Ultimate Fighter 22 Review: Semi-Finals
By: Larry Causion Jr. CausionCreations.com
Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015
Written by: Sherdog.com
Posted: Thursday, December 10, 2015
Written by: Sherdog.com
Another season of “The Ultimate Fighter” comes to an end this week, and tonight’s episode features two semifinal bouts to decide which lightweights will meet at Friday’s live finale in Las Vegas.
As the show begins, Team USA coach Urijah Faber tries to pump up his last remaining fighter, Julian Erosa, who prevailed over Abner Lloveras in a hard-fought, three-round quarterfinal match last week. Meanwhile, in the Team Europe locker room, Conor McGregor is fuming over what he perceives to be “gift” decisions. The Irishman believes Erosa’s luck will run out when he tangles with McGregor training partner Artem Lobov.
“He’s gotten lucky two times,” says McGregor. “Now, he’s about to hit a brick wall.”
Before that can happen, however, two of McGregor’s charges will have to face off in an all-Europe semifinal, as “Polish Zombie” Marcin Wrzosek is set to face England’s Saul Rogers. McGregor stresses that “it’s not weird” during training, since the fighters are not true teammates and both came on the show to fight for themselves. Nonetheless, Rogers is shown expressing some ambivalence to assistant coach Sergey Pikulskiy.
“I want to beat him,” Rogers says, “but then, he’s my friend as well.”
Ultimately, both men seem fine with throwing down and sharing a drink after the bout. Wrzosek says that Rogers is one of the best all-around fighters on the season and calls the matchup a “really big test.” Soon enough, the lightweights are inside the Octagon and ready to roll.
Veteran referee “Big” John McCarthy oversees the first semifinal, which is scheduled for three rounds rather than the two-plus-overtime layout of previous bouts. Rogers gets off to a strong start, landing hard punches in combination as he slides forward on Wrzosek in the opening minute. The gym is eerily silent again, with neither side cheering as Rogers shoots in and takes down Wrzosek near the fence. Wrzosek takes a knee and tries to stand, but Rogers pulls him away from the fence and plants him back on the mat.
Halfway through the round, Wrzosek moves to stand again and “The Hangman” briefly hunts for a guillotine choke. Wrzosek keeps his neck clear and finally stands with just over two minutes left in the opening frame. Both men go headhunting with big single punches, but neither scores with anything clean. Rogers catches hold of a kick to score another takedown, then holds Wrzosek in a front headlock from north-south position. Rogers spins and takes the back, but Wrzosek scrambles up and eats a knee from the Englishman as time runs out.
Rogers continues to find a home for his right hand at the start of round two, though the punches aren’t landing as nicely as they did in the first. Wrzosek pulls up short on a couple punches of his own, then gets floored with another takedown. Rogers moves straight to the back this time, sinking in one hook as Wrzosek kneels near the fence. Referee McCarthy warns Rogers to mind the back of the head as he tries to wrap left hands around the Polish fighter’s face.
Wrzosek’s right foot becomes trapped between the cage and mat at the base of the fence, and Rogers politely relents for a moment to allow his opponent to pull the foot free. As soon as action resumes, however, Rogers secures back-mount and pulls Wrzosek away from the fence to lock up a rear-naked choke. Wrzosek taps out soon after, making Saul Rogers the first finalist of “TUF 22.”
Now, it’s Team USA’s turn to prepare their last man standing for battle. Coach Faber shows up at the final training session flanked by UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and Nova Uniao leader Andre Pederneiras, much to the delight of the American squad. Aldo explains that he and Faber have become good friends since they fought in 2010 for the World Extreme Cagefighting championship.
“Being here training with him is a learning process,” says Aldo. “Urijah always has something to teach me, and I always have something to teach him.”
Aldo runs through a few guard drills before the onetime soccer hopeful starts up a makeshift futbol game with the fighters, kicking a basketball around the gym. Team Europe is having no such fun, as Lobov is squarely focused on collecting a third consecutive stoppage to reach the “TUF” finale.
“I’m gonna go for a hat trick,” Lobov proclaims. “I’m not sure if that’s ever been done on ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ and if it has, then I just want to repeat that, ‘cause this is what pays. Knockouts pay.”
On fight day, McGregor walks into the gym to find Aldo seated on the opposing team’s bleachers.
“I didn’t think I’d see you again!” McGregor exclaims, drawing a grin from the champion.
The fighters enter the cage for another scheduled three-rounder, this one to be officiated by referee Herb Dean. Lobov backs up Erosa with a right hook and a leg kick, then keeps on the pressure, moving “Juicy J” around the perimeter of the cage. Lobov has his left hand cocked, just looking for an opening, and he finds one about a minute into the bout. Erosa leans in to throw a right hand to the body and gets countered with a Lobov left hook to the temple. Erosa’s legs buckle and Lobov wastes no time pounding him out with three or four more hard left hands, forcing referee Dean to rescue the dazed American.
After the bout, Lobov and Rogers pose inside the cage as a preview for their finale matchup. Then, the ominous music comes in and a message in white text fills a black screen.
“After the competition, Saul Rogers was removed from the finale card due to a legal issue,” it reads. “The UFC was forced to choose a replacement.”
UFC President Dana White explains that “Saul lied on his visa application” and has subsequently encountered trouble re-entering the U.S. Instead, UFC has chosen to bring back jiu-jitsu ace Ryan Hall, who was eliminated by Rogers in a majority decision earlier in the season. Hall explains that he was in Ireland the week before he got the call, working to improve his striking with none other than Lobov.
So, there it is. Artem Lobov and Ryan Hall will meet in the makeshift “TUF 22” final this Friday, Dec. 11, at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.