The TUF cast avoids injuries and embarrassment on a party bus while Gilbert Smith plays Debbie Downer as he preps for his battle with teammate Dhiego Lima.
We’ve hit the doldrums. We know the Cody Garbrandt-T.J. Dillashaw fight won’t be happening any time soon, so their feud seems a bit more pointless. We’ve seen some fighters look like shadows of themselves. And we have one of the most lopsided team matchups in show history — Hayder Hassan is the only Garbrandt fighter remaining, and he lost to Dhiego Lima before getting his wild-card redemption.
And nothing of interest has happened in the house.
So, of course, they’re going to take the fighters out of the house for a night on the town, which is loads of fun for those who’ve been eliminated and not so fun for those who are still training for fights. We’ll also get the ever-awkward intra-team matchup — Lima vs. Gilbert Smith.
We start with the ever-awkward intra-team matchup. Dillashaw has a novel approach — he’s actually going to coach the guys, like those matchups in your fantasy league that lets you own two teams.
Smith’s fight prep finally reveals where the “Hard work, dedication” chant comes from. It’s a tattoo on his chest. The whole team has picked up on it. Dillashaw says he’s also the serious one on the team, the one who never jokes.
Speaking of jokes — since Team Garbrandt has little to do, they decide to use red construction paper to give his poster a snake’s tongue. They also paste over his nipples because, as Garbrandt puts it, “That guy has the worst set of gyno nips.” Who talks like that? Anyway, they also change his name from Dillashaw to “(BLUR)ASNAKE.”
Dillashaw gets a good laugh out of it. He and Stevenson think the red paper on his nipples look like pasties, which probably wasn’t what Garbrandt intended. But he says he will have to respond because Prank War Code or something.
Garbrandt shows up at the house with a party bus to take the guys out. Someone wants to know where the strippers are, but the guys are actually the ones doing the pole dancing. Jesse Taylor manages to land on his head somehow but isn’t hurt.
As promised in the promos, Gilbert Smith isn’t interested in any of this. Julian Lane tries to get him involved to no avail, as Smith waves off all attempts to get him to do anything but lounge and sulk.
Dillashaw explains to the audience these things called Japanese steakhouses, where the chefs put on a show. It’s an exotic thing that you’ve probably seen if you’ve ever been in a metro area of more than 50,000 people.
Stevenson toasts the best TUF season he’s ever been on. Smith leaves. Eddie Gordon doesn’t get it.
Then Dillashaw reports one of the most disturbing things of this or any other TUF season. Gilbert Smith is running in place.
In a toilet stall.
The camera goes into the bathroom to verify that Smith is indeed running in place in a toilet stall.
Someone asks if Smith is trying to pass a “toughie.” Then Smith shows a bit of wit: “200 more steps, and I get it out.”
Smith did enjoy the food, at least.
Back to practice: Dillashaw’s response to the Garbrandt prank is to own the “snake” image. He has printed up T-shirts with a snake logo and the word KILLASHAW.
Dillashaw says snakes are vicious. Jesse Taylor agrees: “Snakes are pretty badass to me.”
Lima fight prep: Lots of ground and pound. That seems odd given Smith’s grappling advantage. But Dillashaw also has noticed a few poker tells in Smith’s striking, and he shares them with Lima as promised. He won’t be in anyone’s corner, though, and he’s not going to say anything from the bleachers.
The weigh-in is spliced with Dana White comments. Smith is old and surely making his last run. Lima did well on TUF 19 and dominated Hassan this season. But Smith is a beast whose wrestling will make him difficult to control on the ground.
Smith’s Fight Day confessional is intense. He says it has taken him four years to get back here, and he doesn’t want to go back to the small shows. But he says he’s less nervous than he was for his opening fight against Seth Baczynski, who might not have said a word since the first episode. He says he needs to remember “pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure.”
Lima talks about convincing his wife to let him come back to TUF. He was a champion in another organization. (He was, in Titan FC, but he lost it to Jason Jackson.)
Big John McCarthy is our ref, and we’re off. Lima throws a few jabs. Smith lands a kick and charges with a flurry, but Lima is quick to back out. After 90 seconds, Smith catches a Lima kick — which he foreshadowed in his fight prep as a “best-case scenario” — and slowly drags Lima down by the cage. Lima gets to his feet, but Smith is controlling his body.
After about two minutes of defense, Lima reverses the position and gets Smith against the cage before taking him down. Maybe Smith’s not used to that position, because Lima almost immediately takes his back and threatens the choke for a few seconds.
Smith flips out of the position and gets the double-leg. They scoot to the cage, where Lima looks bored with Smith’s head in his midsection. Someone yells, “Do something!” Smith obliges, advancing his position and swinging a few punches at Lima’s head. But it’s not much, and this is a tough round to score.
The fight improves in Round two, with Lima getting the advantage in the clinch. Smith fights his way out and initiates a frenzied exchange. Then Smith does a Diaz-style “come on!” motion before pressing the pace himself with another flurry of punches and a takedown.
It’s not quite what we expected. Smith has managed a couple of takedowns, but he actually seems better on his feet. Lima has had some grappling success of his own and has been much more active when he has had the upper hand on the ground.
With 90 seconds left, Lima scrambles and takes Smith’s back again, landing a few elbows in the process. They stand, and Lima lands a left hand that wobbles Smith. But Smith recovers. Another close round.
“I have no idea,” Dillashaw says. Several people are yelling to prep for a third round. And a third round we will get.
Each fighter says “Yes sir” to his cornermen. Lima comes out sharper, moving forward and landing confident punches. Smith returns fire, catching Lima coming in.
After 80 seconds, Lima gets a takedown with startling ease, nearly moving into mount but taking the back instead. Smith struggles and seems exhausted, but after another 90 seconds pass, he explodes and gets the reversal.
Unfortunately for Smith, Lima quickly springs a triangle choke on him. Smith has to spend the next minute trying to remain conscious when he really needs a barrage of ground and pound to take this fight. Smith finally slips his neck free, but Lima ties up his arms. Smith works hard to get Lima’s back, but the wily Lima reverses and stands. They spend the last 20 seconds throwing wildly at each other.
Applause. Garbrandt says it’s a good fight. Dana White agrees. Dillashaw agrees.
Winner: Dhiego Lima. Smith looks crushed and starts sobbing as they take off his hand wraps.
Then the stunner: Smith retires. Dillashaw hears it from someone else, but then Smith gathers the cast in the cage to tell everyone. Smith tears up as he tells Lima he’s glad to have gone out on such a good fight.
Smith puts his gloves down in the center of the cage as the cast moves in to embrace him.
So…is he really retired? Lima and Smith are both on TUF Talk, and Karyn Bryant teases us by hinting that it might not be the end. They replay a comment of Smith saying he’d hate to quit just when he’s getting good, and Bryant asks if he’s sure about stepping away. Smith says you don’t make money in this sport unless you’re in the big leagues, and he has other things he can do to support his family. If Dana White calls with a UFC spot, OK. Otherwise, time to move on.
It’s startling to see such real talk on reality TV. We’ll have to see what viewers think.