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Controversial decisions are a part of MMA whether anyone likes to admit it or not. There's a reason why UFC President Dana White tattoos the words “never leave it in the hands of the judges” on the mind of every fighter that ever steps foot in the Octagon. The phrase means so much that White had it plastered on the walls of The Ultimate Fighter gym in Las Vegas.
Generally speaking, when a disastrous decision is rendered, the fighters involved may poke and prod at each other after the bout via interviews or even at the press conference following the event, but that's generally the end of it. Now it may still rub people raw, but you'll rarely see those two fighters tossed into the same location again further than 24 hours removed from the fight.
That's not the case with The Ultimate Fighter, because no matter the result in a fight, all of the competitors are then put right back into the house together and a pressure cooker situation can mount in a hurry when someone believes they've been wronged. In the 27 season history of The Ultimate Fighter there may not have been a clearer case of injustice than Ian Stephens losing a decision to Roger Zapata in the last middleweight fight on the show.
The argument could be made that Stephens won the first two rounds of the fight and there shouldn't even have been a third round, but regardless, there was an additional five minutes tacked on and in that session, Zapata was penalized for an illegal elbow strike with a point being deducted, meaning it was scientifically impossible for him to win the sudden death round, thus there was no way he could win the fight. The judges still found a way to hand him the victory though, and the fallout is going to be massive on the next episode of The Ultimate Fighter.
To make matters worse, Team Penn is in full celebration mode as the episode begins, applauding Zapata's performance and pulling off the victory in the face of defeat. Obviously this rubs the Team Edgar fighters the wrong way, especially Matt Van Buren and Eddie Gordon, who both have plenty to say about the decision when the teams are forced back together while watching a fight card in the house.
Tensions are running very high and things will probably get worse before they get better, which means both teams are going to be running on edge.
In the fight this week we get our first real look at Patrick Walsh from Team Edgar, who is nicknamed 'Fat Pat' because he packs on a few pounds between fights. Hopefully not full on Gabe Ruediger weight, but you get the point.
Walsh is a former college wrestler who competed at The Ohio State University, which is one of the top wrestling programs in the country. It also happens to be the home of Team Penn coach Mark Coleman, who won an NCAA title while wrestling at Ohio State. In a perfect world, Walsh would have ended up under Coleman's tutelage, especially considering that he identifies his style as a 'ground and pound attack'. Coleman is best known in the MMA world as the 'godfather of ground and pound' after developing his devastating style of wrestling and offensive onslaught in the early days of the UFC.
On the other side of the cage stands Team Penn stud Anton Berzin, who might be one of the most well-rounded fighters in the entire competition. Berzin, who came to America as a young child with his family from Russia, started training in martial arts when he was 16 and this is after he was living on his own at the age of 15.
Once he got involved in MMA and grappling, Berzin took to the sport like a fish to water. It took him six years to earn his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and now he stands as one of the brightest prospects on The Ultimate Fighter season 19.
The mission ahead for Berzin against Walsh seems pretty simple - avoid the takedown, avoid the takedown, avoid the takedown. On paper, Walsh has more experience inside the cage with three amateur fights to go along with a 4-1 professional record compared to Berzin, who only has four fights total in his career. Walsh is a wrestling machine, and with his shorter, stockier frame, there's no doubt that he wants to get inside and put a hurting on Berzin with a ground attack.
Walsh's plan isn't complex and it isn't hard to figure out - he wants to get this to the mat and punish Berzin with strikes on the ground.
Berzin doesn't have the wrestling skills to go with Walsh, but he is the more well-rounded fighter in this matchup. Berzin is a jiu-jitsu ace on the ground and strong with his kickboxing on the feet. The Russia native is also a natural finisher, given his past tendencies in fights (three career wins, all by submission). He's also a very fast starter, so Berzin could look to put it on Walsh early before the former college wrestler even has a moment to warm up. If that happens, look for Berzin to transition on the ground and look for either a choke or an arm lock, which seem to be his favorite techniques.
Walsh has to stick to his fundamentals or he's going to be in for a long (or short) night against Berzin. This matchup seems to favor the fighter from Team Penn as one of the best fighters from that side, but Walsh's grind them into nothing style could give Berzin trouble if this fight makes it past the first round. The problem is that this is only scheduled to be a two round fight, and that automatically gives the edge to Berzin.
Will this be another controversial fight to further egg on the already simmering rivalry between Team Edgar and Team Penn or can one of the competitors seal the deal and make everyone forget about the bout between Roger Zapata and Ian Stephens?
Tune into The Ultimate Fighter: Team Edgar vs. Team Penn this Wednesday night to find out.