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‘TUF 17: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen,’ Episode 1 — The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly

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…

The Good
- 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.

The Bad
- 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.

- The Harley-Davidson product placement. Sure, it’s a cool incentive for the season’s winner, but watching Salesman Sonnen straddle on the bike like he was hosting a QVC segment was a bit awkward.

The Ugly
- 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…

Team Sonnen
Luke Barnatt
Uriah Hall
Zak Cummings
Tor Troeng
Jimmy Quinlan
Kevin Casey
Kelvin Gastelum

Team Jones
Clint Hester
Josh Samman
Robert “Bubba” McDaniel
Gilbert Smith
Collin Hart
Adam Cella
Dylan Andrews

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…


Cagepotato Comments

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painvelasquez- January 23, 2013 at 6:31 pm
i enjoyed it. uriah hall's taking this one home for sure.
bigashs2- January 23, 2013 at 1:59 pm
The REALLY ugly? Chael tucking his t-shirt into his sweatpants.
NomadRip- January 23, 2013 at 11:00 am
I think Jabba is gone. You can all pause AdBlock on this domain again.

I thought the show was outstanding. It was a third background on each fighter, a third coach thoughts and conversation, and a third fights. All wrapped up in an extremely improved production value with artsy camera treatments and angles. Most of these guys made good accounting of themselves, with a few notable exceptions, and nobody with a ludicrous hairstyle or cowboy hat made it into the house this time.

And every season from this point on needs to be Chael vs who the hell ever.
Fried Taco- January 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm
Nope, still there.
NomadRip- January 23, 2013 at 3:20 pm
Fuck! Back off, then.
MorningwoodII- January 23, 2013 at 10:46 am
Well when Jabba is gone. At least I'll still have this image to masturbate to.
bgoldstein- January 23, 2013 at 9:54 am
Indeed, Jabba the Gut — who redefined the phrase "loose woman" — is on her way out. That's a promise.
SethF- January 23, 2013 at 8:59 am
It took years, but holy shit, the UFC actually listened to what everyone was bitching about!
ReX13- January 23, 2013 at 8:57 am
#CPRumorPatrol: Traffic has plummeted since the appearance of Jabba the Gut. BG says she will be gone next week.
ksgbobo- January 23, 2013 at 8:39 am
I'm excited for this new season. It looks completely different, and they had to make it different because how many of the last ones sucked?!
But I'm calling it now, Uriah Hall is going to win it all. That dude is an effing beast!

And for the love of God, I'm getting tired of looking at the world's fattest woman!
Sho Nuff- January 23, 2013 at 8:36 am
I agree with all of you. The production value was excellent, the filmed look of the cinematography was great and gave the show some grit, like newer NFL Films work (nothing will beat the old actually shot on film NFL Films work, though). I wonder if they will keep that going into the house or if we will return to overly crisp "reality show" HD video. I agree, Tor is the man I got my eye on for now. I always pull for the nerd/geek fighters anyway. And I am going to really enjoy watching Chael, the Master, spend 5 weeks living inside Jon Jones's head. After their animosity before the show, coming in as the exuberant, nice guy is already brilliant, Jones didn't know what to think.
ReX13- January 23, 2013 at 8:20 am
i already strongly dislike this Samman guy. But that's not a bad thing. What i did not dislike were the new production values -- the show's opening almost felt like a fight documentary, instead of a reality show. That's a pretty welcome change right there.
HandsofGold- January 23, 2013 at 8:16 am
Get ready for "Tor" Im telling you
agentsmith- January 23, 2013 at 8:14 am
They went from "let me bang, bro" reality stars and "OOOOOHHHHHGGG, NU METAL!" just last season to, dare I say it, understated professionalism. Our little TUF is all growed up.
RearNakedSpoon- January 23, 2013 at 8:07 am
What I learnt;
Jon Jones goes into all situations (even social) with a plan on how to act, he can't respond on instinct. He didn't know what to do when Chael came in all mild mannered and chatty.

Dana's face is yet again a hilarious barometer for the coach's chat during elimination fights.

Finally a season of TUF where the contestants are to the level of the current UFC fighters...because MW is so pathetic, not because TUF is so amazing.