by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
“The Ultimate Fighter 11: Team Liddell vs. Team Ortiz/Franklin” finals are set and it worked out as one member from each team being represented. Kris McCray will face Court McGee on June 19 to determine the season’s winner and who will be named “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Rich Franklin made his first appearance of the season last week when he was flown out to Las Vegas to replace Tito Ortiz as opposing coach to Chuck Liddell and step in as Ortiz’ replacement in the UFC 115 main event.
“I actually came out here thinking that Tito was still going to be here and that I was just coming out to kind of promo the fact that I was going to fill in for the fight,” said the new coach. “When I got here I found out that Tito actually completely left the show.”
Dana White escorted Franklin around the new and improved UFC Training Center drastically changed from when was a coach on the reality show’s second season. But before long White had him signing the bout agreement to face Liddell making everything official.
Franklin inked his signature and White stated, “All right. You’re fighting Chuck. Thank you.”
The newly named Team Franklin was brought in and the full coaching staff was revealed. Assistant coaches Forrest Griffin, Gray Maynard and Tyson Griffin entered. And after a short introduction session with customary handshakes, the four instructors began formulating Kris McCray’s game plan in his rematch with Josh Bryant.
“My focus at this point is on Kris because he’s the one that has the fight, so anything I can do to help Kris prep for this fight will be great,” commented Franklin.
During Team Franklin’s training the production crew came in and changed out the oversized poster of Ortiz next to one of Liddell with one of Franklin and the transition of team names and coaches was complete.
“I thought the coach change was going to affect me a little bit more,” admitted McCray. “They jumped right in and they broke my style down. It worked out good.”
The first semi-final match up was between teammates Court McGee and Brad Tavares.
“Court is my boy. He’s my teammate. We do everything together,” said Tavares. “It’s impossible not to form a bond with these guys.”
Team Liddell coach John Hackleman discussed the awkwardness of training partners working out together and having to fight.
“Brad and Court are going to have to fight. It’s not as weird as it is just awkward, uncomfortable. They’re so close and we’re all so close. And it’s going to be really hard,” stated Hackleman. “I didn’t want to separate their training. They don’t have to actually spar together or train together or partner up. But we’re still training in the same room, the same mat, the same cage.”
Tavares and McGee weighed in and so did the cast members with their predictions with Dana White picked McGee.
COURT MCGEE VS. BRAD TAVARES
With a touch of gloves, the first round was underway. For the first minute it was a kickboxing match with each landing leg kicks but nothing substantial standing. McGee secured a takedown with just over three minutes on the clock where he worked to advance his position landing a few strikes in the process.
Tavares scrambled back to his feet at the half way point and began to let his hands go. McGee was effective inside the clinch and was able to slam his teammate in the closing moments to win the round according to MMAWeekly.com.
Tavares came out in the second round popping his jab in McGee’s face. Just when it looked as if Tavares had found his timing, McGee catches a leg kick and fires a right hand up the middle that sent Tavares backpedaling.
McGee fought unsuccessfully for a takedowns while Tavares tried to counter punch him as he came in. Each landing heavy shots in the round, but MMAWeekly scored it 10-9 for McGee.
Within the first ten seconds of the final round, Tavares landed a accidental low blow when a kick when off course. He immediately apologized to his teammate and after a brief break, the action was restarted.
It was back and forth on their feet with Tavares landing the cleaner punches when McGee turned the tide with a combination that left Tavares momentarily on wobbly legs. The Hawaiian recovered and fought off McGee aggressively working for a takedown.
The action was halted for a second time with 1:19 showing on the clock after Tavares took a low blow. When the fight was restarted, both picked up the pace throwing punches with fight finishing intentions.
With :45 seconds remaining, McGee lands another kick to the groin of Tavares. McGee was warned by the referee, “If it happens again, I have to take a point. You‘ve got to watch the inside kick.”
When the action resumed, McGee landed a left hand in the first exchange knocking Tavares down. Tavares immediately gets up as McGee rushed in looking for the finish. McGee landed two right hands and picked Tavares up and slammed him to the canvas. As Tavares tried to scramble to his feet, McGee took his back and locked on a rear naked choke which rendered Tavares unconscious.
Probably the best fight of the season and Team Liddell’s Court McGee advances to the finals.
“There are no words to describe how I feel fight now,” commented McGee following the fight. “I feel fantastic. It’s fantastic man.”
The two teams were gathered at the training center and introduced to their training partners for the day, a group of United States Marines. The fighters and soldiers exchanged combat techniques and the Marines were invited to the fighter house for a cookout afterwards. Even with former UFC titleholders Chuck Liddell and Rich Franklin in the room, it was clear who the real fighters were.
The second semi-final bout was between Kris McCray and Josh Bryant, a rematch. Bryant defeated McCray by decision in episode 5.
“This will be his (McCray) fifth fight on the show. I mean five fights in six weeks is crazy,” said coach Franklin.
McCray received specialized training and guidance from the new coaching staff based on the first fight with Bryant.
“We’ve taken the things that Kris does, as a group of coaches collectively, and really honed in on those things that he does,” said Franklin. “We’re making them better.”
But before the last fight of the season took place, things in the house heated up when practical jokes when wrong.
Earlier in the episode essentially the entire house targeted the “Minority Report” made up of Jamie Yager, Kris McCray, Brad Tavares and Kyle Noke, waking them up with air horns and shooting them with silly string.
In retaliation, Yager decided to confiscate the left shoe of everyone’s footwear.
Brad Tavares combined some beans and rice from the kitchen and threw it from Yager and McCray’s bedroom window on Clayton McKinney and James Hammortree who were sunbathing below.
Hammortree gets up and as he is headed into the house, Yager tosses a bag of flower at him, missing in the process.
Hammortree gets irate and storms upstairs into Yager’s room with a container of trash and scattered it around Yager’s room.
Yager retaliated by taking the remaining beans and rice and threw it all over Hammortree’s room.
Yager and Hammortree get into each other’s face rattling off insults. As Yager is exiting the room, his old nemesis who accused him of stealing shirts earlier in the season, Kyacey Uscola, get into an altercation.
Uscola tells Yager to “put your hands up and lets go outside.” Uscola went and put his shoes and on and proceeded to the backyard.
Yager decided not to enter a street fight with Uscola but did return his housemate’s left shoes.
McKinney, Uscola and Hammortree lobbied to fight Yager in the finale. None of them ended up getting the fight, instead Yager faces Rich Attonito in the finale.
JOSH BRYANT VS. KRIS MCCRAY II
McCray immediately worked for a takedown and gets it but Bryant quickly stood back up only to be slammed back down. Bryant was able to get right back up again, but McCray simply took him down again.
Two minutes into the round, the two finally get untangled and take the center of the Octagon. One their feet, it was McCray pressing forward landing shots. Bryant tried to put something together late, but outside of a solid left hand landing the round went to McCray according to MMAWeekly.com.
In the second stanza, the action picked up standing with McCray landing a series of body shots and uppercuts early that had Bryant attempting a takedown. McCray defended and the referee separated them from the clinch with three minutes remaining.
Bryant looked for another takedown and briefly got one, but McCray powered back to the standing position. Bryant was able to press him against the cage and work shot to the body in the final minute. It was a close round, but MMAWeekly.com scored it for Bryant.
With each winning a round, everything was on the line heading into the final five minutes.
It was an even striking exchange for the first minute. McCray clinched and worked hard to a takedown, but Bryant fended it off and separated back to the center of the cage.
McCray worked again to get the fight to the ground but Bryant was able to remain standing. Exhausted, both fighters winged punches, some landing and some not, before McCray moved in for a clinch and was able to move to his opponent’s back. Bryant broke free and the round ended with McCray working for a single-leg takedown. MMAWeekly.com scored the round 10-9 for McCray and the fight 29-28 for the Team Ortiz/Franklin member.
The judges tallied their scorecards and rendered Kris McCray the winner by unanimous decision.
McCray capitalized on the wild card second chance introduced this season to make it to the finals. In fact, for the first time in “The Ulimate Fighter” history the two finalist suffered a loss before advancing in to the final round.
“It’s a storybook ending,” said McCray. “Now I’ve just got to win the whole thing.”
“It sucks to lose. And it sucks to lose to a guy you already beat,” said the disappointed Bryant. But the Team Liddell semi-finalist remained optimistic about his future.
“I’m going to go home and train, get better and I’m going to come back vicious,” said Bryant.
The finals are set. It’s Kris McCray vs. Court McGee. A Team Liddell vs. Team Ortiz final between fighters who took advantage of second chance opportunities.