The Ultimate Fighter 9 Episode 2
The United States got off to a rough start, with John David Shackelford being forced out because of a contagious herpes lesion on his forehead, and Christian Fulgium getting the boot for not making weight. Dana White was extremely disappointed with the lackadaisical attitude taken by the team, and wasn’t afraid to say so.
Mark Miller def. Kevin Knabjian
How It Ended: Miller knocks Knabjian down and forces the referee to stop the fight, pouring punches down on Knabjian.
First Impressions: Miller and Knabjian looked like amateur fighters. They came out throwing weak punches, all from the arm and with no body behind them. Miller was also prone to dropping his hands, even as early as the first round. The fight was untechnical, with neither fighter having much of a ground game. I don’t see Mark Miller going very far into the season, which is a shame, seeing how the US team is already down two fighters.
Richie Whitson def. Paul Bird
How It Ended: Richie Whitson takes Bird down and jumps on his back. After a bit of maneuvering, Whitson sinks in the hooks and chokes Bird out with a rear-naked choke.
First Impressions: Pure and simple, Whitson dominated the fight. He out-slugged Bird from the very beginning, dominated the wrestling, and had a furious ground-and-pound. He continued to push the action and stayed calm when the punches were being thrown. Whitson could go far, but could find himself in trouble if paired against a taller striker like Andre Miller. The key to his game is to connect with a solid punch, take his opponent down, and pound him out until he either makes a mistake.
Strengths: Aggressive, good striking, submission knowledge, ground-and-pound
Santino Defranco def. Waylon Lowe
How It Ended: Defranco came out strong in the second round and connected with a huge knee that rocked Lowe. Defranco would soon take Lowe’s back and choke him out with a rear-naked choke.
First Impressions: This is Defranco’s second appearance on The Ultimate Fighter, having had to leave during his first appearance due to a brain aneurism. He made it in TUF2, and just barely pulled out a comeback victory in this season. In the first round, Defranco let his nerves get the better of him, and the fight was nearly stopped as he lay on the ground, absorbing punches. In fact, the fight probably SHOULD have been stopped, because simply covering your face with your hands is NOT “intelligently defending oneself.” But time eventually ran out, saving Defranco. He looked confident enough to throw the huge knee that took Lowe down, and finally showed life as he choked Lowe out. If Defranco can maintain his confidence in the episodes to come, who knows how far he can go?
Jason Pierce def. Steve Berger
How It Ended: In another fairly boring fight, Pierce wins a decision victory over Berger.
First Impressions: Both fighters were able to take each other down, but neither took advantage while on top. Pierce took Berger’s back but was unable to pull off the rear-naked choke. Though Pierce got the victory, he’ll need to do a lot more in the future to beat any of his UK opponents. Also, his trouble with making weight may continue to prove future problems for him. If he is a naturally-heavier fighter, cutting weight each time will drain him of his strength and affect his ability to stay active in fights. Expect Pierce to win his first match if put against a smaller fighter who he can smack and dominate on the ground. If matched with an opponent his size, chances are he’ll lose a fight in a decision.
Cameron Dollar def. Tom Hayden
How It Ended: Dollar comes from behind in the second round, sneaking out from Hayden, who had his back, and chokes Hayden out from behind with a rear-naked choke.
First Impressions: Cameron Dollar is yet another fighter saved by the bell and an idle referee. He was pummeled from behind in the first round, his face towards the mat, and his hands protecting the sides of his head. The second round saw more of the same from Dollar, getting hammered once again with his stomach to the mat. He got lucky Hayden got sloppy while on top, and shouldn’t expect the same to happen in the future. Dollar simply has no takedown defense and doesn’t know what to do when on the ground. Expect Dollar to lose his next fight.
Damarques Johnson def. Ray Elbe
How It Ended: Damarques Johnson is aggressive in his striking throughout the fight, forcing the referee to end the fight due to strikes.
First Impressions: Johnson looked great standing up, throwing strong punches to both Elbe’s face and body. He looked very calm in his striking and was able to wind up on top after stuffing a takedown attempt by Elbe. He quickly mounted him and threw powerful punches and elbows down on him. Johnson is a superb boxer and also showed some great ground-and-pound skills.
Strengths: Striking, elbows
Jason Dent vs. Rob Browning
Kyle Reed vs. Frank Lester
Final Thoughts: Team USA got off to a bad start, and didn’t improve much during the show. They looked noticeably weaker than the UK team: overall they were less aggressive, less talented, and physically weaker.
As a whole, the USA team liked to stand and strike for a while before taking down their opponent, rather than going straight to the ground. Their out, the rear-naked choke, will only work against weaker, less talented opponents, and as a result, the US team will often find themselves in compromising positions.
Team UK got a gift, with Team USA being equally weak, if not weaker, in the welterweight division. Mark Miller and Jason Pierce were unimpressive in their victories, and it’s pretty much a toss-up between those two and Wilks and Amasinger for the worst welterweights. At least Amasinger has one thing going for him: his wrestling.
Look for Demarques Johnson to be the strongest welterweight amongst Team USA, and Richie Whitson to be their strongest lightweight. Both have well-rounded skill sets, and maintain their composure throughout their fights.
Special recap contribution by Kevin Leong