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Following Dhiego Lima's hard fought win over Gilbert Smith on last week’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption, the quarterfinal matchups roll on with two fights this week, as Jesse Taylor battles Hayder Hassan while James Krause takes on Ramsey Nijem.
As it stands, Hassan is the last remaining member of Team Garbrandt after Justin Edwards was eliminated in the first quarterfinal matchup by Tom Gallicchio. Hassan earned his second chance in the competition thanks to the wild card, as he earned a vicious first round knockout over Joe "Daddy" Stevenson.
Hassan has a reputation for his knockout power and there's little doubt that he packs the biggest punch of anybody remaining in the competition. If there's been one weak spot in his arsenal throughout his time on two different seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, as well as his stint in the UFC, it's been his ground game. Hassan has struggled when opponents are able to get him to the mat and stay in control on top. That's what cost Hassan his first fight this season when he fell to Dhiego Lima in an opening round matchup.
Now Hassan will have to get his wrestling defense on point if he hopes to make it to the semifinals because Taylor will absolutely try to take this fight to the ground.
Taylor is arguably the best wrestler in the competition and he's made it no secret that his easiest path to the finale will be through grinding out his opponents on the ground. Taylor did a great job of that in his first fight of the season, where he took out noted striker Mehdi Baghdad after two rounds. Now Taylor will get another striker placed in front of him as he faces Hassan this week, with the same strategy likely in mind. He'll look for the takedown and try to keep Hassan from unleashing his knockout power on the feet.
Hassan won't have much time to prepare for this fight after coming back to beat Stevenson, but he showed better takedown defense in that matchup so he'll definitely need to be quick on his feet this time around. The key for Hassan is not over extending on his punches, which would then allow Taylor to counter with the takedown. If Hassan can sit back and wait for Taylor to attack, he may be able to unleash a combination to stun the veteran middleweight before looking for the finish. On the flipside, Taylor just needs to be careful as he looks to take this to the mat so he doesn't eat a big knee or an uppercut from Hassan while trying to dominate this fight on the ground.
RELATED CONTENT: Recap last week's episode | Tonight's Previews: Krause vs Nijem | Taylor vs Hassan
In the other quarterfinal fight, former Ultimate Fighter finalist Ramsey Nijem returns to face current UFC lightweight James Krause.
Now there's an argument to be made that based on experience in the Octagon that Nijem and Krause could have easily met in the live finale on July 7. Nijem had a long career spent in the UFC after his season on the show and Krause is currently on the UFC roster so it's hard to imagine that these two fighters wouldn’t be highly ranked if this tournament was set up with seeds.
That being said, Nijem knows that he's got a serious fight on his hands with Krause standing in front of him this week. Nijem is an experienced grappler with a history in wrestling, but he's also very heavy handed when he starts throwing punches on the feet. During his previous stint with the UFC, Nijem earned a nasty knockout over top 15 ranked lightweight Beneil Dariush, so he's definitely got the power to hurt Krause if they get into exchanges on the feet. Nijem can also counter with his wrestling and top control game, which are both excellent, but it's a tougher game for him on the ground.
Krause is a well-versed submission specialist who has worked tirelessly to improve his striking so that it matches what he can do on the ground. Krause looked comfortable on the feet in his first fight this season against Johnny Nunez, including a huge knee that set up his rear naked choke finish on the ground. Krause may need to employ a similar strategy this time around because Nijem definitely has the wrestling to match him takedown for takedown if this turns into a grappling match.
On the feet, Krause is arguably the better kicker, but he probably doesn’t throw with as much power as Nijem. Where Nijem has to be careful is in not over exerting himself while looking for the knockout because this could turn into a three-round fight and conditioning could become a huge factor. Remember, these fighters are all training, cutting weight and fighting multiple times over a six-week period, so this is a grueling process to go through by the time the quarterfinals and semifinals get underway.
In addition to the two fights taking place this week, coaches Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw will remain at odds, which should be no surprise given the way they've interacted with each other all season long. Putting these two fighters near each other is like striking a match and dropping it near a pool of gasoline - it's just begging for something bad to happen. Needless to say, Garbrandt and Dillashaw never seem to be at a loss of words for each other and we've already seen things get physical between them earlier this season.
In addition to the two quarterfinal matchups taking place this week, UFC President Dana White will make the final call to announce the semifinals for the tournament to determine the last two fighters who will then compete for a $250,000 grand prize.
Will Garbrandt's last remaining fighter get into the semifinals or will Taylor's story of redemption continue? Can James Krause keep winning his way through this season or will Ramsey Nijem pull off the upset against the only current UFC fighter on the show?
Tune in to the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption tonight at 10pm ET on FS1 to find out.