This week's edition of The Ultimate Fighter saw Tommy Speer (Team Hughes) tangle with Jon Koppenhaver (Team Serra) in the final preliminary match.
Both fighters came out firing. When the fight went to the ground in the first round, Koppenhaver managed to get Speer in a rear-naked chokehold.
Speer fought off the choke for what must have seemed like a lifetime—but Koppenhaver had both hooks locked in tight. It was here that a Team Hughes fighter finally showed the desire his coach had been preaching about, as Speer ultimately threw off Koppenhaver and obtained a full mounted position.
With two minutes left in the first round, Speer found himself on top of his exhausted opponent—and dished out a heavy helping of ground-and-pound until the bell.
Koppenhaver showed great heart and determination in just surviving—and learned the hard way that you'd better end the fight if you go for a rear-naked choke, because the hold completely saps your strength.
In any event, I'm surprised Koppenhaver was able to answer the bell for Round Two—it was clear to everyone in my living room (and I'm sure to Speer too) that he was out of gas.
To his credit, Koppenhaver pushed the pace in the second round, and got Speer on the ground at one point before failing to capitalize.
Speer attempted several submissions, but submission certainly isn't his strong suit. Eventually he went back to what he does best: ground-and-pound.
In the end, it was no surprise to see the ref raise Speer's hand after the fight.
Koppenhaver, for his part, can hold his head high after taking a great deal of punishment. Full marks go to Speer for fighting through the choke—but nine out of ten times it would have been enough for Koppenhaver to win the fight.
If nothing else, here's hoping that some of the other fighters watching the match learned something from Speer about fighting through submission attempts.
For now, Matt Hughes is in a good mood—but Team Serra is still in control of the selection process for the semifinals. Look for the competition to heat up as the semis begin.
Until next week—keep your hands up and your chin down and fight on.