The old saying "losing builds character, winning builds confidence" showed up on this week's episode the moment Matt Hughes walked in the training center door. He is confident. He is the champion. He is a winner. He is the "man."
His walk shows it. His talk shows it. Matt Hughes walks the talk, and Georges St. Pierre knows it.
Also, for the semi-finalists who now have to prepare for their bouts against more evenly matched opponents, the difference between walk and talk could make all the difference.
Matt Hughes' presence was felt immediately in the training center when he walked in unannounced in this week's episode. Viewers understood this immediately when the camera cut to Georges St. Pierre's face. At the time of taping, they would have still been matched up for their UFC 63 encounter. No matter, though. Now that they're matched up for UFC 65, it's the same effect.
Although Matt tries to appear jocular and easy going, there's no hiding the bite behind his banter, mostly directed at Georges.
Now, you have two choices when an opponent calls you out: either you meet his challenge head on or you avoid it. Georges chose the latter, and left the training session, leaving Matt Hughes and Chuck Liddell, still around from last week, to spar with the semi-finalists.
Matt and Chuck, along with the TUF 4 coaches and Dana White, made up the panel that would interview the semi-finalist to help assess potential match-ups.
One by one, the fighters were called in and asked who they thought their opponents should be. Each gave their opinion. It was a chance for viewers to see who had the walk and who had the talk.
Matt Serra: Give me Shonie. I'm asking you for this fight.
Shonie Carter: Give me Din because I beat Matt and Chris already.
Din Thomas: Give me Chris. It's gonna be an exciting fight.
Chris Lytle: They're all tough match-ups. I'll take anyone.
Patrick Cote: Give me Bam Bam, it'll be a good fight.
Pete Sell: Patrick and I have become friends, give me Travis.
Edwin DeWees: Give me Patrick. It's what I want least, but it's the best fight.
Travis Lutter: I'll fight anyone you put in front of me.
Walk or Talk Translation:
Matt Serra: Walk. He knows what he wants.
Shonie Carter: Cool Talk. Bling, bling.
Din Thomas: Sales Talk. Who's he trying to convince?
Chris Lytle: Walk. Spurs jangling. Draw partner.
Patrick Cote: Confident walk. Bam, bam.
Pete Sell: Crazy talk. No fighter's that good a friend.
Edwin DeWees: Walky talky. He senses his destiny.
Travis Lutter: Walk. I don't stop for anybody.
With these mindsets, the fighters waited for Dana and the panel to choose the opponents they would have to beat to secure a place in the finals.
There was one last encounter between Matt and Georges when the TUF group went out for a sushi lunch. Sitting on the other side of the room from Georges, Matt suggested he would train with a different group than Georges. And while Georges did not completely avert Matt's jibing, the result was the same: a smiling Matt and a sullen Georges. Can nice guys ever win? We'll have to wait for UFC 65 to see.
At the fight announcement, Dana White explained that, in addition to the $100,000 cash prize and title shot the TUF 4 finale winners are guaranteed, they also get a $100,000, one-year sponsorship from Xyience. Not a bad little bonus. The stakes keep getting higher.
Here's how the match-ups were drawn.
The middleweight match-ups: Pete Sell vs. Travis Lutter, and Patrick Cote vs. Edwin DeWees.
The welterweight match-ups: Din Thomas vs. Chris Lytle, and Shonie Carter vs. Matt Serra.
This week's semi-final bout, scheduled to go three rounds, saw Din Thomas and Chris Lytle face off against each other.
The fight went the full three rounds, with a little extra time in the first, as the timekeeper mistakenly let the opening round go six minutes instead of the standard five minutes.
The fighters were evenly matched. It was a tight fight that mostly ended up on the ground where Chris, while never achieving full or even side mount, maintained the dominant position.
And though both put up a good fight, I think the result echoed their comments to Dana and the panel. Din, trying to sell his desire to fight, and Chris, quietly preparing for a showdown with anyone the panel put in front of him.
Was that spurs I heard at the end of the fight? The salesman's still talking, but Chris Lytle is walking into the TUF 4 finale.