Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Ultimate Fighter Nine: Episode Nine Review

Last night was definitely an improvement over last week but overall was not an incredibly strong episode. The fight was sloppy however the rivalry between Henderson and Bisping is growing which I always like to see. Hopefully now that we are into the semi finals the fights should get better and the show should pick up a little steam after two less than stellar weeks.

After the end of last week's show where we found out Dana White wouldn't let Jason Pierce fight he brings in the only two back ups on the U.S. team, Frank Lester and Mark Miller, to ask them if they want to fight. Both of them say yes convincingly but Miller couldn't be cleared medically due to a broken nose so Lester got the nod. Also, White loves a guy who's begging to fight whose teeth are still stuck in his mouth guard from his last fight... (insert "wah wah" sound effect here).

Back at the house the U.S. team talks more smack about Pierce and Santino Defranco, in what has to be the most high brow literary reference of all time on TUF, pulls out a Lord of the Flies reference to describe Pierce. Yes, you heard me correctly, the most high brow literary reference on TUF is from a book we read in fifth grade.

There are some worries at training about how much pain Lester is in but everyone knows he's all heart and will fight through it. There is also a big fuss made over training times which finally gets the coaches all riled up.

The U.S. team has been doing the early training for a month when technically they could've been switching back and forth. Henderson asks Bisping to switch and Bisping (who I'm liking less and less as this season progresses) takes it the wrong way and starts throwing a hissy fit. He assumes that Henderson is making a power play just because he's "Dan Henderson, two time Pride champion" and Bisping feels the need to stand up to him.

Bisping proposes a wager to Dan that whoever's team wins the next fight can choose when they want to train. Dan declines but in a classic moment offers to play Bisping again in tennis for it.

As part of Bisping's hissy fit he and Damarques Johnson have words (as they've been having all season) and Bisping squirts water in his face. Johnson throws his hat at Bisping and the two are separated before anything can happen. Bisping tries to apologize but Johnson won't have it and Bisping goes right back to rationalizing his actions.

As a last ditch effort David Faulkner, whose troubles keeping his mouth piece in were well documented last week, went to a hypnotist to try and cure his inability to keep his mouth piece in. Apparently it worked because he only lost his mouth piece once in a ten minute fight whereas last week he couldn't keep it in for more than a couple minutes at a time.

Finally we make it to the fight. The first round is pretty much all Faulkner. His striking looks better and he's generally pushing Lester all over the cage Round one belonged to Faulkner.

The second round was a totally different story. Lester digs deep and starts fighting back landing some good shots and Faulkner looks gassed. Lester wins round two. By the end of the second round Faulkner's spirit is obviously broken even though he looks fine physically. He refuses to answer the bell for the third and decisive round and Lester wins via TKO.

So the long shot alternate to even make the show and lose his quarterfinal fight still somehow manages to make it to the semi finals. It was good to see the U.S. team even the score 4-4 but I did feel bad for Faulkner. He obviously had some talent but his heart and mind just aren't in the sport (as was clearly evidenced by his thoughts on leaving MMA to pursue an acting career in horror movies or become a professional wrestler)

Also, was it just me or did it seem sort of disrespectful to show the Tapout crew (the late "Mask" included) at cageside? Maybe I took it the wrong way but to me it just seemed kind of wrong to highlight the Tapout crew including Mask so soon after his tragic passing. Hopefully the UFC only had the best intentions when it came to keeping that footage in the episode.

After the fight Bisping is furious that one of his best prospects just quit on him. So he takes his four remaining fighters out to the hall way and basically tells them that if they're going to quit on him that they should just leave now. They all emphatically tell him no and coming from the four who are left I believe them.

I can't wait to see how the semi finals shake out. In the promo for next week they leave the idea in your head that White may have the team mates fight each other to ensure a U.K. v. U.S. final but I'm not so sure that will actually happen. In any case I'm hoping that with the semi finals approaching the show begins to heat up as the pressure mounts for the fighters and the coaches.

As always I leave you with my quote of the week. This week's gem comes from Mark Miller who, in one of the funniest dry comedy moments this season has seen, tries to tell Dana that broken nose or not he wants to fight: "It’s just a nose, I’m not getting any prettier.”

Alright everyone that's all for this week. This should be a big weekend for me so please check out my WEC and Strikeforce previews and my June fighter rankings. Also, stay tuned as always for my TUF episode recap next week and please check out my weekly news recap No News Barred over at InsideFights every Wednesday. Until next time,

Soccer kicks and head stomps...

John Shubert is a staff writer at InsideFights

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