It’s been a season full of woe for bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt as he enters the last two fights of the opening round down 0-5 to TJ Dillashaw, and he’s hoping his fellow Buckeye Julian Lane can turn things around on the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption.
Last week, Garbrandt listened to Hayder Hassan when the American Top Team fighter said that he would make easy work of his teammate Dhiego Lima if they met inside the Octagon. While the two friends are training partners, Hassan seemed confident that since he got the better of Lima during training sessions, he would turn things around for Team Garbrandt in the competition just like he did during his first stint on The Ultimate Fighter.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go his way and Lima ended up with a dominant decision victory which not only knocked Hassan out of the competition but put Team Garbrandt in an impossibly deep hole. There are two fights remaining in the opening round, plus the wild card matchup, so the chance for Garbrandt to put someone into the next round of the tournament gets slimmer by the week.
Now Lane returns to the competition with hopes of finally earning his shot in the UFC after making some ill-advised decisions with his career.
Since competing on season 13, Lane has put together a 7-7-1 record, but many of his losses came in short notice fights that he accepted for a paycheck rather than because it was the right situation to get his career back on track. Fighting out of Mansfield, Ohio – a small industrial town an hour north of Columbus – Lane has recently relocated to New Jersey to begin training as he looked to earn his way back to the big show, and now The Ultimate Fighter has come along to give him that opportunity.
Lane was always known for his intensity inside the gym as well as in his fights, but he’ll need controlled aggression this week as he takes on one of the most experienced UFC fighters in this entire competition.
Ramsey Nijem returns to The Ultimate Fighter after being the runner-up in season 13, when he lost to current No. 1-ranked lightweight contender Tony Ferguson. Despite falling short during his season finale, Nijem was offered a contract with the UFC and he moved down to a more natural 155 pounds, picking up several impressive wins along the way. Included in those victories was a stunning TKO over current top 10-ranked lightweight Beneil Dariush, but Nijem suffered back-to-back losses in his last two fights in the UFC before being released.
In his last fight, Nijem faced late replacement Andrew Holbrook and after three rounds he felt he did more than enough to win the decision. Despite his confidence, Nijem ended up losing a very close, controversial split decision to Holbrook and it soured him from wanting to fight again anytime soon.
But when the UFC came calling with a chance to come back by way of this season of The Ultimate Fighter, along with the $250,000 grand prize money, Nijem felt like it was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse. With a newfound passion for training and a vigor for getting back into the Octagon again, Nijem entered the competition this season with an excellent chance to make it all the way to the finals.
Nijem put together a very respectable record during his previous run with the UFC and he had a ton of experience from his past appearance on the show. Now Nijem will try to combine all that as he looks to jump-start his career with a run on The Ultimate Fighter, but he’ll have to get past Lane before even contemplating a spot in the next round of the tournament.
Elsewhere this week, tensions begin to ratchet up again between Team Garbrandt and Team Dillashaw due to the sour feelings between the coaches. While Dillashaw’s exit from Team Alpha Male has been the focal point for Garbrandt’s issue with his next opponent, there’s also another factor that’s played a part in the split felt between the two competitors.
Duane “Bang” Ludwig is not only an assistant coach on this season of the show, but he was the former head coach at Team Alpha Male before leaving to open his own facility in Colorado. It wasn’t long before Dillashaw decided to follow his coach, which ultimately led to his split with Team Alpha Male. There’s also no love lost between Ludwig and Urijah Faber, which only adds to the drama fueling this season of the show.
The volatility between the coaches has already been boiling over this season, but the next episode of The Ultimate Fighter will see another massive explosion as things go from bad to worse.
Of course, it all culminates in a fight where Lane will try to keep Team Garbrandt from yet another loss while Nijem looks to build on the momentum from his teammates as Team Dillashaw attempts to go 6-0 in the tournament.
It all goes down tonight at 10pm ET on FS1.