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The Ultimate Fighter: Season 11 — Finale: “Will to Win”
First things first, Rich Franklin is given the grand tour of the new gym (as it has been years since he coached). We even get to witness Franklin officially signing to fight Chuck. The guys are then brought in to meet with all their new coaches: Forrest Griffin, Gray Maynard and Tyson Griffin. Dana wasn’t kidding when he said he was overcompensating!
In the first day of training with Franklin, they all jump right in. They break McCray’s style down, giving lots of pointers. The guys are pleasantly surprised at their hands-on approach.
Then Team Liddell comes rolling in to find Franklin’s giant mug hanging up in the gym. After the double take, they get right to work. It’ll be awkward for Tavares and McGee to fight each other, as they are not only teammates but they have become close friends. Trying to train them both has created an awkward dynamic for the coaches. Chuck points out that it’ll be hard for him to watch — who does he root for? Who does he coach?
Later at the house, many of the guys decide to get back at the rowdiest (McCray, Yager, Tavares, Noke and Ring) of the group, because of their late (late) night antics. They arm themselves with air horns and silly string, and invade their rooms to wake them in the wee hours. They all take it well…except for Tavares. He first trashes the chess board, but then starts plotting his revenge.
All around the predictions are that this is going to be a tough fight. No one makes any concrete predictions except Dana — he picks McGee.
McGee opens with a leg kick, but Tavares counters with jabs. McGee connects with a combo. Both seem tentative and cautious. McGee almost seems to be throwing kicks/punches in slow motion. Tries a body kick, then a head kick, but they are checked. Finally, McGee goes offensive with a big right hook, but Tavares ducks and they clinch. Against the cage, they work for position and McGee is able to slam Tavares. McGee has Tavares half mounted and is looking for the full mount. Tavares defends and McGee ends up in his guard. Tavares continuously tries to posture and is able to push McGee off. They return to the center and begin slugging. Both land several shots. After a few exchanges they clinch again, with McGee in control against the fence. He lands several kidney shots. They return to the center and once again, McGee is the aggressor. He lands several unanswered jabs and leg kicks. Tavares is able to check a few shot and even lands a couple of his own. He looks to shoot but changes his mind as they return to the clinch. McGee pins Tavares, landing body shots and looking to take Tavares down as the round ends.
I give that round to McGee…all McGee.
This time Tavares strikes first with a straight jab to the face. McGee fights back though. So far the pace is a bit faster. They are less tentative and more calculating. Tavares lands another jab. Nice attempt at a headkick from McGee, but it is checked. McGee works the leg kick and follows up with a combo. Tavares comes in on him and McGee pops him with a right hook that wobbles him. McGee then shoots on Tavares and pushes him against the fence. Neither does much, but Tavares gets himself off the cage. Back at center, Tavares gives a nice jab/uppercut combo. Now they are finally throwing some nice exchanges. Both are landing solid punches and both are taking them. McGee shoots, but Tavares sprawls and is able to defend. Taking advantage Tavares gets a good knee on McGee. McGee loves that leg kick and connects with several. Tavares tries one also, but McGee catches it and uses it to drive Tavares back. Tavares is practically doing a split as McGee tries to take him down. But the round ends before he can.
Wow…much closer round, but McGee did more damage. I didn’t expect it to go this far.
Immediately both start swinging and kicking. A stray kick lands in McGee’s groin. After a brief break they’re back to duking it out. They slow down and get back to being careful. McGee connects with several leg kicks. He goes in on Tavares and Tavares lands a few shots to McGee’s head. Neither looks gassed. Tavares lands a heavy leg to McGee’s thigh. Nice jab to McGee’s face snaps his head back. Tavares is definitely more aggressive now. McGee shoots, and puts Tavares against the fence but it doesn’t last. Back to standing they continue to exchange. A shot from McGee gets Tavares backpedaling and he nearly falls, but regains his footing. They clinch against the cage. Struggling for control, Tavares jumps up with a knee that connects to McGee face but it doesn’t seem to rattle him enough. In the continued clinch, this time it is Tavares who takes a shot to the pills, but all is ok. They restart and exchange. McGee lands a combo leg kick/jab that seems to rock Tavares. Nice overhands from both. McGee throws an inside kick that ends in the groin again. As soon as they restart, McGee rocks Tavares with a big right. McGee pounces as Tavares wobbles and gets Tavares down. Immediately he jumps on his back, and wraps his arms around his neck. He sinks the hooks in for the RNC and Tavares drops to the ground. The ref sees that Tavares is not responding. He checks him and he is sound asleep.
Winner: Court McGee via Submission (Rear Naked Choke)
What. A. Slugfest. By far the best fight of the season. Props for both guys from everyone. Dana even says that was a finale-type fight. I definitely see a future for Tavares. But that was huge for McGee.
As a surprise for the guys, Dana brings in a handful of Marines to train with them. The soldiers are going to roll with them and learn what they go through and how they prepare for deployment. Part of the lesson is trust and teamwork, combat conditioning, de-arming someone etc. They even get to have a little fun taking out their aggression with some big foam sticks! There is a camaraderie forming, I can feel it!
The Marines are then invited back to the house for a bit of a BBQ. Over hot dogs and hamburgers, they compare their experiences: boot camp, the sacrifices and what they go through. It’s impressive how they all seem to appreciate each other now. I like seeing that these rough and tumble guys have heart outside of the ring too.
But, back to the fighting. Franklin reviewed McCray’s first fight with Bryant to break down where he could improve. This will be McCray’s 5th fight on the show (uh, wow!) and Franklin vows that he will not make the same mistakes. His major criticism of the first fight was the McCray was working too hard and inefficiently. That will not happen again.
At the house, Yager and Tavares talk prank to get back at the rest for the silly string and air horns. Their plan: hide their shoes, whip dry beans and rice and bags of flour at sunbathers. This enrages Hammortree who empties a nasty bag of trash all over Yager’s room (though the flour had been Tavares). Yager tries to retaliate and gets in Hammortree’s face. The two bark and bark at each other. As several try to break them up, Yager fakes on Uscola who then flips. Yager tries to insult Uscola, but everyone is quick to remind him that he’s the one that quit in his fight. The solution of course is to take it outside. Uscola gets his shoes and makes his way to the patio but Yager hides up in his room. “Another fight he didn’t show up for.” Now the rest of the guys realize their shoes have gone missing. This time Yager is quick to comply with the requests but not without heated words from McKinney.
Team Liddell trains Bryant for his rematch with McCray. Bryant expects McCray to be a bit more cautious this time. I agree that this will not be the same fight. Dana is assuming that history will repeat itself and picks Bryant to win again.
McCray starts out aggressive, but maybe too aggressive. Bryant is able to check his shots and scrambles away from McCray’s takedown attempt. McCray is finally able to pin Bryant sideways against the cage and then tries to slam him to the ground. Bryant works back up, but McCray is not letting go. While clinching, McCray lands a nice knee and is then able to slam Bryant. Bryant keeps trying to push McCray off and stand, but McCray has a good grip. They both stand and continue to dirty box. They soon separate and get back to stand up. McCray leads with a nice right/left combo, but Bryant connects with a jab. McCray charges at Bryant and lands several shots and Bryant counters with a leg kick. They exchange and briefly clinch, but both back off. Nice uppercut from McCray leads to the clinch, but Bryant fends him off. McCray lands a big knee, but Bryant is unscathed. Now Bryant controls the clinch, but it doesn’t last. BIG left from Bryant leads to a painful exchange that leaves McCray a little damaged as the round ends.
Even though he was very sloppy, McCray controlled and won that round. I’m not impressed.
Franklin tells him that he wasn’t overworking, but I disagree…
McCray fakes a kick and lands an overhand instead. He gets Bryant’s back against the fence but can’t hold him there. McCray then peppers Bryant with unchecked jabs. Back in the clinch, Bryant now looks for the takedown, but he seems tired. As a matter of fact, neither seems to be working much except for a few weak knees and elbows. After being restarted, Bryant strikes first with a jab. They have a heated exchange, both landing some decent shots. They end up against the cage again, but nothing significant happens. Instead, they go back to stand-up and throw countless weak shots at each other. McCray lands some nice kidney shots, but (yawn) Bryant goes for the clinch again (to presumably catch his breath). They both try desperately to connect, but nothing really works. The same pattern emerges — clinch, body shots and knees, back to the center, slug, repeat. It’s a relief when the round ends.
Finally I agree with Franklin; Bryant likely won that round out of sheer control. And if McCray lets that happen again, he will lose.
ROUND 3 (no commercial?? Wtf!)
More of the same. They slug a bit….weak jabs, right hooks, wild uppercuts, and a few leg kicks for good measure. Clinch… a few knees and elbows, McCray trying to get the underhooks in, but cannot take Bryant down. Return to the center. They both connect with jabs and McCray charges Bryant trying to take him down. He is nearly successful, but Bryant is able to defend. The exchanges continue, but both are clearly exhausted (my son has hit me with more solid jabs!). This clinch/strike cycle is getting to the point where they could just loop the video and no one would know. With a minute left, McCray lands what would be a good left hook, but Bryant’s solid chin is able to take it. McCray is able to latch onto Bryant’s back, standing, looking for the slam but loses it. Bryant then lands a left hook that rattles McCray. They clinch til the bell.
That was sadly the weakest round of the 3, and I could see calling it a draw. Both were pretty evenly weak, but McCray did have more takedown attempts.
Winner: Kris McCray via Decision (Unanimous)
I don’t know where the Bryant of old went, but he definitely didn’t show up tonight. McCray definitely improved, and was able to execute a better game plan. Bryant just got overwhelmed.
So, live from the Palms it will be McGee and McCray. And considering that both of these guys actually lost their previous fights, it just goes to show you what second chances can do. This has the potential to be a sick fight.