When Dan Henderson was forced to pull out of his September 2012 title bout with UFC Light Heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones, in addition to his misfortune, it became a blessing to his teammate Chael Sonnen. The former politician reverted to his political roots, campaigning for an immediate title shot. Mudslinging was an art that Sonnen were all too familiar with, as he went from dismissing Jones’ legitimacy as champion to declaring himself as the true champion.
Despite Sonnen’s mind games, Jones refused to take Sonnen’s bait. Although he opted to fight Sonnen at a later date, Jones refusal to fight Sonnen immediately called for UFC to cancel an entire fight card for the first time in company history. It took no time for Jones to be vilified for his decision. Even though the champion would go on to defend his tittle against Belfort later in the month, it didn’t do much to save face for him.
Sonnen’s continued anti-Jones campaign eventually grabbed the attention of UFC’s front office, prompting a major announcement that was made the following month.
With knowledge of the of the heat that was generated between Jones and Sonnen, UFC President announced that the two combatants would coach against each other in the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF).
In addition to coaching teams of prospective fighters looking to become the next Ultimate Fighter, Jones and Sonnen will have to interact with one another over a 12 week span.
Given all the tension developed between the two, both coaches turned down their egos tremendously for the sake of promoting the future of the sport.
Make no mistake about it, the coaches allowed their personalities to shine, but the energy involved was used to inspire their middleweight fighters to greatness.
Truth be told, Chael Sonnen proved to be the better coach. His management of men and words of inspiration have resulted in two of his fighters standing as the finalists to decide the next Ultimate Fighter. In seasons past, the finale included fighters from each team.
While Sonnen’s success as a coach should not implicate what will happen when he and Jones meet at UFC 159 on April 27th, the road to their date with destiny has so far, been a score for the “Bad Guy”.
Before we look too far ahead, let’s look further into current events, shall we?
On Saturday, April 13th at 9pm, UFC on FX presents The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, live from Las Vegas’ The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. In addition to the TUF finale, you will see four fights on the main card, two of which carry championship implications.
Here are my crap shots at this card:
Bubba “The Menace” McDaniel vs. Gilbert “Jamal” Smith (Middleweight Division)
As two of TUF 17th’s combatants that fell short of the final, both McDaniel and Smith should see this as an opportunity to make a case for themselves as future competitors in the UFC. Smith packs power, speed and is well-rounded, but trying t be the comedian of this season’s class has many wondering where his focus is. Meanwhile, McDaniel has fallen short of the hype he’s generated, being a training partner of Jon “Bones” Jones. Although McDaniel has under performed, i get the sense his focus is greater. Out of desperation, I’m taking McDaniel to beat Smith in a decision.
Travis “Hapa” Browne vs. Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga (Heavyweight Division Bout)
At 6’7″, with the ability to strike and takedown any opponent that has stood before him, Browne started to garner attention from observers of the fight game. And then he ran into a brick wall known as Antonio “Big Foot” Silva, that led to his first UFC loss. Browne is looking to get back on a winning track, but he has another daunting task before him in the form of Gonzaga. Gonzaga is a former UFC Heavyweight champion who can force his opponents to submission and the kind of punching power that can render anyone before him motionless. After suffering a knockout loss to Silva, I’m inclined to believe that Browne’s vulnerability has been exposed. I’ll take Gonzaga giving Browne the second knockout loss of his career.
Miesha “Cupcake” Tate vs, Cat “Aplha” Zigano (Women’s Bantamweight Division, Title Contention Bout)
Because I am a new fan of women’s MMA, there isn’t much knowledge I can give here. What I do know is Ronda Rousey did beat Tate for the Strikeforce title. What I also know is Zigano is making her UFC debut. If you would’ve saw the stare down between these two at the weigh-ins, you would’ve saw it took everything in Zigano not to attack Tate right then and there. Call me crazy, but I’m the sucker for the upset here. I’ll go with Zigano by way of decision.
Uriah “Prime Time” Hall vs. Kelvin Gastelum (The Ultimate Fighter Finale, Middleweight Division)
Could Chael Sonnen be more proud? Any way you slice it, he comes out of season 17 the winning coach thanks to Hall and Gastelum. On one end, you have Hall who upon sight is imposing. What he does in the octagon is more awe-inspiring than his appearance. His knockout power is jaw dropping. Even when he appears to be in trouble, he somehow finds a way to finish his fights in the form of a knockout. Gastelum, on the other hand is one that has a deceptive appearance. When he does battle, he has this way of overwhelming his opponents. The pressure he applies with his grappling has caused fits for anyone he’s faced. This contrast of styles should make for an interesting fight. However, Hall is the one that can stifle Gastelum’s pressure with the right. Hall becomes season 17’s Ultimate Fighter.
Urijah “The California Kid” Faber vs. Scott “Young Guns” Jorgensen (Bantamweight Division, Title Contention Bout)
Faber and Jorgensen are friends and were once collegiate wrestling rivals. They even competed simultaneously under World Extreme Cagefighting. Having never competed against one another in WEC, they will finally see each other in an MMA environment. Conventional wisdom says Faber is the choice to make here with his edge in the submission and striking departments. However, we’ve seen Faber in title matches recently where he’s come up short. I’m going with Jorgensen to do the unthinkable just because I would like to see Jorgensen face Interim champion Renan Barao again to see if he can exact revenge from a loss he suffered to Barao back in February 2012.
There’s my call on the TUF Season Finale. Check back with us soon of for a full recap of this event. Enjoy weekend and the fights.
By Antoine Hoffman