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TUF 21 - Episode 9 Preview

The Ultimate Fighter: American Top Team vs. Blackzilians airs Wednesday at 10pm ET / 7pm PT on FOX Sports 1.

For only the second time this season, American Top Team will host a fight at home and it just so happens to be the first time 100 points are on the line in the newest episode of The Ultimate Fighter.
It's definitely been a tough road for American Top Team, as the veteran squad from Coconut Creek, Florida have dropped every fight this season except two, but each and every time they've needed someone to pull them out of the ditch, Hayder Hassan has been there to save the day.
Hassan picked up American Top Team's only other win this season when he dispatched Andrews Nakahara in just 48 seconds a few weeks ago, and while the rest of his teammates were unable to build on his victory, he was more than happy to return for the last episode to reclaim the spot for his guys.
Hassan beat Felipe Portela in the final 50-point fight last week to keep American Top Team alive in the competition, because with only four fights to go, starting with this episode, there's not a lot of room for error.  By the actual timeline, Hassan returned to action just nine days after his last fight against Nakahara to come in and take care of business with Portela and help return the fights to American Top Team's home gym.
As this week kicks off, Hassan reflects back on another huge victory - this one even more important than the last considering the gravity of the situation - and gives Portela credit for bringing a tough fight, especially after the way their last fight ended. Hassan knocked out Portela just months before the show started filming, but the Brazilian was able to give him a much tougher go this time around as they battled for all 10 minutes before a decision was rendered.
"I was expecting a new and improved Felipe Portela and that's exactly what I got," Hassan said.
As the final four fights kick off this week, the selections made by the coaches and owners are more important than ever before because one win or one loss could change the entire course of the show.
Currently, the Blackzilians are up 6-2 in total wins and losses, but when it comes to scoring they are only ahead 200-100 and this next fight could get American Top Team tied up in the competition with only three fights remaining. It was a major point of contention to keep in mind during the early part of the season because for all the success the Blackzilians had through the 25-point fights, all four of those wins only accumulate the same total as the single fight taking place this week.
At this point, everybody who started the show nine weeks ago has fought at least one time, minus the two alternates who stepped up halfway through the season to show support for American Top Team and the Blackzilians.  There is a possibility to throw in a fresh body and allow them to try and take advantage of someone who might be ailing or not at 100-percent going into a second fight.
Even Hassan, who won last week, was dealing with injured ribs, so anybody who has already fought could be dealing with nagging injuries, and the alternates are healthy and ready to go. Then again, with only four fights to go it might seem kind of unfair to take the ultimate outcome of this tournament away from the people who started the show in the first place.
The Blackzilians have to be extremely smart with their selection, because one wrong choice and American Top Team will be tied going into the final three fights.  Kamaru Usman started the season strong in week one and picked up a fairly dominant win over American Top Team fighter Michael Graves, so he could be the easy choice to step in and try to stop the other team's momentum. Then again both Luis “Buscape” Firmino and Valdir “BB Monster” Araujo had strong showings in their fights as well.  
As important as this win will be to either side, no matter what happens there are still three more fights to go this season. Even in a worst-case scenario situation, American Top Team could lose this week and still have a chance to win the entire season if they close out with three straight wins.  While that scenario seems unlikely given the streak that the Blackzilians have put together this season, anything is possible.
Before the fight kicks off this week, owners Dan Lambert and Glenn Robinson will help their teams with a little relaxation before the final four begins.  The two owners have different methods to add a little pep to their fighters' step, but it would appear this could be just the decompression that the competitors need with only four fights to go before the season officially comes to a close.
Once the fight begins, all bets are off because this could be the turning point American Top Team has been waiting for, as they finally have a chance to tie the score up with back-to-back wins.  Then again, the Blackzilians are in the rare position to virtually lock up the title with a victory this week and only three fights to go.  A win this week means the Blackzilians would only need to go - at worst - 1-2 in the last three fights to still walk away with a pile of cash and the ultimate bragging rights as the season champions from The Ultimate Fighter.
Who gets picked to represent each team?  Will there be a surprise waiting for one of the owners as the fighters are announced?  Will the Blackzilians open up a commanding lead again or can American Top Team finally make it all even again?
Tune in to The Ultimate Fighter this Wednesday night at 10pm ET on FOX Sports 1 to find out.