The third episode of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 opens with the typical recap of last week’s action, reminding us of two important things: First, tonight’s bout will be contested between Team Sonnen’s Uriah Hall and Team Jones’ Adam Cella. Second, this will apparently be a stretcher match.
I’ve never been the guy who roots for big knockouts, simply because I worry for the welfare of the recipient of such a blow. However, after listening to the UFC tease the finish of this fight for what seems like six months, I’m about ready to rip my shirt off and sharpie “Just Bleed” across my man-teats just so I can see this damn thing already.
Following Luke Barnatt’s second-round knockout of Gilbert Smith, the teams return to their respective locker rooms. Cella and the rest of Jon Jones’ squad celebrate the middleweight’s pairing with Hall in spite of Chael Sonnen being the coach who picked the matchup.
Back at the fighter house, Team Sonnen’s Kevin Casey is irritated by Robert “Bubba” McDaniel calling him out in front of everyone after Barnatt’s victory. Casey, who suffered a cut over his eye in the elimination round, tells McDaniel that the move makes him look weak. McDaniel believes that Casey is simply uninterested in the bout because it is a bad matchup for him.
Later, Josh Samman builds some heat with Hall after giving him a hard time about allowing the words “professional cooker” to leave his mouth in reference to teammate Tor Troeng. “You mean a chef?” Samman asks in front of their teammates.
Hall privately confesses that he takes such things personally. Born in Jamaica, the fighter came to the United States when he was 13 and found himself the subject of ridicule because of the way he spoke. Learning martial arts, Hall says, gave him the confidence to both stand up for himself and for what is right.
During a Team Sonnen practice session, Sonnen states that for all of Hall’s athletic and technical abilities, the fighter finds it difficult to deal with defeat in any capacity. “Uriah Hall is his own worst enemy,” Sonnen says.
Outside the fighter house, Cella chats with McDaniel about his fighting philosophy, revealing that he will take a win by any means possible. College educated, Cella says he fights because he wants to, not because he must. In the gym, Cella works on catching kicks and sweeping the support leg in preparation for the powerful Hall’s standup attack. Jones works with his boys on ground-and-pound technique, teaching them his signature elbows from top position. “Now you’re breaking faces!” Jones exclaims.
Sonnen explains his team’s strategy while Hall hits the mitts like a machine, revealing that his coaching philosophy is based on his fighters being offensive and aggressive at all times. Hall confides in Sonnen that at some point in his career, he lost some of his confidence. Sonnen tells Hall that he has been there and sought the help of both a sports psychologist and UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture.
“Failure is always there, and it is OK to recognize that,” Sonnen tells Hall. “It’s OK, and it’s normal. As male athletes, we hate to admit weakness, even to ourselves. When you’re dealing with something, the first thing [you should do] is acknowledge it, just like you did.”
Keith Kizer of the Nevada Athletic Commission conducts the pre-fight weigh-ins, and both Hall and Cella hit their marks. That night, Jones rolls over to the house with his dog and cooks dinner with his fighters. They conduct a powwow around the fire pit outside, and “Bones” tells his men that they are family now.
The fighters make their last-minute preparations and warm up before hitting the cage. Hall rips off a nice leg kick before snatching a Thai clinch and digging several hard knees into Cella’s ribcage. Hall then catches a low kick and puts Cella on his back, where Jones’ fighter lands a nice elbow from guard. Sonnen’s man stands up, and Sonnen hollers at Hall to fire off his jab. Cella tries to retaliate, but he looks a step slow as Hall grabs another plum. Cella continues to press forward and wing punches and backfists, but few of his shots are getting through.
With just seconds remaining in the round, Hall launches a vicious spinning heel kick at Cella’s jaw and knocks him out instantly. The gym goes totally silent, save for Cella’s labored breathing as he stares at the lights. Troubled by the damage he has done, Hall apologies to the unconscious Cella, who slowly comes around and then stands to hug his conqueror. Everyone in the gym applauds.
Though the Team Sonnen locker room is jubilant over the result, Hall is conflicted.
“It feels good, but at the same time, part of me feels bad about what happened,” says Hall. “It’s the hurt business, but I’m a human being, and he’s a human being. I kind of felt bad that I could have possibly really hurt him.
“Adam, I hope you’re all right, man. I’m sorry about the kick. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon, and I hope you don’t hate me.”
Referee Steve Mazzagatti informs Team Jones that Cella is OK, but he is heading to the hospital for precautionary reasons along with his coach. Back in the gym’s main chamber, UFC President Dana White explains that Sonnen has control of the next pick. The Oregonian announces that Team Sonnen’s Casey will square off with Team Jones’ Collin Hart next week, much to the chagrin of McDaniel.