Episode three began with a recap of the middleweight elimination series aired during the past two installments. Thirty-two fighters were brought to the UFC National Training Center in Las Vegas to compete this season but only sixteen earned a spot in the house and a shot at becoming the next ultimate fighter.
Which athlete will emerge the victor at the end of the TUF 7 tournament and win the coveted six-figure contract with the UFC remains to be seen but according to last weeks teaser, two of the sixteen finalists would fall from the roster tonight, for completely different reasons. One would make his exit due to the outcome of the first quarter final match up and a second would be kicked off the show by UFC president Dana White.
Team selections were made this week and after winning the traditional coin toss, Coach Rampage decided to take advantage of picking the first fighter for his team as opposed to the option of getting to choose the first fight. A winning team maintains control of the fight selections until they lose therefore the first victory will be a crucial one.
Using the sixteen preliminary matches to evaluate this seasons talent, here are the teams Coach Rampage Jackson and Coach Forrest Griffin put together:
Team Rampage (BLUE) Team Forrest (BROWN)
1- C.B. Dollaway (6-4) 2- Tim Credeur (9-2)
3- Matt Riddle (1-0) 4- Amir Sadollah (0-0)
5- Paul Bradley (5-0) 6- Jesse Taylor (6-2)
7- Dan Cramer (3-0) 8- Matt Brown (9-6)
9- Gerald Harris (7-2) 10- Cale Yarbrough (0-0)
11- Mike Dolce (5-4) 12- Dante Rivera (10-2)
13- Jeremy May (6-5) 14- Nick Klein (4-0)
15- Brandon Sene (2-0) 16- Luke Zachrich (6-1)
When all was said and done both coaches appeared to be happy with their selections and the very witty Coach Rampage shared with viewers that "Team Brown-Nose" is going down and the TUF 7 winner will be from his team. This is going to be an awesome season and I have no doubt Forrest will also come up with a special nickname for the opposing blue team. Hmmm? what goes with blue?
No sooner than the teams were decided, viewers were about to find out which one of the sixteen fighters from the episode two teaser was being kicked off the show. The third pick for Team Blue was Paul Bradley, an undefeated fighter (5-0) who made his pro debut only eighteen-months ago. He defeated Reggie Orr, a seven year veteran of the fight game with more experience and twice the number of pro matches to his credit, via unanimous decision in the seventh elimination bout.
A suspicious patch of red and swollen bumps was visible on Paul's neck and an evaluation by a dermatologist brought his dream to become the next ultimate fighter to a screeching halt. The rash was diagnosed as a contagious form of Herpes and the condition made it impossible for Paul to compete this season. Dana White broke the news to Bradley and his coach and as expected, this fighter was understandably upset and became emotional.
A teary-eyed Bradley explained that he had given up a lot to be there, including his job, which was a life-changing decision. To lose this opportunity after having fought his way onto the show was a tough pill to swallow. He also pointed out that he wouldn't be contagious after two days on the prescribed medication and pleaded with White to let him stay. Since stress related flair ups are not uncommon with this condition, White reasoned that he couldn't run the risk of possibly infecting the other fighters therefore he couldn't allow him to stay. Paul returned to the house and packed his things, said his goodbyes and then left. Perhaps we will see Paul on a future season of TUF.
Back at the gym, Coach Forrest informed Team Brown that he'd never really be a coach but he knew how to run a training camp. Joining him this season as assistant coaches are Cameron Diffley (Jiu-Jitsu), Mark Beecher (Muay Thai) and former TUF competitor Gray Maynard (wrestling). Forrest wrapped up the pow-wow with a bit of wisdom, based on his own experience as a TUF alum, that is sure to be repeated for many years to come; "the juice is worth the squeeze!" Clever and relevant!
It was time for Griffin to reveal his picks for the first quarter final match up and without hesitation, he announced Jesse Taylor (6-2 from Team Brown) would fight Mike Dolce (5-4 from Team Blue). Taylor resembles and even sounds like Big John McCarthy, and he knows it. Forrest thinks he's a meathead but has a lot of potential and even felt that his third pick could be the next Matt Hamill. Taylor competed five times in 2007 and was 3-2 for the year, with both losses coming via submission.
Dolce was a NJ Tax Assessor for ten years before making a career change in 2005 to move to Oregon and pursue fighting fulltime with Team Quest. His pro record with the three sources I checked was inconsistent but all three agreed that he came on the show with a four fight losing streak in his wake. Still, Dolce said he intended to "put his hand through Jesse's skull and then cook him dinner later that night." Well, OK then.
Team Rampage began contemplating their options for Paul Bradley's replacement and when all was said and done, Patrick Schultz (7-1-1) was chosen. Schultz was defeated by Luke Zachrich (7-1) via round one submission (rear naked choke) in the tenth middleweight elimination bout. Schultz was grateful for the opportunity to get a second shot so we'll see how he progresses from here.
Coach Rampage decided to drop by the house to "kick it" with his team and get to know them a bit. He definitely did some bonding with his fighters and the interaction was priceless because Rampage is one of the funniest guys in the fight game right now and you never know what is going to come out of his mouth. The fact that he currently dons the UFC Light Heavyweight strap makes him even more valuable in the minds of many up and coming fighters because they respect him and can see first hand what hard work and dedication to this sport can lead to. Seemed like a good evening was had by all.
Both fighters apparently made weight since both were standing inside the Octagon on fight day with referee Herb Dean and Dana White. Match winners this season will not only earn $5,000 from Zuffa, Burger King has matched that amount for a second bonus. After wishing both fighters luck, White left the cage and the bell to start the match and the action began.
Round 1: Dolce stuffed a takedown attempt made by Taylor but was unable to stop the BJM lookalike from transitioning to a dominant position, taking the taxman's back where he began to work a rear-naked choke submission attempt.
Dolce managed to thwart Taylor's efforts to successfully sink the choke and found a way to briefly escape, only to find Taylor still clinging to his back like a strip of Velcro. Dolce did eventually get a reversal and found himself in the top position where he landed a few decent elbows on Taylor, but the advantage was short lived as Taylor's strength led to another reversal where he immediately started working for another rear-naked choke. Dolce fended off the attempt and the two continued with the back and forth chess match until the closing moments of round one when Taylor gained side control and started raining down elbows on Dolce until the bell sounded.
Coach Rampage made it clear to Dolce that he needed to win the second round during the break and when the bell rang, Dolce immediately came out swinging. But unlike the opening of the first round, Dolce was unable to stuff a takedown attempt when Taylor shot in and took him to the mat.
Dolce was obviously gassed but still tried to escape and better his position. His best efforts failed and after absorbing more punishment at the hands of Taylor and winding up in another RNC submission attempt that he was too tired to defend against, referee Herb Dean stepped in and stopped the fight.
Taylor earned a $10,000 bonus for his efforts and the brown team celebrated the victory (complete with the man of the hour puking in a bucket) and maintained control of the next fight selection.
Tune in next week as Coach Rampage and his assistants raise the training bar on Team Blue, Matt Riddle (1-0) and Dante Rivera (10-2) get into a verbal sparring match and the second quarter-final elimination fight goes down! See you then!