‘TUF’ Recap: The King Abdicates His Throne
The preliminary fights are complete, the wild card fighters have been selected and it's on to the next round for "The Ultimate Fighter".
Bubba McDaniel and Kevin Casey were selected as the wild card picks on the last episode, and it's a fight that McDowell had been pining for since early in the season.
Casey explains that even though he was flat in his prelim fight, the coaches made him the wild card pick for good reason. "This wasn't a decision that they made based on just thinking that I'm a nice guy. I'm glad that they were able to see my potential and belief in my skills and giving me this opportunity, I'll go out there and represent," Casey said.
McDaniel is happy for the chance at redemption, a chance to fight Casey and a chance to earn the TUF six-figure contract. He wants all of the time he spent away from his family over the years to mean something, to be worth the sacrifice they have all made. McDaniel trains in New Mexico, but his daughter, just 8 years old, lives in Texas. He breaks up and needs a moment to gather himself when he describes their phone conversations.
"I hear her say, 'Daddy when are you going to come to see me?'. And it hurts. Because I can't come to see her, because even if I had the money, I owe it somewhere else and I can't come and see her. That bugs me," McDaniel said.
Winning the TUF contract would instantly change all that for McDaniel. It would mean more money and more opportunities to fly in and see his daughter. McDaniel will be 30 years old in May. This isn't his last chance at making it big in the fight game, but it certainly is his best chance. He knows this. The other side of 30 isn't too kind to MMA fighters. Some will do well into their late thirties, but most won't. McDaniel knows this too. He has a decent-sized window to establish himself nationally, make some money and hopefully find a career in the sport after he can no longer fight. Winning the TUF contract is the best way to do that.
His coaches on the show tell him the same thing. They tell him this is his career -- right here. Not the end of his career, but the best way to catapult his career to where he wants it to go. Jones gives McDaniel an awesome pep talk during a practice session.
"Once the rewards of all this come around, my kids are gonna understand it was worth it. I chased my dream and I'm gonna achieve it. I hope my kids do the same thing," McDaniel said. While McDaniel did run his mouth some in the earlier episodes of the season, it's hard not to root for him after seeing him get so emotional and admit that he feels a lot of pressure to win this bout.
Meanwhile, they're lining up to fight Josh Samman. Jimmy Quinlan says he would like to fight him and Uriah Hall wants to get at him too. "I just want to beat his a--," Hall said. Quinlan offered a funnier reason, playing on Samman's name. "Because I'm an expert fisherman," Quinlan said. Samman, apparently pronounced like salmon. Get it?
Quinlan is fine with Hall fighting Josh if that's what he really wants. "Honestly I'd rather see Uriah fight Josh, 'cause I think he's just beat the piss out of him."
Casey is working hard to shake off the sting of his bad performance in his prelim match. "You can see he's got that fire in him, that he needs to prove himself not just to the team but to himself right now," Luke Barnatt said.
"This win means everything to me," Casey says. "I don't want to go home a loser a second time." Like McDaniel, Casey is past his twenties. Now 31, it's go time for Casey as far as making it big in MMA. If this wild card fight featured two younger fighters, it would not be quite as important. They would likely have much more time to gain experience and hone their skills. But for McDaniel and Casey, time is of the essence and they both want it badly.
The teams have Thanksgiving dinner at the TUF house, with both Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones in attendance. Sonnen clinks his glass and makes a nice speech, thanking the fighters for letting Jones and him be a part of their experience, and promising to do everything they can to get them into the UFC. He also has some choice words for Jones. "Jon, to you, it has been a sheer disappointment getting to find out what a nice gentleman you are. I had you all wrong." The Chael Sonnen season of love continues.
"I guess he's sick of being the bad guy," Jones says. "But it definitely does not change anything between me and Chael. My goal is to definitely beat him up in the worst way possible."
Casey and McDaniel both make weight and it's on to the wild card fight. Round one begins and both fighters head to the center of the cage. They clinch, and Casey immediately jumps guard. Bubba walks him up against the cage. Neither fighter can take advantage, and Casey gets back to his feet.
Casey scores a trip and puts McDaniel to the ground with just over four minutes left. He isn't landing punches, but he is continually trying to improve his position on top. McDaniel is finally able to wall walk and get back to his feet with about 1:30 left in the round. Casey takes him down again near the end of the round. It's clearly his round. "Welcome back, King. Welcome back," Sonnen tells him.
Bubba lands a kick to start round two and Casey immediately clinches. McDaniel lands a few punches, but Casey tries to lock up a guillotine. He tries to drop into guard but can't. McDaniel takes advantage by getting out of the hold and connecting with some solid strikes, one of them a brutal elbow that makes a thud.
McDaniel continues to score from top position with body shots and more. The round ends and Casey looks gassed. It's going to a third round -- or so it seemed.
Casey decides not to answer the bell for round three. He quits. "Back in it, baby!" McDaniel hollers. Dana White is shocked that Casey bows out. And with that decision, Casey basically forgoes any chance he had of fighting in the UFC. It's a crazy turn of events.
Jon Jones couldn't believe it and neither could Sonnen. But Casey explains that he had kidney failure during a fight in 2010 and thinks that may have been the case here. He has to be taken away by ambulance.
But with the wild card fight over, it's on to the quarterfinals. The matchups: Collin Hart vs. Kelvin Gastellum. Dylan Andrews vs. Luke Barnatt. Josh Samman vs. Jimmy Quinlan. And Uriah Hall vs. Bubba McDaniel. We'll see you here for the next TUF recap next week.