Getting to Know Your TUF 22 Lightweights: Team USA

RyanHall2Season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter features interim-UFC Featherweight Champion “The Notorious” Conor McGregor and former WEC Bantamweight Champion “The California Kid” Urijah Faber as coaches for Team Europe and Team USA. The show airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on FOX Sports 1. Here is an introduction to the lightweights competing in the tournament for Team USA, coached by Urijah Faber… Ryan Hall is a 30-year old Brazilian-Jiu Jitsu ace who masters in the 50/50 position and is an expert when it comes to leg-locks. Nicknamed “The Wizard” by Coach Urijah Faber, Hall quickly submitted Johnny Nunez to get into the TUF house, where he was selected by Faber to compete in the first tournament match-up, where he scored another first round submission (over the undefeated Swede Frantz Slioa) to advance in the tournament. Hall trains out of the famed TriStar Gym in Montreal under the tutelage of Firas Zahabi and carries with him an official professional mixed martial arts record of 4-1. After dropping a unanimous decision in his pro debut, he has strung together four wins with four finishes. Naturally a featherweight, Hall does not have to worry much about his weight cuts, however he will find himself at a physical size disadvantage against several of the competitors on Team Europe. Chris Gruetzemacher took an 11 fight winning steak and a unanimous decision victory over John Gunderson under the WSOF banner with him onto The Ultimate Fighter. Handily winning his bout to get into the TUF house, “Gritz” was selected by Coach Faber to take on Team Europe’s Sascha Sharma in the second bout of the tournament. He dominated Sascha for two rounds of action to pick up a unanimous decision on the judges’ scorecards. Despite being a natural featherweight, The MMA Lab product is considered by many to be the favorite to win the tournament. Tom Gallicchio is the most seasoned member of Team USA, owning an official professional mixed martial arts record of 19-8. A former MFC lightweight champion, Gallicchio dominated his opponent with his superior grappling and quickly submitted him with a rear naked choke. The New Jersey native was selected by Coach Faber to compete in the third bout of the tournament, after Chris Gruetzemacher came through with the win. He took on Marcin Wrzocek, an opponent he requested, and he losted the bout via unanimous decision following two rounds of action. The Team Quest fighter finds himself out of the tournament and is unsure if he’ll ever get to be an official UFC athlete. Billy Quarantillo is a fighter who has heart, which is the best thing you could say about him, as his mixed martial arts skills are limited. After the European team picked up their first win, Coach McGregor selected Quarantillo to oppose Team Europe’s Saul Rogers. The Brit dominated both rounds of their bout and handed Quarantillo a unanimous decision defeat. The match-up revealed that the 6-1 fighter out of Florida is nowhere near UFC-ready, which goes to show that the UFC does not make it their goal to get a quality batch of fighters of The Ultimate Fighter. Jason Gonzalez is big for a lightweight and will have a size advantage in the house, considering many of the competitors are natural featherweights who are stepping up a weight class to get on the show. He defeated a very game Tim Welch to get into the TUF house, taking with him an official five fight winning streak. The Californian is 9-2 as a professional and owns a second round Brabo choke submission win over current UFC lightweight Christos Giagos. Justifiably so, many consider Gonzalez as a sleeper to win the tournament. Thanh Le is a very entertaining fighter with phenomal striking skills. He throws a wide-variety of beautiful, heavy kicks and is brutal with all limbs. The Louisiana native does not waste shots, he is accurate and a definite finisher, owning an official professional mixed martial arts record of 4-1 with four finishes and quickly dismantling his opponent to earn a spot on Team USA and enter the TUF house. The 30-year old is dangerous and a legitimate threat in this tournament, however it will be interesting to see how he does against the grapplers in this tournament. James Jenkins out of Long Island’s Serra-Longo fight team took an official 8-1 pro record into the TUF house with him with a unanimous decision victory in his elimination round match-up. He easily won the first round of the bout using a “lay and pray” strategy. Proving he could win the fight one way, he decided to put on a show in the second round to prove he could also win a won, and he certainly proved it. It was an entertaining battle that saw him get the better of the exchanges and ultimately get his rand raised in the unanimous nod. Naturally a featherweight like many of the fighters in the tournament, Jenkins will be at a size disadvantage when going toe to toe with the natural 155-pounders. Julian Erosa is very tall for the lightweight division, and he normally competes in the featherweight division! Despite normally being a 145-pounder, he will have a size and reach advantage over many opponents in the tournament. Erosa was selected my Team Europe’s Coach Conor McGregor to take on Team Europe’s Mehdi Baghdad, the fight which will take place in this weeks episode. The 26-year old is a well-rounded mixed martial artist out of Washington who owns a professional record of 14-2 and enjoys an official four fight winning streak. Johnny Nunez lost his elimination round match-up against Ryan Hall but was brought back when Dana White said each coach gets to bring one losing fighter back to the team. (I think that was done so to make Conor McGregor happy.) After going 1-1 under the WSOF banner, the 30-year old Syndicate MMA product is going to attempt to make a run in the UFC, starting with this tournament. Last weeks episode showed him slacking off and missing a practice, for which Coach Faber got on his case about. It will be interesting to see if he gets his head together moving forward and how he fares in the tournament.

Written by Gabe Killian

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