The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber airs on Wednesday, November 11 at 10pm ET on FOX Sports 1.
It's been a struggle for Team Faber to find consistency after Ryan Hall and Chris Gruetzemacher scored back-to-back victories on The Ultimate Fighter to begin the season. In the latest fight, Team Faber failed to put their strongest striker Thanh Le through to the quarterfinals after he was submitted by Martin Svensson in the second round of their matchup on the last episode.
Now with Team McGregor back in control, interim featherweight champion Conor McGregor is finally ready to unleash his teammate and good friend Artem Lobov in the next matchup as he takes on American fighter James Jenkins with only three fights remaining in the opening round of the tournament.
For those who may have forgotten the start of the season, Lobov battled Mehdi Baghdad in a barnburner over two rounds, but when it was over, the judges rendered a decision instead of giving the two warriors a sudden victory round. Baghdad got the win but Lobov gave him everything he could handle and more over 10 minutes, with even UFC president Dana White agreeing he should have been given one more round to decide the fight.
Because the bout was so close and due to all of the elimination round fights turning out so well, White opted to give both sides a chance to bring back one extra fighter, and once the nine elimination round bouts were concluded, he and the coaches would select one person to get knocked off the show based solely on performance, even with a victory. White told everybody after the additional fighters were brought back that this show is about more than just winning - it's about entertaining and showing that you want to fight.
Lobov got his second chance thanks to a controversial decision, but he also stepped into the show with a much bigger advantage than anybody else in the house because he trains full-time with McGregor and his coaches at the Straight Blast Gym in Dublin, Ireland. Actually, Lobov has been a teammate and sparring partner of McGregor's for several years, and he played a key role in the Irishman's rise to fame in large part because he's able to mimic many of his UFC opponents.
Lobov was the body double for featherweight champion Jose Aldo for months prior to the Brazilian suffering an injury and being knocked out of their originally scheduled bout at UFC 189 in July, and he'll undoubtedly do the same once more as McGregor finally gets ready to face the incumbent champion in December at UFC 194.
Lobov is Russian by birth, but at age 14, his family needed to find a more stable place to work and live, with employment drying up in their home country. At the time, Ireland was a booming market, so Lobov's family picked up and moved to the Emerald Isle, and not long after that the Russian immigrant began showing up at the gym in Dublin looking for a place to train.
Now, years later, Lobov is a mainstay at the gym, and he's risen up the ranks alongside McGregor, Gunnar Nelson, Cathal Pendred, Aisling Daly and Paddy Holohan.
On the other side of the Octagon stands James Jenkins, who is a scrappy fighter out of the Serra-Longo fight team in New York with an impressive 8-1 record. Jenkins trains on a daily basis with former welterweight champion Matt Serra, as well as current middleweight king Chris Weidman, and while he's fighting up a weight class at lightweight after typically performing at 145 pounds, he has a phenomenal training partner in the gym with bantamweight superstar Aljamain Sterling working at the same facility.
Jenkins will definitely walk into this bout as an underdog thanks to Lobov's experience and the advantages of having his own coaches prepare and corner him in the fight, but the New York-based fighter won't back down from a tough matchup, and this has all the makings of one of the best battles of the season.
Jenkins is an extremely heavy-handed puncher with real knockout power, but if there's a knock on his style, it's that he tends to get a little wild at times and will get drawn into a slugfest. That could help him or hurt him in this fight because Lobov is very similar, except that he packs more explosive power shots and might be slightly better defensively.
Lobov throws a lot of punches from the hip, which is deceptive because it doesn't look like it would generate much power, but when he starts to unload it's like dynamite exploding. Lobov is aggressive, and unless Jenkins can back him off the way that Baghdad did in the opening fight of the tournament with a heavy barrage of kicks and long punches, the American could be in for a long night.
Once Lobov and Jenkins finish their fight, this week's episode will also feature a second bout in the lightweight tournament, as Team McGregor and Team Faber cruise towards the quarterfinal round in just a couple of weeks. Whoever wins between Lobov and Jenkins will effectively give their coach the final two fight selections of the season, because the second matchup this week will only leave two competitors left to face off for the final slot in the next round. So Lobov and Jenkins have even more on the line than just winning and moving on, because it will give one coach the chance to close out the tournament if they can select the right bouts.
Who gets the win between Lobov and Jenkins and who will give their coach the advantage going into the final two bouts of the preliminary round? Tune in to The Ultimate Fighter this Wednesday night at 10pm ET on FS1 to find out.