It was one of the most compelling ‘Ultimate Fighter’ episodes thus far in season 14.
The mounting tension between housemates Akira Corassani and Dustin Neace hit a fever pitch as the two featherweights finally squared off in the Octagon after almost having round one just a couple of days before.
Corassani and Neace have been going at each other all season long and when the announcement was made that they were finally going to fight, it looked like some long standing tension was about to explode in the Octagon.
Before Corassani could ever get to the cage however he had to deal with some mind and body altering weight cutting that he says almost killed him. During the episode that aired on Spike TV, there were mentions about Corassani having to cut a lot of weight, but nothing was shown regarding his actual process.
He says it was too real for TV.
“It was very difficult man, they didn’t show anything about it. I cut 22lbs. 22lbs in 28 hours. In that moment the only thing you can do is flush out the water out of your body,” Corassani told MMAWeekly Radio.
“It was a very, very near death experience when I had like 2 or 3lbs left. When I had 2 or 3lbs left my heart rate was going up and down, and sometimes when you cut a lot of weight you’re going to get into a hallucinating state. After that, I reached another stage after the hallucination part, which I was close to death. I just laid there, I couldn’t move. My head was telling my body to get up again (but I couldn’t move).”
Corassani says his teammates literally had to pick him up and put him back in the sauna to cut the last few pounds. When he hit the scale, Corassani made weight, but he admits the damage was already done and it’s something he’ll never do again.
“I will never do that again in my life. It’s scary, a very scary moment,” Corassani stated.
After heading back to the TUF house, Corassani was able to eat and drank a lot of Pedialyte to try and put fluids back into his body, but ultimately he says by the time he fought his recovery still wasn’t complete.
As he stepped into the Octagon, it appeared as if he was fighting two Dustin Neace’s. Yep, Corassani was having a severe case of double vision, blurred vision, and he struggled to find his footing early on in the fight.
“It was like could you stand still so I could knock you out?” Corassani joked.
An initial exchange ended with Corassani and Neace on the mat, and before too long the Renzo Gracie trained fighter found himself on the wrong end of a heel hook. Considered one of the most dangerous submissions, Corassani immediately knew he was in trouble from the heel hook and thought his knee was about to get shredded.
That’s when the controversial moment happened.
It appears on tape that Corassani tapped Neace’s leg to signal a stop to the fight, but referee Herb Dean either didn’t see it or he didn’t believe it was a tap out. Corassani stands strong that while he considered giving up, a crucial moment that he says you can see on tape is why he didn’t tap out.
“The heel hook came from nowhere, he set it up very good from half guard and that’s just one of those set ups you get tricked into and he executed the technique very good. When I was in the heel hook he had it, and with gloves and all that it makes it harder to pull off a heel hook, so he had it and I was like ‘holy (expletive) this is going to hurt now’. But I don’t really feel it, I didn’t really feel a thing, I thought my knee was going to dislocate or crack and it’s going to be one of those it’s too late kind of things,” Corassani described.
“I raised my hand to tap and in that moment, and I looked at this clip hundreds and hundreds of times, you will see when I’m about to tap, my heel pops out, he slips, it slips out. That’s when I saw it myself, I’m like ‘I’m out, I’m out’ so I just got out of it and I got on top of him.”
Corassani admits he’s poured over that clip time and time again, and he says if you go back and watch it carefully, the video evidence will clear him of any false tap.
“Everybody that is willing to check that clip again and again, will see in that moment when I raise my hand to tap, it slips. My heel just pops out and I was free,” said Corassani.
Regardless of whether he tapped or not, the fight continued and Corassani seemingly took over from that moment. In the 2nd round he dropped Neace with a stiff punch and almost finished the fight, and controlled the action for the remainder of the five minute session.
When the judges came in with their decision, Akira Corassani was named the victor and a broken, defeated Dustin Neace sat disillusioned in his corner. At that moment of elation, Corassani charged over to his opponent’s corner and taunted him, which resulted in another near melee and a threat from Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer that a suspension could come flying in.
Cooler heads ultimately prevailed, and looking back on the whole situation Corassani regrets that it ever happened.
“I reacted stupid and did that machine gun thing, which was disrespectful, and that’s nothing I will do again,” Corassani said. “In that moment there was so much trash talking, back and forth, that they didn’t show. No excuses, I shouldn’t have acted that way.”
Corassani now moves on and puts this latest episode of the ‘Ultimate Fighter’ behind him. Of course there will remain questions about the possible tap, but he says that’s just the nature of the sport that some people will accept his word while others won’t.
In the end, Corassani moves on and says he learned a great deal from this moment in his fight career.