In last week’s episode, Rashad Evans and “Rampage” Jackson talked trash, picked teams, trained, and watched John Madsen take Abe Wagner down repeatedly, open a huge gash on Wagner’s forehead, and win a decision via takedowns and top control.
Week two opens with exterior shots of the most abused upscale home in the Las Vegas metro area and Kimbo Slice stating that he believes he will fight next. Roy Nelson tells Justin Wren that he thinks Kimbo would be “a good fight for me.”
Not unexpectedly, Kimbo gets a lot of face time on camera and “Rampage” singles him out for special groundwork sessions while the rest of the team works out of view. Kimbo drills sprawls, sweeps, and escapes to the delight of Tiki Ghosn and “Rampage.” He does look fluid on the ground but there is a difference between drilling with a good uke and going live in a fight.
“We’re just preparing for the worst,” says “Rampage,” who seems confident that Kimbo will be picked as soon as Team Rashad has the opportunity to make a match.
Team Rashad faces an early stumbling block when Trevor Whitman calls out Nelson for being uncoachable. The coaches tell Nelson that he offers rebuttals anytime they offer advice or criticism but before they can finish their point he, well, rebuts their criticism. “I feel like you want to work your own corner,” Whitman says, and there is truth to the statement. Nelson, more than the other guys on the show, is a self-made fighter in an era where all the top guys have surrounded themselves with large, full-time camps. It will be interesting to see if he can buy into a team concept and how it affects his performance on the show and after.
Next we see the second fight selection and “Rampage” calls out Evans’ first pick James McSweeney, pairing him with the gigantic Wes Shivers. McSweeney is small by TUF 10 standards, but the British fighter has extensive muay Thai experience and trains with Team Jackson in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
After the training session, Team Rashad is doing mental training on the mat when Team Rampage arrives and the polite discussion about training schedule quickly devolves into what Evans calls “a fake smile,” and Team Evans walks out while Rashad mocking repeats “Rampage”’s line, “don’t say nothin’ tuh-me! Don’t say nothin’ tuh-me!”
We’re introduced to Wes Shivers, a good old boy from Mississippi who had a brief flirtation with professional football. He looks crisp training with Tom Blacklege in the cage and says, “I just don’t think his weapons that he’s gon’ approach me with are gonna do enough damage to stop me.” Blackledge works counter combos off an outside front leg kick and tells Shivers, “that kick will be the first thing that he throws.”
We get another training montage and some fight predictions from Team Rampage’s Demico Rogers, Abe Wagner, and Marcus Jones, and then it’s back to the TUF gym to warm up for the fight. “Oh, God, I’m gonna f***in’ kill ‘im today,” says McSweeney.
The fight starts and Blackledge’s advice proves prophetic. McSweeney cracks Shivers with a leg kick but Shivers is unable to get off with a counter. Another leg kick from McSweeney, who retreats and while Shivers rushes him, secures underhooks, and trips him, landing in half guard. Shivers works for a kimura but McSweeney defends, Shivers works for a kimura again and McSweeney defends it, standing up and escaping. He unleashes a few kicks and takes a shot to the groin in an exchange. McSweeney recovers and the two clash, exchanging wild punches that either don’t land or don’t do very much damage. Both fighters look gassed. At 2:00 of round one, McSweeney lunges with a wild hook, misses, but lands a stiff jab moments later. Another outside leg kick from McSweeney. Inside leg kick McSweeney. Wild overhand McSweeney. The British fighter is staying outside of Shivers’ range, lunging in for a single strike and retreating. Three more kicks to Shivers’ front leg and my IT band is starting to throb just watching it.
The round ends and “Rampage” and Tiki implore Shivers to move forward but I don’t think he’s going to be doing much of anything off that front leg.
Round two starts and Shivers eats another kick from McSweeney. A high kick from McSweeney misses but he follows up with another low kick. Shivers rushes his opponent and they go down momentarily. McSweeney wings a left hook and kicks Shivers’ leg again. Shivers catches a kick and takes McSweeney down and works to side control. McSweeney gets half guard and Shivers tries to isolate an arm. Shivers works to full mount and McSweeney turns into a rear naked choke. McSweeney reverses, gets in Shivers’ guard, and stands. The two men look ragged at this point, standing in the Octagon with their hands down. Another left hand, right kick from McSweeney. The Brit lunges in again and literally turns and runs when Shivers tries to clinch. Shivers stands near the fence with his hands on his knees. McSweeney approaches and lands an inside leg kick. Shivers swings, McSweeney ducks. Inside leg kick McSweeney. Both men look absolutely drained. Overhand right from McSweeney staggers Shivers, who very nearly eats a follow-up kick to the face. He recovers well enough to grab a leg and take McSweeney down, even if he lands in a guillotine. Shivers muscles out of the choke with :05 to go in the round. The horn sounds and both fighters lay on the mat, totally spent.
Team Rashad tells McSweeney to prepare for a third round but it’s not clear why – Shivers was completely disabled by leg kicks and his only offense consisted of a couple of takedowns. McSweeney didn’t show well in retreating so much, but he still did enough to win the decision. Steve Mazzagatti calls the fighters to the center of the mat and declares McSweeney the winner. “Rampage” says Shivers abandoned his game plan; crippling leg kicks were probably the determining factor in that decision.
Team Rashad is up 2-0 but McSweeney looked a lot sloppier than expected. At the next fight selection, Evans selects a match that will satisfy casual fans and hardcores alike; Roy Nelson vs. Kimbo Slice, or as Evans indelicately put it, “the big black buck with the greasy beard.”
Nelson is by far the most skilled fighter Slice has faced to date and next week’s episode will likely be the most-hyped and most-watched in the series’ history.