By Steve Juon for WrestlingObserver.com
It’s American Top Team vs. The Blackzilians. It’s a whole new format – not just rival coaches – rival GYMS. Dana White notes that this is the first U.S. season that has been outside of Vegas, and that this season was filmed in South Florida. “These owners hate each other. What’s crazy is their gyms are only miles apart.”
We start at the American Top Team gym with owner Dan Lambert. He notes that there are 15 coaches and 70 fighters here on any given day, and 40 active on the UFC roster. Robbie Lawler was the first ATT guy to win championship gold. Next we go to Glenn Robinson and the Blackzilians. Lambert essentially writes Robinson off as a money mark who bought his way to a team. Robinson admits he used to be a trainer at ATT, and he was friends with four Brazilian guys who left, then Rashad Evans and Anthony Johnson joined them, and that’s when they got the Blackzilian name.
Dana White lays out a points system for this season. The first four fights are worth 25 points, the next two are worth 50, and the final four are worth 100. The team with the most points wins $200,000. To be on the TUF finale you have to have had at least two fights during the season, and the winner of the finale gets $300,000.
ATT’s eight welterweights for the season are Marcelo “Grilo” Alfaya, Hayder Hassan, Nathan Coy, “Creepy” Steve Montgomery, Michael Graves, Sabah Homasi, Uros Jurisic, and former WSOF welterweight champion Steve Carl.
The eight Blackzilian welterweights for the season are Jason Jackson, Luiz “Buscape” Firmino, Kamaru Usman, Andrews Nakahara, Carrington Banks, Vicente Luque, Felipe Portela, and Valdir “BBMonstrio” Araujo. The coaches are talking smack even before our first commercial break. Lambert: “Give me a hatchet and I’ll bury it right between his shoulders.”
The two teams are taking boats to the house for this season – but it’s not just any house – it’s a PALATIAL WATERFRONT MANSION. Both teams are in awe of the place when they arrive. Steve Carl has already sized up the Blackzilians and says they’ve got “a couple of lightweights” that don’t match up size wise.
Dana White comes to give his speech and flip the coin to give the winner the home gym advantage – and the Blackzilians win the coin toss. They have to win the first fight to keep it. White says this new dynamic will completely change the show because instead of a UFC gym in Las Vegas that’s neutral territory, fighters will have to duke it out in a hostile environment.
Lambert says ATT will win every fight this season – they’ll train and work like that’s the case. Meanwhile at Glenn Robinson’s house, the team is watching UFC on FOX 14 where Blackzilian fighter Anthony “Rumble” Johnson won big. After commercial it’s an evening training session at the Blackzilian gym. Robinson notes nobody knows who their opponent will be until the day of the weigh-ins. Jason Jackson says he lives by three codes: “Whoop ass, cash checks, and take gold – that’s all.”
Back at the house Nathan Coy from ATT says he’s trying to let everybody in the house see that they’re here to dominate – trying to look them down and be intimidating in their presence. At the gym Lambert says with 12 fights, four guys are obviously fighting twice no matter what. They’ve chosen Michael Graves to be their ace and fight first so they can earn home gym control.
Graves describes his style as “madness” and notes he used to fight for fun until he had a fiance and a child on the way. Lambert: “He’s very unorthodox, and he’s an anaconda when he gets a hold of you in a scramble.” Commercial.
Back at the fighter house with two days until the first fight. Nathan Coy talks about psychological warfare. It’s worth nothing that Coy is a former MFC welterweight champion and was a Bellator fighter for his last three fights. Kamaru Usman is picked for the Blackzilians first and Rashad Evans thinks it was the right call. Usman talks about being born in Nigeria, living there until he was eight, then growing up in Arlington, Texas after that. He was chasing the Olympic dream for a while, made the switch to MMA, and Rashad Evans opened up his home and let him move in. “I will go through hell to win this fight.”
Michael Graves (ATT) vs. Kamaru Usman (Blackzilians)
It’s weigh-in day. Graves vows he doesn’t care who he’ll fight. Usman says they might have expected Buscape to go first. “Whoever they put up, I’ll be on him for two rounds. They ran into a no win situation in the first fight.” ATT’s Graves is 170 even. Blackzilians’ Usman is also 170 even. Commercial.
Graves thinks Usman doesn’t have enough skills to beat him, and Robbie Lawler agrees, saying Graves is well rounded in all aspects of fighting. Lawler shows Graves a few tricks that’ll help him out. Usman says his opponent’s team better have warned Graves how good he is. He says he’ll either take him down in R1 and finish or just beat his ass for two.
The excitement level is high at the Blackzilian gym for the fight and Dana White is blown away. Graves is in gray trunks tonight and Usman is in the black. Graves is 4-0 so far in his career, Usman is 5-1. The referee reminds them that there will only be a sudden victory third round if the first two end in a tie. With that we’re underway!
Usman shoots early but Graves is standing up again at the 40 second mark. Usman goes for a single and nearly spikes his own head into the canvas. Graves spins out at 1:12. Usman shoots again 20 seconds later. Graves is warned twice not to grab the cage. Graves has a cut under his right eye as he stands back up. Usman is sticking to him like glue. Graves finally pushes him off at 2:50 and throws a knee. When the two stand and trade Usman is getting the better of the exchanges. Graves keeps his hands down too low. Usman has a really good right and when he stings Graves with it he shoots. Usman is also working body shots when they’re in tight. Strong first round for Usman.
Graves has that “raccoon face” when he comes out for R2 and Usman is throwing hard right away, putting Graves against the fence 23 seconds in. Graves is able to reset and land a nice right. Usman shoots gets stuffed and pushes Graves to the fence again. Usman gets the takedown and briefly has the back but Graves pops right back up. He gets off the fence at 1:56. A lot of feinting from both fighters until Usman lands a big left hand. He shoots for a takedown at 2:39 and connects, and this time Graves can’t pop back up. He starts to stand at the three minute mark and spins out at 3:10 and both men let their fists fly.
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Usman fails on a takedown and Graves jumps on his back and sinks both hooks in. Graves piggybacks as Usman stands up and he’s trying to get a rear naked choke. He elbows and punches Usman in the head as he’s trying to shift the weight and shake him off – which he does with 32 seconds left. Usman elbows him from and throws knees to the body until Graves pushes him to full guard right at the horn. Sudden victory is a possibility as we go to commercial.
The judges have rendered a verdict. 20-18, 20-18, 19-19, so the winner by majority decision is Kamaru Usman – the Blackzilians retain the home gym advantage. That’s all this week!