If you were to ask Dana White what he wanted from the fighters he picked for The Ultimate Fighter 2, the answer wouldn’t be long.
So far, this season, heart has eluded the heavyweight division. In its place? Fear, hesitancy, dancing: the list goes on. When I sat down to watch Monday’s episode, I wondered to myself, “What is it going to take for these guys to show me something?” Because, quite frankly, the three previous heavyweight fights had been worse than lackluster, they’d been heartless.
Dana, Matt Hughes, Rich Franklin, hell, anyone with eyes was disappointed with the earlier fights. Would today be different? Would a big man finally show up?
The show opened with everyone praising the victorious Luke Cummo, who thoroughly out-struck and outworked Anthony Torres in an entertaining bout. Matt Hughes was especially wowed by Cummo’s performance, praising his skills as “amazing”, an inrregular comment coming from the critical and perpetually dissatisfied coach.
After the positive reinforcement ended, the heavyweight storyline began to be woven by the editors, portraying Mike White as a disliked and disrespected “teacher’s pet”.
Matt made it a point to draft Mike #1, seeing as they’d been training partners for years and Mike’s skills were supposedly levels above his competitors.
Hughes continued his relentless conditioning regime, keeping his team tired and beaten, but supposedly better for it. Franklin’s training segment was short and meaningless, not because it’s easier, but because Hughes is simply more interesting. Tough luck.
The challenge rolled around again, this time with the heavyweights playing a modified version of tug of war. Two heavyweights from each team were tied to a metal octagon, the point being to work together and pull the opposing team into a designated zone to win.
The struggle was short and sweet for Team Hughes, making short work of the game. Team Hughes met and immediately decided they wanted Mike to fight Rashad, a man more renowned for his antics than his fighting. Mike seemed confident to fight Rashad, seeing as Rashad’s last 3 minutes of ring time resembled a half-time show more than a fight.
Rashad, predictably, felt “disrespected” by the pick, thinking that Hughes was underestimating him. You know what? They WERE disrespecting him, and with good reason. For a man to act like he did in a fight WITHOUT winning convincingly is inexcusable. Rashad should expect to be “disrespected” until he wins a fight decisively.
The weigh ins followed:
Rashad 222 lbs,
Mike 251 lbs.
Mike looked chubby, but that’s simply his body type. Rashad looked lean, but looked as if he could easily lose twenty pounds and fight at light-heavy. Why he chooses not to is on him. Both looked ready to fight.
Hughes showed confidence in his boy, saying that Mike did everything that Rashad did, only better. Mike seemed confident. Hindsight, maye he wasn’t too confident. Maybe he was thinking about how Tom Murphy never made a dent in Rashad’s unorthodox defense. Maybe he was nervous about the unpredictability of a man who wasn’t scared to make himself look foolish. Maybe he was injured.
Whatever the case, Rashad boasted and beamed like he had already won.
“I can only beat myself.”
“I’m going to take it to him.”
What does it say about a man when his toughest talk is done when he’s alone?
The fight was on. Mike was ready for dancing. Rashad was ready for the weight to drop.
They circled and patted one another for a minute in the first before any real action began. Shortly thereafter, Mike revealed his major technique, a right low-kick, clinch combo. It wasn’t effective the first time he tried it, and it wasn’t the next seven times either. Rashad landed a good elbow early, sending Mike back with a new respect for his range. Both started to punch, with each landing blows on the other, but causing no palpable damage.
Mike finally got the clinch later in the round, eventually slamming Rashad down on all fours. Mike went for a follow up suplex, but only wasted energy and never got Rashad off the ground. Rashad went down in the recessive position, but quickly reversed to the dominant and landed some blows to Mike’s ample head. None were clean and Mike defended well, but a tally went down on every judge’s card as Rashad finished the round without any doubters of the victor.
Round two saw Mike again try his low-kick set up, but it was parried by Rashad. Rashad defended all of Mike’s attempts at grounding the fight, keeping it standing and blasting Mike with punches. Mike threw some kicks, but that same control Rashad employed in his first fight was back, keeping his opponent away and unable to score.
Both looked tired, but the bell came anyway. Round 2 went soundly to Rashad. Hughes finally came through during the break, throwing his water bottle in frustration. I know what he felt. He wanted for damn sure to get in that ring and beat Rashad into a pulp. He wanted to staredown his oversized opponent and crush him anyway. He wanted to slam Rashad’s rubber neck into the canvas of the cage.
The truth? Yes. The rest of the truth? He couldn’t.
Round three was more of the same. Mike looked like a Cubs fan on 63rd and Western. He was lost. Dead. Beaten.
As the round clock hit 10 seconds, a man died in the ring. It was obvious he was dead, because he turned his back on a fight, and walked away. Rashad had defeated an opponent in mind, body, and spirit. He was gone.
Rashad had survived yet again. Congrats to him. The front-runner was gone, and the road was paved for him to travel.
Dana said later that he was “shocked” at Mike’s gameplan. Instead of coming out with agressive striking and imposing his will on his less skilled opponent, he came out scared. He paid the price.
The last line in my notes?
“Mike was gone.”
Photos used with permission by the UFC®.
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