By Elias Cepeda
Over the better part of a decade, The Ultimate Fighter reality fighting competition show has seen a number of different format changes and gimmicks, from coaches set to fight for titles and nominally famous singer eye candy hosts, to veterans given a second chance in the UFC with title shots as the prizes. But three things have always stayed constant – the show airing on Spike, seasons being taped months before airing, and fighters in the house being treated to all you could drink liquor buffets while simultaneously being asked to maintain the UFC’s high standards of sober living.
We can only hope that the last item doesn’t change this year, but the first two already have. With the new season of TUF being aired on FX, the UFC has decided to try something new and air all fights live every Friday night. Friday night 32 UFC hopefuls, TUF head coaches Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber, Prez Dana White and a variety of other Nevada judges, referees and oddly placed celebrities in the crowd, gathered in the UFC training center in Las Vegas for 16 fights to determine who got to be in the TUF house for the next three months.
Here’s the action, tater nation, in the present tense, as fast as we could type it all.
Uncle Dana tells the fighters, in what seemed like a pre-recorded segment, that they will be fighting live each week. The fighters seem shocked, but excited. Apparent Rollie Fingers love child Chase Hackett, for example, tells the camera during a later interview. “It’s going to be a blast…[time to] leave it all in there.”
Each fight in this elimination stage is set to be just one, five minute round long. “Make it the best fucking minutes of your life,” White says, making sure to begin meeting his f-bomb quota from the get-go.
For each fight, there is a $5,000 bonus for finishing fights and White explains that after the season is done, fans will vote to decide who had the best knockout, submission and fight of the season, with the winners getting $25,000 each. Additionally, the winners of the season, fighters and coach, will get themselves a purty new Harley Davidson.
First fight is up – Joe Proctor (7-1) vs. Jordan Rinaldi (5-0)
Proctor trains with UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon, so I think it’s ok for us to call him “mini Lauzon,” “Boston Joe II,” or something to that effect. Anything’s better than being nicknamed after Jennifer Lopez. Rinaldi says he will win TUF because he’s “talented, technical and blessed.” Fighters everywhere who consider themselves talentless, sloppy and cursed, tremble.
The opening horn sounds and we can hear White, Cruz and Faber mumbling in the background. Proctor becomes the first to put together combos a minute and a half in. Catches a kick from Rinaldi, gets the takedown and locks in a mounted guillotine. He gets the tap at the 2:52 mark of the first round.
“Boston Joe II” is the first man in the house.
Next up – Cristiana Marcello (12-3) vs. Jared Carlsten 3-0
Battle of the Brazilian Blackbelts here. Marcello got his from Rickson and Royler Gracie, and has also fought in Pride and coached at Chute Box. Carlsten got his from that guy who tapped Royler in 2003 but is too humble to ever mention it, Eddie Bravo.
Anik says that Marcello is the oldest fighter in this season of TUF. He’s also got to have the shortest shorts shorts on the show. At least I hope so (unless Dakota Cochrane whips out something from his old film wardrobe later in the show). Those red bad boys are snug floods.
Fighters get at it with body work, kicks and knees from the clinch up against the cage. Marcello gets the takedown and mounts quickly, locking in a grapevine. Cruz mentions that Carlsten competed against one of his assistant coaches for this season, Lloyd Irvin, 12 years ago.
Ok, so I guess there’s no real color commentary, but Cruz, Faber and White are hooked up to microphones. The trio is beginning to find their voice, speaking in more than mumbles.
Marcello takes Carlsten’s back, flattens out his hips and locks in the rear naked choke. Tap out at the 2:22 mark. Royler’s revenge.
Next up -Erin Beach (3-1) vs. Sam Sicilia (10-0)
Sicilia is one of 9 undefeated fighters trying to get into the TUF house. Looks like for good reason, as it takes him just 8 seconds to knock Beach out with an overhand right.
Doing TUF live is going to allow for live post fight interviews, looks like. Dig it. Jon Anik interviews “Mini Lauzon” Proctor about his fight. “I was nervous as hell…this is my dream and I wasn’t going to let is pass by me,” Proctor says.
Next up – Austin Lyons (9-1) vs. Chris Tickle (7-4)
Lyons used to be 260lbs in highschool, we’re told. Wish they had that year book photo to show on the air. Oh well.
Tickle channels his inner Serena Williams by screaming with each strike he throws. It works. 24 seconds in, off the power of consecutive right hands, Tickle gets the TKO win and 5k bonus. He’s in the house.
The cameras go to White and Faber and Cruz, who have the photos of all the fighters in front of them on a table, cage side. They discuss what they’ve seen thus far.
The show that brought you a house full of jocks has added another highschool element, as Anik reveals the disproportionately haughty sounding “winners circle.” Camera pans over to what looks like a miniature, three leveled, bleacher. Ever see “Spinal Tap?” It looks like someone may have made a similar dimension mistake for the “winners circle,” as they did for the stonehedge set piece in that movie. After their fights the winners from tonight are to go and sit there, we’re told. Excitement seminar in session!
Next up – Brendan Weafer (6-3) vs. Andy Ogle (8-1)
Weafer and Ogle exchange strike attempts and clinch briefly before the shorter Ogle uses his lower center of gravity to get an inside trip takedown. Weafer uses his feet on the hips of Ogle well to keep Ogle away from him. But Ogle crowds Weafer against cage.
Weafer works for the triangle, controlling Ogle’s posture. Ogle lets his left hand go outside the guard completely, the triangle is on but Ogle is pushing Weafer against the cage and not allowing him to scoot back on his shoulders and fully lock it in. Ogle uses his outside arm to strike, Weafer is trying to keep Ogle’s posture down.
Weafer is able to circle away from the cage and comes under Ogle’s left leg to keep him from standing and slamming him. Weafer works the sweep from triangle now, doesn’t get it. Ogle is able to posture up momentarily and tries to strike.
We haven’t seen a triangle choke locked in for that long without being escaped or having caused a tap, maybe ever. A moment later referee josh Rosenthal stands the fighters up while Weafer has Ogle in the triangle with less than a minute left.
That’s an unfortunate second first – Can’t immediately ever remember seeing a fight stood up while one fighter is in a submission, defending, before.
Back on the feet, Ogle drops Weafer, pulls a guillotine choke and the fight finishes with Weafer defending the choke.
All three judges score the round and fight 10-9 for Ogle. Dana White reads the result in the cage. Ogle turns to Dana, hugs Dana. Ogle jumps on Dana, wraps legs around Dana and locks in the full body embrace. Really.
This might be more awkward for Dana White than all the times he had to field questions about Dakota Chocrane’s gay porn past in the last few weeks.
Anik interviews Sicilia – the guy who just won by KO in 8 seconds, and Tickle, who won in 24. Sicilia says “that 8 seconds just changed my life.” Tickle is the first fighter to express a preference for a coach on TUF saying, “I like Faber.” Anik turns to the camera and says, “I hope Dominick Cruz is listening to this,” and smiles. Shameful. If there’s one thing we don’t approve of at Cage Potato, it’s shit-starting.
Next up – Vinc Pichel (6-0) vs. Cody Pfister 7-3
Well, the fight for most confusing name spelling-to pronunciation compatibility might be a draw here. Pfister wants the takedown badly, gets it and works to pass immediately. Pichel is just as active working for submissions off his back. Pichel locks in an omoplata which he uses as a sweep which Pfister in turn turns into his own omoplata attempt. Sweet.
Pichel works a reversal and lands another omoplata. They get to their feet. Pfister changes levels and gets another takedown. Pichel gets up. Pfister gets the back of Pichel from the standing position.
Pichel shakes him to the ground and is back in Pfister’s guard, landing big elbows that open up a cut on Pfister. Pichel gets Pfister’s back in a scramble and finishes the rear naked choke without hooks in at the 1:21 mark.
Next up – Mark Glover (5-1-1) vs. John Cofer (7-1)
Glover’s training and interview montage bring back one of my production pet favorites – subtitling, in English, the words of a British person. They are not always that hard to understand, but it’s still fun to fuck with them that way, considering they invented the language.
John Cofer makes pottery. They call him, “The potter.” You know, sometimes its ok not to have a nickname, guys.
Cofer presses Glover up against the cage for a bit, Glover frees himself. Glover works kicks and knees, Cofer catches one of those knees and takes glover down. Glover backtracks to the cage to get up, Cofer picks him up and slams him back to mat.
Cofer traps Glover’s right arm behind his own back and hits him, bully style. Glover gets it free and tries to walk up the cage again, then looks for a switch. They get back to their feet, they trade knees then a taunt from Glover and jumping knee that Cofer eats before getting the clinch against the cage again.
Glover pushes away with 2 minutes left. Cofer lands a good left to the head of Glover at the end of a combo. Glover tries knees from the clinch, Cofer grabs a knee again and gets the takedown. This time Glover wraps full guard and tries for a guillotine. Glover gives it up and looks to walk up the cage again.
Glover up to his feet, Cofer still has a leg. Glover lands a knee and breaks away. Just under a minute left. Glover throws a couple kicks, Cofer grabs one and gets the takedown with under 30 seconds left. Glover back to his feet, but with Cofer behind him with his arms tied around his waist as the horn sounds.
Big “Wrath of the titans,” presence tonight on TUF. Wait, you might say, didn’t that movie come out a couple years ago? No, that was “Clash of the titans.” “Wrath of the titans,” is a very different sequel, soon available on blu-ray.
Kevin Harvick, who is a nascar driver, the on-screen graphic tells us. Wait, so the fighters and coaches still have to give up their cell phones when they enter the house and training center, but things are aired live and celebrities are in the audience? Ironic or just incongruent? Neither? Not really sure what either word means, actually.
Back for the official decision. It goes to Cofer, 10-9. Cofer’s in the house.
Next up – Chase Hackett (4-1) vs. Chris Saunders (9-2)
This is twice now that we’ve seen a curly mustached fighter in the UFC and on FX – first Ian McCall, and now Hackett. Hackett describes himself as a “stay at home son,” and his fighting style as “handsomeness.” So interesting how back in 1875, men with McCall and Hackett’s style of facial hair would have likely been serious, solemn, individuals.
Hackett lands a kick to the head, Saunders goes down. Hackett follows Saunders to the ground. Saunders recovers and gets up, pulls arm-in guillotine choke from full guard.
Hackett evidentially trains with Bellator (until last night) champion Joe Warren and Faber takes the opportunity to point this out and poke fun at Warren, calling him the “most dangerous man in the world,” and then laughing.
One can only imagine that Hackett heard the rib of his teammate and uses his anger to fight out of the guillotine. Up on their feet, the pair trade right hands to the head. Hackett works for a single leg, gets it. Saunders back up to his feet and looks for his own takedown but doesn’t get it.
They trade jabs and then Saunders catches a kick, then tries another takedown. Hackett with the double underhooks against cage. Hackett lands punches on separation. Saunders appears to get his second wind and gets active with wide but hard punches.
It’s clear Dana White does not like Hackett. He is criticizing his effort inside the cage. Saunders pulls guillotine from guard. Hackett gets out with 15 seconds left. They trade shots from inside Saunders’ guard until the horn.
Dana White reads the decision – all three judges score the fight 10-9 for Saunders.
Another break for White, Cruz and Faber to talk about what they’ve seen. White makes another dig at Hackett, saying it looks like he’ll be living with his mom a lil while longer. Oh you saucy bitch, Dana. Looks like TUF has finally added that much needed “Real Housewives,” cattiness to its own reality format.
But seriously, it is interesting, cool and mostly refreshing to get to hear guys like White, Cruz and Faber talk about fights as they watch them in an unguarded way.
James Vick (4-0) vs. Dakota Cochrane 11-2
This is it, folks. If Cochrane can’t pull out this win, we may never again get the chance to see how homophobic TUF cast members would be in the house. Cochrane did gay porn years ago to pay off student loans but says he is hetero. He’s even got a fiancé and kids. So, not gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Cochrane shoots in fast, Vick defends, goes for a judo toss (no, I don’t know Judo or Japanese well enough to distinguish between all of them), doesn’t get it. Cochrane tries for another double, doesn’t get it. They stay clinched up against the fence. They both try for takedowns, don’t get them, stay in the clinch.
Vick goes for an arm-in choke but it is, as the coaches point out, not on the correct side to execute. Referee Rosenthal sees that a submission is being applied and watches closely since submissions are clearly prime stand-em-up opportunities. Cochrane breaks free.
Not one takedown has been executed to this point even though perhaps more have been attempted than in any prior fight tonight. Cochrane changes levels and tries for another takedown, gets stuffed at 1:30.
Dana White calls for the break, “we need to break them to determine a winner,” as both guys work actively to improve position from inside the clinch. Rosenthal breaks them up with 45 seconds left in the round. Cochrane tries to get busy with two punch combos, then goes for a double, Vick goes for an arm-in guillotine, Cochrane reverses into full guard. Vick looks for submissions as the horn sounds.
Closest fight thus far.
The judges score it a split decision, in favor of Vick. No romo.
Next up – Johnavan Vistante (4-1) vs. Michael Chiesa (7-0)
Chiesa with a quick takedown, works to get the back as Vistante tries to sit up. Chiesa with Vistante’s back. Chiesa peppering Vistante with punches from on top, with his hooks in from the back. Flattens hips and works for the choke. The choke doesn’t appear to be under the chin but Vistante taps.
Next up – Mike Rio (8-1) vs. Ali Maclean (9-5-1)
Faber looks at the long-haired Rio and the closely cropped blonde Maclean, says, “Long hair don’t care. This is Tito Ortiz vs. Clay Guida.” A water boy comparison from Dana White and then the UFC President and TUF coaches are reminded that they’re watching fights as Rio and Macclean light each other up a few times with punches.
Rio takes stiff jabs from Maclean and the coaches wonder out loud why the three time national champion wrestler doesn’t try to take the fighter from Belfast down. After some more jabs and kicks, Rio has enough of that and gets a takedown, works to sidemount. Rio opens up with punches, Maclean tries to get back to his feet but Rio controls him and keeps him on ground. Rio gets to Maclean’s back and lands punches. Maclean stands, Rio immediately suplexes him, gets hooks in from the back. “Bloody is the nose of Maclean,” one imagines Mike Goldberg would say right now. Rio gets the rear naked choke tap out at the 1:30 mark.
Next up – Justin Lawrence (3-0) vs. James Krause (14-4)
Lawrence, who trains out of Blackhouse, throws some side kicks and spinning kicks to the head of Krause that whiff on Krause but look pretty. Faber says, “ooh we’ve got a karate guy.” Stiff jab from Krause, but Lawrence gets a takedown is very active with a flurry of punches to the downed Krause. Krause gets up but Lawrence is relentless and chases him with knees and hooks to the jaw. A big left lands, drops Krause and Lawrence follows him to the ground with a couple more punches before the bout is stopped. Lawrence is the most effectively explosive fighter yet tonight.
Next up – Drew Dober (8-3) vs. Daron Cruickshank (10-2)
Cruickshank lands a big body kick, changes stance, throws side kick. Dober ducks under and goes for the takedown. Cruickshank defends, and on separation, he is a maniac, landing multiple head kicks and punches in a matter of seconds before landing his own big takedown, working immediately to sidemount and mount.
Dober recomposes his guard. Cruickshank lands a big elbow from inside the guard, Dober works backwards to the fence, stands up. Cruickshank continues to be aggressive on separation, throwing head kicks and punches, Dober goes for a takedown, Cruickshank defends. Cruickshank now looks for his own takedowns, gets a single leg.
Dober stands up, Cruickshank is aggressive with strikes on separation again. Dober lands a left hand, then hits Cruickshank in the balls. The ref breaks it up to give Cruickshank time to recover. White takes this opportunity to tell Faber and Cruz, “just so you guys know, your corners suck. Neither one of them are telling the guys how much time is left.”
The coaches decide to “push back” on that criticism telling White to give them clocks, pointing out that most of them use their phones as stop watches and that White and the show’s producers made them give up their phones.
The fight restarts and White’s cat-fight ends. Cruickshank and Doe trade punches until Cruickshank gets a takedown, Doe, stands and lands his own double, fight ends with Cruickshank back on his feet looking for another takedown.
Cruickshank gets the unanimous decision from the judges and is in the house.
Next up – Jeremy Larsen (8-2) vs. Jeff Smith (9-1)
The cage side salon-talk continues at the start of the bout as Cruz comments that Smith, though known as a submission guy, seems to have come good stand up, after he lands a body kick. Faber replies that Larsen “has a grim reaper tattooed on his shoulder though, so you have to take that into account.”
Faber thinks that fighters that try to rock the tough-guy look are lame, man. Smith lands the takedown, opens up a cut on the left side of Larsen’s head. Larsen stands up. Smith pulls a guillotine, then uses the grip to sweep Larsen over. Larsen stands back up.
Larsen catches a kick from Smith and takes him down. Smith immediately shoots an arm bar, Larsen defends. Larsen works into the sidemount. Smith scores a nifty reversal and they are back on their feet.
Larsen lands a big left hook to the head of Smith, followed by a takedown. Smith goes for a toe hold, Larsen defends. Smith grabs a knee bar with two minutes left. Larsen appears to almost tap, then escapes, works to sidemount on Smith.
Knees to the body of Smith from Larsen. Larsen lands elbows to the far side of Smith’s body while maintaining pressure from the cross side position. Larsen tries to mount, Smith catches his leg, Larsen escapes quickly, ends the fight in cross side.
Larsen wins the unanimous decision. Larsen’s in the TUF house.
Next up – John Tuck (6-0) vs. Al Iaquinta (5-1-1)
Tuck with a body kick, caught by Iaquinta, Tuck tries to jump into an arm bar, misses. They go back to the ground. Tuck works for arm bar more methodically now. Iaquinta defends, stands, his arm extended but he doesn’t tap. Tuck releases the arm, grabs Iaquinta’s right leg then gets behind him and takes his back. Slick.
Iaquinta stands up with the fighter from Guam on his back. Iaquinta escapes. Both men measure each other for awhile but neither lands cleanly until Iaqunita lands a good body kick, followed by two good leg kicks, and then a lead high kick.
Tuck has a toe that is totally fucked, bent the wrong way, he has changed stances. This is affecting his fight for sure, as he’s now heavy on his feet and only throwing big arm punches, one at a time.
Iaquinta takes Tuck down and the Serra/Longo fighter pounds on Tuck from Tuck’s half guard with punches. White, Cruz and Faber are all grossed out by Tuck’s toe. One of them makes a vomiting noise.
The horn sounds, Tuck immediately points to his toe for the ref to see. Doctors come in the cage to examine, point and stare. Great fight, best of luck to Tuck with that injury.
Iaquinta wins the decision, but really wins because he has 10 functioning toes. Eewww
Next up – Akbarh Arreola (19-6-1) vs. Myles Jury (9-0)
Akbarh, out of Mexico, is on a huge win streak, and it’s probably in his interest to keep on wining here since I can’t imagine it will be easy for him to successfully get on another international flight with that name any time soon.
Jury gets the takedown, in Arreola’s full guard. Jury lands some thudding body shots from inside the guard. Akbarh works for an arm bar, doesn’t get it, back in full guard. Jury with short elbows. Ref stand up at 2:52. Jury gets the takedown. White says, “Akbarh had better get some wrestling.” Hopefully he can pick some up at the store on his way home.
Interesting stories from Faber and Cruz about these fighters. Cruz says he commentated on a fight Jury fought in Brazil and Cruz talks about how some of his teammates have trained with Akbarh.
Another stand up from the ref at just under 1:30. Another takedown from Jury. This is why stand ups are not effective. One guy wrestles well, the other guy does not. No way you can stop that fight being on the ground.
Cruz tells how both these men were training partners for a long time and that it went back and forth in training between the two. Akbarh tries to get up but can’t, Jury ends the fight on top in the guard.
Jury gets the unanimous decision victory. Myles Jury is the final fighter in the house.
Faber, Cruz and White gather in front of the “winner’s circle/stonhedge”. Poor planning. The mini bleachers set up don’t even fit all the fighters as one awkwardly tries to kneel to listen to White talk and almost falls over. Live television, folks. Things get wild and crazy.
“You know how hard you’ve worked. This is only the beginning,” White tells the new cast of TUF. “We’ve got 13 weeks of busting ass in here…welcome to The Ultimate Fighter.”
On next Friday’s episode, Cruz and Faber will pick their teams and two fighters will be paired up and fight. Live fights every Friday night, folks, on FX at 10pm EST/PST.