The Ultimate Fighter returned last night with the two-hour premiere of “Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen,” and since the show is no longer on Friday nights, we figured we’d give it a look. Full results from the 14 middleweight elimination fights and team selections are at the end of this post, but first, let’s run through what worked, what didn’t, and what really didn’t…
- Allowing the fighters’ friends and family members to watch their elimination fights. It raised the emotional stakes for the competitors, removed the eerie silence that plagued the elimination rounds of previous seasons, and led to moments like this. Also, Andy Enz’s dad should be hired as an assistant coach. ”REFUSE TO LOSE!”
- The stoppages. Eight of the 14 elimination fights ended in the first round. In general, there weren’t a lot of point-fighters or reality-show goofballs on display — just a bunch of raw, aggressive dudes who came to win.
- The production values. Did anybody else get the feeling that the show has started trying harder? I think the UFC understands that this Jones vs. Sonnen season needs to work — or else they set up an absurd title fight for nothing.
- Josh Samman’s verbal antics. Yelling “Are you guys ready?” after getting on top Leo Bercier was “Say Goodnight!“-caliber lame. And nobody was impressed with the shouts of “HAI!” he unleashed with each Sakuraba-wannabe double-chop and elbow he threw down during the drawn-out finish.
- Jon Jones shouting instructions at Clint Hester during his fight. I don’t know. It just kind of sucked for the other guy. Hester later became Jones’s #1 pick.
- Mentioning that Dylan Andrews grew up in a marijuana grow house, but failing to mention how Tim Williams got all those gnarly scars on his face.
- Nik Fekete getting knocked out in like seven seconds. Yeesh. This guy was just born to be highlight-reel fodder for other fighters.
- “This guy’s name is Collin ‘The Dick’ Hart.”
- Sonnen’s insistence on speaking in rhyme. ”How you gonna deal with the team of steel, and how will you react when I put my boys on the attack.” Worst attempt at hip-hop from a white dude since Dee Dee King.
Complete fight results:
- Adam Cella def. Jake Heun via submission (armbar), round 1
- Zak Cummings def. Nik Fekete via TKO, round 1
- Kevin Casey def. Eldon Sproat via submission (rear-naked choke), round 1
- Tor Troeng def. Scott Rosa via submission (rear-naked choke), round 1
- Clint Hester def. Fraser Opie via decision
- Robert “Bubba” McDaniel def. Ryan Bigler via TKO, round 2
- Josh Samman def. Lou Bercier via TKO, round 1
- Kelvin Gastelum def. Kito Andrews via decision
- Jimmy Quinlan def. Mike Persons via TKO, round 1
- Uriah Hall def. Andy Enz via decision
- Gilbert Smith def. Eric Wahlin via submission (arm-triangle choke), round 1
- Luke Barnatt def. Nicholas Kohring via decision
- Dylan Andrews def. Tim Williams via decision
- Collin Hart def. Mike Jasper via submission (rear-naked choke), round 1
Sonnen wins the coin toss, and chooses to select the first fighter. The picks shake out like this…
Robert “Bubba” McDaniel
Jones gets to select the first matchup, and decides to have Gilbert Smith take a run at Sonnen’s towering #1 pick, Luke Barnatt. It’s a very risky move — Smith could be walking into a death-trap, and losing the ability to pick the matchups would put Team Jones at a serious disadvantage. But if Smith manages to beat Barnatt, it would be a demoralizing loss for Team Sonnen right off the bat. We shall see…