It’s that special time again. The time when the season’s quarterfinals are now in the books and the wildcard is set, and during a brief lull in the action the coaches are faced with an ever-mercurial and ever-unusual challenge, all for the sake of a healthy-looking stack of U.S. currency and bragging rights. In seasons past we’ve been treated to Forrest Griffin and Quinton Jackson thumb-wrestling (Rampage won), Matt Serra and Matt Hughes going head to head in a game of tic-tac-toe (Serra won), and Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz playing Scrabble (there were no winners). What’s in store for us for the thirteenth season of “The Ultimate Fighter”? American football. Or something like it. But first!
Len Bentley is sad. You see, he thought for sure he’d get one of the wildcard slots. After all, in his eyes, no one else fought as hard, no one else looked as tough, no one else seemed as skilled, no one else had more promise, no one else had more tattoos, and clearly no one else can whine quite as much. So when Team Lesnar-ite Chuck O’Neil and Team dos Santos rep Javier Torres are announced as the wildcarders, Bentley doesn’t take it too well. Cue: whining.
At the gym, Bentley mixes whining with expressions of disbelief. “I can’t believe I wasn’t picked,” he mutters over and over again, and latches on to Dana White’s arm.
At the house, Bentley mixes whining with attempts at reason. “Tell me I’m not better than everyone else in the competition,” he asks of O’Neil, who ignores him.
In the van ride to and from the team workouts, Bentley mixes whining with backseat driving. “I am so much better at fighting and I’m so much better at driving – hey, the speed limit is 35 here, and don’t forget to signal before you turn,” he says to the driver.
Finally, he approaches coach Brock Lesnar and confronts the ex-champ about the wildcard decision. “Tell me why I wasn’t picked,” he whines.
Lesnar points at Bentley’s knee, which suffered a displaced patella in training and is encased in a neoprene sleeve. “Your knee,” says the big man. “Also, you whine too much.”
That settles that.
Back to the wildcard contestants and we get just a fraction more insight into them. O’Neil trims his extensive beard to look less like a homeless person, and Lesnar coaches him on wrestling and maneuvers to get off the cage. Torres, meanwhile, is instructed by Junior dos Santos to throw punches at his opponent’s chest (because, I don’t know, the wildcard bout is going to be fought under Kyokushin Karate rules or something), and White talks about how Torres never impressed him, but if Torres impressed dos Santos that’s good enough. Seriously, this is the stuff detailed biographies are made of.
Then everyone convenes at the football field behind Rydell High, where Danny courted Sandy and White and the Fertitta brothers organized underground boxing matches back when they were teenagers. A football field, you ask? Why yes. Because this season the coaches’ challenge will require Lesnar and dos Santos to hop, skip and jump down the field, kick a field goal, toss a football through and octagon-shaped ring (of course), catch a pass, date a cheerleader and stuff a nerd in a locker.
As Lesnar once tried out for the Minnesota Vikings and the Brazilian has never even seen a football in his life, you’d think the American would have the advantage. But he doesn’t, and they both put forth performances very much not stellar (what’s the opposite of “stellar”? “Earthbound”?). However, through some miracle, dos Santos wins, and proving yet again to be the nicest dude to ever coach a TUF team, he divvies up the hard-won stack of cash to everyone, including those on the opposing team (except for Lesnar – heh).
It’s fight time, and O’Neil and Torres make their respective ways to the cage. There are promises of violence and oaths involving ancient gods of war, there are last-second instructions and words of encouragement, and then they’re fighting. Round 1 sees them tie up against the fence for the first half, and trade awkward odds-and-ends blows from a distance in the latter half. No one is really looking impressive, but hey, that’s what second rounds are for, and O’Neil makes the most of it. Falling prey to a takedown, the Team Lesnar rep quickly gets back up and scores a takedown of his own. From there it’s all about a smothering top game that includes a few kimura attempts, and with only thirty seconds left O’Neil cinches on the D’Arce choke. Torres taps out.
In prior seasons, what follows is the determination of the semifinal match-ups, and it always involves the drama of fighters begging to face their enemies and coaches pitching to White scenarios that would see their best win. Not so this time around! No, in keeping with the TUF 13 theme of “no drama whatsoever”, what we get instead is White coming up with the pairings on his own, and him announcing them to the assembled cast members.
Who will face who? Despite a dislocated finger that broke skin and require stitches, Clay Harvison will take on Ramsey Nijem. For saying “woo!” every morning, Chris Cope gets Shamar Bailey, who thinks “woo!” is annoying. O’Neil gets to rematch with Zach Davis, and Ryan McGillivray gets Tony Ferguson.
Bentley, unfortunately, gets no one. So he whines.