The quarterfinals rolled on in the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter, as Hiromasa Ogikubo from Team Benavidez took on Adam Antolin from Team Cejudo.
The fight matched up one of the competition's best grapplers in Ogikubo against an upstart contender in Antolin, who made big waves with his first win in the competition as he pulled off a TKO victory over UFC and WEC veteran Damacio Page. While Ogikubo and Antolin were focused on their fight, there was plenty else happening away from that quarterfinal showdown this week inside the house.
As the fighters enjoyed a barbecue thanks to some of the coaches, teammates Tim Elliott and Eric Shelton ended up enjoying a few too many adult beverages, and that led to a heated discussion in the hot tub that later continued into the house.
Elliott, a multi-time UFC veteran, was trying to explain to his teammate that just making it to fight in the Octagon doesn't solve anybody's problems and it's a lot of hard work to maintain that spot. Elliott found that out the hard way after he won two fights in a row in the UFC and then dropped his next three bouts, leading to his exit from the promotion. Elliott and teammate Damacio Page have both experienced the absolute highs of fighting inside the world famous Octagon and the unbelievable lows that accompany being released as well.
Elliott tries to explain to Shelton in some very harsh terms that just getting a shot in the UFC doesn't exactly mean you've "made it," but instead suggests that inking the deal only begins the real hard work of maintaining a top spot on the roster.
"You think being in the UFC is going to fix all your problems - it ain't!" Elliott shouted at his teammate.
The heated argument never got physical by any means, but it certainly tested the relationshio between the two teammates, who could potentially meet in a fight if they both make it to the semifinals.
Elsewhere this week, as Adam Antolin prepares for his showdown with Hiromasa Ogikubo in, he's also dealing with a back injury that got tweaked in his matchup with Page a few weeks ago. Back injuries are sometimes the most painful for a fighter to go through because it can severely hamper the ability to move or train properly, which then leads to less preparation ahead of a big fight. In addition, if the back is still acting up in the fight, Antolin then has to face a dangerous opponent while also battling against his own body as well.
Thankfully, Antolin did get some extra help from his teammate Nkazimulo Zulu, who fought Ogikubo in the opening round of the tournament. Zulu gave Antolin some tips and tricks to deal with Ogikubo's unorthodox striking as well as the way he looks for the takedown while applying his versatile grappling attack on the mat.
As for his opponent, Ogikubo has been trying his best to learn more English throughout the season while dealing with a severe communication barrier with his coaches and teammates since the first day he arrived on the show. This week, some of the fighters decide to help Ogikubo out with his English as he tries to learn a few more words ahead of his bout with Antolin. Ronaldo Candido, who was born in Brazil but now speaks great English, seemed like a huge help as he tried to teach his teammate a few words and phrases this week.
The competitors from Team Benavidez and Team Cejudo also enjoyed a little down time this week, with a game of charades that involved everybody picking from a hat and then imitating the fighting style from somebody else in the house. As hilarious as it was to watch the guessing game, perhaps the best moment came when Ogikubo got involved and was given the task to imitate boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
Ogikubo pulled off the impression with flawless accuracy as the other fighters cracked up laughing as he showed off some of Ali's signature punches and taunting inside the ring.
Once the fun and games were over it was time to prepare for the battle ahead.
Ogikubo showed off a ton of promise in his opening round matchup against Zulu, but there's no doubt Antolin pulled off the real shocker when he finished Page by TKO in arguably the biggest upset of the season thus far.
"He treats every fight like it's his last," UFC President Dana White said about Antolin ahead of the bout with Ogikubo.
HIROMASA OGIKUBO VS ADAM ANTOLIN
At the start of the opening round, Ogikubo came out with an aggressive attack that Antolin countered with a nice trip that put his opponent on the mat, but the move actually backfired on him as the Japanese grappler quickly latched onto a leg and swooped under for a takedown of his own. Once Ogikubo got the fight to the ground, he showed off his world-class grappling skills by methodically breaking down Antolin's guard and working to advance his position. Ogikubo showed incredible patience while inching his way past Antolin's full guard and then past his half guard until he got the mount.
Ogikubo started to rain down shots from the top and it looked like he might get a finish, but Antolin did a good job surviving and kicking out of the position. Ogikubo wasn't going to be deterred, however, as he continuously pressed the action and eventually took Antolin's back against the cage. Ogikubo nearly locked in a rear naked choke, but he couldn't quite get the submission before the round came to an end.
The second round saw a lot more of the same as Ogikubo constantly pressured Antolin while looking for takedowns, and the American was left playing defense for the biggest part of the five-minute session. To his credit, Antolin was able to resist Ogikubo's takedowns and ground control much better in the second round, but it still didn't lead to much offensively on his part. Ogikubo's ground control was masterful throughout, and even when it seemed like he was giving up a takedown to Antolin, he always seemed to find a way to reverse positions and end up on top instead.
When it was all over, there was no question that Ogikubo did more than enough to earn the unanimous decision victory and move on to the semifinals.
With Ogikubo joining Alexandre Pantoja in the third round, the next episode will actually feature the final two semifinal bouts, as Tim Elliott takes on Matt Schnell while Eric Shelton squares off with teammate Ronaldo Candido.