Team USA Coach Dan Henderson has been a man of very few words throughout this season of The Ultimate Fighter. However, immediately following Frank Lester’s loss to Team UK’s James Wilks, Henderson summed up the situation perfectly for Lester; “You were worn out before you got there”.
Lester has been the most interesting story on this year’s show both inside and outside the ring. He overcame the loss of four of his front teeth and a broken nose in his first fight against Wilks to defeat David Faulkner while fighting as an injury replacement for Jason Pierce. Prior to his fight with Faulkner, no one would have given Lester a chance to win if both he and Pierce were allowed in the cage at the same time, but somehow he found the will to beat Faulkner when the Brit refused to fight in the sudden victory round. Lester gave new meaning to the word “emotional” (and perhaps also to “scary”) and provided more entertainment value than any other fighter by far.
But after four fights in 32 days, Lester simply had nothing left for the semi-final bout and lost easily to a better fighter in Wilks. To no one’s surprise Lester’s emotions got the better of him the night before the fight where he cried in anticipation of letting people down, and then after his fight when he felt he had. Despite the loss, Lester has impressed UFC President Dana White who called him “one of the toughest guys he’s ever met” and I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t find himself fighting in the UFC very soon.
Wilks controlled the entire fight. He picked Lester apart with punches in the first two rounds, then kicks and knees in round 3, eventually ending the match by TKO with a devastating knee strike to Lester’s face. He seems to have the skills and the poise to give American Demarques Johnson a great fight in the final on June 20th. Johnson is no fan of Wilks and I’ll chalk it up to a case of “there’s just something about himitis”. Demarques said he can’t stand the “manneurisms” of his British opponent and you know you’re under someone’s skin when you cause them to invent words.
Wilks wasn’t the only Brit who managed to annoy his American opponent. Dan Henderson had some choice words for UK Coach Michael Bisping as it seems Henderson hasn’t taken too kindly to the pompous attitude of his British counterpart. Henderson didn’t mind having his ears compared to asparagus by Frank Lester earlier in the show, so you know it isn’t easy to upset him. Or perhaps, like me, Henderson didn’t quite follow where Lester was going with that. At any rate, there will be more interest in the Coaches’ Fight as a result.
I know that Dana White would have been pulling for a Johnson-Lester final, but Wilks is a better opponent for Demarques and now that this match it set Saturday looks like a night of fights worth watching.