The Ultimate Fighter
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This season of the Ultimate Fighter has had more than a few memorable moments.
From Uriah Hall's spinning kick knockout of Adam Cella that left everybody in the Ultimate Fighter gym with their jaws planted firmly on the floor to Kelvin Gastelum and Dylan Andrews' improbable runs as the last picks on Team Jones and Team Sonnen, respectively, only to make it all the way to the semifinals this week.
The final four is set, but only two of them will continue on to fight during this weekend's Ultimate Fighter 17 finale show in Las Vegas.
The first fight will feature a very confident Josh Samman against one of the unlikeliest semifinalists in TUF history, as Kelvin Gastelum looks to tack another victory on his record in a season very few were picking him to even make it past the preliminary fights.
As cocky as he's been portrayed during the season, Samman has backed it up in the cage with two impressive victories over Tor Troeng and Jimmy Quinlan. Despite some rough going in the early parts of both fights, Samman wasn't about to give up or back down.
On both occasions, Samman battled back, winning by TKO, and now he'll try to do the same to Gastelum on Tuesday.
While his background is wrestling, Gastelum showed off his hands during his last bout against Collin Hart, slamming punch after punch en route to a knockout to advance to the finals against Samman.
At this point in the competition, Gastelum can no longer be treated as an underdog, and his confidence has to be swelling with two awe-inspiring victories in a row under his belt. He has to know that Samman is ultra dangerous however, especially if he lets him stick around as the fight wears on.
As odd as it may sound, Gastelum should finally enter a fight in this competition as the favorite due to his overall pedigree and the relatively quick nature with which he got through his last fight, which means he'll be the fresher of the two competitors. But almost in a reversal of fortune, Samman can pull the upset, as has been the theme all season long and prove that his confidence on day one was justified. Samman's key here is to stay off his back with Gastelum, and pressure the young Arizona based fighter on the feet. Samman can punch his ticket to the finals if he can use distance and quickness to avoid Gastelum's power and wrestling.
The other semifinal matchup pits season favorite Uriah Hall against Dylan Andrews.
Hall has decimated both of his opponents en route to this moment. He nearly decapitated Cella in his preliminary round fight, and then dropped Bubba McDaniels with a single punch in his last bout. Dylan Andrews hasn't had it nearly as easy with two straight decisions, including the need for a third round in his last trip to the Octagon against Luke Barnatt.
Not surprisingly, Hall is the odds on favorite heading into this fight. He is a vicious striker who doesn't mind taking chances like he did with the spinning kick that left Cella staring at the ceiling lights. His wrestling hasn't been tested much since the fight against Andy Enz to get into the house several weeks ago, but Hall was effective in his scrambles and submission attempts to show he's not afraid of the ground game.
The problem that haunts Andrews in this fight beyond the fact that he's already logged four and a half rounds thus far through two bouts is that his strength is in his striking. Andrews is a slugger, and while that means he can put someone's lights out with one punch, it also puts him in range of Hall's arsenal of weaponry.
The safe pick here is clearly Hall because he's shown zero weaknesses thus far in the competition, and after sending his last opponent out in an ambulance, he surely has a mental edge on anybody he faces right now. But just like Gastelum, Andrews has been a surprise all season long and just when somebody decides to underestimate him, he's pulled off another upset.