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TUF 21: Episode 1 Recap *SPOILERS*

Jordan Killion

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Wednesday night brings us the inaugural episode of “The Ultimate Fighter” season 21, which pits Dan Lambert’s American Top Team, against Glenn Robinson’s Blackzilians. The introductory scene of the show gives us the brief (but tenuous) background of the two owners. Lambert educates us to the beginnings of ATT and the origins of the feud between Robinson and himself. It’s really not that interesting, we’ll concentrate on the fighters and the fights.

NEW RULES

One huge change to the format (aside from the team aspect), is that a points system will dictate the winner of the “regular season” of the show. The 12 fights leading up to the finale will be broken down into 3 groups of 4 fights. The first 4 fights will net the winning team 25 points each. The second 4 fights will net 50 points each. The last 4 fights will be worth 100 points each. This system adds an entirely new layer of strategy to the hit reality show. Each fighter may compete up to 3 times during the 12 fight season. Not every fighter is, therefore, guaranteed a fight. The team with the most points after the 12 fights, will win $200,000. The winner of the finale, will win his team $300,000. The fights themselves will also take place at the winning team’s gym. A coin toss will determine the first fight’s location. Another major change in format is that each team will not know the opposing team’s fighter selection until the day of the weigh-ins.

EPISODE RECAP *SPOILERS AHEAD*

After our initial introduction to the Team’s owners, we are taken inside each camp’s office to watch their fighter selection process. After we are given a quick background and skill assessment of each team’s picks, we are given the first “iconic” scene that accompanies nearly all reality shows. As the fighters from the two camps arrive (via boats, BALLER) at their home for the next few months, they are all visibly thrilled to be living in a house that looks like it should belong to Vinny Chase in the upcoming Entourage movie. Both teams will live in the house together, but train at their respective gyms, so we likely won’t have any of the gym crossover time confrontations. We get a look inside the house of Robinson, as the Blackzilians gather at his house to watch teammate Anthony Johnson dispatch Alexander Gustaffson. It’s cool to see Rumble’s teammates watch his big victory as a group. Back in the gyms, each team is contemplating who to select as their first fighter. ATT selects Michael Graves (4-0) as their lead off combatant. Coaches gush about Graves’s well rounded abilities, and Graves himself describes himself as a wrestler who likes to strike. Before heading to the Blackzilians selection, we are treated to the TUF obligatory “THIS IS OUR FOOD” scene, where we overhear some ATT fighters complaining because the Blackzilians have started to write their names on different food items around the kitchen. After our brief stop in the TUF kitchen, we are taken to the Blackzilian’s “war room” where they are debating who their first fighter should be. They bring in Kamaru Usman and ask if he will be ready to fight first. He accepts their offer and we now have our first fight of the season. ATT’s Michael Graves (4-0) takes on the Blackzilians’ Kamaru Usman (5-1). Usman, born in Nigeria, is a wrestler who spent time training at the US Olympic Training Facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Dana labels the fight as a “traditional striker vs. grappler match up. At the weigh ins, both fighters easily made weight and face off. No real fireworks here. As the fighter’s make their way into the octagon, we take note that the crowd is much different from that of past TUF seasons. Since both camps are in South Florida rather than nestled away in Las Vegas, we see a very raucous crowd full of fighters who train at these gyms. The atmosphere is electric, and much louder than a regular TUF bout.

 

SIDE NOTE

Now, I will be live tweeting my pick for the upcoming fights, since they will apparently not be revealed on the previous week’s episode. This week I picked Usman via UD.

Michael Graves (ATT) vs. Kamaru Usman (Blackzilians)

Rd. 1

The first round starts and both fighters trade “range finder” punches. Graves throws a kick that is caught by Usman, who takes Graves to the ground. Graves fights his way to the cage, where Usman maintains control until Graves is finally able to gain head control and escape, tossing Usman to one knee in the process. Once back in the center of the cage Usman lands a good two punch combo, a looping left hook followed by a straight right. Both connect, but neither seem to faze Graves. Graves responds with two well-placed front kicks, one to Usman’s knee and one to Usman’s face. The latter provokes a jolt from the crowd, but doesn’t seem to affect the wrestler. Usman lands another takedown, but Graves fights to his feet along the octagon.  wall. Eventually Graves is able to break free of the clinch along the cage without taking much damage. Back in the center of the octagon, Usman lands another looping left hook, Graves is having trouble blocking that. The first round comes to an end.

MMA Latest scores the round 10-9 Usman.

 

Rd 2.

Round two begins with Graves taking the center of the octagon first, but being met with a left hook for his trouble. Usman feints the hook and shoots in on a deeeeeeeep double leg. Graves sprawls beautifully, but is pushed against the cage. Graves escapes the clinch and takes the center. Graves seems frustrated that the stand up isn’t as one-sided as his coach had predicted, he’s throwing sloppy high kicks that are not effective. Usman shoots again, and again Graves defends but is pressed against the cage. After clinching for a few seconds, Graves is free and to the center again. Usman lands a straight left and a big take down. Graves rolls well with the momentum and takes Usman’s back while he tries to secure the takedown. Graves searching for a choke, or a neck crank. Usman doing well to defend, he stands with Graves on his back, controlling one of his opponents hands. Graves starts to lose position and Usman slams him to the ground, landing in side control. The last 30 second of round two is Usman landing knees to the body and soft punches to Graves’ head.

MMA Latest scores the round 10-9 Usman.

It seems that both camps believe the fight will go to a third “sudden victory” round. However, the cards are collected and we learn that Kamaru Usman is declared the winner via Majority Decision. 20-18 20-18 19-19. With the win, the Blackzilians maintain home gym advantage and the next fight will take place at their gym. The episode ends without telling us who the next matchup will be, so I have no room to speculate on the next matchup. But, if I had to bet, I think the Blackzilians will either put out, Luiz “Buscape” or Jason Jackson. Urgent to get a win, I think ATT will put forth either Nathan Coy, or Steve Carl.

 

OFFICIAL DECISON – Kamaru Usman wins via Majority Decision (20-18 20-18 19-19)

 

MMA Latest scored the fight 20-18 Kamaru Usman.

Current prediction record   1-0

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Sensor Equipped Tracking Gloves to be Used at UFC 219

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From implementing the likes of USADA, the UFC Performance Instiute and the introduction of the instant replay. The UFC has always prioritized being at the top of the sport science game. 

Now, at UFC 219 on December 30th, the Nevada State Athletic Commission has approved a test run for sensor equipped tracking gloves to be worn by a selection of fighters on the card.

The technology behind the gloves comes from AGI International (an analytics company) along with HEED (a consumer platform company). A collaboration founded by the UFC.

After a sparring exhibition between top lightweights, Edson Barbosa (19-4-0) and Mark Diakiese (12-1-0), HEED co-founder Mati Kochavi had this to say regarding how “70 insights” collected from sensors on the gloves, the corner-men, the octagon itself can depict a clearer image of a fight.

“Those insights are covering entire aspects  of the fight between Diakiese and Barbose. Their passion, power of the fight, resiliency and strategy. All happen in the octagon.“

Shouldn’t sport be told in real-time, with real data, information and emotions?”

He finally promises “We are a company which is trying to revolutionize the way we (broadcast) sports and live events”

As for now there is little to zero information into the technical aspects of the gloves, however products like a Fit Bit have similar abilities to give data on speed,  force, motion, elevation, heart rate etc.

The UFC 219 card takes place on Decemebr 30th at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It will be headlined by a women’s featherweight title fight between current champion Cris Cyborg (18-1) and former UFC bantamweight champion, Holly Holm (11-3).

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Interviews

[Exclusive] Demarte Pena talks rematch with Sayed at EFC 66 and coaching on the “The Fighter”

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EFC 66: The Fighter 1 Finale is only two days away now in what is expected to be a historic night for the promotion as they round off their first season of the reality show “The Fighter”. In the finale fighting for a shot at the title and 500,000 rand is Brendan Lesar and Ibrahim Mané. Topping the card though is the rematch between Demarte Pena and Irshaad Sayed fight for the bantamweight strap. In their last fight, Pena walked away with the decision win, however, it was later ruled a no contest after Pena failed a drug test as a result of a tainted supplement.

Demarte Pena comes into this fight determined to take that win and is confident it will be easier than the last. Having worked hard on his overall game, in particular, his boxing, we could see a somewhat different approach to this fight.

“Yeah, the first fight I controlled the fight really well, used my kicks kept the distance and took him down when I wanted to. But for this fight, I’ve improved a lot, especially my boxing, I’ve been boxing a lot, with professional boxers that are both African and World Champions. So I feel that my hands will be a lot better for this fight, I’ll be able to use them a lot better. And I truly believe this fight will much easier for me in terms of stand up and if it goes to the ground obviously I’ll be better than him.”

Following the tainted supplement issue, Sayed has recently been vocal about wanting to see a positive test prior to the fight. Pena did not hesitate in mentioning how he has been tested numerous times leading up to this fight.

“The last time I remember Sayed was just a fighter and he doesn’t work for WADA or SAIDS, so he might just do his job, those people are doing their job. I’ve been tested multiple times so I feel that fighters should just fight and stop worrying about other people’s jobs.”

The Fighter 1 will officially come to an end this weekend, looking back on the show, Pena described the difficulties he experienced at first but quickly grew to like the coaching aspect of the despite it being time-consuming. His overall view of it being very positive.

“Y’know coaching was very cool, at first it was, hard because I train very hard throughout the day and my time was taken up during the show. I didn’t like that as much, but after some time I started to enjoy more. In the beginning, it wasn’t as nice but the exposure was great for me and that it was going to be ultimately something good. After a while, I got to know the guys and they’re really cool guys, I made a few friends on the show so overall it was great”

The opposing team coach was, of course, Irshaad Sayed, who did a lot of talking throughout the season, something that Pena anticipated so it didn’t faze him.

“With him there as a coach I knew he was going to talk a lot, but it is what is, it’s tough sport you just gotta take the shots and give them as well”

A member of Pena’s team, Will Fleury, was tipped to do great things in the competition but was removed early after receiving numerous illegal blows to the head. Demarte agreed with many stating that the fight should have been clearly ruled a disqualification.

“Yeah, the Will Fleury incident was right in front of our corner, I do feel that Shaw should have been disqualified because those shots were illegal but I think EFC only made that decision because Will couldn’t fight anymore. In an ideal world, Shaw should have been disqualified for sure.”

Despite Fleury missing out on a chance at reaching the final, Ibrahim Mané, who was on the same team on the show made it to the final. Pena spoke highly of him as he enters the fight Saturday, believing that if the fight is kept standing it’s Mané’s fight.

“I have trained with Ibrahim for the past two weeks, he’s an extremely talented athlete, very explosive, very strong with very good cardio but he does have a disadvantage on the ground. If he gets taken down him to ground, Brendan will have the advantage.”

Confident he’ll get the win once again on Saturday, Pena is looking for bigger things having accomplished everything he can in the EFC. The UFC being mentioned as what could be on the cards moving forward.

“After I beat Sayed, there’ll be nothing more for me to do in EFC I feel that I have done everything. Yeah, definitely I think the next is to try and fight in the UFC or any other big promotion.”

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Interviews

UFC 219’s Jimmie Rivera to TJ Dillashaw “Defend Your Belt or Vacate.”

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest had the chance to talk to #4 ranked UFC bantamweight Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera ahead of his fight at UFC 219 against John Lineker.

Rivera (21-1) extended his unbeaten run to twenty when he defeated Thomas Almeida at UFC Long Island in July. Originally scheduled to face former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, we began by asking Rivera how the opponent change had affected his preparation for UFC 219.

The only thing that’s changed is the game plan, everything else stays the same. Cruz is more of an irritating fight because he just doesn’t stop moving, but with Lineker, he’s going to stay in the pocket and bang, and I love that.

Recently, Rivera posted a video to his Twitter account of him sparring with the recently crowned bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw. He told us about the context of this video, and how the sparring went down between them.

It was 3 or 4 years back. I think TJ had just lost to (John) Dodson on TUF. My teammate Louis Gaudinot was actually fighting Tim Elliott at the time, and we were in Milwaukee so I got to train with (Urijah) Faber and Dillashaw.

I just sent it to TJ to say, don’t forget what happened. I was getting the best of him, and I don’t really brag about it. But he wants to leave the weight class and fight DJ for the money fight, and I want to fight for the belt, so it’s defend your belt or vacate.

After briefly referencing the potential superfight between Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw, I asked Rivera about his thoughts on the somewhat flawed UFC rankings system, and title fights being put together purely for entertainment value.

It sucks. When I become champ I won’t be like a TJ or McGregor, I’m going to be like Demetrious Johnson and defend my belt against people coming up, it’s the right thing to do. If you want to win the belt and leave the division straight away, it’s kind of bullshit.

Rivera concluded by telling me that although he isn’t looking past Lineker at 219, “the only fight that makes sense after this one, is fighting TJ for the belt.”

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