It’s a new season of TUF and yet again, a new format.
The season is gym vs gym as it’s American Top Team vs Blackzilians with two owners who hate each other. The rules are quite convoluted and Dana White tried to explain them on the show, but I’ll let UFC.com’s TUF blogger explain.
Also, in order for a fighter to make it to the finale, he will have had to fight at least twice during the season. Even fully explained, I’m not sure I still understand.
Each owner (Dan Lambert from American Top Team and Glenn Robinson from the Blackzilians) had to pick 8 welterweights from his gym to be part of the competition. All 16 fighters are in a big mansion together.
Dana White flipped a coin to see who would have home gym advantage for the first fight and the Blackzilians won. Each fight will happen at one of the two gyms. The fights won’t be in Las Vegas this year.
American Top Team chose Michael Graves, who they believe to be their top guy, to fight first. The Blackzilians picked Kamaru Usman. Rashad Evans, a coach for the Blackzilians, said that deception was key. Robinson told the team that someone should pretend to be ready to fight to throw ATT off in the house.
ATT’s Steve Montgomery said that his owner is a jiu jitsu black belt while Robinson is just a fat guy who makes tools and he thought they should have a match.
Michael Graves Vs Kamaru Usman
Usman came out just like Rashad Evans and Jon Jones usually do with the bear crawl. And for it, Graves punched him right in the face. Usman went for the takedown, but Graves was able to stave him off. On the feet, Graves went low and then high with kicks, including a push kick right to Usman’s face. Usman connected with a left hook that cut Graves. Usman landed a shot and then went for the takedown and almost got it. Graves fought it.
Graves blocked a takedown and tried to gain the advantage on the bottom, but they were back on their feet. Later in the round, Usman finally got a takedown, but he couldn’t hold Graves down. He got a little reckless with an attempt and Graves ended up with a rear naked choke. He jumped on his back and it looked like he was going to get it. He was high on his back and finally, Usman shook him off and landed on top of him and finished the round in the position he’s been trying to get the entire fight.
Winner: Kamaru Usman by way of majority decision
Two judges had it 20-18 for Usman and one judge had it 19-19. I thought Graves won the second round.
Dana White didn’t think either guy fought all that hard or well. Graves gets zero points for the fight and Usman gets 25 and the Blackzilians keep the home gym advantage. They told each guy that they might need them again soon.
Final thoughts: This is an interesting spin on the series, but it doesn’t have the same important feel as the last series where the strawweight champion was crowned. I think we need more education on the gym culture and why the two owners hate each other. The fighters so far are nameless guys who may have great reputations in their own gym, but as a viewer, they don’t look or act impressive enough for me to really care yet.