The Ultimate Fighter 21: American Top Team vs. Blackzilians Episode 1 Recap

The Ultimate Fighter 21 premiered tonight on Fox Sports 1 and this season of the reality show features welterweight fights from American Top Team and the Blackzilians.TUF 21

The show opened with UFC President Dana White explaining the new format of the show. The tournament style is gone and the UFC is introducing a point system to determine who will end up winning this season of the show.

As the fighters moved into the house, the tension was clear. White held his introduction meeting with the fighters in the house and talked about how this season is about the team and not the individual. As his speech was concluding, White flipped a coin to see what gym would host the first fight and the Blackzilians won the coin flip. The first fight will be at the Blackzilian gym and the winning team in the first fight will host the second fight at their gym.

Following White’s speech, American Top Team owner Dan Lambert explains to his team the new rules of the reality show and how everyone does not have to fight. Fighters can fight multiple times and Steve Montgomery admitted that it would be disappointing if he did not fight.

Back at the house, fighters begin to speculate on who is going to fight first. Kamaru Usman of the Blackzilians talked about how he believe the leading candidate to fight first for American Top Team would be Michael Graves. He would end up being correct as the American Top Team coaches informed their entire team that Graves would be fighting first.

Graves went through a training session with his coaches and talked about potentially facing Jason Jackson of the Blackzilians. After a segment at the house, the Blackzilian leadership talked about who should fight first for them and the immediately turned to Usman, who told the leadership he was ready to fight. Former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans informs the entire team that Usman will be fighting first and talked to the team about the mental side of the game.

After a profile of Usman, the first fight is announced and both fighters weigh in with the Florida Boxing Commission. Both fighters made weight at 170 pounds and they had a staredown which Graves did not look at Usman in his eyes. While they had their staredown, Lambert and Robinson stood being their fighters and Montgomery commented about how Lambert has a black belt in jiu-jitsu while Robinson “is just a fat guy that makes tools.”

As the fight starts, Graves threw the first punch and Usman would get the fight to the ground as they approached the thirty second mark of the round. Graves worked his way back to his feet against the fence and they battled against the cage. They would separate and Graves landed a front kick. After Graves landed a jab, Usman was able to score a takedown and once against, Graves attempted to get back to his feet by cage walking.

Graves would be able to separate from Usman and they began a striking exchange in the center of the cage with under two minutes left in the round. After Usman landed a right hand, he briefly got the fight to the ground and once again, they battled against the cage. With twenty seconds left in the round, Graves would separate from Usman and the round would come to an end.

They continued to have a striking battle at the beginning of the second round and Usman was able to close the distance. They tied up against the fence and Graves would break away even though Usman had a hold of the fence. While Graves was able to break away, Usman would once again close the distance and briefly had the back of Graves. After a separation, Graves landed a couple of kicks in the center of the cage and Usman would score a takedown on a perfectly timed attempt.

Graves would be able to limit the damage of the takedown and get back to his feet. He would end up getting the back of Usman and went for a rear-naked choke. Usman defended the attempt by standing up, but Graves continued to work for the submission with one minute remaining in the round. Usman was able to get Graves off his back and ended up in side control on the ground.

After the second round concluded, both teams seemed to think that the fight would be going to a third round. However, it was a majority decision with Usman winning 20-18, 20-18, and 19-19. Both teams talked about the judges decision and White stated he was not impressed by either guy. He wants to see fighters go for broke and hopes this happens in the second fight next week.