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Breaking Down Mike King vs. Nordine Taleb – The Best TUF 19 Elimination Fight

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The Ultimate Fighter 19: Team Penn vs Team EdgarTUF 19 started with fifteen fights to get in the house. Mike King and Nordine Taleb of TUF Nations came together to battle in an instant classic. It was the best fight to get in the house this season; maybe even of all seasons. It is the type of fight that warrants a closer look. Let’s break it down.

On Wednesday, Taleb was all over FS1. First he defeated fellow TUF Nations cast member Vic Grujic taking a dominating three round UD. Then we saw his fight with Mike King to get onto TUF 19 house. Taleb was injured in his loss on TUF Nations so because of that they gave him a chance to try out for TUF 19. They did not give him an easy fight though as King ultimately prevailed in a three round battle.

If it was eligible it would be the favorite for fight of the season honors. It was a back and forth fight that showcased some of what is great about today’s MMA. King comes from a wrestling background and Taleb is a kick boxer. The classic grappler versus striker showdown.

In the past this fight would have come down to whether the striker could stop the takedown and keep it standing. While the grappler would focus on getting the takedown without getting knocked out. Often those were boring fights unless the striker got the big knockout. In today’s MMA, you must be well rounded if want to have success at the higher levels.

This fight took place all over the cage. They spent time striking and grappling on the ground and it was never boring. Taleb showed his grappling skills while King displayed his striking. They came together to give us one of the best fights to get into the house. Dana White, BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar all loved the fight.

Watching the three of them was a complete contrast to TUF 18. During those fights White tried to talk to coaches Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate. Ronda was already competing and she had no interest in being nice to Miesha. To her credit she did try and have some fun with it and did joke with Dana a little. It was still uncomfortable watching them watch the fight.

With BJ and Frankie it is very different. Even thought they have fought twice they do not hate each other. They seem to actually like each other. They got along very well and they both are very likable. The three of them seemed to genuinely enjoy watching the fights together. This was an easy fight to have fun watching.

They started out moving and feinting trying to get a sense of each other’s timing. The feeling out process and they are trying to get inside the other fighter’s sense of time and movement. They did this at the beginning of each round and then they would engage. Once they did that they stayed active either striking or grappling the rest of the round.

In the first, King attempted a takedown. Taleb stuffed did and landed two nice strikes on the exit. Moments later King went in for a takedown and Taleb caught him with a little kick to the body. After a taking a few more strikes King went for a bull rush and takedown and got it. Taleb quickly got back up right into a clinch and started landing knees to the body. King came back with a flurry a punches and then ate a solid and then glancing knees to the face.

King landed a powerful glancing uppercut that created some separation. When Taleb came forward and King caught him with a powerful one two that sent Taleb backwards into the cage. He quickly recovered, secured another clinch and started landing knees again.

The rest of the round went that way with each fighter landing big shots. The other would absorb them and come back with their own. These were not little pitter-patter type shots but big knees and hard punches to the body and head.

After the round Frankie, BJ and Dana were debating how to score the round. Dana said that is was a tough round to score and then the coaches illustrated that point as they went back forth with reasons as to why each fighter took the round.

Everyone was excited for the second round. Both fighters were breathing heavy at the end of the round but that did not slow down the action of the second round.

The round started like the first with them circling, dancing and feinting. When they did engage King got the better of the first striking exchange and again sent Taleb back into the cage. Again Taleb initiated a clinch. King went for a single leg and Taleb defended with several hammer fists to the head and they separated. Taleb was back near the cage. King came forward and faked a right hand. Taleb ducked and King shuffled ahead and looked like he could go for a takedown. As he came back up from his crouch Taleb simultaneously threw a right hook that clipped King as he came forward. It would have landed solid but King ducked away from it minimizing the impact.

Again, they separated and as King came forward it was Taleb who ducked under a right hand, shot in, picked King up and slammed him down. He had his back but King still got up. Taleb maintained the body lock until a spinning back elbow broke it. King added a one two and they were back in the center of the octagon. There it was, a solid right hand and left hook from Taleb. Then a beat and a left hook and a right body kick followed by a fake inside leg kick and a right hand from Taleb as he was taking the round.

King ducked a right hand shot for a takedown and Taleb stuffed it. Then a jab jab right hand had King backing up until he shot forward for another takedown attempt that Taleb stuffed. When they separated Taleb went lead right and to the head. A beat later lead right hand to the body. A four punch combo punctuated by a knee to the head from King. The knee put him off-balance and he went down to the ground with Taleb on top. King got back up.

As the round was winding down Dana said the loser was going to be the alternate to get into the house. The coaches agreed that it was one round a piece and so did the judges. It was off to the third round that everybody wanted to see and it did not disappoint.

In between the second and third rounds you could see the bruises and swelling on their faces. You could see their exhaustion after two grueling rounds. Again, they both dug deep. They started out a little slower and it was King coming forward. He seemed like he might be a little fresher.

Then they were standing in front of each other swaying slightly when Taleb launched forward with a hard straight lead right hand. It sent King reeling. Taleb followed him and they ended up on the ground and it looked like Taleb was taking over.

He landed a couple of good shots and stood up for a moment. King caught him with a glancing up-kick and Taleb came back with a couple of fist from the top. They rolled and scrambled ending up in King’s guard with Taleb working the body then to the head, He passed into half-guard and King responded by locking his hands together in a Gable grip around Taleb’s upper right leg. At the same time while on his side he locked up the lower part of the leg with his own legs just below the knee. He then rolled over on to his stomach and cranking Taleb’s knee in a nasty knee bar.

You could see the torque on the knee as it bent unnaturally to the side. If you doubted its nastiness you just had to watch and listen to Dana and the two coaches reaction to it. It was a mixture or terror and awe as they were feeling for Taleb but at the same time impressed by King’s technique. Then Taleb’s ability to withstand it and punch his way out of the hold.

That moment and this fight was why Taleb got his shot on the TUF Nations card. He showed tremendous heart to withstand that knee-bar.

They ended up in with King on top and in Taleb’s guard. King worked some ground and pound. Taleb kicked him off and as Dana was wondering whether or not Taleb could stand on the leg King dove in with a hammer fist. Taleb rolled away and back to his feet. He seemed a little stiff but then he shot in for a takedown and almost had it. He did get deep enough that he forced a scramble.

King came out on top and right away went for kimura and was cranking on Taleb’s left arm. He somehow rolled and got out of it. King stayed on top and landed a couple of elbows and punches. He was able to continue that for the final twenty seconds of the round.

As Dana, Frankie and BJ talked about the fights they echoed the praise for both fighters and that it was a shame that they both were not getting in. They showed heart, competitiveness, well-rounded skill sets, they both came back from punishment and fought past exhaustion to the end.

It was simply one of the best fights in TUF history and better than some of the finals. It would not be surprising to see them in a rematch in the UFC one day.

cover image credit – MSN.FOXSports

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny

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