Matt Schnell addresses the big upset on 'The Ultimate Fighter' this week
Coming off of last week's huge upset, we move into this week’s matchup between Yoni Sherbatov and Eric Shelton. I thought it was an interesting matchup immediately when it was announced. I knew Eric was good, I’d seen him fight before and I was familiar with his name. I didn’t know much about Yoni. He was seeded number 2 which told me the people who make those decisions knew something I didn’t.
Yoni was a favorite early on. I remember overhearing the coaches talk about him and realizing they all thought a lot of him. I got to mix it up in training with him, and he was well rounded overall. On the feet he was slick, and he seemed to have a good repertoire with a sound understanding of kicks and punches along with a solid base of wrestling.
Eric and I connected early on — we were kinda the late nighters of the house so we would stay up and talk. I really enjoyed getting to know Eric and talking about his family. It was motivating. Our paths are similar in ways — I don’t have four children — but we both grew up trying but never truly excelling at any particular sport. Our size made it difficult to be great at football or basketball, but fighting was completely different. I feel like we approach the game in a similar way because of our negative experiences in our young athletic careers.
One of the advantages that both of these guys had was that they were a little on the smaller side, Yoni in particular. They both walked around in the lower 130's, which gave them an edge when it came to cutting weight. Typically, being one of the smaller guys wouldn’t necessarily be seen as a good thing, but in a tournament format you have to cut weight multiple times. The less weight you have to cut, the easier it is on your body.
The fight starts out with a feeling out process. Once the guys started exchanging it really got going. The fight was competitive. Eric seemed a little sharper, he was making better contact with his punches giving him the upper hand in striking exchanges. When Yoni started stringing his takedowns together was when he was at his best. He was able to score takedowns effectively, unfortunately he wasn’t able to maintain his position. Eric was able to use his hips and good grappling awareness to reverse the position and end up on top.
When Eric was on top, it didn’t look like Yoni had much game off of his back. Overall the first round looked like an even fight. Both had their moments where they each did great things. I honestly couldn’t call it, I could see it going either direction.
Round two picks up right where round one left off. These guys were fighting hard, both showing good striking technique and keeping the fight very interesting. I really felt the momentum swing the first time Eric stuffed one of Yoni’s takedowns. It felt like it deflated Yoni, you could see it in his face that the whole fight had changed.
He ultimately was able to score another takedown, but Eric was patiently waiting for Yoni to make a mistake, which he did. Yoni jumped the gun trying to take Eric’s back and in his rush, he didn’t secure his position. This gave Eric the opportunity to reverse it with an impressive display of jiu-jitsu: as Eric took Yoni’s back, he simultaneously slipped a choke in and it was tight.
Yoni didn’t even have a chance to tap before he was out.
This was another fun fight to watch and be a part of. Both guys displayed a great amount of skill. It can be easy to lose touch watching this all play out on TV, but you have to remember that these fights are the biggest fights of our lives to date. It’s difficult to see your “teammate” go out and lose because we all have so much riding on this.
It was endearing to see Eric shed tears before his fight because these are the same emotions we all feel when we’re getting ready to compete; the fear of letting your family and friends down is overwhelming. Though, we all know that the people who truly matter continue to love us no matter what the outcome. Most of us have been competing at a high level for a long time, and we all expect to perform.
To me, that's part of being a champion. Holding yourself to a higher standard.
Next week, jiu-jitsu black belt Renaldo Candido takes on my friend, roommate and training partner, American Top Team’s Jaime Alverez. Stay tuned now!