It's finally time for the last preliminary fight on The Ultimate Fighter 17 before the wild card round, as Team Jones' final pick, Dylan Andrews, takes on Team Sonnen fighter Zak Cummings.
If there has been a common theme to this season's cast of TUF, it's that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Add both Andrews and Cummings to that list, as they are the latest fighters on the new season that have tried and come up just short of making the final cast of past shows previously.
Not making the show did give both fighters plenty of time and experience to learn and grow, and now two of the most experienced fighters on the show square off for the chance to earn a spot in the quarterfinal round.
On day one of TUF 17, Zak Cummings was pegged as an early favorite due to his record, fight experience and background, and he comes into his fight against Andrews as the favorite.
A veteran of nearly 20 professional fights, Cummings has fought on the big stage before against some tough competition, including a Strikeforce Challengers bout against current UFC middleweight Tim Kennedy. He's also taken on fighters like Ryan Jimmo and holds a victory over former UFC fighter Terry Martin.
A well-rounded fighter by nature, Cummings has stayed true to his roots, always working out with his home team in Springfield, Missouri, training with a mix of fighters, and it's shown in his victories. Cummings has eight wins by submission, another four by knockout, and only three have seen the judges' scorecards.
As for his opponent, Dylan Andrews, he makes his way to TUF 17 after three past attempts to make the reality show without quite getting the final call until this year. A native of New Zealand, Andrews was kind of the runt of the litter that looked good in his preliminary fight to make the house, but slipped under the radar until he was the final pick by coach Jon Jones.
Andrews is a knockout puncher with power in both hands and, just like Cummings, he has faced plenty of top talent in the past to have experience going into the house. Andrews has taken on the likes of Brian Ebersole, former Ultimate Fighter finalist Jesse Taylor, and he holds a win over "Mr. International" Shonie Carter.
The key for Andrews appears to be learning new techniques and defense as he grows up in the sport because of his four career losses, three have come by way of submission. Now that's not to say he necessarily has a weakness in that area, but as a power puncher by trade, he can leave himself open to the takedown and has shown vulnerability on the ground.
The common theme however to the fights on TUF 17 this season is to expect the unexpected, as numerous high picks and veterans have fallen during the preliminary round matchups. Early favorites like Bubba McDaniel and Tor Troeng are no longer around, and can only hope to earn a wild card slot with underdogs pulling off wins left and right so far on the show. Andrews has to know that going in, because while his fight record is similar to his opponent, Cummings is a decided favorite with a dangerous game to play if he's allowed to dictate the pace.
Cummings has the ground game and tenacity to give Andrews nightmares if he can't land a big shot early to set the tone for the entire fight. Still, Andrews knows fights don't take place on paper and he has a chance to help swing momentum back in his team's favor as the third member of Jon Jones' squad to make the next round of the tournament.
A loss would mean Team Sonnen will send five out of seven fighters to the next round with the wild card still looming overhead. Andrews and Jon Jones certainly don't want that to happen, so expect a wild and strong performance in victory or defeat from the New Zealander in this fight.
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