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Sunday, June 24, 2018

TUF weekly recap by NOS® Energy Drink

Hayder Hassan Vicente Luque

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Hayder Hassan comes through again for American Top Team!

Episode 12 of Season 21 of “The Ultimate Fighter” came down to one fight to determine which team would win the gym vs. gym competition. ATT picked Hayder to fight for the third time as he had already won two fights for the team and almost single-handedly kept them in contention. The Blackzilians countered with Vicente Luque, who won his previous fight and was begging for a second opportunity.

“I’ve always wanted to fight (Hayder). We’re both strikers. But he hasn’t fought a guy who trains as hard as I do,” Luque said of the matchup.

Luque was optimistic about matching up with Hassan because he believed their styles blended since they’re each strikers. Hassan on the other hand said he could “see holes” in Luque’s game.

The show wasted no time getting straight to business as the fight started early in the episode. It was an exciting one that went to the judges, with Hassan being awarded a split decision. Two judges had it two rounds to one in his favor, while the third had it two rounds to one for Luque. I felt like the decision could have gone in either direction, though I leaned towards Hayder winning.

In the first round, I felt Hayder had the slight edge. Both fighters came out aggressively and traded punches early, while Luque utilized kicks and knees to keep Hassan at a distance. Hassan managed to land some big shots early that bloodied Luque’s nose. Luque continued to throw kicks as Hassan responded with punches, and Luque tried a different strategy towards the end of the round. He shot for a surprising takedown and got it briefly, but Hassan got up quickly and fought his way out. He got up and threw a few strikes. Both guys took some hits in the first.

In the second round, it was pretty clear that Hassan was tired. He came out jabbing after listening to his corner’s advice, but then he didn’t throw many punches after that. He was on the defensive and he began to bleed after taking shots from Luque. Luque used kicks and knees again, and then he pinned Hassan up against cage in the final seconds. It was another close round, but Luque probably won this one.

Both fighters were clearly tired as they fought in the third and deciding round. Luque tried for a takedown and barely got it, but Hassan scrambled to his feet and escaped. He then came out throwing some strikes and landed quite a few. Both guys were definitely gassed during the middle of the round. Luque took some punches while trying to conserve. He went for another takedown inside the last two minutes and got it, but Hassan once again got out quickly to land a couple of strikes. Obviously tired, Hassan then landed a few sprawling strikes at the end of the round.

If you didn’t see the fight and just judged based on how the two men looked after the bout, you would have given it to Luque. Hassan’s face was bruised and bloodied afterwards. He got hit a lot and was hit hard. He had a cut on the bridge of his nose, bruising on his forehead, a big mouse under his left eye, a cut under his right eye, and a big fat lip. Hassan looked terrible and not at all like someone who had just won a fight. Luque looked a lot cleaner. He had a lot of bruising around his nose and mouth — possibly because that’s exactly where Hassan landed all his strikes — but he was not nearly as beat up as Hassan.

The Blackzilians were not happy about losing the controversial decision, not to mention the series, but they know there will be one more fight.

“There will be a finale fight, and we’ll get the last word,” Blackzilians owner Glenn Robinson said.

After the Hassan-Luque fight, both gym owners spent time choosing their fighter for the finale.

For ATT, it was an easy choice: they went with the guy who had won three fights for them — Hayder Hassan.

“I’ll put Hayder up against Godzilla right now,” gym owner Dan Lambert said.

The Blackzilians had a tougher decision. Many of the team’s coaches wanted Luque to fight again because they felt like he had a lot of versatility, while others argued for Kamaru Usman. In the end, Robinson chose Usman to fight in the finale because, “stylistically, Kamaru’s wrestling is going to overpower whoever they put up.”

Not only will there be a lot at stake for the fight — $300,000 in prize money, the TUF trophy, and the winner receiving a Harley Davidson — but there is some beef between Hayder and Usman.

“After that fight was over, I didn’t like him flexing on me,” Hayder says of how Usman acted after winning won of his fights early in the season.

Usman has a plan for how he’s going to achieve victory. He called Hassan overrated and said he’s going to get him up against the cage and won’t let him get out.

The finale will take place Sunday on FOX Sports 1. Luque will also be fighting on the card, as he’ll take on Michael Graves, who had an impressive comeback win in episode 11 of the season.

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Below is the NOS® performance replay from the fight:

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