The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber airs on Wednesday, December 9 at 10pm ET on FOX Sports 1.
It's all come down to this, with two semifinal matchups to determine the finalists for The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber, and things are going to get very interesting this week, especially considering featherweight champion Jose Aldo is also stopping by for a visit.
Aldo was supposed to face Conor McGregor back in July at UFC 189, but a rib injury forced the Brazilian out of the fight. Chad Mendes stepped in to replace him on about two weeks’ notice, and McGregor toppled Mendes by second-round TKO to win the interim featherweight title that night, becoming only the second person in UFC history to hold a belt for the 145-pound weight division.
If not for circumstances that night, Aldo would have already answered McGregor's constant call outs, but thanks to the rib injury he was forced to withdraw, and now five months later he'll attempt to close the door on the rivalry while looking to cement himself atop the featherweight division as the only real champion after UFC 194 concludes.
As much as Aldo joining the show could be psychological warfare courtesy of Urijah Faber, he's also stopping by to show the American team a few tricks in these final days of the competition. It's been well-documented that fighters who have been eliminated are largely inactive and just waiting for the show to finish filming in those last days before the tournament is over, but Aldo stopping by will surely draw a lot of interest, as the up and comers look to learn from one of the greatest champions to ever step foot in the Octagon.
Of course, Aldo's visit will also include an encounter with McGregor before it's all said and done and there's little chance that those two reconnecting will be cordial. There was a much talked about staredown between Aldo and McGregor during filming of The Ultimate Fighter, and this is the week it goes down, with the few seconds they are eye-to-eye producing riveting television, especially with just days to go until they face off in the Octagon.
While Aldo's visit is a big conversation piece this week, the real drama comes from the two semifinal fights taking place, with three members of Team McGregor still in the competition while Julian Erosa is the last man standing from Team Faber.
Before Erosa faces off with Artem Lobov, it's an all-European semifinal first, as Saul Rogers looks to complete his dominant run through the competition as he faces Poland's own Marcin Wrzosek, who was one of the unlikely fighters to make it this far into the tournament.
Rogers has been nothing short of impressive through his first three fights, boasting a complete mixed martial arts game with a heavy emphasis on his ground work and submissions. Rogers has shown that his wrestling is on point as well, with tremendous takedowns in his previous fights as well as good striking that he was able to use to counter Ryan Hall's vast jiu-jitsu arsenal. Rogers is definitely one of the toughest matchups for anyone in this entire tournament and he's shown that through his first few fights.
That said, Wrzosek has been a pleasant surprise thus far with his win over American Tom Gallicchio and then beating Swedish favorite David Teymur to make it to the semifinals. Wrzosek is surprising on the feet, where he doesn't have the best striking in the world, but he hits like a hammer and when he lands, it definitely hurts. On paper, Teymur was one of the best strikers on the show, but Wrzosek showed no fear facing him in the quarterfinals and he ultimately won the stand-up battle with a knockdown in round one and then forced his opponent to search for takedowns in the second.
Wrzosek is scrappy and resilient and that will serve him well against a fighter as suffocating as Rogers, who will look to get on top and not leave until the fight is over. For Wrzosek to win this one, he's going to have to rely on steely resolve to avoid Rogers' handiwork on the ground and then look to land the knockout shot on the feet.
From that fight, we move into the highly-anticipated showdown between Erosa and heavy-handed European fighter Artem Lobov, who has made quite a splash with two straight TKO victories to make it to the semifinals.
Lobov specifically asked for this fight in the semifinals after watching Erosa outpoint two of his teammates in back-to-back matchups, and he promised a knockout to cap off his run through the tournament. Lobov is a nasty striker who is impossibly tough to figure out a lot of the time by the way he keeps his hands at his side and then launches knockout strikes from his hips. Defensively, it looks like Lobov is lacking, but the reality is that he's just trying to bait his opponents into a trap before he unleashes hell on them.
As for Erosa, he's certainly made an improbable run to this point in the competition with his hit and move style that mimics fighters such as Dominick Cruz and TJ Dillashaw. Erosa was able to use Mehdi Baghdad's aggressive style against him as he used great footwork to avoid the strikes from the former K-1 kickboxer and then landed several quick combinations before disappearing again. Erosa did the same thing to Lloveras by making him give chase and then clipping him with small shots throughout the early rounds. By the time the third round began, Lloveras was out of gas and Erosa was just picking him apart.
Erosa will have to stick to that strategy in a big way this week because Lobov holds dynamite in both hands and he will be head hunting from the moment this fight begins. Erosa needs to make it out of the first round and then, as each minute ticks away into the second and possibly the third, he has a better chance to win. Lobov has good conditioning, but he puts so much behind every punch that it's understandable if he's a little winded after a round or two while looking for the finish with each shot.
Lobov shows no fear in his fights and if he can walk through Erosa's pitter-patter striking style, he could absolutely finish this show off with a third TKO victory.
Who will make it to the finals? Will Erosa keep Team Faber alive for another week? Tune in to the final episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber to find out.
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