As episode No. 9 of “The Ultimate Fighter 17? opens, Team Sonnen’s Kevin Casey and Team Jones’ Robert “Bubba” McDaniel are prepping for their spots in the wild card round. Both fighters know it’s likely their final shot at the UFC, but “Bubba” is especially emotional as he discusses his home life, which sees him in New Mexico focused on training and his daughter back home in Texas, wondering when her Daddy will come visit.
The coaching staff spends practice building up Bubba’s confidence, but he admits there is pressure, especially after losing to Kelvin Gastelum in the opening round. Jon Jones insists the key is just to move forward and attack from the opening bell, working hard on making the fight a kickboxing match. Bubba seems to respond well and appears to be dialed in ahead of the fight.
Meanwhile, Kevin claims he’s ready, too. After all, Bubba called him out and was the only person on the season to call anyone out. Team Jones’ Josh Samman is motivated by that fact, so he calls out Team Sonnen’s Jimmy Quinlan in hopes of booking a quarterfinal fight. Jimmy accepts, but of course it’s ultimately up to the coaches. As it turns out, Team Sonnen’s Uriah Hall also wants to fight Josh.
First, of course, there’s one more fight to play out.
In practice, Kevin also seems to be recharged. Extremely disappointed in the quality of his previous performance, Kevin is grinding in practice, and his team seems to believe in his skills. He still has a healing cut on his forehead that could be problematic, but he’s pushing forward.
At the house, it’s Thanksgiving, and both coaches and staffs stop by for a big family meal. Of course, Kevin and Bubba are prepping for their fight, so it’s not exactly time for them to feast.
At dinner, Chael Sonnen makes a toast, including several kind words toward Jon, who admits he’s a bit surprised. Still, he insists he’s not letting Chael off the hook when it comes time for them to meet in April.
Bubba is especially angry during the meal. Making weight for the third time in four weeks, he says his body is breaking down. But he’s trying to channel his anger into pure motivation.
Meanwhile, Josh is still trying to find a way to maneuver the matchups into his favor. He admits a fight with Uriah would likely be very taxing on the body heading into later rounds, so he tries to coax teammate Collin Hart into asking for the fight.
At the gym, it’s time for weigh-ins. Bubba comes in at 186 pounds. Kevin is 186, as well, and the fight is official.
TEAM SONNEN’S Kevin Casey (5-2) VS. TEAM JONES’ ROBERT “BUBBA” MCDANIEL (20-6)
Round 1 – Referee Steve Mazzagatti calls the fight. They move quickly into a clinch, and Kevin pulls guard. Bubba pushes him up to the cage and looks to find room to posture and punch. Kevin tries to grab the neck, but Bubba pulls it free and climbs to his feet. Kevin stays tight and moves into a clinch again, scoring with an outside trip. Bubba does a good job underneath of scrambling and staying out of submission attempts, but Kevin is controlling on top and transitioning well from dominant position to dominant position. Chael reminds Kevin to get strikes in, as well, to score more with the judges. Kevin backs away briefly, but Bubba doesn’t scramble up. He finally does crawl up with a little more than 90 seconds left in the round. Bubba circles off the cage, but Kevin has underhooks and immediately reverses. Kevin scores another takedown to close the round and finishes in top position for a clear 10-9 win.
Round 2 – Bubba tries to let his hands go to open the second, but Kevin is quickly back inside on him and into the clinch. Bubba’s coaches yell for him to push away and strike, but he continues to work in the clinch, first pummeling the body and then looking for a takedown. Kevin grabs the neck and tries for a guillotine, but Bubba pulls it free and takes top position. Kevin scrambles to full guard, but Bubba is scoring points with short punches and elbows from the top. Kevin appears stuck on the bottom, as he isn’t making much of an effort to scramble up. Bubba grinds away from the top. He’s not landing knockout blows, but he is scoring frequently to the head and body. It’s a clear Bubba round, and when the bell sounds, Kevin is very slow to rise. A third round is on tap, but Kevin looks like he might very well have broken.
Round 3 – As it turns out, there will be no third round. Kevin refuses to answer the bell.
Robert “Bubba” McDaniel def. Kevin Casey via TKO (retirement) – Round 2, 5:00
Bubba explodes in celebration and proclaims that he would never quit. He then turns to UFC President Dana White to ask if that counts as a finish, which of course would earn him $5,000. Dana says it will, indeed.
Chael admits he could sense Kevin shutting down in the second round, and he doesn’t understand why. The coaches carry him to the locker room, and he quickly receives medical attention. Kevin recalls a 2010 incident in which his kidney shut down during a fight. That’s the fear this time around, too, and he’s taken away in an ambulance.
With that moment behind, it’s time to pick the quarterfinal matchups. The fighters are brought in to reveal who they would like to fight. It goes down as expected, and the coaches then make their pitches, as well.
After hearing it all, Dana makes his choices. The quarterfinal matchups are then revealed.
Next week, it’s two quarterfinal fights and a visit from UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
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