By Thomas Gerbasi
CAUTION: SPOILERS INCLUDED – The teams are set and Team Liddell has jumped out to a 1-0 lead in The Ultimate Fighter: Team Liddell vs Team Ortiz competition thanks to Kyle Noke’s victory last week over Clayton McKinney. Needless to say, ‘The Iceman’ wants to keep the momentum going.
“Matchups make fights, and I want to win as many of these fights as I can,” said Liddell. “As long as we control the matchups, we’ve got the best shot of winning.”
Following Team Liddell’s workout though, the series takes a turn when UFC President Dana White announces that Team Ortiz’ Chris Camozzi is being removed from the show due to a broken jaw suffered in his first bout against Victor O’Donnell that the fighter thought was a toothache. A CAT scan revealed otherwise, and now Camozzi has been eliminated.
“It’s horrible to go right now,” said Camozzi. “I didn’t want to give up on my dream. Injury or not, I would have loved to have stayed. It took years to get here and seconds to lose it.”
Four of the previously eliminated fighters from episode one are healthy and available, so Ortiz and his coaching staff decided that Seth Baczynski – who had a close three round battle with Court McGee in the elimination round - will fill Camozzi’s spot on the roster.
“It’s crazy to be here – finally,” said Baczynski. “It hasn’t really all set in yet.”
Luckily, he won’t have to fight immediately, as Team Liddell chose Brad Tavares to face Team Ortiz’ James Hammortree.
“This is a big step for us – we have to win this fight,” said Ortiz. “I don’t want to put any extra stress on James, but this fight is mandatory – we need to win.”
At the gym, teammates Jamie Yager and Nick Ring get into it verbally after sparring, and subsequently, Ortiz gives his squad a talking to.
“Team is what matters,” said the former light heavyweight champ.
In this week’s fight, the 22-year old Tavares takes the fight to his opponent with kicks before Hammortree shoots for the takedown. The Hawaiian fights it off and instead scores with a throw to the mat. Within seconds, Tavares has Hammortree’s back and is looking to finish things with a rear naked choke. Hammortree breaks free though, and soon he’s on top as he fires off ground strikes against the fence. Tavares weathers the attack and gets back to his feet, and though Hammortree keeps the pressure on, the two begin taking turns in positional control, with the Team Ortiz member ending the round strong.
Hammortree looks to impose his will in round two as he bulls Tavares into the fence, but Tavares is the one who gets his foe to the mat. The two rise quickly and Tavares throws a knee to the head before falling and allowing Hammortree to get the dominant ground position. Again, Tavares fights to get back to his feet, but Hammortree takes him right back down. Tavares looks to catch Hammortree’s arm in the ensuing sequence, but to no avail, and the round ends with Hammortree and Tavares trading strikes on the canvas.
Following two rounds, the judges declared the bout a draw, and a third sudden victory round will decide the fight.
After Hammortree opened the third with a big right hand that missed, the two tentatively circled until Hammortree scored with a takedown. With 1:30 gone, he got into the mount position, but Tavares broke loose and then took over briefly with strikes from the top. The fighters then scrambled and locked up against the fence, with Hammortree getting Tavares to the mat again. In response, Tavares worked on Hammortree’s arm and fired off strikes to keep him at bay. With less than a minute to go, the fighters stood again, but Hammortree wouldn’t let Tavares free as he pushed him to the fence and kept him there until the final bell.
The verdict: 10-9 across the board for Tavares, who takes the bout via unanimous decision
“It was very frustrating to see Tavares’ hand raised,” said Ortiz. “I guess I was looking at something totally different than what they were looking at.”
After Tavares’ victory, Team Liddell moves to 2-0 in the competition. Here’s how the teams look:
James Hammortree – Eliminated on episode three by Brad Tavares
Clayton McKinney – Eliminated on episode two by Kyle Noke
Kyle Noke 1-0
Brad Tavares 1-0
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