Episode 3 of “TUF 28” starts with overall No. 1 pick Anderson “Braddock” Silva training at a furious pace. A longtime kickboxer with nearly 70 pro bouts, we are presented with a highlight package from some of his appearances in the Glory promotion, including his dominant win over fellow “TUF 28” competitor Maurice Green. The gameplan for Silva is simple: punch, kick and knee Frazier repeatedly until he falls down, and then keep punching until he goes out or the referee pulls him off.
After the brief opening, we are introduced to Team Gastelum’s Justin Frazier, his family and his “hillbilly-fied” truck. Working a full-time job running a garage, Frazier still manages to fit in hours of training and spending time with his family, and sometimes both at once as he adopted his wife’s younger cousin and now trains with him. His youngest son was born with medical conditions, and knowing his boy is fighting every day inspires him to fight for his each day as well.
On the other side we meet Silva in his home video, bolstered by his wife and two children. A proud Brazilian, he is the first to admit that the most difficult thing about training and competing is being away from his home and his family. With their love and support, he feels he can do anything and overcome any obstacle.
Back to Frazier, we find that his attitude has transformed drastically from previous episodes where he struggled in evaluations and training. Crediting his team’s confidence in him to represent them and fight against top pick Silva, he feels that even as the sizeable underdog he shouldn’t be counted out.
In our first whiff of drama of the season, we encounter a language barrier between the teams. As this season pulled fighters from around eight different countries, not everyone on each team can communicate with one another, leading to some awkward exchanges. Some competitors feel that others like Michel Batista are faking their inability to speak English, and Maurice Greene is not afraid to admit that “they” want some tension in the house and that he’ll be happy to create it.
A full-framed heavyweight, Frazier needs some help cutting down to the weight limit of 266 pounds, and he gets all the support he needs from his team as well as Kelvin Gastelum himself. Silva easily makes weight, and Frazier hits the heavyweight limit of 266, and the fight is official. With everything behind us, fight day comes and we have the usual routine before the tilt.
Tale of the TapeTeam Gastelum: Frazier is 6’ 266 pounds, has a 75” reach and a record of 10-2.
Team Whittaker: Silva is 6’3” 240.5 pounds, has a 77” reach and a record of 3-1.
With referee Chris Tognoni overseeing the bout, round one begins. Remarkably, three seconds is all it takes for Frazier to get the fight to the ground. Once there, it’s pretty clear that Frazier will be in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the stanza, and he reminds us of his wrestling chops and heavy top control. Prior to his fight, Frazier confidently told the camera he is going to “close the distance, take his [butt] to the ground, get top position, and beat his [expletive] brains out.”
For almost five full minutes, that is precisely what he does. Staying in full guard most of the round, Frazier postures up every so often to land a few powerful punches, and then Silva closes guard again. Despite Whittaker’s pleas to use the cage to stand up or to push his opponent away, Silva is unable to mount any offense or get back to his feet. This repeats viciously until the frame ends, with Frazier throwing dozens of left hands that cause some serious damage to Silva’s face including a few cuts and some swelling.
Between rounds, Whittaker begs his fighter to not let that happen again. As the second stage begins, possibly due to fatigue from the first round, Silva is able to keep the fight standing. While on their feet, Silva lands a few solid counter shots as well as a nice knee in the clinch, but Frazier pushes the action with lunging strikes and heavy pressure before catching one of Silva’s kicks and ultimately forcing the fight to the ground again. As expected, Frazier again uses smothering top pressure and just enough labored ground-and-pound to keep the fight in half guard until the final bell. There can be no doubt who won this bout, and while it might not have been the most thrilling, he completely neutralized the kickboxer. Frazier takes the clear cut decision, in a big upset as last pick Frazier takes out the overall No. 1 pick in Silva.
With his team amped up after going 3-0 in the first three fights of the season, Frazier is psyched that he went the distance for the first time in his career. In his previous 12 bouts, Frazier never fought beyond 4:28 of the first round, so getting into the second, let along going to the scorecards, was quite new to him. For the next fight, Whittaker selects featherweights: his own Julija Stoliarenko against Team Gastelum’s Marciea Allen, and Gastelum immediately remarks that Whittaker made a big mistake by picking this matchup.