‘TUF 25’ Recap: Episode 7

By Mike Sloan May 31, 2017
The final preliminary bout of the season is on deck for tonight’s episode and Team Garbrandt has been languishing in misery, still unable to get a single win. Considering how much Cody Garbrandt detests his opposing coach T.J. Dillashaw, it goes without saying that the reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight champion is not pleased with how this season’s fights have unfolded.

Joe Stevenson begins the show busting his butt in the gym and explaining his time as a longtime veteran of mixed martial arts. The “TUF 2” champ’s highlights from that season roll and his destructions of Marcus Davis and Jason Von Flue and decision win over Luke Cummo in the Finale punctuate the portion of the reel. “Daddy” explodes into the UFC proper by bludgeoning Yves Edwards, Melvin Guillard and Kurt Pellegrino. But his loss to B.J. Penn for the lightweight title preceded a shocking knockout loss to Mac Danzig and after losing several fights in a row, Stevenson was let go. “Daddy” chronicles how his depression from how his MMA career unfolded from there led to alcohol abuse. Stevenson is now on a redemption tour and he admits that this is likely his last chance at adding to his legacy, which is perfect for the theme of this season.

Stevenson will be facing off against Justin Edwards at the end of tonight’s episode and Edwards in the gym with his coaches, getting ready to finally nab a win for the team. Oddly, Edwards’ fight prep footage lasts maybe a minute before the editing team switches back to Stevenson and what he’s doing in the gym. Stevenson admits that he told Edwards that he’s the biggest threat of the season and that he’s honored to be fighting who he believes will give him the most problems inside the cage.

After the first commercial break, some of the guys are hanging out in the TUF house and Stevenson is explaining how he grew up with a schizophrenic father and one night he stood over his family wielding an axe. To make matters worse, he goes into detail about how his aunt tried saving his baby sister by stalling the family car when the e-brake let go, but she was run over by the vehicle and killed in the process. His mother was arrested for manslaughter because she had been drinking, even though the failed e-brake is what killed his aunt, and she spent three years in the stony lonesome because of it.

From there, the camera switches to Victorville, Calif., which is where “Daddy” lives. Footage of Stevenson with his kids follow, as does some behind-the-scenes stuff on the set of the MMA-related TV show “Kingdom,” where he works as an advisor and actor. Stevenson feels that he’s already redeemed himself because his life is terrific right now and is honored to be able to assist anybody who needs help kicking alcoholism.

Edwards is now back at the house chatting with Stevenson about injuries over some food before his home footage rolls. It’s cold outside in Edwards’ hometown in Ohio and he’s up early in the morning for his other career as an HVAC technician. After work, Edwards travels about 80 minutes to the gym in Dayton and does everything he can to get himself ready for any fights that possibly loom on the horizon. His footage of when he was on TUF 13 follows, but unfortunately for him, he was kicked in the head by Tony Ferguson and knocked out. Edwards did make it into the UFC and he scored a win over Josh Neer, but Joe Proctor choked him unconscious and after going just 2-5 inside the Octagon, he was released.

After both men weigh in on point and the prerequisite fight-day prep highlights dazzle the fans watching at home, it’s time to fight. Chris Tognoni is the third man in the cage and when the fight begins, both men are a bit tentative with jabs and movement. Edwards opens with a series of kicks to the body and punches to the head, but Stevenson ties him up and is able to reset. Stevenson has to take a spinning back kick to the gut and Edwards seems faster and more explosive early on. Edwards pops off a few uppercuts from the outside, preventing “Daddy” from advancing. Stevenson swallows a left hook and then an overhand right and he looks weathered. A quick flurry of punches from Edwards forces Stevenson to clinch and from there, the TUF 2 champ is caught in a standing guillotine. Stevenson, as expected, slithers out and stands up over his foe, pressing his head into the cage. Edwards eventually powers back up to his feet and regroups with just over two minutes remaining in the round. Stevenson eats a few stiff jabs but he’s coming forward with serious pressure. A spinning heel kick from Edwards, followed by partially-blocked punches and a knee to head force Stevenson to retreat, but he’s not hurt. “Daddy” scores a late takedown but he can’t keep the younger man down for more than a few seconds. The two men swing away at the horn and while Stevenson clearly lost the round, he seems to have momentum on his side. 10-9 Edwards.

Stevenson opens the frame with a left kick to the ribs and after they exchange punches, they tie each other up. Edwards threatens with a standing guillotine, but he doesn’t have it. After a brief session of clinching against the cage, they are free and swinging wildly. Edwards slams a few lefts and rights to the head, but Stevenson grins at him and continues to come forward. Stevenson swallows a few more punches before shooting in, but he can’t take his opponent down. Edwards shucks him off and pops him with a few more jabs before deciding to shoot for a takedown himself. Stevenson wraps up a guillotine as Edwards comes in, but he can’t seal the deal and Edwards eventually escapes back out to his feet. They trade punches again and Stevenson shoots in, but it’s he who is stuck in a guillotine this time. Edwards is squeezing, looking for the finish while asking his corner how much time is left. Stevenson, bleeding from his nose with a minute left, is fending off the choke but time is running out. “Daddy” finally escapes and stands up over Edwards, who quickly explodes to his feet to reset. In a last-ditch effort, Stevenson shoots in again but can’t score the takedown as time expires. It’s another easy 10-9 round for Edwards.

As expected, Edwards wins the unanimous decision, giving Team Garbrandt its first win and in the process, helps his team avoid making history by being the first team in TUF history to get swept. After the obligatory post-fight thoughts from both fighters, it’s time for the two rival coaches to speak with UFC President Dana White to select the wildcard matchup.

Garbrandt and Dillashaw meet in a side room and speak to White, who is skyping with them via the TV. Both coaches plead their cases to El Presidente and while virtually everybody who is available is from Team Garbrandt, White goes with Stevenson and Hayder Hassan for the wildcard fight. “No Love” is not loving the pick and storms out of the room and informs Hassan to get ready. Team Garbrandt is protesting White’s choice of “Daddy” because he just, “got his ass kicked,” and they claim the pick doesn’t make any sense. In Team Dillashaw’s room, they are celebrating Stevenson’s second chance on the show.

In the hallway, Garbrandt is questioning Dillashaw’s intelligence for allowing his fighter to come back in just six days after taking such a beating to fight the heavy-handed Hassan. Tempers kind of flare a little because the red team is lambasting T.J. for vouching for his guy when they feel that he doesn’t deserve it. Garbrandt is actually being cool with his nemesis while he pleads his case and even says that he respects Dillashaw’s point of view and, surprisingly, all hell does not break loose.

Next week is the always excellent coaches’ challenge as well as the wild card match plus the first bout of the quarterfinals, which will be revealed next week.

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