Find out who won on Episode 12 of The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber and more in this week's recap.
The finals of The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber are officially set, but there have been some twists and turns to get there.
More on that later.
First up, the last episode offered up two fights to determine the final on Dec. 11, while also reigniting the rivalry between Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo that will be settled one night later in the main event of UFC 194 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Before Aldo and McGregor had their showdown, it was time to watch United Kingdom grappler Saul Rogers get the job done against his teammate and training partner Marcin Wrzosek.
Rogers has been one of the strongest fighters all season and he showed why once again with his stifling win over Wrzosek. From the very beginning of the fight, it was clear that Rogers wanted to take this fight to the ground, where he had a clear advantage in both striking and grappling. Rogers was able to get Wrzosek to the ground and against the fence early, where he could apply his attack without giving the Polish lightweight much room to escape. To his credit, Wrzosek got up from the mat a couple of times in the round, but Rogers was able to counter and put him right back down again.
The second round saw Wrzosek land his best strikes of the fight with a pair of left hooks that stunned Rogers briefly, but those punches only forced the British fighter to push forward and land yet another takedown. Rogers knew that he needed to show improvement on the mat to make sure Wrzosek would stay there, so he opened up with a barrage of strikes while also advancing position out of the guard.
Eventually, Rogers got into position where he could take Wrzosek's back, and from there it was clear that he was looking for the finish. Rogers kept grabbing and pulling until he finally got his legs locked around Wrzosek and it didn't take long for him to slip his forearm under the neck and cinch up the rear naked choke. Wrzosek had no choice but to tap, and Rogers was declared the winner and the first finalist of the season.
The other matchup between Artem Lobov and Julian Erosa was definitely the most highly anticipated fight of the season. Lobov had been gunning for Erosa for weeks after watching the American outpoint two of his teammates. Lobov has accused Erosa of running rather than fighting, and he wanted nothing more than to stop him dead in his tracks in the semifinals.
"I want the hat trick. I want the third knockout," Lobov said.
Just before the fight started, McGregor walked into the gym and saw featherweight champion Jose Aldo sitting on the bench alongside Urijah Faber and his team. Rather than act agitated or upset, McGregor actually entered with a big smile on his face and greeted the featherweight champion in his usually friendly manner.
"I didn't think I'd see you again," McGregor said to Aldo.
Before McGregor and Aldo faced off, it was time for Lobov to battle Erosa, although this matchup didn't take long to finish, with “The Russian Hammer” treating the American like a nail.
As soon as the fight started, Lobov began stalking Erosa across the cage, but unlike past opponents, he didn't allow him to trot around. Instead, he began working angles to cut off the Octagon as much as possible. Lobov's attacks were just ferocious, as he came after Erosa with a series of hard left hands, and it was only a matter of time before one slipped through.
Finally, Lobov tagged Erosa with a hard left hook and the stunned Team Faber fighter retreated to the fence. Lobov continued his assault with two more big left hands and Erosa finally crumbled under the pressure, dropping to the mat and waiting for the referee to stop the fight. Lobov raised his hand in victory while making his prediction come true, as he won his third straight bout by knockout or TKO.
"My flags are covered in the blood of my enemies and I will enter the final fight ready to kill and prepared to die," Lobov said after the win.
McGregor certainly enjoyed the celebration as well, jumping over the fence and picking up his teammate following the win. Unfortunately, McGregor's pants were a casualty of his happiness but it was all worth it to see Lobov get the victory.
"My emotions got the better of me and I scaled the Octagon and I got punished for it today," McGregor said. "I jumped in the cage and ripped my brand new pants, but it is what it is. It was worth it to see my teammate go out and do what he done."
And while an all-European final was seemingly set, following the final fights of the season, UFC officials were informed that Rogers would be unable to secure a visa to travel back into the United States, which meant he would be unable to face Lobov on December 11 in Las Vegas.
"Saul lied on his visa application and now has problems getting into the country and cannot fight in the finale for The Ultimate Fighter," White revealed. "So Ryan Hall, who fought Saul to a majority decision loss, will now get the opportunity."
Oddly enough, Hall was just in Ireland with Lobov and his team, but now the two training partners will set friendship aside to settle the finals of The Ultimate Fighter this season, with the winner securing a six-figure contract with the UFC.
"America versus Europe. Grappler versus striker," White said. "Very intriguing fight."
But there was still the business of seeing McGregor going face to face with Aldo for one last time before they meet in Las Vegas on fight week for UFC 194, the perfect cap on a compelling season of TUF.
"There's no more pulling out of this," McGregor said to Aldo. "You're either going to do it now or you're never going to do it. Your legacy, your career is done. I wish him a safe training camp and let's do this fight. I will be there Dec. 12, whether he's there or not."
McGregor faces Aldo in the main event of UFC 194, airing live on Pay-Per-View while Lobov and Rogers will cap off their season 24 hours earlier at The Ultimate Fighter Finale, airing live on FOX Sports 1.