“Smiling and Punching”
Previously, Pierce’s heart was questioned causing Dana to pull him from the fights, giving Frank Lester a shot at redemption. Tensions between the teams rise, as seen by the Bisping/Demarques drama. In the final prelim fight, UK favorite Faulkner fails to perform and gives Lester the most shocking upset. Tonight, the semifinal matches are decided.
As soon as the final prelim fight is finished, Dana calls in Hendo and Bisping to choose the semifinal fights. The coaches ideally would like to see Dollar/Pearson and Dent/Winner at 170, and Demarques/Wilkes and Osipczak/Lester at 185. However, they are still going to call each guy in one by one and see what they want to do.
So, they call in the guys and for the most part, they ask for what the coaches want, with one real exception — Dollar wants Dent (which Dana gets a kick out of)! Dana throws the idea of teammate vs. teammate out at the coaches and Bisping is adamantly against it. Hendo is less passionate, but agrees. Dana’s major concern though, is that the finale might not end up UK vs. US if they don’t do it this way. I don’t know where Dana’s going with this, but they call out the guys and announce the fights to the surprise of all:
Osipczak vs. Demarques
Winner vs. Dollar
Pearson vs. Dent
Wilkes vs. Lester
Once the initial shock wears off, Dana informs Frank that he’s the first guy who’s ever been brought back that’s actually won — wow, that is kinda huge.
Back at the house, the guys enjoy dinner together and discuss their opinions of the picks. No surprise, the guy doing the most talking is Pierce — talking to a couple attentive Brits about how the Americans were too busy drinking, and had no pride or motivation. Whitson (Shaun White) overhears this and calls him out on his behavior — reminding him how Frank fought all beat up, while Pierce wussed out. Pierce STILL claims he would have fought, but that it wasn’t his decision. Tempers calm, but Pierce is still all buddy-buddy with Faulkner, discussing techniques and whatnot. The next morning over breakfast, Whitson tells the others how he overheard Pierce telling Faulkner how Damarques trains (which Faulkner then tells Nick). Very shady.
The next day, at Team USA training Hendo is confident and thinks his guys have a good shot at doing well. In the previous few days, Damarques was sick, but seems better now. The ever-humble Damarques thinks he’s the best in the house — that he’s scary at the clinch, scary at the ground n pound…yada yada yada. Hendo apparently agrees and thinks Damarques will win the show. Ugh.
Rumors abound, and Hendo comes out and talks to Pierce (who said he’s looking forward to going home) to confront him about what he heard. He asks Pierce if he’s been telling the Brits guys about their training, which Pierce adamantly denies, and Hendo believes him! What a….eh, I can’t even say.
If only Hendo could see this, but later at Team UK training Nick talks about all the info he got from Faulkner about Damarques’ training. Of course, he will use it to his advantage. Bisping admits that Damarques is the US’s strongest guy and really needs to work on Nick. His intent is to work on his feet and his takedown defense. Nick will do whatever it takes to win.
Nick realizes this is going to be his toughest fight to date, but thinks Damarques isn’t mentally as tough. Damarques (he’s praying again!) just wants to take his will to fight away from him. We shall see…
Round 1: Johnson takes the first shot, but Osipczak lands a good leg kick followed by another painful one. A great jab lands from Johnson. Osipczak goes in and takes another shot from Johnson. Johnson swings and misses, and they clinch. Johnson throws Osipczak down and is in full guard. They scramble a bit and are back up with a good exchange. Solid leg kick, followed by a missed head kick from Osipczak. More good exchanges and a nice rib shot from Johnson. Nice jab to the chin from Johnson. Osipczak goes in for a missed right and Johnson takes him down. Johnson is in full guard and Osipczak tries to keep his feet on his hips and goes for a triangle. Now Johnson is in half guard trying to pass for side control. Repeated unsuccessfull attempts to pass and Osipczak lands several elbows. Back in full guard, then half again. Johnson lands a few good shots and Osipczak tries to reverse. In full guard, Osipczak lands solid elbows, which Johnson returns. More elbows from Osipczak. Johnson backs off and lands a couple shots. He stands up and Osipczak is able to get up. They clinch and Osipczak lands a good uppercut that knocks Johnson back. Osipczak lands several more shots with Johnson against the cage, and it almost looks over. But Johnson regains himself and retaliates with good shots as the round ends.
Round 2: Both come out aggressive. A nice missed overhand gives Johnson a shot at a takedown. Johnson gets him down and has side control. Here he lands a couple knees and elbows. Osipczak rolls and Johnson is in his guard. Osipczak pulls his leg up and tries to get a triangle, meanwhile landing a couple elbows. Johnson passes into side control and tries to trap Osipczak’s arm for an armbar. Now he’s in half guard and lands some good elbows and jabs. Johnson tries to mount, but ends up back in his guard. They exchange some elbows, but neither is doing a whole lot. Osipczak tries to kick Johnson off, but no luck. A solid rib shot from Johnson. Osipczak tries to go for another triangle, but Johnson manages to mount him. He lands some good head shots and Osipczak rolls. With his legs wrapped tightly around Osipczak, Johnson rains down several shots (Bisping shut up about the back of the head!). Osipczak is protecting himself, but not doing anything to change the situation. The round ends with Johnson landing shot after shot to his head and ribs.
Round 3: Johnson takes the first shot and lands a few good jabs. Both look tired. Nice overhand from Osipczak, followed by a body kick. Now a good combo from Osipczak. A nice uppercut from Johnson misses. Johnson lands a BIG left, but Osipczak takes it. They clinch and Johnson lands a flying knee to Osipczak’s covered head. Osipczak is backing up and covering up a lot. A weak spinning backfist from Osipczak doesn’t land. Johnson is throwing a lot more shots, but Osipczak is blocking most. Osipczak kicks, but Johnson catches it and takes Osipczak down. In half guard, he tries to mount him. Johnson pretty much just lays on top of Osipczak and gets in some good elbows. He’s got one arm trapped and tries to pass. He finally mounts Osipczak, who rolls over. Osipczak reverses it and is in Johnson’s guard. Osipczak lands some good body and head shots, but nothing damaging. Johnson lands several head shots, as does Osipczak and the round ends.
Both coaches and Dana pretty much agree that Damarques was solid to start and got the takedown, but Nick was able to rock him toward the end of the round. Thankfully Damarques snapped out of it and gave it right back to Nick. A worn out Nick was controlled by Damarques in both the remaining rounds.
Winner: Damarques Johnson (unanimous decision)
Team USA is thrilled, and Dana compliments a very beat-up looking Damarques on his performance. Nick is disappointed, as this was the first fight he lost in his last 10. But it looks like the Americans have the first fighter to go into the finale!
Next time: the 4 remaining lightweights square off and we will be treated to two semifinal fights in one episode — who will move on to the finale?
Personally, as much as I don’t like Damarques as a person, I’m glad to see the Americans take the first win into the finals. It wasn’t the most technical, nor the prettiest fight, but a win is a win. How funny would it be to see a Damarques vs. Lester finale?