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TUF Episodes 9 and 10: TOTAL QUARTERFINAL ACTION

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Okay I totally fell behind on this during Book Expo and now the last two episodes are on tonight from 10-12. Oh boy. The quarterfinal fights have all been very good. This has been an interesting season of TUF. The lightweights really were a high-strung bunch and there was plenty of the crying and fussing that I like so much – and even anal penetration! – but most of the fighting has been good, too. The mismatches have been very brief, and the good match-ups have been true battles. These guys don’t hold back. In fact it may be the best TUF season for fights. And please note, we have commentary below the fold from our guest fight expert, Rafael Kayanan.

I’ll breeze by Episode 9, but it did have a great line from Jens: “When you train in hell, it ain’t that bad of a place!”

This episode also had a nice view of Jens’ training regime which included tossing around the medicine ball and hopping on ropes and so on, which rubbed Brandon the wrong way. Brandon’s confrontation with Jens was pretty interesting. Esp. when Brandon was complaining about his broken hand and they cut to Jens wiggling his left hand and saying, “I broke this thing 14 times so I know about broken hands!”

Jens has really become the lovable comeback coach of this show, at least in the editing room. He’s ready to star in an inspirational films about a guy from the wrong side of the tracks who is brought in to coach a dead-end school and has one last chance to turn the kids around before he has to face the hardest part of being a man is knowing when not to quit. That kind of thing. By this episode it’s clear he’s actually beginning to believe it himself, as he says things like “I’m not here to fuck up your career, son, I’m here to help you.” HELLO MOVIE DIALOG CENTRAL! I would love to know from the other fighters if Jens was really a good coach, but the best blogger about the show, Joe Lauzon, wasn’t on his team.

This episode also had ST RANDY OF COUTURE, and that is always great. Randy showed up to give Gray a pep talk. There was also a flashback to the first Pulver/Penn fight, when BJ had more hair and was way skinnier.

We also saw a man in his underwear covered with baby powder and a grueling weight cutting sequence. Say maybe THIS was the best episode. As Brandon cut weight, Andy was there to help him – you may recall Brandon BEAT Andy, so this gave the Warrior a big redemption.

This excellent episode was capped by a fine fight: the fighters seemed very evenly matched, but Gray’s superior ground skills won the day. Brandon was also pooped from the weight cutting, but put on a very very strong showing.

Well, for an episode I wasn’t going to say much about I sure did. Anyway Episode 10 presents TWO- TWO- TWO FIGHTS…no time for any household antics this time!

Episode 10 begins with some fire pit action as the difficult to understand Nate Diaz says he doesn’t like hanging around “that dude.” Meaning teammate Corey Hill whom he must fight. My teammate, my enemy. Nate has a mumbly kind of delivery that insures that half his lines need to be subtitled, and a deadpan, deadly delivery that is quite amusing.

Meanwhile Corey is in the sauna cutting weight and raving like an old dude on the street wearing bedroom slippers. He’s wringing sweat out of his suit and going on about Buddy Rowe, who is some kind of alter ego. Okay. According to Lauzon

I said in my Week 3 blog: “Corey is a mad man, in a good way.” I think it really shows this week when he is sitting in the sauna all alone, talking to himself. Corey was an interesting person to have in the house because he would be so low key and relaxed sometimes, and even acting like a counselor with Manny trying to calm him down after the whole “writing on the wall” incident. Next thing you know, he is barking at people and talking to himself in the sauna. Corey is out of his mind … but in a good way.

We waste little time getting to the fight. Even a tough guy like Nate Diaz has trouble with Corey’s freakish reach, and Corey ends up on top for much of the early going and pounds on Diaz although it doesn’t seem to do much damage. Corey is mad freaky active! A couple of minutes into the first however, Nate gets Corey in a triangle, and on the ground Corey really doesn’t seem to know what to do. He is gracious in his loss, and has come so far he has nothing to be sorry about. Everyone agrees that Corey is most improved and shows incredible talent.

Nick thinks he had a shit performance, but will take the win. Corey is still smiling afterwards. “I went too far into his world.” But “Me and Corey and Buddy Rowe are going to finish things out.”

“Wait until you see him in 6 months,” says now-lovably self-deprecating Jens. “When he gets with a coach who actually knows how to coach.”

NOTE: NO CRYING AFTER FIGHT! Maybe everyone needs a Buddy Rowe.

And now handsome Matt Wiman vs. Not as handsome Manny Gamburyan. Dana picks Wiman, saying Manny is just too small, setting up a win for Manny, sure thing! When his cousin and training partner, welterweight Karo Parisyan shows up, it’s a giant blinking billboard that Manny is going to win (inspirational GUESTS INEVITABLY INSPIRE WINS!)

Plus: Manny says with his cousin Karo there the pressure is on him and he has to win!

Wiman looks handsome with his black eye and says he knows what to do. BJ is worried, saying that heart will win the fight and Matt needs to dig down and reach for the win.

This one is a real battle. Maybe the best fight of the season. Wiman has the height and reach advantage, but Manny is built like an Armenian sparkplug, and you can see both fighters physically straining in a real test of strength. Matt gets Manny down, but Manny fights back and wriggles away. Matt gets a sexy cut over his right eye to go with the sexy black eye on his left side. But it’s not too bad and the fight continues. Both are doing some damage with punches and testing each other on the ground, but now Manny is rubbing his head right into Matt’s cut! Yuck. BJ and Jens repeat their favorite cornerisms for perhaps the 900th time each “Breathe!” from BJ and “Take your time,” from Jens.

Both fighters are just going at it with everything they have. What a battle! But Manny’s sheer muscularity and judo gets Wiman on the ground with him on top. And he shows some explosive ability as the first round ends.

In the corner BJ is no nonsense. “We need this round.

They pick up right where they left off with more furious punching and grappling. Manny takes Matt down again. Now both fighters are getting a little gassed and who can blame them. In the end Manny just overpowers Matt and wears him down. After another tiring exchange of punches, Matt jumps on Manny’s back, but tenacious Manny hangs on for the decision.

As usual BJ runs down his fighter after the fight saying Wiman wouldn’t look at his opponent, and he was protecting his face. “If you’re even remotely worried about how your face looks you shouldn’t be in Ultimate Fighting. It’s going to get smashed.”

Wiman is a bit sulky, saying he didn’t get hurt and “I gotta go back to the house with that little bastard!” He admits his head wasn’t in it, and NEARLY almost cries while sprawled on the floor next to a pile of bloody tape. Nice!

In the background, BJ snickers at him! A fitting image.

And now our fighting expert…Rafael Kayanan!

FIGHT ONE
Corey Hill has so much raw potential. He’s got this unreal height advantage fighting at such a light weight. His only downside is his lack of experience. This season shows that someone who has a great mental attitude for the sport and excellent physical attributes still requires proper form in throwing strikes and defending submissions. Against a well trained fighter with equal tenacity in Nate Diaz, Hill’s height and wrestling skills could not stop the inevitable submission. Hill was doing well staying off the extended clinch and ground game of Diaz. However, as Corey stated in his post fight interview he allowed his enthusiasm to get the best of him by falling right into a Diaz triangle choke.

The fight did show that Hill had enough wrestling skills to counter the Diaz’s takedown’s in the early part of the fight. If Corey Hill had learned how to throw punches using the leverage and speed he possesses, he may have even won this fight. Imagine the striking power of a Thomas Hearns and those long spider legs learning the triangle choke flows at that weight class… the future is wide open for Hill.

As for Diaz, he had a lackluster performance but it is difficult to fault him for not having the quick solutions for an opponent whose size is quite an anomaly for that weight class. Difficult to train for. Diaz has a chance in winning this season if he doesn’t fall into the mind games his own teammates are playing on him. He was smart in getting some time in with BJ Penn, at this point of the competition it is no longer a team sport. You can see that in coach Jens Pulver’s dilemma by not coaching them during the fight, a time when a fighter may require a coach’s words the most. It was obviously a boost for Manny to have his cousin Karo in his corner.

FIGHT TWO
“He’s like a little ball of muscle, yah?” is a quote from opposing team coach BJ Penn’s description of Manny Gamburyan. Gamburyan comes from a family of excellent Judo based fighters, and a legendary all around grappling lineage having trained under Gokor Chivichyan who trained under legend Gene Lebell the man who taught Bruce Lee about the armbar. Manny was national junior judo champ and his “pitbull” frame houses a physically strong individual. Gamburyan reminds me of that character Puck from Alpha Flight.

The less experienced Matt Wiman displayed some strong striking skills and a good attitude on the TUF show. The TUF training footage shows Wiman being coached to stay away from the clinch and throw a stiff jab followed by a right and then hoping to catch Manny ducking down with a knee. However, as a judoka Manny’s response would most likely not be a double leg takedown which is a move that a wrestler would do.

Sure enough the person who tries the double leg takedown is Wiman himself, since Manny chose to keep the fight standing up in the beginning. During the first round, Wiman did not do as he had trained, his strikes were not stiff straight punches but were looping around. He also kept ducking his head down as if he kept expecting to see the smaller Gamburyan shooting under at any second. The height difference was made more obvious when Manny tried to knee Wiman during a clinch but his knee could not reach high enough to connect to the head. After cutting Wiman over the left eye, Manny used his head to grind against the wound when they were on the ground. That would seem like something right out of some Gene Lebell street move.

Wiman did better with keeping his strikes straighter in the second round, connecting on Manny’s jaw. Wiman made a bad move by trying for the takedown soon after, against what he was advised to do by BJ’s team. It looked like he may have had Manny stunned long enough to continue with some striking combinations and possibly end it but Wiman chose to go to the ground. For some reason, Wiman kept going for arm locks on Manny when chokes were also an option. Manny’s short arms would just tuck in and escape the locks. In the last minute Wiman was able to gain Manny’s back and his hooks in but again chose to go for an armlock rather a rear naked choke.

As much as everyone praises Corey Hill for lacking experience but having raw talent, it seems that Wiman is right up there. He just made the wrong choices on positions where he had the advantage.

The one match that would have been interesting to see was the tall Corey Hill versus the much smaller Manny Gamburyan.

**** Okay both semi final fights are tonight…and here there be spoilers, as the match-ups have already leaked out (like you couldn’t figure it out.) Dana wants a Lauzon/Diaz final, so the semis are Manny vs. Joe and Gray vs Nate. My picks? Manny/Joe should be a very close fight. Joe didn’t look that dominating against Cole Miller, but still…I think he’ll pull it out. Diaz is an easier pick over Gray, who has skills, but doesn’t have Nate’s heart.

So there you go! Let’s get it on.

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