If there's been a recurring message on The Ultimate Fighter this season, courtesy of UFC President Dana White, it's to stop leaving fights in the hands of the judges and show some fire to prove that you belong in the Octagon when your time in the house is over.
Last week's fight showed hints of that as Patrick Walsh battled back from a tough first round to take over the final 10 minutes of his bout against Anton Berzin and get the win for Team Edgar. Still, another fight went by without a finish, and given what happened a few weeks ago to Roger Zapata and Ian Stephens, the fighters should definitely be living in fear of the scorecards getting involved again for the remainder of the season.
There appears to be some motivation for the upcoming middleweight fight, however, as Team Penn's No. 1 pick Mike King takes on Team Edgar's Eddie Gordon in the final 185-pound matchup of the preliminary round. As the previews showed going into this week, King and Gordon are like oil and water inside the house and that kind of friction can definitely lead to an intense matchup inside the cage.
King, who is a massive fighter competing at 185 pounds, has become the house chef for Team Penn, cooking and providing meals for his fellow fighters. But like every Ultimate Fighter season (and it really is EVERY season), there are a few folks living in the house who aren’t too interested in picking up after themselves. King goes gunning for a few of the culprits and it only seems to spur on the continued friction between the two teams.
Before we get to the fight this week, the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter will re-introduce us to the infamous coach's challenge. Every season, the two coaches will square off in a new activity, with the winner taking home a pile of cash courtesy of Dana White, while all of the fighters on that coach's team will also benefit with a little extra green being handed out.
Just from the brief glimpse in the preview for this week's show, the spoiler revealed that Edgar and Penn will be engaging in some water sports as the two competitors will square off in a kayaking contest. Now general wisdom would say that Penn - who has lived his entire life in Hawaii - would be the automatic favorite, but don't assume anything just yet. Edgar may be a New Jersey boy, born and raised, but don't let his location fool you. Edgar grew up right next to the ocean and the boardwalks of New Jersey, so maybe the former lightweight champion is playing possum a bit heading into his showdown with Penn.
Either way, these two don't want to give each other an inch, and as witnessed in past seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, just because one guy is supposed to have an advantage doesn't mean he or she will win. Just look at TUF Brazil 3 when Chael Sonnen took out Wanderlei Silva in a soccer contest, knowing full well that is the national sport of the South American country. Plus, Edgar would have bragging rights forever if he outpaddled Penn in this competition.
The fight this week is definitely an intriguing matchup as King faces off with Gordon in a middleweight bout that will determine the last semifinalist in the 185-pound division.
King trains out of Florida, where he works at American Top Team alongside a slew of notable UFC names such as Hector Lombard, Yoel Romero, Thiago Alves and Robbie Lawler. At 6'3", King has one of the biggest bodies for the middleweight division on the show and he displayed his toughness in his opening round show stealer against Nordine Taleb on the way into the house.
His opponent, Gordon, is 6-1 as a professional with another three wins on the amateur circuit. He also comes from a world-class team, training in New York at the Serra-Longo Academy under former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra and striking coach Ray Longo, and, of course, one of his biggest and best teammates just happens to be the No. 1 middleweight in the world - Chris Weidman.
In terms of the matchup, King would seem to be a slight favorite over Gordon as far as overall skill level and ability to mix things up during the fight. King is long and rangy as noted earlier, and he's got a solid wrestling base to drag this to the ground if things get dicey at any point during the fight. King already showed he's willing to engage in a battle, and given White's directive, he seems like a good candidate to swing for the fences and make it exciting.
Gordon actually has more fight experience than King, but he's not as polished when it comes to the product he'll hope to display if he finally makes it to the UFC. Gordon is a powerfully strong fighter who also competes at light heavyweight, so matchup wise he's probably the best candidate to counter King's massive size advantage. Gordon punches hard and shows good takedown defense, and if he's training every day at home with Chris Weidman, chances are he's got some wrestling in his back pocket saved for a rainy day.
King still holds on to his favorite status, however, in this fight just because he does have more ways to win. He's not going to overpower Gordon with his strikes, but putting together combinations and establishing a jab could go a long way for him in this fight. King can also mix things up by putting Gordon on his back and holding him down to potentially negate any kind of power strikes on the feet just out of awareness that the Team Penn fighter might go for the takedown if he gets overextended.
A King win would also put Penn back on the board after losing another of their top fighters last week when Berzin fell to Walsh. We already know the next matchup will be the final light heavyweight battle between Matt Van Buren and Chris Fields, but which team will hold on to the momentum as the quarterfinal round comes to a close?
The only way to know for sure is to tune into The Ultimate Fighter: Team Edgar vs. Team Penn, Wednesday night at 10p ET on FOX Sports 1.
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