This week’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter 17: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen featured the coaches’ challenge dubbed, “Dig this.” Head coaches Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen had to complete specific tasks while driving excavators. They would first have to fill a 14-yard dumpster with dirt and then move on to stacking three large tires in a pyramid. After that, they moved on to the final challenge of using the excavator’s arm to scoop up a basketball and place it inside the center of a tire.
Sonnen quickly took an early lead, filling the canister with dirt much faster than Jones, but stumbled trying to build the three-tire pyramid. Jones caught Sonnen and passed him. Jones got the basketball in the excavator’s grasp but failed to place it in the center of the tire, allowing Sonnen to come from behind and win the $10,000 and secure $1,500 for each of his team members in dramatic fashion.
“When I won and the thing (basketball) went in and I saw the guys celebrating, that was pretty cool. I’ve been cheering these guys on ever since we got here. I’ve been coaching them and getting them ready to go and the roles were reversed today,” said Sonnen after winning the coaches’ challenge.
Team Sonnen’s Zak Cummings and Team Jones’ Dylan Andrews were pitted against each other by default because they were the only two remaining fighters to compete in the preliminary round.
Zak Cummings vs. Dylan Andrews
After an exchange of jabs, Cummings worked to get the fight to the ground. Andrews shook off the takedown attempt but was caught by a left hand shortly after that hurt him. Andrews went for a takedown and Cummings worked to lock on a choke. Andrews freed himself from the choke attempt and reversed Cummings at the midway mark in the round.
Andrews went to work, landing punches to the body and head and delivering hard elbows. Andrews overcame the early adversity and came back to win the round on two of the three judges’ scorecards.
Cummings was landing shots in the early portion of the second round, but when he rushed in with a flying knee, it left the opening for Andrews to get the fight to the ground. Andrews picked up where he left off in the first round, battering Cummings with short punches and elbows for the remainder of the round.
Two judges scored the fight 20-18 for Andrews while the third scored the two-rounds a draw. Andrews defeated Cummings by majority decision.
“I felt like I was going to tap and something said don’t tap and keep going. Something happened to me and I went to another place. I don’t know what it was,” said Andrews after the win. “That point from when I got dropped and got a submission put on, that was a life changing point for me. I’m proud of it. I’m happy.”
“I’d love another shot whether it is the wild card, the finale, some other time, I know I’ll fight again. I just have to prove I’ve grown as a fighter,” said Cummings.
The focus quickly switched to the wild card selections. UFC president Dana White has always decided who the wild cards would be in past seasons, but he allowed the coaches to make that choice this time.
Coach Sonnen had two choices, Kevin Casey or Zak Cummings. Coach Jones had to decide between Clint Hester and real life training partner Bubba McDaniel.
Sonnen chose to bring back Casey who he felt under performed. Jones’ choice was much more difficult. Jones considered taking a page out of Roy Nelson’s book and let a coin toss to decide.
“Coach Jones was in a tougher spot than I was for political reasons. He trains with Bubba. He has known Bubba for a number of years, and a number of days ago, probably 72 hours ago he told Bubba, ‘I’m giving you the wild card.’ He didn’t imagine that his No. 1 pick (Clint Hester) would get upset,” said Sonnen.
“The chance at redemption, to get back in this tournament is a big deal to me. I have a lot to prove to the world right now,” said Team Jones’ Bubba McDaniel.
Jones ultimately picked McDaniel to receive a second chance in the tournament. McDaniel will face Casey to determine who will return to the competition. The match-up is one Bubba asked for during the second episode of the season.
“This is the fight I tried to pick for myself first round. I took it upon myself to call out Kevin. Kevin doesn’t realize what he’s in for,” said McDaniel.
Casey said, “I’m going to go out there and I’m going to smash.”