Episode 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter” begins with the customary recap, setting up tonight’s offering, which will feature quarterfinal showdowns pitting Uriah Hall against Robert McDaniel and Jimmy Quinlan against Josh Samman.
We open with a Team Jones training session, during which coach Jon Jones must deal with a less-than-enthusiastic McDaniel. “Bubba” says he is both emotionally drained and suffering from back pain. “Bones” tells his No. 1 pick, Clint Hester, that he should be ready to fight in case McDaniel cannot.
McDaniel is seriously irritated that the coaches decided to pair him with Hall, arguably the most dangerous man on the whole show. In spite of his injuries and state of mind, McDaniel tells Jones that he will not quit. Worried that his back pain could be related to kidney problems, McDaniel decides to have some blood work done. It appears that the middleweight’s fate now lies in the hands of his doctor.
On the other side of the fence, Quinlan prepares for McDaniel under the tutelage of coach Chael Sonnen, who calls his charge “dog tough.” Unsurprisingly, the jiu-jitsu ace hopes to drag Samman to the mat, where he can utilize his considerable grappling skills.
Samman and Quinlan are now set to face off as referee Steve Mazzagatti starts the action. Quinlan charges forward with a left hook and quickly shoots a double-leg. Sonnen’s man switches to a high-crotch and lifts Samman above his head before slamming him to the canvas. Samman’s defense off his back is solid; each time Quinlan passes Samman’s guard, Jones’ fighter recovers the position and works diligently with punches and elbows.
With 90 seconds remaining, Quinlan again passes to side control, but he is unable to land anything of consequence. Samman explodes to his feet and cracks Quinlan with a hard punch combination before landing a nasty knee to the mug as Quinlan shoots for another takedown. Samman stuffs the attempt and transitions to the back, where he sinks in his hooks and pounds on Quinlan’s ears until Sonnen’s man taps out.
McDaniel’s doctor tells the fighter that his blood work came back “fantastic” and that his back pain might be the result of some pulled muscles. McDaniel describes the news as a “pick me up.” During the middleweight’s training session, Jones works with McDaniel on staying aggressive in the hopes that his fighter can avoid a straight kickboxing match against a sniper like Hall.
In the Sonnen camp, Hall goes through his practice after hearing from Gilbert Smith that McDaniel is afraid of him. Sonnen praises Hall in a confessional before sitting down with the fighter for a pep talk, during which he reminds Hall that he is in control of his actions in the cage and how he responds to adversity. What comes next is maybe the best moment of the entire season:
“It’s your choice,” Sonnen tells his fighter. “You will choose to be confident, or you will choose to concede. And you know it, because you’ve done both. And so have I.”
Hall and McDaniel both make weight and step into the cage. Referee Herb Dean starts the contest, and the men touch gloves. McDaniel wastes no time in going on the offensive but eats a knee followed by a vicious counter right hand that puts him on his face. Hall starts to pound away on his prone foe, but this fight is already over. Dean quickly halts the contest.
“This kid is f---ing nasty,” UFC President Dana White tells Carlos Condit from cageside. Few could argue with the boss man in this instance. It soon becomes apparent that something may be seriously wrong with McDaniel’s eye.
“What’s wrong? What’s wrong with my eye?” McDaniel asks, as several people in the cage tell him to remain still. From the other side of the cage, Sonnen tells his victorious fighter that he is a UFC title contender in the making.
Dean rolls McDaniel onto his side, and I, for one, am so thankful that his eyeball is still attached in its socket. Everyone in the UFC Gym applauds as “Bubba” sits upright. After exiting the cage, McDaniel receives consolation from assistant coach Frank Mir, who tells him that everybody loses in this game.
Later, the four semifinalists individually tell White whom they would like to face in the next round. Samman calls out Kelvin Gastelum, and Dylan Andrews says he honestly doesn’t care whom he faces in the semis. While Samman has visions of meeting Hall at the finale, Hall says he wants Samman right now. Gastelum, meanwhile, sets his sights on Andrews.
The coaches both tell White that they would like to see Hall-Samman and Andrews-Gastelum, but White instead announces that Samman will lock horns with Gastelum, and Hall will tangle Andrews next week.