by Mike Dolce for MMAWeekly.com

Down But Not Out

Down But Not Out


So this episode picks up on the tail end of my fight with


Jesse fought hard and was an ox in the cage, especially in
his comfort zone – on the mat. I should have been able to execute my
game plan better, but could not, and paid for that. The opportunity gave me a
great reference to pull from in the days and weeks to come in an effort to put
myself back into contention, which was my only thought from the second Herb
Dean woke me up on the floor of the Octagon.


With that fight behind me, I knew I would not be fighting in
the foreseeable future. Mine was the first “tournament” fight of “The Ultimate
Fighter 7” and there were seven more fights to go in this round before I would
be eligible to re-enter the tournament due to default. If I was truly out of
the tournament, then I was out for good. But if I had any chance at all to get
back in, I was not going to squander it by getting drunk and blowing my diet.


In my mind, someone was going to drop out, and a spot would
open up.


My spot.


And I would be ready.


Walking back into the fighter house that afternoon, I was
embraced by my peers, who all offered accolades and notions of encouragement.
Among most, the consensus was that I fought my heart out to the very last second,
opting to pass out rather than tap out. It’s a move respected by true fighters,
and not yet understood by casual fans, though I didn’t quite grasp what was
being conveyed until later that night while lying alone in my bunk.


I thanked the guys, grabbed a shower and a bite to eat, and
took a much needed power nap. Team Rampage was training at 5 p.m. and I’d be
damned if they took the mat without me!


Dante and Riddle


Dante Rivera is one of my good friends from back home in New
Jersey. I was his first strength coach nearly five years ago when he was
training with Kurt Pellegrino under the legendary Renzo Gracie and Ricardo
Almeida. Team Renzo/Almeida is very much a family, and each of the students
are bonded as brothers.


Dante and I became very close in those days, and I was
excited to see him make the house with me, as well as my other good friend and
Team Quest teammate, Gerald “Hurricane” Harris.


It should be of no surprise that the three of us teamed up
right away and grabbed the best three-man bedroom in the house. The only room
with its own full bathroom!


In the bedroom next to ours, Matthew Riddle, Matt Brown and
Amir Sadollah planted their own stakes, sharing a bathroom with Brandon
“Mohawk” Sene, Cale Yarbrough and Dan Cramer.


Matthew Riddle is a big, bungling kid. Kind of like a sweet
Rottweiler puppy that keeps crapping on the floor, but you can’t really get mad
because he just doesn’t know any better.


Riddle and I got along right away. We’re both southpaws from
the East Coast and the only two guys with knockouts in the 32-man tournament.
We argued as to whose KO was better and both agreed that mine was more
technical, but his was more memorable. Fair enough (but I still like mine


What you saw of the “Dante and Riddle Show,” as it came to
be known, was a pretty accurate depiction of the events as they transpired.


But more about that in the weeks to come…


Jumping to the action, I knew Tim Credeur had his hands full
with Riddle. By fight time, both teams had been training together for a full
week, and for us that meant 14 hardcore workouts together. I had seen Credeur
fight my teammate, Chael Sonnen, in Bodog, and I spent the better part of 30
hours battling Riddle in the gym. I remember thinking that this was a good
match-up for Team Rampage.


Credeur is a legit Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and had
been tested in international competition. His confidence was pretty high going
into a fight with some punk kid who had one more MMA fight than hairs on his
chin…exactly two!


But Riddle was a high school national wrestling champion and
had been drafted by one of the top wrestling colleges on the East coast. Plus,
he’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt with numerous submission victories over
a few black belts in grappling tournaments. Not too shabby.


I was fortunate to corner Riddle for his fight and was
impressed with his composure during the warm-ups. This kid had competed
thousands of times … and today was just another competition.


Through the thin walls of our locker room we could hear Tim
and Team Forrest screaming, yelling and slamming each other around. Not good
before a fight. It seemed to me that Tim was activating too soon and starting
the adrenaline dump way too early, while we on Team Rampage were keeping things
fun but focused on the job at hand.


The fight itself was a battle of attrition – a seesaw
of events with both guys left bleeding.


Tim proved to be too grizzled for the newcomer and exploded
on a textbook armbar when Riddle lost position while trying to hit an Eddie
Bravo “Twister.”


Ya can’t fault a kid for trying!


Afterwards, Riddle kept to his “Chipper” persona, especially
after Credeur came into our locker room and promised to buy Riddle a brand new
X-Box 360 with the $10 G’s he had just won by tapping Matthew out of the


Credeur took one step higher in my book for being a true
class act.


Tune in next time as the house and the cage explodes!

Dolce is a cast member of “The Ultimate Fighter 7.” He is a professional
fighter and strength coach, and sports nutritionist. For more information, and
to read past blogs, go to