a study in masculine greens, while Roy Nelson gets ready in his natural habit: the kitchen. And why not? There’s no good reason he can’t prepare for perhaps the biggest fight of his life and check on the stew at the same time. He is a man of diverse interests and talents. And he comes out looking calm and casual against McSweeney, who, in contrast, continues to put an awful lot of effort into looking all scary. I’m not trying to suggest that he isn’t, in fact, scary. He totally is. But man, it seems as though it takes up like ninety percent of his day. It’s taking up a lot of the first round, too, as he gets his angry face on does nothing but switch his stance in the early going. He makes a show of sticking his chin out, daring Nelson to land a shot, and a few seconds later he does, a big right that sends McSweeney back against the fence. Nelson takes him down and immediately begins to work toward his favourite crucifix position. Before you know it, he’s pitter-patted his way to another win, just like he did against Kimbo. Once again, they’re not huge, damaging shots, but McSweeney can’t do anything at all to stop them or improve his position, and the referee has no choice but to stop the fight. Interestingly, Dana White, who thought Roy was overly cautious and dull, is of the opinion that Big Country is the real deal now that he has a series finale to promote. That’s totally fine, of course, but it is . . . interesting.
Between fights we are treated to a lengthy session of dudes calling each other “bitch.” One of the dudes is Rashad Evans. The other is Quinton Jackson. It unfolds exactly as you’d expect, but is redeemed when Mike Van Arsdale shakes his head at the end of it and tells his fighter that he needs to go eat. He’s right. You get all caught up trying to figure who really is the bitch and before you know it your whole lunch break is gone. Been there. Not going back anytime soon.
Big Baby is shown working his ace ground game in practice, and you’ve to like this Marcus Jones. Sure, he lost a few points when he got all worked up at Matt Mitrione for an accidental eye poke that did not, in fact, end up blinding Scott Junk. But he’s an emotional guy, a sensitive man. He’s also the biggest surprise to come out of this season. With only two years of training and his best years as an athlete behind him, he’s shown the kind of talent that makes you wish he’d entered the sport five years earlier. Of course, he’s probably done better by the literal millions of dollars he earned for giving pro football a go, but man, this Marcus Jones. He muscles Schaub to the ground only seconds into their bout, but Brendan is a cool, cool killer and keeps calm while Marcus works his impressive top game. When Jones achieves the mount, Brendan shrimps up onto his hips like his life depends on it, and eventually regains his feet. Marcus isn’t quite right at this point, and Frankenstein walks towards Schaub, who sees his opportunity. Before you know it, Marcus eats a big shot and gets pounded out to end the match. Good on Schaub, but I’m with Rampage: my heart is going down my esophagus on this one. “Big Baby’s such a sweet dude, man,” as Rashad says.
And so we have it, friends, yet another season of The Ultimate Fighter in the books. Brendan Schaub and Roy Nelson will meet Saturday night, live on Spike TV, in what promises to be a legitimate test for both men. Will the newcomer be able to match wits with the veteran? Will the striker be able to stay standing against the superior grappler? Will Schaub’s quickness and composure be enough to compete with Nelson’s desire that all before him get in his belly? I have my doubts, certainly, but Schaub has proven himself a credible opponent for the odds-on tournament favourite. Plus! Marcus Jones vs. Matt Mitrione in a grudge match over how Jones jumped to conclusions! And OH MY GOODNESS KIMBO SLICE! Against Houston Alexander! There is absolutely no telling how that one goes. I mean, you’d expect a slugfest, but it could just as soon turn out to be a slobber knocker depending on who is able to impose their will.
Either way, it will be awesome this Saturday night, and we hope to see you then.