The Ultimate Fighter: American Top Team vs. Blackzilians airs Wednesday at 10pm ET / 7pm PT on FOX Sports 1.
American Top Team goes out of the frying pan and into the fire for the upcoming episode of The Ultimate Fighter, as the gym faces possibly the most important fight of the entire season after losing another tough matchup in last week's competition with the Blackzilians.
It's been an incredibly tough run for the fighters at American Top Team after losing every bout on the show with the exception of Hayder Hassan's 48-second destruction of Andrews Nakahara as all of the other competitors just keep coming up short against the welterweights from the Blackzilians.
The latest loss was especially tough to swallow as American Top Team sent de facto captain Nathan Coy out to face Vicente Luque in a fight they believed going in was definitely in their favor. Coy was a seasoned veteran with a ton of experience against top-notch competition, and he looked like an ace in the hole for American Top Team as they got dangerously close to the point of no return.
Coy gave it his all but still came up short in the end, with Luque snatching an anaconda choke to end the fight in the third round to put the Blackzilians up 200-50 with only one fight left in the 50-point round. At this rate, the Blackzilians could go into the final fights worth 100 points each with a commanding lead that could force American Top Team to win each and every fight or watch the competition come to a close long before it's supposed to be over.
The last time the Blackzilians had this kind of commanding lead, they lost sight of the goal just enough to force coaches like Rashad Evans and Tyrone Spong to light a fire under them and remind the whole team that the competition isn't over until the final fight is in the books. Following big wins by both Jason Jackson and Vicente Luque, the Blackzilians are now in the rare position where they really do control their own destiny the rest of the way, and getting a win this week would be crushing for American Top Team.
A Blackzilians victory means the upstart gym from Boca Raton, Florida would go into the final four fights with a commanding 200-point lead, meaning American Top Team would have to win at least three out of four fights just to have a hope of winning the series and the prize money at the end of the rainbow. Those are the kind of odds the Blackzilians would love to put on American Top Team, so their selection this week, while not as do or die as their opponents’, is still crucial to the final outcome of the series.
The Blackzilians only have one fighter left on their roster who hasn't competed yet (not including replacement fighter Alexandre Pimentel) and that's Brazil-born competitor Felipe Portela.
Portela is the last man standing for the Blackzilians, but the team doesn't have to turn to him unless they make that choice. The difference with this season of The Ultimate Fighter is that competitors are allowed to fight up to three times, which means not all eight would actually have to step into the Octagon. The Blackzilians could choose to go with someone like week one performer Kamaru Usman, who put on a shutout performance in his debut earlier this season.
On the other side, American Top Team is out of options.
With Steve Montgomery already eliminated from the competition after suffering a seizure a few weeks ago, American Top Team turned to late replacement Cristiano Souza to take his spot in the house, but do they want to rely on him to pull off a win under these kinds of dire conditions?
UFC President Dana White states it best when he makes his suggestion for the American Top Team fighter selection ahead of the eighth bout of the season.
"He has to pick the most (expletive) ferocious animal that he has in that gym," White said.
Whoever owner Dan Lambert and the other coaches choose, they have to understand that while the season wouldn't be over with another loss, morale takes a serious hit if they drop to 1-7 versus the Blackzilians. Technically, four wins in the final 100-point fights would still win them the competition, but no one from American Top Team wants to exit the show knowing that they lost to their rivals seven times during the series.
With Coy just fighting a week ago, American Top Team could look towards Mike Graves, who fought first this season, to give him a chance at redemption, or possibly Steve Carl, who came up short in his fight as well but still possesses veteran experience that could be very valuable at this point in the competition. There's always Hassan, who said he would fight every week this season if the coaches would allow him the honor. He's been the one nail American Top Team has hammered the Blackzilians with this season, so maybe he can do it one more time to keep his team alive.
Who will get the call this week for American Top Team and can they finally find a way to turn this series around after being mired in mediocrity all season long?
Tune into the next episode of The Ultimate Fighter this Wednesday night at 10pm ET on FOX Sports 1 to find out what happens.