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As the semifinal matchups were being made on last week's episode of The Ultimate Fighter, UFC President Dana White let the fighters know in no small part that they were failing in their duties to perform to the best of their abilities while also falling way short in claiming the thousands upon thousands of dollars of prize money just sitting there waiting for someone to snatch.
The fights this season on The Ultimate Fighter have been lackluster at best and White's agitation reached a boiling point when the bout between Matt Van Buren and Chris Fields, which was expected to be a barnburner, turned into a sleep remedy stronger than a double dose of Ambien. Van Buren and Fields had talked trash about each other all season long and then proceeded to lay an egg in the actual fight, and White's ire is over the edge now as he tries to fire the guys up to go after what they want in this competition.
The hope is that the next fight between Team Edgar fighter Eddie Gordon and the favorite going into the competition, Team Penn's Cathal Pendred, will help turn the corner from bad to good.
White will do his best to motivate the fighters even more with a special trip planned for them this week. Can he get the job done and finally spark some excitement in the next round of fights?
Before the action gets started this week, an age-old scenario rears its ugly head on the show as the competitors who are no longer involved in the competition decide to order up an alcohol-fueled night of debauchery.
This situation goes all the way back to season one of The Ultimate Fighter when Diego Sanchez was crashing through doors and Chris Leben passed out, prompting the start of his lifelong rivalry with Josh Koscheck. Of course, who can forget season eight, when it seemed every other night on the show produced somebody who shouldn't be mixed with alcohol, most notably former TUF bad boy Junie Browning.
While it's easy to critique the fighters and say 'why do you do that?' remember this is six weeks locked away with 15 strangers and everybody is there for the same competition.
When the guys who aren't moving forward in the tournament are bored, bad things tend to happen, and maybe knocking back a few drinks helps eliminate the boredom for a few hours. It also tends to make for some rather interesting television, as showcased on The Ultimate Fighter this week, as Hector Urbina is the latest victim of not knowing when to say when.
The conversation will also go back to the style of fights we've seen this season, where strategy and the perception that guys are fighting not to lose starts to irk everybody, including those guys who lost in that manner this season.
From the alcohol-sauced nights, the new episode will then move into training day as Team Edgar starts to get their fighter, Eddie Gordon, ready for battle. They will also start to look ahead at the next matchup in the house, as Corey Anderson will face off with Pat Walsh. While it's a great fight on paper pitting two former college wrestlers against each other, it's also hard because both are on Team Edgar and as light heavyweights they've been sparring partners and teammates all season long. Is this the catalyst to break the solidarity of Team Edgar this close to the finale?
The focus then shifts to the fight at hand between Gordon and Pendred.
Coming into the season, Pendred was definitely the most talked about and hyped fighter. The Irishman was a seasoned veteran who most pegged as a future UFC star regardless of the path he was going to take to get to the big show. Pendred is very well-rounded with a solid boxing base and an improving wrestling game. He also has great durability, as shown in his first fight against Hector Urbina in the quarterfinals, when he got rocked early and was able to recover and win late.
As for Eddie Gordon, the Team Edgar middleweight has to be rated as one of the most powerful fighters on the show. A mountain of muscle, Gordon also proved he has good conditioning when he fought for three hard rounds to get a win over Team Penn's top pick, Mike King. Gordon is a strong striker, but that doesn't mean he won't use good technique. Working with UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman probably doesn't hurt matters much either.
The fight itself may come down to a couple of key factors.
First, did Dana's speech work and will these two go out and wing punches until one of them falls over? In that case, the favor seems to fall slightly towards Gordon, given his ability to land the more powerful, one-punch knockouts. Or will the fighters stick to strategy first and worry about pleasing every fan second? Pendred is the more talented fighter top to bottom, given his experience against better competition outside the UFC.
Whoever comes out on top will be marked as the first finalist from The Ultimate Fighter season 19, while also releasing the pressure valve on a job well done.
Tune in to see who comes out on top when Eddie “Truck” Gordon takes on the Irishman Cathal Pendred this Wednesday night on FOX Sports 1 at 10pm ET.
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