It’s “do or die” time for American Top Team, who trail the Blackzilians by a score of 300-100 with just three fights left in the season. ATT must win all three remaining 100-point bouts in order to claim the $200,000 team prize and, perhaps more importantly, salvage some dignity from this encounter with their Floridian rivals.
“We keep talking about our margin for error going down. Well, now it’s zero,” says ATT owner Dan Lambert. “If we lose, this show’s over from a points standpoint.”
Adding to the degree of difficulty, ATT is back to competing on hostile ground as they try to launch what would be their first winning streak of the season. This episode’s fight will take place at the Blackzilians’ training center, since Kamaru Usman won home-gym advantage for his team last week by defeating Steve Carl.
There’s no suspense in ATT’s fighter selection this week, as Nathan Coy is quickly picked to represent the team in their most crucial fight of the season. Despite being submitted by Vicente Luque just two fights prior, Coy is “ecstatic” with the decision and says he’s ready to get right back in the cage.
“We need him. He’s our captain. He’s a rock for us. We know what we’re gonna get out of him,” says Lambert. “We think he’s the better wrestler. We think he’s the better scrambler. We think he’s got better groundwork. So, we’re gonna win this thing.”
Meanwhile, the Blackzilians try to strategize. Based on intel from the fighter house, owner Glenn Robinson believes ATT will send out Sabah Homasi for the next fight. To counter Homasi’s brawling style, the Blackzilians go with their own slugger, Valdir Araujo. “BBMonstro” already has one win under his belt, having tapped Carl with a guillotine choke in the season’s third bout.
“There’s no one that they can put up that we’re worried about,” Robinson tells the Brazilian. “We’re confident in you.”
Two days before the bout, Robinson shows up at the house with UFC lightweight Michael Chiesa and gathers the fighters. Is Chiesa, a former “TUF” winner, here to bestow some wisdom upon the fighters about transitioning from the reality show to the big league? Nope, he’s taking the guys down to a local motorcycle shop for another subtle piece of product integration from the show’s sponsor.
The next day, weigh-ins are conducted at ATT’s gym, although the fight will be contested on the Blackzilians’ home turf. UFC President Dana White says that “everybody decided that it would be a lot easier to do it at the American Top Team gym,” so that explains everything.
Araujo hits the scale first, checking in at 170.5 pounds. Coy’s name is called by Lambert, and the veteran weighs in at 171 pounds. Meanwhile, on the ATT side, Homasi begins drinking to rehydrate, indicating that he also cut weight and was prepared to step up to the scale. White says this is impossible, since both teams have to submit their fighters’ names to the Florida State Boxing Commission on the morning of the weigh-in.
“We had two guys on weight, just in case somebody leading up to the weigh-in had a problem health-wise,” says Lambert. “But, in the event they both made weight, we were going with Nate.”
Robinson still isn’t convinced and reiterates his belief that, had the Blackzilians sent Jason Jackson to the scale, ATT “would have pushed Sabah out” and dealt with the repercussions of switching fighters afterwards. He asks Lambert if he’s willing to select a fighter for the next bout on the spot; Lambert counters with an offer of a grappling match, prompting more bickering between the owners.
Where game plans are concerned, ATT believes Coy needs to “get dirty” with Araujo, grinding him on the fence and boxing in close quarters. Araujo, who is looking to strike from distance and score a knockout, seems to know just what Coy is bringing to the table.
“Nathan Coy’s dangerous game, for me, is if he can be able to keep me against the cage and maybe take me down,” says the Brazilian. “That’s the only way I can see him winning the fight.”
Soon, it’s fight time, and round one begins with a long counter right hand from Araujo as Coy charges forward. Seconds later, Coy grabs hold of a leg kick, lifts Araujo and deposits him on the ground at the base of the fence. Coy slips out of a loose headlock and is pushed from half back to full guard, where he snuffs out a brief armbar attempt. Araujo is warned for grabbing the cage with his toes as he tries to pivot away from the fence.
Meanwhile, Coy stays heavy on top, thumping Araujo with left hands and opening up a small cut on the outside corner of the Blackzilian’s right eye. Araujo keeps fishing for guillotines, but with Coy back in half guard, the choke is almost impossible to secure. Coy passes to side control with one minute left in the round and drops more punches, then escapes to his feet for the final 20 seconds when Araujo threatens with a leglock. Araujo connects with a few punches and knees in the closing moments, but it’s clearly Coy’s round.
“No jiu-jitsu on your back,” the Blackzilians corner tells Araujo between rounds. “Open up your legs and get up.”
Araujo comes out swinging on Coy in round two, but it’s Coy who laces his hands behind Araujo’s head and delivers a big clinch knee to the gut. Araujo comes back with a leaping high kick that touches Coy’s face and sends him shooting for another takedown. This time, Araujo grabs a guillotine on his way to the mat, and it’s tight enough to have Lambert saying “oh, shit” in the ATT corner. Coy escapes the guillotine but gets swept underneath in the process, and now Araujo is looking for full mount. Coy hooks a leg and saves himself from being mounted, then rolls to his knees and fends off another guillotine as Araujo stands over him.
Coy drives forward on his knees for a double-leg shot, and Araujo pulls guard with yet another guillotine attempt. This one is short-lived, and now Coy is back on top with 3:40 remaining in the round. The welterweights scoot toward the fence, and Coy winds up holding Araujo in a front headlock as both men work from their knees. Araujo explodes back to his feet, only to be taken straight back down. He grabs for Coy’s right leg and tries to stretch it out for a kneebar, but Coy uses his other foot to strip away Araujo’s hands. Coy spends the final two minutes on top, peppering Araujo with punches and fighting off choke attempts which never seem to put him in danger. Coy’s punches get harder in the final minute, while Araujo looks more and more fatigued.
“Well, you can’t play jiu-jitsu with a wrestler,” Blackzilians coach Rashad Evans says from the sidelines. “You can’t do it.”
All three judges score the bout 20-18 in favor of Coy, and American Top Team has earned its third win of the season. The score now stands at 300-200 in favor of the Blackzilians, who will have to travel to ATT for next week’s penultimate bout.