As episode No. 8 of “The Ultimate Fighter 17? opens, Team Jones’ Robert “Bubba” McDaniel and Adam Cella are considering the opportunity of getting back in the tournament as a wild-card choice. The time is coming soon.
First, it’s time for Team Jones’ Dylan Andrews and Team Sonnen’s Zak Cummings to prepare for their matchup. Dylan talks about his difficult upbringing, watching his brother suffer with drug use, and admits to Team Sonnen’s Uriah Hall that he really doesn’t actually enjoy fighting but has simply been blessed with those skills and must follow that journey.
Meanwhile, Zak’s story is much more upbeat. Fighting is simple competition from his point of view. Coach Chael Sonnen reveals Zak tried out for “The Ultimate Fighter” seven times before finally qualifying for the show. It’s a special opportunity for Zak that he worked long and hard to earn.
Before their fight, though, it’s time for the annual coaches challenge. There’s $10,000 on the line for coaches Jon Jones and Chael, and each fighter on the winning team can pocket $1,500. In a completely new twist, there’s no athleticism involved in this challenge. The coaches are operating heavy construction equipment, and there’s a series of three stations that require the coaches to figure out how to use an excavator.
Jon hops out to an early lead, but Chael quickly battles back, all while talking significant trash. Unfortunately for Chael, he struggles stacking a pyramid of tires, and Jon blazes by him and into the lead. But just when it looks like victory is assured for Jon, he stumbles in a task requiring him to put a basketball into a tire, allowing Chael to make up time and ultimately win the challenge in come-from-behind fashion.
Jon is admittedly frustrated, but he knows challenges aren’t the primary focus. It’s all about winning fights.
With the fun and games over, it’s time for weigh-ins. Zak is 185 pounds, as is Dylan, and the fight is official. Both teams are predicting an intense, drawn-out matchup.
TEAM SONNEN’S ZAK CUMMINGS (15-3) VS. TEAM JONES’ DYLAN ANDREWS (15-4)
Round 1 – Referee Herb Dean oversees the final opening-round matchup of the season. Zak is light on his feet early, moving in and out of range before driving in on a takedown. Dylan defends well against the cage, and Zak is forced to let go. Zak is again aggressive on the restart, and he moves forward behind punches that score before scrambling on to the neck of his opponent. Dylan patiently defends underneath, but Zak keeps control on top and drops in elbows to the head. Zak lets go of the neck and steps over into mount, but Dylan times a sweep perfectly with the move and reverses to top. Dylan’s head is bleeding badly from the earlier elbows, but Dean lets them fight on. It’s Dylan who starts to do damage from the top with big elbows. Zak tries to attack the arm, but Dylan shrugs it off and continues to pound away from the top until the bell sounds.
Round 2 – Both fighters come out striking to start the second. Zak has some success on the feet, but he gets a little over-aggressive and rushes forward. Dylan times a takedown and puts Zak on the floor, where he sets up in top position and looks to punch. Zak does a decent job underneath of tying things up and slowing down the offense, but Dylan is firm in the position and works in several short punches and elbows with his left arm. Zak tries to use his legs and kick off the fence to roll, but Dylan stays heavy and continues to score with strikes. Zak scrambles at the end, but it’s too little too late. Clear round for Dylan, so the scoring will come down to how judges saw a back-and-forth opening frame. As it turns out, there will be no round three, as two of the three judges gave Dylan both rounds.
Dylan Andrews def. Zak Cummings via majority decision
With the seven opening-round matchups in the books, it’s time for the wild-card choices. UFC President Dana White allows the coaches to decide who’s going into the slot. Chael believes his choice is easy: Kevin Casey. Meanwhile, Jon has to pick between the two eligible fighters on his team: top pick Clint Hester and Team Jackson-Winkeljohn training partner “Bubba.” Jone struggles mightily with the choice, but he ultimately decided to go with “Bubba,” based on his time in the game. As promised, Chael gives Kevin his slot, arranging the grudge match that emerged earlier in the season.
Catch new episodes of “The Ultimate Fighter 17: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen” every Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on FX. MMAjunkie.com recaps each episode of the reality series.