We start with Chuck Liddell taking out his frustration over Tito Ortiz pulling out of their fight, ranting in front of an amused Dana White. Tito says Chuck doesn’t understand what he’s going through.
Then, in one of the most abrupt segues in Ultimate Fighter history, we have the weigh-in for the Josh Bryant-Jamie “Crabman” Yager quarterfinal.
As we get to the part with teammates talking up each fighter’s chances, we see Kyacey Uscola casting doubt on Yager. They’re both on Team Ortiz. Or is Yager officially on Team Yager now?
Yager, though, gives a good analysis of the Bryant bout. Bryant is busy taking out the trash.
Crabman should be the favorite, based on the speed of his prelim and first-round wins. Bryant needed a majority decision to get into the house, then labored his way to an upset of Kris McCray.
Steve Mazzagatti is the ref. Crabman is the tall one. It’s one of the biggest height differentials in Ultimate Fighter history. We’re off.
Bryant catches Yager early, snapping his head back as he charges in. But Yager seems unfazed, firing back with a head kick that misses and then working in the clinch. Bryant says his lack of height gives him an advantage because he likes to fight inside, but Yager’s long limbs are keeping him away.
Brief break after a Yager kick lands low, and Bryant is still looking for a way inside. In one of the best product placements in Ultimate Fighter history, a coach yells “Burger King’s your buddy!” That apparently means to stay on the big logo in the middle of the cage. Probably not the way to phrase it to someone who just cut weight, though.
Twenty seconds left, and Bryant finally gets in, landing a solid shot to the head that knocks Yager down. Crabman immediately starts flailing with his legs like a turtle trying to right itself. Bryant gets on top of him, but there’s not enough time to do anything. Tough round to score — two solid shots and one knockdown for Bryant, general dominance for Yager.
Early in the second, Bryant accidentally evens the score on low blows. They touch gloves once again, though — it’s one of the most sportsmanlike fights in Ultimate Fighter history.
Bryant chooses another plan of attack, grabbing Yager’s foot on a kick attempt and smothering him on the mat. Yager works his way and slowly manages to reverse the position, but Bryant gets up as Mazzagatti warns Yager for the second time to watch the back of the head.
Both guys have awkward striking styles. Bryant throws long looping punches. Yager flails from all angles and occasionally leaps off both feet in the worst Urijah Faber impression in Ultimate Fighter history.
Still, it’s a compelling fight, and Bryant again catches Yager with a minute left in the round. He lands in side control and alternates ground-and-pound strikes with a couple of armlocks. He doesn’t come close to finishing it, but Yager stays on all fours after the horn, head down on the mat. Tito yells at him not to bleeping quit. And he can’t — Dana enthusiastically yells that the judges have declared it a draw, presumably the first round for Yager and second for Bryant, and we’re going to a third round. Yager slowly gets back to the corner.
Ortiz gives Yager the big speech about how he’ll hate himself the rest of his life if he quits. Yager says he can’t see. Mazzagatti starts a countdown … five, four, three, two, one … it’s over.
In one of the nastiest tauntings in Ultimate Fighter history, Chuck applauds Yager and says, “Just like Tito!” The similarity is obviously not the hair, so it must be “quitting.” But Tito offers no condolences for Yager, either. His buddies carry him out to an ambulance as Tito bleepity-bleeps his opinion of Yager.
Then we get what we saw in the promos. Dana talks to Tito and says first that he has a doctor lined up in California to give him a second opinion about his neck. Dana wants him to leave tomorrow. Tito says he appreciates it. Then comes the second part. Dana wants him to start his surgery or therapy or whatever immediately. That means his season is over, even though he managed to get one fighter (McCray) in the semis.
Tito is shocked and saddened. Dana, for the first time in Ultimate Fighter history, shows a mix of fear and sadness on his face, perhaps not sure how Tito is going to react.
He presses Dana about it but ends up taking it well. He sniffles a little as he leaves. His team sees him outside and says “he looks like he just got fired or something.” That’s also how Tito describes it. Injury replacement isn’t quite the same as getting fired, but Dana also lets slip some displeasure that Tito accepted the gig without being 100%.
“Why are we still sitting here?” asks Tito’s team after they see Tito drive off. Dana says he gave Tito time to talk with his team, and he didn’t. So it’s up to Dana, who apologizes for calling them back.
James Hammortree says he’s shocked and awed. Awed?
In a rare look at the actual timeline of the show, McCray says they only have six days left. That raises a few questions. Why are the quarterfinals and semifinals so close together? Why couldn’t Dana wait one week to pull the trigger? Would that really make a difference in UFC scheduling?
But first, Yager comes back in the house and hears from McCray that Tito is gone. Oh, and everyone thinks you quit. “People generally don’t like your personality and attitude,” McCray says. It’s one of the least encouraging speeches from a best friend in Ultimate Fighter history.
Tito makes a surprise appearance at the house to the relief of his team.
Semifinal fight annnouncements come up, and the first fight is … ha! It’s an ad for Half-Pint Brawlers!
The suspense is strange, like watching a horror movie when you know who’s getting the ax and who isn’t, but the characters don’t. Chuck is fighting Rich Franklin. The UFC confirmed that several weeks ago. If the door opened and Ken Shamrock or some other fighter long removed from the UFC walked in, that would be one of the funniest scenes in Ultimate Fighter history. But that’s not going to happen. And during the ad break, we get another promo for the Liddell-Franklin fight.
The first bout: Brad Tavares vs. Court McGee in an all-Liddell matchup. Tavares doesn’t let go of the handshake, which is kind of amusing.
That leaves a rematch in the other semi: Bryant-McCray. Seems like it’d be a good final, but the remaining powers that be apparently disagreed.
Striding into the training center, it’s a guy whose jeans have a few holes in the knees. It’s … Stephan Bonnar!
No, it’s ever-loyal UFC man Rich Franklin, and the team seems happy to see him. And Dana says he has “overcompensated” and brought in great assistant coaches, like …
Closing theme! It’s one of the most shocking cliffhangers in Ultimate Fighter history!
Yes, we’ll have to wait until next week to see which “former UFC champion” is coming in to help. Then we’ll get both semifinals in a two-hour episode. And it appears Uscola and Yager come close to throwing down in the house, which will be almost as surprising as Rich Franklin’s appearance on tonight’s episode.