The Ultimate Fighter 8 Reflections Going into the Semis (LW Edition)

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The Ultimate Fighter 8 Reflections Going into the Semis (LW Edition)

This season of the Ultimate Fighter is headlined by two coaches who are both premier Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighters. Frank Mir is a blackbelt and is a former UFC heavyweight champion, and Minotauro Nogueira who is currently holding an interim belt for the UFC and is not just a blackbelt but a master of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Add in Dan Henderson and Anderson Silva as assistant coaches, and this is an excellent coaching staff.

To greet this staff is a far more talented group than last season of TUF, which includes several BJJ Blackbelts: Vinny Magalhaes, Eliot Marshall, and Rolando Delgado. The show also features some outstanding athletes: Krzysztof Soszynski, Ryan Bader, Tom Lawlor, and Kyle Kingsbury.

First my posterboy for this article, Phillipe Nover, who in both his fights has been the most impressive fighter to watch in the lightweight class.

His first fight really was a total display of everything he had, he dominated Joe Duarte standing up and when he was caught with a big right was able to show a good chin and recovery, saving the fight with good ground skills.

Phillipe won the first round by pounding Joe Duarte who had taken Phillipe's back. Phillipe then showed serious heart by coming out and dominating Duarte in the second round.

Phillipe's second opponent was David Kaplan, who had an impressive win in the first round over Fernando "The Machete" Bernstein. Bernstein had nice stand up but was pretty clearly a featherweight trying to make it at lightweight and his best shots didn't phase Kaplan.

When it went to the ground, it was very clear Bernstein had no clue how to defend himself. The biggest detractor for Kaplan for me was his "money is what motivates me" attitude, which does not bode well ever in sports.

The fight between Phillipe and Kaplan was again a total clinic of Phillipe's skills, and Kaplan can bluster all he wants about how he went out to take a shot, but he got rocked and had ample time to recover and never did. Phillipe is going to be a major player in the UFC lightweight division.

The most hyped lightweight who is getting by far the most camera time is Junie Browning. Junie has had one pro fight, but his skills alone were strong enough to get him on this show. Junie has very strong stand up, strong BJJ skills and a major attitude.

I find Junie more comical than I did of the likes of Chris Leben, Matt Serra, or Jermery May, but he is clearly unstable. Junie has big power for his size and showed strong ground skills in his two fights.

Junie's arrogance was on full display in his second fight with Roli Delgado, calling his black belt into question and majorly disrespecting Delgado. Junie allowed Delgado to land some free shots in their fight, but after talking so much trash about Delgado's belt didn't want anything to do with him on the ground.

Junie's other major flaw came out very clearly in this fight, his cardio. Junie gasses out very quickly and his technique falls apart when he is tired. That said Junie clearly has the chops to be a major player in the UFC and if he gets his issues sorted out he could be a real contender.

Efrain Escudero has looked very strong with his grappling and ground-and-pound. He defeated two very tough fighters in Ido Pariente and Shean Nelson.
Efrain is level headed and is not easily rattled and really has nice ground skills both wrestling and BJJ are impressive. It's very easy to understand why several sights including TopGunMMA.com had him the top rated player in the lightweight class. 
George Roop is the real wild card, I have not been sure what to make of him. His first fight was a sloppy affair against Roli Delgado, where he dominated on the feet and Delgado looked very strong on the ground. Roop's next match was against the lovable John Polakowski who is the favored student of Chuck Liddell.
Polakowski is very similar to Liddell, loves to stand up and bang, has a very nice sprawl and if the fight goes to the ground Polakowski very much likes to be on top. But Roop used his reach to keep Polakowski at bay, but Polakowski's clinch proved to be very strong and he did tag Roop but didn't really close in for the kill.
Roop just dominated on the ground, from the top and bottom he rained punches, elbows and knees and won a fight that likely should have gone to a third round.
All in all the this lightweight class could give the the UFC four or five legitimate fighters, and could be the strongest class TUF has produced in one weight class since season one's middleweight class.
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