Believe it or not, TUF 25 is the best program on Wednesday night television. Those are words that have not been said by many, and surely not me, since season 5. Every episode the fights get better and better. This episode was unique in that during a one hour segment it decided not to close the book on Joe “Daddy” Stevenson but rather turn the page to the next chapter.
Last week, I voiced my opinion (shameless I told you so here: TUF 25 Wildcard Selections: Hayder Hassan and… Joe Stevenson?) on the wildcard picks. Joe Stevenson was the wrong choice to face Hayder Hassan and sometimes it hurts to be so right. Hayder made quick work of the longtime fan favorite with a brutal uppercut from hell in the first round. It felt awful to everyone in the house other than selfish prick Cody Garbrandt who I will address in a rant later. Luckily right when the tears started to fill my eyes, the show picked up it’s pen and decided to start writing the next part of Joe’s career.
Joe showed class in defeat that is rarely seen in professional sports, especially MMA. He made no excuses, brought the teams together for a quick prayer, and seemingly accepted the inevitable end of his fighting career. The quarterfinal fight of Team Dillashaw’s Tom Gallicchio and Team Garbrandt’s Justin Edwards was fast approaching. During the fight prep Stevenson took off his fighting gloves and put on his coaching hat. As a veteran of so many high level wars, Joe is a wealth of fighting knowledge. A man’s body deteriorates far before his mind and although his body may not be able to perform as it did, his mind is still a force in the MMA world.
Stevenson lost a fight early in the episode, but he helped win the second fight of the night. Team Dillashaw knew Edwards was dangerous and a superior striker to Gallicchio by far. To win the fight they had to make sure it got to the ground where Gallicchio could use his BJJ black belt to secure victory. In addition to his striking talents, Edwards has a mean guillotine choke that has accounted for 6 of his 9 professional victories. It was very likely Gallicchio would see this threat at some point in the fight and Stevenson coached him on his defense to perfection during practice. When the fight came it played out just as Team Dillashaw had envisioned. Gallicchio got abused on his feet, dropped, and fell quickly into a guillotine choke. He defended this, while visibly still rocked, just as practiced. Once on the ground he gathered himself enough to take Edwards back and lock in the RNC.
The episode was a rare glimpse into the role coaching and preparation play in the outcome of a fight. It was even more so a look at how fighting can be used as a tool to open doors to new opportunities in life. I believe Joe Stevenson can be an elite coach in the sport based on his personality and knowledge of the game. His knowledge is undeniable, and the way he carries himself in victory and defeat is something many professional mixed martial artists need to learn from. I would love to see him join forces with striking guru Duane Ludwig, but wherever he lands it is evident Joe now has life after the UFC.