The Ultimate Fighter 21: ATT vs. Blackzilians: Episode 9 Review

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In last week’s episode of TUF 21, American Top Team (ATT) kept hopes of salvaging their season alive when Hayder Hassan recorded a second win for himself and his team. Hassan’s win left the points at 200-100 in favour of the Blackzilians. The final four fights of the season are worth 100 points each, so despite a 6-2 lead after eight fights for the Blackzilians, a victory in this episode for ATT would level the scores.

“The stakes have literally never been higher than they are right now”, Dana White points out early in the episode. “There’s four fights left, there’s 100 points per fight. If American Top Team wins the next fight, it’s tied. Choosing this next fight is pivotal. These guys have to be very careful in how they select this next fight.”

Dan Lambert feels that Steve Carl did not perform to his potential in his first fight against ‘Baby Monster’. He failed to make weight at the first time of asking and was eventually submitted in the second round of a lacklustre fight. Carl’s coaches decide that, despite these difficulties, he is the man for the job in this all-important match-up. The Blackzilians opt for Kamaru Usman who was victorious over Michael Graves in the first episode of the season. Glenn Robinson believes that Usman has the skill set to come out on top regardless of whether he’s matched with a grappler or a striker.

At the weigh-in, there is a brief moment of panic for ATT when Steve Carl comes in a quarter of a pound overweight. Luckily, after shedding his shorts, Carl spares himself the misery and embarrassment of having to return to the sauna. Usman makes weight without issue, the fighters square off, and the scene is set for the first 100-point bout of the season.

Steve Carl vs. Kamaru Usman
Usman lands a stiff jab in the first couple of seconds that stuns Carl. The ATT product recovers and responds with a right hand. The early exchanges are pretty even with both fighters taking time to establish their range. After about a minute Usman shoots for the first takedown of the fight and dumps Carl to the mat against the fence. Usman controls his opponent on the mat and lands some strikes from a standing position, before Carl gets back to his feet. Usman controls Carl against the cage and lands strikes intermittently. Carl works for a guillotine choke from a standing position, which he uses to transition into a takedown attempt, but Usman is wise to it and defends well. As they separate, Usman turns up the heat with the striking and lands several heavy shots as Carl stands with his back against the fence. Carl is bleeding from the nose now. Usman is doing a good job of mixing up aggressive striking with takedown attempts and controlling his opponent against the cage. After another striking flurry from Usman, Carl shoots for a takedown but the Blackzilian defends well and ends up on top. Usman finishes the round landing strikes in Carl’s open guard.

The second round opens much like the first, with both fighters trading shots on the feet but neither fighter establishing any clear advantage over the other. Usman shoots for a takedown, which Carl stuffs. Usman pins the ATT product against the fence once more and goes to work with foot stomps. Carl tries to establish a guillotine, but Usman postures out of it. Usman completes a takedown, but Carl has a kimura grip which he uses to stand right back up. Carl loses his balance in the scramble, however, and winds up on his back with Usman on top. Usman controls Carl and lands punches from open guard once more. At the midway point of the round, Carl works his way back to his feet against the fence, but Usman has a bodylock and duly dumps the ATT product back to the canvas. Usman rains elbows down on Carl who desperately tries to get back to his feet. Usman exhibits total control, however, transitioning seamlessly from one dominant position to the next. Usman almost sinks in an arm triangle choke with about a minute remaining in the fight, but he lets it go and controls the remainder of the round, landing strikes from top position.

Post-fight, Dana White has some harsh words for Carl.

“Definitely not the fight I was expecting. Usman comes out and hits him with a right hand and Carl was never really in the fight after that. This guy doesn’t have what it takes to be a fighter. He didn’t dig deep, he didn’t try to win for the American Top Team, and they lose. Now, American Top Team is in the position where they must win this next fight. If they don’t win this next fight, they are eliminated from the competition. It is do or die time for Dan Lambert and the American Top Team.”

So, with three fights remaining, the Blackzilians need just one more win to seal victory for the season and collect $200,000, with a further $300,000 up for grabs in the finale. ATT, meanwhile, must win all three fights to emerge victorious. A dejected Dan Lambert spoke matter-of-factly:

“Now there is no margin for error. We need to go 3-0 in the last three fights to win this thing.”

Check back in with SevereMMA.com next week to see whether ATT keep their hopes alive with a win, or the Blackzilians put the season to bed.