It’s time to kick off “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 28 semifinals, as we begin Episode 9. We join the teams immediately after last edition, where as a refresher, Maurice Greene and Justin Frazier drank a bottle of tequila at the “TUF” house and then went to watch the fights. We can hear Greene bellowing from another room, and the coaches are genuinely concerned about both his physical and mental well-being.
Still quite intoxicated, Greene decides it’s a good idea to keep antagonizing fellow heavyweight Anderson “Braddock” Silva, and the coaches intervene to stop this mess. To keep the peace, Robert Whittaker wisely sequestered his team from Greene and Team Gastelum by bringing them lunch at the “TUF” Gym, and the coaching staff is acutely aware of the problems Greene is causing.
Meanwhile at the “TUF” house, Greene is cavorting around and irritating his teammates, and Kelvin Gastelum and the coaches come over to celebrate with his own team. The coaches confront Greene about his issues and try to get him to ease back, to no avail. Gastelum again advises that Greene “act like a professional” but that doesn’t happen, as Greene proceeds to harass other castmates until the night thankfully comes to a close.
In an effort to promote some team-building, Team Gastelum decides that they will get matching tattoos for this season. Marciea Allen confides in her teammates that she is extremely discouraged, mostly due to Greene’s antics, and she not only wants to abstain from getting a tattoo but also plans on leaving the show.
Almost halfway into the episode, we finally are shown training footage, as we see Michel Batista preparing for his bout. Confident in his fighter’s abilities and Olympic-caliber wrestling, Whittaker is still cautious to let Batista overlook any fight. They know that this battle of high level wrestlers will likely hinge on the fighter that pushes and imposes their game first, so they press Batista to do just that.
The fighters of Team Gastelum, with the exception of Allen, go ahead and get tattoos together. To memorialize their journey together, they opt for a simple logo of “TUF 28” inside of the outline of an octagon. In a moment of much-needed lightness, the tattoo artist remarks that “TUF” could also stand for “The Ultimate Family.”
Staying with this team, we head over to Frazier’s training session, where his coaches encourage him to be fearless. A fighter that even Gastelum admitted was relatively undesirable, last pick Frazier has transformed over the course of this season. While his coaches know Batista’s wrestling is top-tier, they believe in his MMA wrestling where he uses footwork and striking to set up takedowns. Both fighters are quick to note that it will probably go down to the fighter that lands the first takedown.
The newly-tattooed team returns to console Allen, who is ready to leave the season and go home because of how uncomfortable and unwelcome she feels. The team meets and discuss their concerns, and after some difficult exchanges, they reconcile and Allen decides to stick it out. Greene apologizes and promises that he will put down the bottle going forward, and everyone hopes he will stick to that. It all ends with a group hug. Is this show “The Ultimate Intervention” or “The Ultimate Fighter?”
We move forward to the weigh-ins, where both fighters weigh in near the heavyweight limit -- Batista hits 263 pounds and Frazier comes in at 264.5, topping the previous total weight of 525 pounds set earlier this season with a combined 527.5 pounds. Both fighters go through their standard pre-fight rituals, and the fight is now upon us!
Tale of the TapeTeam Gastelum: Frazier is 6’0” 264.5 pounds, has a 75” reach and a record of 10-2.
Team Whittaker: Batista is 6’3” 263 pounds, has an 81” reach and a record of 4-0.
The third man inside the Octagon for this clash is Referee Herb Dean, and it’s time to fight. Quick to lead the dance is Frazier, who feints and fakes while Batista stands right in front of him. Frazier resets several times before any strikes land, but he finally lands a quick left hand that surprises Batista. Launching a few heavy leg kicks, Batista seems unfazed but is offering no offense of his own. Leaping forward once again, Frazier ignores his six-inch reach disadvantage to land another left hand that leaves Batista flailing.
One minute in and Batista has not thrown a single strike, and Frazier slaps his leg taunting Batista to fire back. A few leg kicks later, Batista shows discomfort as those kicks are adding up. Staying aggressive, Frazier presses him towards the cage to lunge forward and land that left hand again, and then backs off to lather, rinse and repeat. Batista’s hands are open most of the time; he throws a leg kick to back off Frazier to no effect. Standing straight up, Batista eats a couple more lefts and does not throw any in return. Frazier lands a superman punch that staggers Batista, who quickly backs up. With his back against the cage, Batista gets caught in an exchange and crumples to the canvas. A few more left hands later and Herb Dean calls a stop to it, awarding the win to Frazier by TKO.
Grinning from ear to ear, Gastelum is thrilled with Frazier’s progress and identifies with his fighter -- Gastelum was also the last pick on his own season of The Ultimate Fighter, where he defied the odds to win it all. Batista laments that he could not get anything going, and had to resort to his boxing because he felt pain trying to do anything else. With that, Frazier secures his place in the finals, where he will face the winner of Juan Francisco Espino Dieppa and Greene.