The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber airs on Wednesday, September 23 at 10pm ET on FOX Sports 1.
It was a rough start to the season for coach Conor McGregor and his team of European fighters after Frantz Slioa barely made it into his fight with Ryan Hall before he was on the ground and trapped in a series of heel hook submissions.
As much as Slioa tried to slip free, there was no getting away from Hall's anaconda-like grip, and he eventually succumbed to the submission and Team Faber went up 1-0 in the competition with Urijah Faber still in firm control of the fight picks.
This week, Faber chose another strong fighter from his side in Chris Gruetzemacher to represent them as he faces German competitor Sascha Sharma from Team McGregor. Gruetzemacher was very impressive in his fight to get into the house as he mauled Austin Springer in a beatdown that most believed was over before the referee actually stopped it.
Before the fight starts, get ready for further insight into Conor McGregor and his unique coaching methods, which have already been on display this season. The second episode a week ago showed McGregor teaching his fighters a new method to obtain pinpoint accuracy with their striking game where the athletes practiced targeting parts on the body without throwing at full strength. McGregor believes where you land is just as important as how hard you land and that's an opportunity missed by a ton of fighters in the UFC.
This week, McGregor will once again land in the spotlight as his approach to coaching will raise a few eyebrows and maybe validate a few things Urijah Faber has said about him since the show finished filming. McGregor promised from the first day he arrived on set that he wasn't going to be a hands-on coach, teaching his fighters how to throw a jab, much less attending each and every practice over six weeks. Is McGregor doing his team a service or a disservice by giving them more leeway? Could this be a method that results in healthier fighters and fresher performances by not being pushed as constantly hard as some competitors have been in past seasons?
Despite a few comments to the contrary by his fellow coach, UFC President Dana White teases this week that no matter how much McGregor boasts about his hands off approach to coaching, he's there for his guys day in and day out and that will continue throughout the entire season.
"Conor has given this attitude like he doesn't give a (expletive)," White said. "Like he could care less. He actually does care. He's actually a really good coach"
Outside of the training sessions this week with Sharma and Gruetzemacher getting their coaches’ full attention, the fighters in the house will be treated to a little viewing party to watch FOX UFC Fight Night: Dillashaw vs. Barao from this past July. Obviously, Dillashaw was victorious in his second title defense as he outstruck and eventually finished Barao for the second time in two fights, but the more interesting part of this viewing party is watching the reactions from his friends and coaches currently working on Team Faber.
The fight will also serve as a launching pad for a long simmering showdown between Faber and McGregor in regards to Dillashaw's rise to fame and his continued work with former Team Alpha Male coach Duane “Bang” Ludwig. In the weeks since filming finished and McGregor and Faber have been promoting the show, Dillashaw's name has continued to come up, even during one point where he will show up and act as an assistant coach.
The episode this week will begin the war of words as McGregor plants the seeds of dissension between Faber and his prodigy. This appears to be just the first of many exchanges that will be coming up this season, but no one can say that McGregor doesn't understand how to use mental warfare against his fellow coach, because it's clear his words have an effect on Faber and you can watch it all unfold on Wednesday night.
As far as the fight goes, Gruetzemacher comes into the show with a great resume, having competed at featherweight for most of his career while working out of the MMA Lab in Arizona under head coach John Crouch as well as former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson. Gruetzemacher is a veteran and has actually been gunning for a shot in the UFC for several years, but now he finally gets his chance via The Ultimate Fighter.
Gruetzemacher won't blow anybody away with his technical prowess, but he more than makes up for it with an aggressive style inside the Octagon where he's seemingly on attack mode from the moment the referee says go. His striking, especially in the clinch, is dangerous and he's got a very good ground game while looking mostly for punches and elbows on the mat as he punishes his opponents into submissions.
Sascha Sharma has won most of his professional fights by decision and he's a natural lightweight, so despite Gruetzemacher having a lot of size in this competition, this matchup might be one of the few where he'll only be equal to an opponent. Sharma is good at getting fights to the ground, either from a shot on the outside or working from the clinch, and he's tenacious when attacking on the mat. As good as Sharma has been throughout his career, he may have never faced a fighter who has even better takedowns, not to mention a pressure game that might be unmatched on this season of the show. Gruetzemacher was a favorite when he was selected to compete on The Ultimate Fighter this year and it's going to be hard to pick against him this time, but if there's a competitor on Team McGregor who could be the perfect counter to his aggressive offense, it's Sharma with a stifling ground game and good wrestling.
Who wins the second fight of the season between Chris Gruetzemacher and Sascha Sharma? Tune in to the next episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber to find out.