The Ultimate Fighter: American Top Team vs. Blackzilians airs Wednesday at 10pm/7pm ETPT on FOX Sports 1.
Following a debut episode where American Top Team fell to the Blackzilians in the opening fight of the series, The Ultimate Fighter will kick off episode 2 with just as much emotion, as the two rival gyms up the trash talk going into the second fight.
Mike Graves was American Top Team's first pick, but he came up short against one of the strongest Blackzilians’ contenders in former NCAA wrestling champion and Olympic hopeful Kamaru Usman. Graves didn't have a bad performance by any means, but he struggled with the wrestling of his opponent and just didn't have an answer after two rounds.
The loss hits American Top Team as they scramble to regain control this week as well as put the fights back in their gym after spending the last fight as spectators on the Blackzilians' home soil.
One of the fighters to watch this season, especially after last week, is American Top Team fighter Hayder Hassan.
With a 6-1 record with five of his fights ending by way of knockout or TKO, Hassan is already one of the standout fighters coming from American Top Team, but he also has bragging rights over the Blackzilians. In his last two fights before entering the show, Hassaan knocked out both Felipe Portela and Jason Jackson - two welterweights currently representing the Blackzilians on The Ultimate Fighter.
On last week's episode, Hassan was the fighter standing across from Usman after his victory telling the Blackzilian that he was next. Will American Team pull the trigger and put Hassan in the Octagon next to try and even things up?
The fight selection will be a major part of this season as well because, as stated last week, the coaches and teams won't know who they are facing until the day of the weigh-ins. So unlike every other season of The Ultimate Fighter, there's no perfect way to strategize for an opponent and pick a matchup that will, at least on paper, make sense for a greater chance at victory.
For instance, when American Top Team chose Mike Graves last week, the assumption was that his power and wrestling would be a big advantage in whatever matchup he faced. Unfortunately, the Blackzilians picked their fighter perfectly to counter him because Usman is not only freakishly strong but he might just be the best wrestler in the entire competition. Neither side knew who the other was choosing, but the Blackzilians ended up with the stronger choice once the fight was revealed.
The other factor that plays a major part in this season of the show are the point totals that get added up fight after fight until only one team is standing victorious with $200,000 awaiting them as the prize. The Blackzilians are up 25 points thus far and the next three fights in the series count for the same amount as well. The second four fights count for 50 points each while the final four fights are worth 100 points each.
The points given for each fight also make for some interesting matchmaking by the coaches on the show. Putting one of the team's strongest fighters out early might be an easy way to secure 25 points, but there's also a risk of injury or that person not being available right away for a 50-point or even a 100-point fighter later in the season. Is it better to jump out to an early lead or sit back and wait because a team could lose the first eight fights of the season and still win the competition if they take home the final four bouts?
Both teams are faced with this choice in episode two as the Blackzilians look to maintain control while American Top Team has to decide if they want to put out one of their best fighters this early just to swing the momentum back in their favor or sit back and wait until the points are really worth something more.
Another unique part of this season of the show in the team versus team aspect is that individual fighters aren't trying to outmaneuver each other so it really is eight against eight with gym supremacy as the ultimate prize. Still, that doesn't mean things won't get heated internally, and one of the teams faces that this week. While it would seem more natural for one of the fighters from American Top Team to butt heads with a Blackzilian, this week one of the teams nearly implodes after a training session turns heated.
The last thing either one of these teams needs to deal with is turmoil eroding them away from the inside out.
And very much like the debut episode, the second installment of The Ultimate Fighter also showcases another confrontation between team owners Dan Lambert and Glenn Robinson. It seems like the fighters might be taking a backseat to them at least for part of this season as the guys up front get face to face once again in a nasty encounter at the weigh-ins.
In his time away from MMA, Lambert is an accomplished attorney so he's no stranger to presenting an argument and getting into a debate. Mix that in with a fighting spirit he's built over the last 20 years he's been doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and working with fighters and Lambert is a force to be reckoned with against anybody. This season, he's taking aim at only one person - Glenn Robinson.
Don't miss a second of this latest episode as Lambert and Robinson go after each other once again and then find out if the Blackzilians are able to put up a second win in a row and maintain home gym control or if American Top Team finds a way back to tie up the competition. The Ultimate Fighter returns Wednesday night at 10pm ET on FOX Sports 1.