This week on “Fight Master,” the quarterfinal round comes to a close, as Evan Cutts meets Joe Riggs and Eric Bradley faces Joe Williams to decide who will join Mike Bronzoulis and Cole Williams in the round of four.
Prior to Williams’ clash with Bradley, coach Frank Shamrock expresses his belief that his fighter could “go all the way” and win the tournament. Coach Greg Jackson, on the other hand, believes that Bradley is superior to Shamrock’s man in both the standup and wrestling departments, making the matchup a favorable one for Jackson’s MMA.
This will not be the first time Williams and Bradley have competed against one another. As a former member of the Michigan State wrestling team, Williams reveals that he wrestled the former Penn State Nittany Lion three times in college, losing all three matches.
“I feel like that’s an advantage for me and might play on his mind,” Bradley says.
Shamrock works on striking technique with his man, and Williams says he hopes to utilize some body punching in the bout. Meanwhile, Jackson instructs his competitor in counter-wrestling and emphasizes gaining top position during the bout.
The fighters touch gloves to start, and Bradley comes out southpaw, landing a crisp straight left. Jackson’s charge then lands a sharp right hook and another left straight, cutting Williams, who looks out of sorts now. Williams retaliates with a nice right but eats a two-piece combo on the rebound. Williams drives forward for a single-leg takedown, but Bradley sprawls out and hits a switch, nearly taking Williams’ back before Shamrock’s fighter regains his base. Moments later, Bradley drives a shin into Williams’ face with a solid head kick, staggering his bloodied opponent before planting him on his back with a takedown to end the frame.
Shamrock screams at his man for a double-jab to start round two, but Williams looks tentative as Bradley rips him with more left straights and a right hook. Williams fires a one-two and stuffs a Bradley takedown try. The onetime Spartan appears to have gained some confidence, though he still isn’t landing cleanly. Williams stuffs another takedown and lands a kick to the body, but Bradley once again finds a home for that left hand lead. Bradley connects with several clean shots as Jackson screams out in jubilation, but Williams makes a push at the end of the frame and scores a late takedown. Regardless, Bradley is awarded a majority decision from the cage-side judges.
Shamrock has now seen three of his fighters eliminated in the quarterfinals, meaning that he has no representatives left in the competition. Nevertheless, he congratulates his team on a worthy effort, and the emotional former UFC champion tells his fighters that he is proud of each of them.
Up next, underdog Cutts will square off with the top-seeded Riggs. As the highest-ranking fighter in the competition, Riggs has the privilege of calling his man out, which he does in front of Cutts’ coach, Joe Warren, and the rest of Team Rino Sports. Though they will soon do battle, Riggs has little negative to say about his opponent.
“How can you be mad at [Cutts]?” Riggs asks. “He’s just a generally nice person, but we’ve got to fight sometime. If he can’t take me down, he’s going to get knocked out. Beside this fight, I wish the best of luck to him.”
Warren’s game plan for Cutts centers on pressure and wrestling, which comes as no surprise. “The Baddest Man on the Planet” wants his fighter to make the bout ugly in search of takedowns.
Meanwhile, Jackson lauds Riggs’ versatility as a mixed martial artist and works with him on counter wrestling. Riggs hopes to take as little damage as possible on his way to the semifinals, though he once again struggles to make the welterweight limit. His teammates try to give him support as he sweats and cries on the stationary bike, lamenting that he cannot see his wife and kids.
Cutts presses the action and immediately clinches Riggs against the cage, but Riggs scores double underhooks and hits a hip throw that plants Warren’s man on his back. Though the UFC veteran lands in side control, Cutts manages to recover guard as he eats several hard shots up the middle. Warren’s man keeps fishing for triangles and armbars and scrambles to his feet briefly before Riggs throws him right back to the canvas. Riggs lands some more nice ground-and-pound, but Cutts once again works to his feet, where he is met with a crisp combination. Jackson’s fighter is now stalking Cutts, scoring yet another takedown to end round one.
Riggs tosses Cutts to the mat twice more to start the second frame, but Cutts works his way back up each time. Cutts tries a single-leg, but Riggs counters and scores another trip, punishing his foe with more ground-and-pound. Warren’s fighter keeps looking for that triangle, but Riggs is one step ahead of him each time. Though Cutts manages to stand up again, Riggs puts him right back down -- this time with a knee to the face. Cutts survives Riggs’ onslaught of strikes, but he has clearly lost this round and the fight.
Jackson is ecstatic with Riggs’ effort, and Warren feels the same way about Cutts’ performance, despite his fighter losing a clear-cut decision. Cutts apologizes to his coach, and Warren tells him he has nothing for which to be sorry.
The semifinals are now set, as Jackson’s Riggs and Bradley will meet Randy Couture’s Bronzoulis and Williams.