After a slow start to the season, everything has perked up in the last couple of weeks. We’ve seen some decent fights, some brazen efforts to grab reality-show infamy, some heartwarming kindness and some drunken idiocy. Tonight, we have a pair of semifinals, each compelling in its own right. And I get to find out who’ll need to put up with my stupid interview questions this weekend.
Credits roll — hey, does anyone remember seeing Mick Bowman or Justin Edwards say anything over the course of the season? Justin was unlucky to miss out on a wild-card spot due to injury, but he has been awfully quiet since then. Nordin Asrih was silent for several weeks until he gave Chris Cope some mildly enthusiastic advice on fighting Shamar Bailey.
We start by seeing much more of the house than we have in the rest of the season. Tony, who alienated the rest of the house with his inebriated comments about Charlie’s custody battle, asks where Charlie is. Chuck doesn’t seem to answer.
But we cut quickly to the weigh-in between two of the funnier guys of the season, Chris Cope and “Stripper” Ramsey Nijem. They exchange “Whoo!”s and laugh.
Back quickly to the house, where Tony tries to apologize. Chuck isn’t buying it. He tells him he crossed the line by bringing Charlie’s kid into things, and Charlie showed a lot of character by not punching him in the face when the rest of the team wanted to pound him. Tony tries again. Blank stares.
Awkward cut back to the gym for the first semifinal. Chris is the big surprise, upsetting Javier Torres and Shamar Bailey to get here. Ramsey is an awesome wrestler and Team Dos Santos’ last hope.
Round 1: Chris is on the same path he trod to beat Shamar — defend the takedown and land short punches while his opponent leans on him. But Ramsey is showing more adaptability than Shamar, and he lands a lot of solid punches and a couple of good knees. Chris gets a mark or two on his face. 10-9 Ramsey.
Round 2: Finally, an actual takedown, but Ramsey can’t hold it. He does give Chris a good body kick as he slips away. I swear I actualy saw blood fly from Chris’ face on one punch, just before they smile at each other for the 100th time. Then Ramsey finds another way to get Chris down — he overwhelms him with punches. Chris staggers against, the cage, then falls. Ramsey keeps throwing punches, but Steve Mazzagatti quickly and correctly stops it. Team Dos Santos will have a fighter in the final.
FINALIST: Ramsey Nijem by second-round TKO
Not even an ad break before the next weigh-in. Just judging by the clock, we may be looking at a three-rounder in the second semifinal. After the events of last week, it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Tony Ferguson’s immediate family rooting for him, but he has been one of the most impressive fighters on the show.
Herb Dean starts our second fight at 9:32 p.m., leaving us plenty of time for three rounds and a wrapup.
Round 1: Chuck lands the first punches in a tepid opening. But Tony looks better boxing — his chin is tucked and his head is moving, while Chuck’s chin is just sitting there. Chuck catches Tony low, and despite the events in the house, they do the sportsmanlike thing and tap gloves. Tony feints a takedown, waits a few seconds, then snaps Chuck’s head back with a straight punch. Chuck’s nose is getting redder, and Tony’s getting more comfortable. Near the one-minute mark, Tony catches a Chuck kick and sends Chuck to the mat, but he backs away to keep the fight standing. Tony finishes the round with a good right cross and a left hook. 10-9 Tony
Round 2: Again, Chuck strikes first, Tony strikes more cleanly and crisper. Tony starts doing an Ali shuffle for some reason. Chuck needs to find someplace to be other than directly in front of Tony, who again snaps Chuck’s head with a clean punch. Tony spends the rest of the round turning Chuck’s face into a bloody Forrest Griffin-esque mess. 10-9 Tony
Round 3: Tony lands several good shots to the head. Then the body. Then the leg. This is really worse than a 1-minute knockout or submission. With 1:50 left, Chuck tumbles, and Herb Dean has seen enough.
FINALIST: Tony Ferguson by third-round TKO
Quick postscript: We see Dana getting the call from Brock Lesnar. The diverticulitis is back with a vengeance, and Brock can’t fight Junior. Enter Shane Carwin.
Any other cast members on the TUF13 finale card? They don’t announce anything. Press release likely coming in 5, 4, 3, 2 …