The Ultimate Fighter: American Top Team vs. Blackzilians airs Wednesday at 10pm ET / 7pm PT on FOX Sports 1.
A win by Hayder Hassan two weeks ago was supposed to be the momentum shift American Top Team needed to begin to turn things around on season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter. Instead, his victory was akin to a team about to be swept in the playoffs and winning one game before the favorite stomped down on them after showing a slight touch of mercy.
American Top Team got a one-week reprieve to take the fights back home before Jason Jackson from the Blackzilians defeated grizzled veteran Marcelo “Grilo” Alfaya to once again shift control of the show back to the other side. At this point in the tournament, the Blackzilians are up 5-1 in overall fights while maintaining a commanding 150-50 score in the points competition. Watching Alfaya go down was a heartbreaking moment for the guys from American Top Team because most believed he was as close to a sure thing as they could have going into the fight, but Jackson was able to outwork him and win a two-round decision.
Now after another humiliating week, American Top Team has to travel back up the road for the next fight at the Blackzilians' home gym while trying to find the right combination to finally pick up a second win before things get really out of control.
Last week, UFC President Dana White told both owners that after this most recent bout they would be allowed to replace up to two members of their respective teams to help boost either side for the remainder of the show. American Top Team already knows for sure they have to replace Steve “Creepy Weasel” Montgomery after he suffered a seizure in the house and was forced off the show for medical reasons.
But the real question going into this week's episode is whether or not team owner Dan Lambert will replace a second member of his team along with the substitution for Montgomery?
It's hard to deny that after six weeks of competition that some of the fighters from American Top Team haven't shown up during a few of the matchups with the Blackzilians. It was well documented a few weeks back that since losing in the opening fight of the competition that Michael Graves has been less than enthusiastic about training or doing much of anything to engage with his team after being disappointed in his performance. Can a crafty veteran like Steve Carl bounce back after a loss in his first fight or will he get mired in the funk of a defeat as well?
There's also the upcoming fight to consider. Maybe some new blood could join the team and fight right away. There's nothing that says the owners couldn't bring in a hired gun to fight this week to try and steal a win. From a fight selection standpoint, the only person left on American Top Team that hasn't fought yet is captain Nathan Coy and he might be the only savior left they can call upon to turn this show around. Then again, maybe they are saving him for the possibility of fighting twice in the final four fights, where each win is worth 100 points.
These are all issues that Lambert and the coaches from American Top Team will have to deal with going into this week's episode with the replacements looming overhead.
While the fighters from American Top Team have lacked in performance for much of this season, they certainly aren't short on motivation from the people getting them ready for the fights. This upcoming episode features an all-time great speech from American Top Team founder Conan Silveira, who lets his team have it after yet another loss while trying to light a fire under them to realize how much of an opportunity they are wasting by not going out and getting wins every week.
Marcelo Alfaya is a perfect example because at 36 years of age, he has less fighting time in front of him than behind, and the lackluster fight he put on last week against Jackson is the exact reason why the UFC might never call him up to fight in the promotion. He had his chance and squandered it, and Silveira, along with former UFC fighter Din Thomas, are going to let the fighters hear it this week.
From the Blackzilians' side of the competition, things couldn't be going much better.
They are running roughshod over American Top Team through the first six fights with the exception of the loss by Andrews Nakahara, which brings up the only turmoil the team might face going into this week's episode.
Nakahara was a dark horse favorite from the Blackzilians with a comprehensive background training with world champions like Vitor Belfort, not to mention one of the most complete striking arsenals of anybody in the house. The problem is he got smoked in under a minute during his fight with Hayder Hassan two weeks ago and the question now becomes how much of an asset or a liability will he be going forward? Will Nakahara even be allowed to fight in time before the season ends because he was knocked out in his fight?
Remember, the Florida Athletic Commission is still overseeing the action and medical suspensions can absolutely be handed down if they are warranted. A fighter getting knocked out like Nakahara did might cost him some time on the sidelines, which could force owner Glenn Robinson to pull the trigger and replace him.
American Top Team is reeling, barely clinging onto the ropes, and the Blackzilians will look for the knockout blow this week by forcing another tough fight while trying to go up 6-1 in the competition. Can American Top Team find the solution or are they just destined for the Blackzilians to keep throwing up questions they can't answer?
Find out on the new episode of The Ultimate Fighter this Wednesday night at 10pm ET on FOX Sports 1.