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TUF 24: Episode 2 thoughts

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This is where we ended up after Episode 1.

Team Cejudo was up 2-0, thanks to No.1 Alexandre Pantoja and No. 9 Kai Kara-France.

If you didn’t see these fights, look it up. Could you see either of these guys against Demetrious Johnson?

MMA Crossfire Vault: TUF 24 archive

For Episode 2, we had No.5  Hiromasa Ogikubo vs. No. 12 Nkazimulo Zulu. Ogikubo is the Japanese flyweight champion and Zulu is the South Africa’s Extreme Fighting champ.

Like last episode and all the episodes to come, top notch fighters are going against each other. While you’re expecting training and learning about the fighters, this episode started off with cultural conflicts in the house. There is always tension, but when you put so many champions together from so many different countries, and backgrounds, you’re going to have a clash.

For those who haven’t traveled much or those who are not open-minded, this is and will continue to be a problem. In this episode, it was between Zulu and Damacio Page. What’s funny is that both parties feel they were disrespected and both are right, in their own cultural surroundings. Neither were willing to see the other’s perspective, so feathers were ruffled.

TUF 24
Courtesy UFC.com

Outside of the house, we learned about these guys. Ogikubo is a Shooto champ, with kicks and a decent clinch. Zulu is being praised as the best striker in the competition this season.

In practice, Benevidez was working with Ogikubo’s wheel-house. Working on kicks and elbows to close the gap and bring things to the mat. For Zulu, Cejudo notices the holes in Zulu’s takedown defence and ground game, so their practice is about trying to teach him things to counter what Ogikubo will do.

In my opinion, Ogikubo got more out of the training, as he was simply being taught a strategy to use his strength, not trying to pick up something different. I understand both coaching styles, but just my thoughts. Another heated moment of the episode was between the coaches. At official weigh-ins, the coaches, while waiting backstage, started talking smack. “You’re talking (expletive) about two guys losing?” Benavidez says. “I think everything you say you think you’re supposed to say and that’s why you say it. Everything you say.” Cejudo begins to respond and Benavidez mimics every work his speaks, sparking a fairly heated discussion.

TUF 24
Courtesy Zuffa LLC.

Benavidez reminds Cejudo he has missed weight (like in Episode 1) and been pulled from several fights during his career, and tells his budding rival not to speak negatively about him until he makes weight for their matchup at the Finale Dec. 3. in Las Vegas. The conversation between Benavidez and Cejudo continues as the fighters wait to weigh in. They take several more shots at each other before the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) member approaches the scale and calls Zulu and Ogikubo to weigh in.

Did anyone really expect the coaches to not take verbal jabs at each other? If I were a judge though, I’d give the win to Benavidez. Each fighter comes in under the 126-pound flyweight limit, and the third tournament matchup of the season is official.

NO. 5 HIROMASA OGIKUBO VS NO.12 NKAZIMULO ZULU

ROUND 1

Ogikubo opens with a side kick to the body. Zulu throws one in return to gauge his distance. Ogikubo steps in with a low kick, but Zulu fires back with a quick left hand. It’s turning into a kicking match until Zulu puts together a flurry of strikes and moves forward. Ogikubo closes the distance, but it’s easy to see that Zulu’s striking is superior and his counter-strikes are doing damage. Ogikubo shoots for a double-leg takedown, but Zulu fights it off.

Ogikubo changes to a body lock and manages to slam Zulu on his back. He lands in half-guard, and begins to work with punches and elbows from on top. Ogikubo is controlling the fight and landing, but Zulu manages to push him back into guard. Zulu throws a number of slashing elbows from the bottom and is looking to hurt or cut his opponent open. Ogikubo steps over the leg back into half-guard and is trying to pass. He gets mount and Zulu quickly rolls over and gives up his back.

Ogikubo battles to get his arm under the neck for a rear-naked choke. He gets his forearm under the neck and is squeezing to finish the technique. Zulu survives until the bell.

ROUND 2

Zulu shows his desperation and starts by chasing Ogikubo around the octagon trying to land hard punches. Ogikubo dives for a takedown, but he telegraphs it and Zulu easily sprawls and gets away. Zulu lands a nice straight punch and another one that knocks Ogikubo onto his butt. Ogikubo stands right back up and charges into a takedown that plants Zulu on his back. Ogikubo is in half- guard again and is looking to pass into side control or mount. Zulu pushes him back into guard, though, but appears more eager to throw strikes from the bottom and hold position instead of standing up. That allows Ogikubo to posture up and connect with more short punches and elbows. Ogikubo passes into mount and in the same sequence as the first round Zulu spins to give up his back. Ogikubo is working for a rear-naked choke again and has more time on the clock than his previous attempt. He finally gets his arm around the neck and connects his grip to finish the fight by submission.

HIROMASA OGIKUBO DEF. NKAZIMULO ZULU VIA SUBMISSION (REAR-NAKED CHOKE)

The score is now 2-1, Cejudo. Next week we will see the final load of Bracket A, No. 4 Damacio Page vs No. 13 Adam Antolin.

@CasMMA365

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