The tenth installment of TUF 16 opened in the fighters’ house in the wake of the quarterfinal fight announcements. The most controversial was the selection of Team Carwin’s Mike Ricci and Team Nelson’s Michael Hill. Hill was upset about Ricci calling him out, perhaps perceiving their friendship to be stronger than Ricci’s desire to win the competition. Not so, the Team Carwin fighter said.

“These guys are just numbers to me. I came here to win,” remarked Ricci, who said he chose Hill because he was the No. 2 pick on Team Nelson. Ricci had already beaten the team’s top pick, Dom Waters, in the season’s previous episode.

“I wanted to believe Ricci was a good guy, but he’s a phony. He’s a fake,” said Hill about his future opponent, clearly disappointed in Ricci’s decision.

First, though, was a fight between two fighters on Team Carwin, making the team’s training session a little more unusual than most. For his part, Carwin said he was committed to bringing the best out of both fighters, even though only one can advance.

“Let’s make these guys great at what they do,” the coach said.

For Magny, this meant making the most of his seven-inch reach advantage and using his footwork to keep Marunde in his striking range. For Marunde, on the other hand, he planned to grind a victory using dirty boxing and trapping Magny against the cage.

“There is an advantage in having sparred with Neil,” Marunde said of fighting a teammate, but added there would be no mercy just because the two had been assigned to the same squad.

“I’m going to ground and pound him out.”

The two roommates finally squared off when fight day arrived, and though they had established a friendly relationship, they both knew that The Ultimate Fighter is all about business.

“When the cage door closes and the ref says ‘Are you ready? Are you ready?,’ you’re damn right I’ll be ready,” Marunde said.

“We’re both here to do the same thing,” Magny added. “At the end of the day the guy who wants it more is going to get it.”

Quarterfinal 1: Bristol Marunde vs. Neil Magny

Marunde began the offense in the fight with a straight punch that found its mark. From there, both fighters felt each other out with strikes and leg kicks, continuing to land combinations back and forth. With 3:20 left in the round, Marunde shot for and got a the fight’s first takedown and wound up on top of Magny in his opponent’s half-guard.

After some jockeying for position, Magny managed to get back to his feet and trap Marunde against the cage. The fighters then maneuvered back to the center of the Octagon and continued trading strikes, mostly jabs at first, but then finding their rhythms and putting together combinations.

To close the round, Marunde pushed Magny against the cage and went for another takedown. This time, however, Magny was able to stuff it and force the action back to the middle. Magny tried to finish the frame with a kick, but Marunde was ready and caught it before putting Magny on his back as the horn sounded.

The fighters began the second round in a similar fashion to the first, trading strikes and clinch attempts for the initial portion of the frame, with Marunde largely controlling the center of the cage. He was relentless in backing Magny up against the cage, at which point Magny would circle off and begin the process anew. Magny did manage to land a heavy blow to Marunde’s head in this process, leaving his opponent briefly stunned.

With 2:50 left in the round, Marunde got yet another takedown via a trip and winded up in Magny’s guard, digging for an arm. Marunde attempted to improve his position, leaving Magny’s guard, standing up and then pouncing back on his opponent before both fighters were once again on their feet.

Now it was Magny’s turn to attempt a takedown, which he did with 1:15 left in the round. His takedown was a success, but Marunde immediately went for a kimura before letting it go. Magny, now in half-guard in top position, shook off a guillotine attempt from Marunde before raining strikes on his opponent.

The fighters returned to their feet and to the center of the cage, trading strikes and trying to score points with the judges. Magny got yet another takedown at the round’s end, likely in the hopes of sealing the round for himself.

As he and Marunde would soon learn, Magny’s efforts were not in vain, as he was rewarded for his efforts with a unanimous-decision victory.

Neil Magny defeats Bristol Marunde by unanimous decision (20-18 x3)

“I thought this was a really fight for both guys,” said UFC President Dana White following the announcement.

White said he, like the judges, gave the first round to Magny, but acknowledged it was very closely contested. “The second round was definitely Magny.”

“Neil has all the potential in the world,” Coach Carwin said of his victorious fighter.

Magny himself said the whole experience on The Ultimate Fighter has been surreal. “I feel like I’m in a dream still,” he said.

Marunde, in defeat, said he was still satisfied with his performance because he did what Dana White asked for and went for the finish.

With the first quarterfinal fight in the books, it was time to weigh in Team Carwin’s Igor Araujo and Team Nelson’s Colton Smith—the two other quarterfinalists competing on this episode of The Ultimate Fighter.

Both fighters weighed in without issue, but things were just getting started.

After an intense staredown and a fair amount of trash talk, Araujo flew off the handle and appeared ready to fight Smith then and there. Apparently, Smith’s use of the term “motherf**ker” carries with it extra-offensive connotations among Brazilians. (David Heath reportedly used this word in a pre-fight staredown with Renato Sobral prior to UFC 74. Sobral, taking similar offense to Araujo, ignored Heath’s tapout after he had secured an anaconda choke and put him completely to sleep).

Coach Roy Nelson seemed quite amused with the proceedings, an attitude that stood in stark contrast to his coaching counterpart.

“It’s our job as coaches to make sure the fight doesn’t happen or make sure anything stupid doesn’t happen beforehand,” Coach Carwin said, disappointed in Nelson’s actions.

Both Araujo and Smith identified higher causes that drove them to succeed, with Araujo fighting for his family and Smith representing armed servicepeople. They certainly would need all the inspiration they could muster.

[alert type=white ]Quarterfinal 2: Igor Araujo vs. Colton Smith[/alert]

Araujo went for a quick takedown to begin the fight, but Smith reversed his attempt and trapped Araujo against the cage. Smith then got his own takedown at the 30-second mark of the fight. He first maneuvered in Araujo’s butterfly guard before then advancing to a half-guard position. From there, he landed short strikes and controlled Araujo with headlocks, occasionally attempting a submission as well.

Smith took Araujo’s back with 2:30 left in the round before Araujo rolled out and went for a leglock. He was able to re-establish his guard, though this still left Smith in top position landing strikes. Smith, after more grappling, began landing some heavy knees to Araujo’s body with 1:10 left, eventually ending the round in Araujo’s guard.

The second round was more of the same from Smith. He got a takedown almost immediately and basically kept Araujo on his back or in a headlock for the remainder of the frame. Araujo did what he could to improve his situation, but Smith’s grappling was just too much. The scorecards reflected this, as Smith was awarded a unanimous decision win after ten minutes. Following the fight, Araujo and Smith put their linguistic differences aside and made up.

[divider]Colton Smith defeats Igor Araujo by unanimous decision (20-18 x3)

“Araujo literally [got] dominated the entire two rounds,” White assessed. “This was an easy, easy fight for Colton.”

In reflecting on his current position in the TUF 16 tournament, Smith was amazed that out of 4,000 applicants, he was part of the season’s final four fighters.

“My dreams are coming true right before my eyes,” he said. “Whoever’s next I’m ready to go.”

On the next episode, viewers will see the other two quarterfinal fights—Jon Manley vs. Joey Rivera and Mike Ricci vs. Michael Hill—and learn of the season’s semifinal matchups.

Photo: TUF 16 logo (UFC)

About The Author

Eric Reinert
Staff Writer

Eric Reinert has been writing about mixed martial arts since 2010. Outside the world of caged combat, Eric has spent time as a news reporter, speechwriter, campaign strategist, tech support manager, landscaper and janitor. He lives in Madison, Wis.