There's no way to sugarcoat the fact that the fights on this season of The Ultimate Fighter haven't exactly set the world on fire. So far the most memorable moments came in the elimination round, with huge finishes courtesy of Dan Spohn and epic wars like the one between Mike King and Nordine Taleb. Since the quarterfinal round has begun, the only fight that really stood out was the middleweight bout between Tim Williams and Dhiego Lima. The main reason that particular fight was memorable was because of Lima's incredible comeback after a very rough first round.
Each week, UFC President Dana White has read the fighters the riot act when it comes to taking the outcome of the bouts away from the judges, not to mention claiming the prize that comes along with a finish. Along with a knockout or a submission comes the chance to also win a $25,000 bonus at the end of the season, so the fighters are well aware of the financial benefits of laying it all on the line and putting on exciting performances, but as of yet everything in the quarterfinals has been lackluster at best.
This week could change all that as Matt Van Buren takes on Chris Fields in the final light heavyweight bout before the semifinals, and these two do not like each other one bit.
Van Buren, aka “Gutter” has been one of the most outspoken and recognized figures amongst the 16 contestants all season long. If there's been a conflict in the house, Gutter has been front and center, not necessarily causing the problem by any means, but he's always got an opinion when a subject is raised. His feud with his upcoming opponent seemed to ignite a few weeks ago through just a difference in personalities while living in the house, but things ratcheted up a few notches when Roger Zapata pulled off his incredibly controversial win over Ian Stephens.
Van Buren had plenty to say about that incident, and like a dog with a bone, he wasn't letting it go until his point had been made. Fields took offense to that and the fire of this rivalry only burned brighter. Hopefully, the intense dislike brewing between these two light heavyweights will erupt come fight time.
In terms of the matchup itself, Van Buren would appear to have the advantage in many places in this fight. He's a long, tall striker with good range and a solid overall MMA skill set with plenty of experience outside the UFC. Van Buren spends his days training in San Diego at the Alliance Training Center alongside notable names such as Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Dominick Cruz and Jeremy Stephens, so there's no doubt he's working with some of the best already in the UFC to get ready for this competition.
Fields is in a tough spot for this fight because the memories of his entry into the house have to still haunt him. In the elimination round, Fields faced Ohio native Josh Stansbury and was losing in a very one-sided affair that saw him get knocked to the ground with punches and controlled on the mat with superior wrestling. Fields only advanced when Stansbury blew out his knee and was unable to continue.
The Irishman would normally hold a reach advantage in all of his potential fights in the house, except for this one. If Fields doesn't want a repeat of his last bout, he needs to stick and move while staying out of the range of Van Buren's power. Standing flatfooted in front of Stansbury is what got him into repeated trouble the last time he stepped into the Octagon. He'll be giving up a height and reach advantage in this one as well, so moving is paramount if he wants to stay away from Van Buren's range and power shots from the outside.
There's no doubt Van Buren should be a heavy favorite going into this bout, and unless something dramatic happens he will come out the victor, which then sets us up for the semifinal round fights to be announced before the episode ends.
The only real teaser to give away from the semifinals is a subject already touched on earlier — Dana White is furious at some of the poor performances and the lack of finishing ability in the quarterfinal fights and he's either going to motivate these guys to do better or there won't be a UFC in their future once this show wraps. White has done it before, just like when the fighters on season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter failed to live up to expectations. When the show was over, only four fighters went on to compete in the UFC and one of those with a contract was the winner of the entire competition.
There's some serious talent on TUF 19, which might really be the spur under White's skin as he's watched each fight unfold week after week.
Can Dana turn sluggish into spectacular? Can he transform the mundane into the amazing? The only way to know for sure is to watch The Ultimate Fighter 19 this week for the final quarterfinal round matchup between Matt Van Buren and Chris Fields and then stay until the end for the semifinal announcements as the final eight fighters look to punch their tickets to the big card on July 6 in Las Vegas.
TUF 19 - Episode Nine Preview
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