By Thomas Gerbasi
CAUTION: SPOILERS INCLUDED – Many have called it the biggest fight in The Ultimate Fighter history, as Team Rampage’s Kimbo Slice takes on Team Rashad’s Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson this week in a bout which will determine who moves on in their quest to become The Ultimate Fighter.
With the fight set and Kimbo just waiting for his chance to get into the Octagon, he is reflective on his life and career.
“I’ve been praying and putting everything in perspective between me and God,” he tells teammate Abe Wagner. “I haven’t done that in a long time.”
But is this a kinder, gentler Kimbo, wonders Wagner.
“I guess whenever I decide to shave the beard, that’s when I’ll put Kimbo at rest,” said Slice. “But will Kimbo ever be at rest?”
On the other side of the season’s first big showdown is former IFL champion Roy Nelson, who knows that a win over Kimbo will do wonders for his profile among fans and his chances to get into the UFC.
“I’m taking the opportunity that’s been given to me and I’m gonna run with it,” said Nelson. “This is the last home for me, the last hurrah. I plan on being here the next four, five years.”
First, he will have to get by Kimbo, a worldwide star whose mere presence could be intimidating to less experienced fighters. Not to Nelson though, which is why his coach, Rashad Evans, picked him for this assignment.
“Roy has tons of experience and he won’t be intimidated fighting someone with a big name like Kimbo,” said Evans.
And while this episode’s focus is on the Slice vs Nelson bout, there is still drama going on between the coaches, with the arrival in the gym of Keith Jardine sparking some debate among Evans and Jackson. Even entering the fray is Team Rashad’s James McSweeney, who has to be separated from Jackson by Evans.
Staying out of all the drama is Kimbo, who has just come to The Ultimate Fighter for one reason.
“I don’t have a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I’m a family man – I just like to fight.”
His chance is coming, and Rampage and his coaching staff are pulling out all the stops to make sure he’s ready for Nelson, especially focusing on Kimbo’s takedown defense and ability to get off his back.
“He is not the guy you would think he is,” said Rampage of his star pupil. “You can’t help but like him. He’s humble and hungry to learn. That’s gonna take him far.”
“This guy is a fighter,” adds UFC President Dana White. “He will come to fight.”
White also has kind words for Nelson, saying, “Don’t let the physique fool you – the kid is a well-rounded fighter and he’s a tough guy.”
The 32-year old Nelson (13-4) weighs in at 264 pounds for the bout, with the 35-year old Kimbo (3-1) checking in at 230 pounds.
Now it’s time to fight.
Referee Herb Dean calls both fighters into action, and Nelson pumps out a rangefinding jab, landing a couple to the mouth. Kimbo opens his offense with a right kick to the leg and begins moving forward behind his own jab. A relaxed Nelson stays in the pocket and continues to peck away. At the two minute mark, Kimbo opens up against the cage, but Nelson ties him up and looks to wear him down. With 1:33 left, Nelson finally gets the takedown and ends up in the mount position against the fence. Kimbo locks Nelson up, but ‘Big Country’ eventually breaks loose and lands some hard shots as he locks his opponent in the crucifix position. After a series of unanswered blows, it looks like the end is near, but the bell saves Kimbo from defeat.
Kimbos fires out a jab to begin round two, but he’s obviously winded. He goes on to land a right to the head, but in the follow-up attack, Nelson gets the takedown and begins working for the finish. Once again, Kimbo is caught in the crucifix and Nelson begins firing off shots again. This time, Dean decides to call a halt to the action after another series of unanswered blows.
“That’s like having the moon sitting on you,” said Jackson of the final sequence. “How do you get the moon off you?”
“Kimbo did step up,” said White. “He needs to use the rest of his time here to absorb as much knowledge as he can because he will leave this show a better fighter.”
“I got to pick up and keep going,” added Kimbo. “The road doesn’t end here for me. It’s a fight, it’s a battle, and I gotta keep at it.”
So does Team Rampage, who has now fallen to 0-3 in the competition. Here’s how the teams stand after episode three:
TEAM RASHAD (3-0)
James McSweeney 1-0
Jon Madsen 1-0
Roy Nelson 1-0
TEAM RAMPAGE (0-3)
Kimbo Slice – Eliminated on episode three by Roy Nelson
Abe Wagner – Eliminated on episode one by Jon Madsen
Wes Shivers – Eliminated on episode two by James McSweeney
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