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Sixteen men from across the Americas travel to Las Vegas with one dream, one goal – to become The Ultimate Fighter.

Determination. Discipline. Excellence.

Recaps by Joe Van Ginkel, GSNN


FACT FILE:

Host:
Willa Ford
Coaches: Randy "The Natural" Couture and Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell
Packager: Zuffa, LLC; Spike TV
Airs: Mondays at 11:05pm ET on Spike TV


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Episode 8 - March 7

Week Eight already?!?!  Believe it or don't, friends; it's all down hill from here on The Ultimate Fighter, and you've got the one "Game Show Man" Joe Van Ginkel to recap it for you.  Last week Stephan Bonnar of Team Couture managed to win a controversial decision over Bobby Southworth of Team Liddell, and Southworth was not happy about it.  Further, Southworth's teammate Sam Hogar appeared to prove himself less than trustworthy.  Will Team Liddell get back on top, or can Team Couture capitalize?  Let's find out… 

As in previous weeks, the show picks up with the aftermath of last week's elimination bout.  Southworth is supremely angry. He believed that his loss was "bulls---;" he thought that his more damaging attacks should have won him the fight.  He goes to the back to pack up, and he is followed by UFC president Dana White, who has observed Southworth's less-than-sportsmanlike conduct (and who believed that there should have been a "Sudden Victory" round) in the face of his loss.  (Previously, my impression of Southworth was that he was a good guy, but his conduct at the sauna before the first fight with Lodune Sincaid and his shameful behavior during the Chris Leben incident show him instead to be hypocritical and weak.  White says it best: "Bobby Southworth is own worst enemy.") He tries to console Southworth, but the light heavyweight "goes off on him," starting a tirade directed at White.  (Southworth: "I don't want a f---ing pep talk.) But White, sensing disrespect, will not have it, and gets into an argument with him.  The two men argue back and forth, but Southworth eventually apologizes and they reconcile, and Southworth, still seething, leaves, eliminated from the contest. 

The teams go back to the house to decompress.  Team Liddell is crushed from the loss of Southworth; they regarded him as a leader (WHY?  He was a jackass) and Forest Griffin regards his elimination as being like being "beheaded." 

After the fight, Team Couture middleweight Nate Quarry's MRI results have come back.  Quarry's ankle was injured in a training accident in a previous show.  The results are not good: Quarry's ankle is too damaged for him to continue and he must get surgery on his ankle, and so he must drop out of the contest. 

In the meantime, Team Couture goes on a run through nearby Red Rock Canyon and Sam Hogar decides to go with them.  But they get lost, and Hogar ends up missing Team Liddell's training session at the UFC Training Center.  When Team Couture finally gets back, Liddell is not happy (to say nothing of his sparring partner Griffin).  Once again, Hogar looks like a turncoat in the eyes of Team Liddell, and they (especially Josh Koscheck, who calls him a "politician" and a "narc") blast him with foul language when they see him back at the house.  Is he? 

The fighters return to the gym for the official announcement of Quarry's resignation from the contest.  But White reveals his immense respect for Quarry (nicknamed "The Rock") throughout the contest.  As a result, Quarry gets to remain on the show as an assistant coach to Randy Couture AND he gets to pick one of his eliminated teammates to bring back. 

So it's no surprise when no less than Chris Leben reappears at the house.  Quarry has chosen him to take his place.  Reactions are mixed to his return: much of Team Couture (as greets him (especially Bonnar, who gained a measure of vengeance for Leben in defeating Southworth), but most of Team Liddell is not happy to see him (Koscheck: "This just gets nuttier and nuttier").  Leben seems to have turned over a new leaf after the incidents of weeks past, and promises to be on his best behavior for the rest of the show.  

But Leben might not be around long…

Team Challenge
…because this week the middleweights are up for elimination.  The week's challenge involves dragging two heavy bags through a course of mud, around several flags, and across a finish line.  Kenny Florian and Koscheck compete against Leben and Josh Rafferty in the event. 

The challenge starts even enough, but at one point, Team Liddell falters, and Team Couture pulls ahead.  They stay ahead and win the challenge.  Team Couture has won two challenges in a row, and again they have control of the elimination bout.

Team Couture meets at the UFC Training Center.  Leben and Rafferty toss names around.  The focus quickly comes to Rafferty, who is not fond of having to face his friends, but he is ready to fight.

The teams reassemble at the house for the formal announcement.  Team Liddell is confident that Leben will fight Koscheck again, but instead Rafferty instead steps up and challenges… 

DIEGO SANCHEZ?!?! 

The choice is a controversial one to be sure: Sanchez has already been in one fight, and he ended it quickly with a submission over Alex Karalexis.  Rafferty insists that he matches up badly against all three of Team Liddell's remaining middleweights: Koscheck has a better ground game, Florian has better striking skills, and Sanchez is a submission master.  But the match is made, and the two men shake hands.  The preparations for the fight begin.  (Confessionals between this point and the fight indicate that Rafferty chose Sanchez so that he could prove he's the best fighter, to test himself.  Rafferty claims that he's in top condition, and that he has a good chance of winning the fight.  To me, it looks more like Rafferty is sitting on a grenade to benefit Team Liddell.  He did NOT want to go to Team Couture, and has been miserable since he making the switch.  I suspect he did not want to have to throw the fight, so he chose Sanchez to cover his true intentions.) 

Back at the gym, Liddell confronts Hogar about his absence at yesterday's practice.  He's not really mad about him going with Team Couture on their run, but he is furious about him not showing up for his practice with Team Liddell.  He also tells Hogar that the team thinks he threw the challenge, but that he thinks otherwise.  Hogar apologizes to Liddell and says it won't happen again.  But that's not enough to convince the rest of his team, who take it to him in practice. 

The next day, Rafferty and Sanchez weigh-in.  Rafferty tips the scales at 184.25 pounds, while Sanchez weighs in at 183.5.  Afterward, Rafferty works with Couture, newly christened coach Nate Quarry and boxing coach Peter Welch to try and counter Sanchez's takedown and submission techniques.  Welch wears his right-hand focus mitt backwards so that Rafferty can simulate landing a left hook against a charging Sanchez.  He also works to counter the rear naked choke Sanchez applied to Alex Karalexis. 

Meanwhile, Sanchez works on cardio at the Las Vegas YMCA alongside Forest Griffin. He runs on the treadmill, works on yoga in the sauna, and mentally steels himself for the confrontation to come. He also gets some pain relief oil from Griffin who, according to the oil's direction, has to wrap Sanchez in plastic wrap, making the young middleweight look ridiculous and giving Griffin and Josh Koscheck a good laugh. 

The next day, it rains (!).  The two fighters arrive at the gym for the fight.  Sanchez stops outside and even warms up in the rain, claiming that storms energize him.  The final preparations take place: wrapping of hands, application of Vaseline and gloving up.  The two men walk to the ring for the fight, and White reminds them of the rules.  Then, referee Steve Mazzayatti, asks them if they're ready.  They signal affirmative, and the war is on. 

Elimination Bout #5: Middleweights - Diego "The Nightmare" Sanchez vs. Josh Rafferty

Did I say "war?"  Bad choice of words.  This one was more like what professional wrestling fans might call a "squash."

Rafferty never has a prayer.  Sanchez almost immediately takes Rafferty down, gets into a mounted position, and pounds him into mulch. Rafferty tries to work his way out, but eventually, Sanchez locks on the rear naked choke, and Rafferty taps out.  That's two wins for Sanchez, and another victory for Team Liddell. 

(Looks to me like Rafferty's real plan came to fruition here: advancing his friends on Team Liddell while stymieing Team Couture.  I can think of a thousand unpleasant names to call Rafferty, but I'll let you make up your own.) 

So Team Liddell has won yet another fight, and it looks like another Team Liddell middleweight will have to go to Team Couture.  Who will it be?  And can Team Couture's light heavyweights win the next challenge, or will Team Liddell continue to dominate?  The answers…next week.  For GSNN, this is the "Game Show Man" Joe Van Ginkel, saying godspeed and spread the love.

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