The Ultimate Fighter 17, Episode 3: Second-biggest KO in TUF history

Given all the hype about the knockout we know will take place at the end of the episode, it’ll be a challenge to keep us interested for the first 45 minutes.

Frank Mir somehow thinks Sonnen blundered by picking Team Jones’s Adam Cella to take on wonderstud Uriah Hall.

Team Sonnen is still ticked that Bubba McDaniel tried to call out Kevin “The King” Casey. Looks like Casey has some sort of cut, so they think it’s weak to try to get the injured guy to fight right away.

But a little later in the episode, in an uncomfortable van ride, Kevin admits to the rest of Team Sonnen that he doesn’t want to fight Bubba right away. Jimmy Quinlan thinks that’s a little wimpy. Casey, as he did in arguing with Bubba, keeps smiling but firmly refutes that notion.

Then we have the most innocuous trigger of a feud in TUF history. Even Uriah Hall, the only person actively feuding, seems to realize it’s silly.

Hall mentioned that someone was a “professional cooker.” Josh Samman said, “You mean chef?” Hall somehow ties it back to being bullied after moving to the USA with a thick Jamaican accent. This is a dude who’s going to have to lose a few chips on his shoulder before he gets married.

Over to Sonnen, who says Hall’s the best. Most talented, hardest worker, etc. But he could always beat himself up. He wants to win every competition in training. When Kevin Casey gets him in an armbar, he wants to roll with Casey again, right away.

Back to Cella, who refreshingly gives the opposite of the “I have to win to feed my family and avoid jail” speech, saying he can always go back to work for his parents’ heating and cooling company. Later, Hall indirectly answers him, saying he also has nothing to lose.

Jones warns Cella that Hall has broken an arm with kicks before, so if Hall starts throwing kicks, get him down and throw elbows. Jones say he has thrown so many elbows that he knows the human skull in vivid detail. He also knows not to throw 12-to-6 elbows, which led to a DQ and his only “loss” so far.

Back to Sonnen’s training: It’s offense, offense, offense.

Then comes one of the remarkable coaching conversations ever seen on TUF. Hall tells Sonnen he has some confidence issues in the past. Sonnen smugly says he could anticipate everything Hall was about to say, then opens up about his past problems, including his uncanny ability to lose by submission in the second round. He treated it “like an alcoholic” by confessing that he had a problem and seeking help from a sports psychologist and from Randy Couture. What he learned is that you can never get rid of that doubt, but you have to plow through it. “I can’t kill this off. I’ve gotta compete with it.”

Sonnen pontificates further: “Failure is always there, and it’s OK to recognize that.” If Sonnen hadn’t pleaded guilty to money laundering and stretched the truth about so many things in his fighting career, he’d be the best source of advice in the UFC.

Jon Jones and his dog stop by the house to visit with the team. They chat about what it would mean to make it in the UFC. Adam wants to prove something to those who thought fighting was a silly thing for him to do. Bubba wants to set an example for his kids. Dylan, the New Zealander, wants to do it for his brothers, a talented rugby player and talented musician who sank their careers with drugs. The last story gets to Jones, whose brothers have been remarkably successful.

On to the fight. We’ve been promised a stunning knockout, and it’s clear it would be a colossal upset if Cella did it.

For all the talk of Team Sonnen pushing the attack, Cella is the one initiating the early action, getting inside and setting up an active guard. Hall looks strong but whiffs with a wild spinning kick, and he doesn’t respond when Sonnen implores him to jab. Someone yells “Your second knockdown” when Cella falls from a Hall kick, but it’s really just a loss of balance. Hall looks strong and dangerous, but Cella is pushing the fight forward and more than holding his …

Ulp.

You’ve probably seen it by now. With less than 10 seconds in the round, Hall spins and lands his foot cleanly on Cella’s head. Hall celebrates for a second or two at most before realizing the whole gym is quiet. He looks down at the glassy-eyed, loud-breathing Cella with a look of shock and concern. “I’m sorry, Adam,” he says while the medical crew attends to Cella. Sonnen calls him over to the side. Dana White, whose reaction and bleeps were captured right away, has already paced partway around the cage and looks frightened.

After the ad break, Cella sits up. Applause. He answers a couple of questions. Applause. He stands. Applause. He recognizes Uriah but says he doesn’t remember anything.

Is it indeed the most brutal, shocking knockout in UFC history, let alone TUF history?

Instant one-kick knockouts aren’t that rare. Anderson Silva did it to Vitor Belfort. Gabriel Gonzaga did it to Mirko Cro Cop. Going back a ways, Shonie Carter’s spinning back fist took out Matt Serra. Brodie Farber fell harder from Rory Markham’s kick.

The TUF gym and cameras can capture more of the impact of a knockout. There’s no crowd to cover up the conversations between fighter and doctors. The other fighters in the gym go quiet when they realize someone is actually hurt.

So we can’t have this conversation without remembering Matt Riddle’s KO of Dan Simmler on the TUF 7 prelims. Simmler made an eerie moaning noise for a while. When he went back to the dressing room, he had no idea what happened, where he was or pretty much anything about his current circumstances. He was surprised to see coach Rampage Jackson. And he had a broken jaw.

By comparison, Cella recovered quickly and seemed to know everything except the circumstances of the knockout, which isn’t unusual.

Given that, we’d have to say Riddle’s knockout is still the most devastating in TUF history. But I don’t think anyone’s rooting for anything worse. Hall’s knockout is about as close as we’d want to see.

Fight announcement time, and Jones is absent, at the hospital with Cella. Sonnen picks … Kevin Casey! And he’s fighting … Collin Hart? Who?

Sonnen says Bubba was considered, and that he thinks that fight will happen, just not yet. Given that the only way that could happen would be for Bubba and Kevin to win their fights (or be wild cards), let the record show that Sonnen has predicted a win for Team Jones.

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