The Ultimate Fighter: Team Lesnar vs. Team Dos Santos premiered last night, and whatever the opposite of fireworks is, that’s what episode 1 delivered. We begin with a video montage introducing the coaches. Brock Lesnar announces that he ain’t here to make friends during the first minute. Check that off your reality show cliche scorecard. (In an unrelated story, Junior Dos Santos later refers to himself as “a sleepy bitch.”)
The fighters come in howling like they just got selected for a spot on Mr. Awesome. They’re told that there will be no elimination fight to get into the house, which gets them even more psyched. Brock and Junior enter the room to a rousing ovation. The guys applaud Brock’s list of credentials. Dana says that Junior “stepped aside from that title shot to come in here and teach you guys what he’s got.” Obviously, they’re not going to mention Cain Velasquez‘s injury and how Junior really felt about his title shot getting delayed.
The coaches spend some time evaluating the fighters before picks are made. Brock’s strength and conditioning coach puts them through a cardio evaluation to see who’s fight-ready. Brock also has individual conversations with each guy to see where their heads are at, and why they’re here. Junior seems to envy Brock’s ability to communicate with the fighters. Dos Santos’s English is a little shaky, but his wrestling coach Lew Polley will be able to act as his mouthpiece. Besides, as JDS puts it, ”we can speak fight language.”
Team Dos Santos’s evaluations are less about cardio and attitude, and more about the nuts and bolts of striking and grappling. Shamar Bailey emerges as an early standout, as does Ryan McGillivray. Myles Jury looks good as well — until he pops his knee in training. He’s able to walk it off after a quick look by a doctor, and just thinks he needs some ice and rest.
Dana takes the coaches aside and flips a coin to determine who gets first pick. Lesnar wins it. He opts to pick the first fighter rather than the first matchup — a notorious strategical error on this show, but Brock is dead-set on getting the best guys for his team. And if not, “we’ll have to make chicken salad out of chicken shit.” (Growing up poor in Webster, South Dakota, his family actually had to do that.)
The fighter picks are announced…
Team Lesnar: Len Bentley, Charles Rader, Tony Ferguson, Clay Harvison, Myles Jury, Chris Cope, Nordin Asrih
Team Dos Santos: Shamar Bailey, Ryan McGillivray, Javier Torres, Ramsey Nijem, Zach Davis, Mick Bowman, Keon Caldwell
Rader is psyched to be on Team Lesnar…because of Brock’s coaches: “You don’t take a guy with less than five fights and make him a world champion by not knowing what you’re doing. If they can do that with Brock, I can’t wait to see what they can do with me.”
The fighters finally invade the house, and they quickly segregate themselves upstairs (Team Lesnar) and downstairs (Team Dos Santos).
And already, the season is struck with its first bit of bad news. After undergoing an MRI, it is discovered that Myles Jury tore his ACL, as well the back part of his meniscus. His knee is fucked, in other words. The doctor advises him not to fight, and Dana tells him he can’t stay in the house; he needs to get his knee taken care of, but they’ll have him back. His replacement will be Chuck “Cold Steel” O’Neil, an 8-3 welterweight out of Bridgewater, MA.
Dos Santos has the first fight selection, and goes with Shamar Bailey (his first pick) vs. Nordin Asrih (Lesnar’s last pick). Oh, Junior. The thing is, Nordin’s got a lot of experience, and was jet-lagged during the evaluations, so he’s actually a lot better than what he showed. Shamar thinks that Lesnar will run his mouth if he gains control; he doesn’t want Lesnar to say anything “except to maybe lose it and throw a metal chair at the end of this competition.”
Nordin admits that Shamar’s wrestling is better than his, but he feels he’s better overall. Team Lesnar coach Erik Paulson says Nordin’s strength is in his “wild ass” striking. Nordin says that Shamar is “very muscle,” and wonders if he has the conditioning to go ten minutes with him. Shamar is confident. He plans to control the fight, and attack attack attack. Lew Polley says that when Team Lesnar sees how bad Nordin gets damaged, they’re going to want no part of it. Shamar is the son of a pastor. Nordin is a a German Muslim. GRUDGE MATCH.
Nordin is 2″ taller, but Shamar has six inches in reach. Not that the stats matter in this one…
Round 1: Shamar goes for the takedown right away, sets Nordin down against the cage, and drives a knee into his body from side control. Nordin tries to get up, and is dragged right back down. He grabs Shamar in a headlock, and traps Shamar’s arm with his legs. Shamar escapes and re-establishes in side-control. Nordin is chastised by his coaches for turning away from Bailey on the ground. Nordin escapes and eats a knee. Shamar shoots agan and scores. Nordin kicks him off. Shamar fires down a big punch and sets up in top position. Nordin getting smothered, but not taking much damage. Nordin pushes off, and chops at Shamar’s thigh with axe kicks off his back. Shamar gets back on in half-guard. Short punches from Shamar to the head and body, then some sharp elbows. Nordin with some punches from the bottom. He gets some space and throws some upkicks. Shamar dives on again and the horn sounds. 10-9 Bailey.
Round 2: Nordin obviously wants to keep it standing, but he falls while throwing a high kick and Shamar is all over him. Shamar passes to mount. Nordin uses the fence to explode off his back, and reverses the position. But it doesn’t last long. Shamar escapes and flips Nordin right back to the bottom. Nordin grabs another headlock, but is in no position to threaten with a guillotine. Shamar moves to side control, blasts a couple of heavy punches. Nordin tries to buck, but can’t. Shamar is positioned heavy on Nordin’s torso, attacking with elbows and knees to the body. Nordin is completely stuck. Shamar casually steps over to mount, Nordin rolls. Punches to the side of the head from Shamar. Nordin rolls again. Hard punches in the last minute from Shamar, who rides it out to the final horn.
Shamar Bailey gets a 20-18 nod from all three judges and advances to the quarterfinals, while Nordin Asrih’s run at the TUF trophy ends as quickly as it began. Dana isn’t very happy. “Round 1, Shamar lays on top of him for five minutes. Round 2, Shamar lays on top of him for five minutes.”
Lesnar is bummed, but tries to take it in stride: “They’re celebrating like they just won the gold medal or a world championship, but they put their best guy against our last pick, so it was to be expected.” He tells his team: “Wrestling is powerful in this sport, fellas. It’s powerful.” He tells the viewers: “If they win this next fight, it’s gonna be a long road for us.”
In the scenes-from-upcoming-episodes montage: “Chicken salad out of chicken shit,” Brock says during training, firmly establishing his catchphrase for the season. “Choke, choke, choke. You all look like chicken shit,” Brock says, starting to run his catchphrase into the ground. Matt Hughes comes in, chairs get thrown, a dude goes face-first into a glass coffee table, another fighter is claimed by injury — business as usual.