The 13th season of The Ultimate Fighter pits former UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar versus top-ranked contender Junior Dos Santos, who is riding high on a 3-year win streak. Faced with 14 welterweights who have given up their lives to be here, who will the coaches pick to become the next Ultimate Fighter?
As the newest class of hopefuls stride into the gym, they are pumped and become even more so when it is announced that they will not have to fight their way into the house. Also back into the mix will be the wildcard spot. Butâ€¦Dana has to give his usual lecture about not screwing up this once in a lifetime opportunity. Fight for life, or get out.
The coaches are brought in and given their introductionsâ€¦totally pumps up Lesnarâ€™s credentials (prior to MMA), but completely fails to talk about Dos Santos pre-UFC (how can you not mention his amazing kickboxing career where he went 18-0?). Gee, whoâ€™s your golden-boy, Dana?
Onto the fightersâ€™ evaluations. They are put through a cardio/conditioning test, a bit of wrestling, rolling, sparring, etc. Lesnar even gives them a sort of Miss USA style interview, asking them why they want to be there. And while Dos Santos admits his limited English, he knows they can all speak the language of the fight, even if he canâ€™t â€œinterviewâ€ them.
After the evaluations are complete, the coaches meet with Dana to discuss the prospects. Both coaches seem hopeful. Dana flips a coin to see who gets first fighter or first fight. Brock wins the toss and opts to pick the first fighter. Itâ€™ll be interesting to see who he chooses.
The choices were made in advance, so Dana is left to toss the guys their jerseys (in the order in which they were chosen):
They waste no time getting to training the next morning. Team Dos Santosâ€™ first training session is used to figure out who is the best condition for the first fight. Team Lesnarâ€™s training is much of the same, but as Dos Santos has the first fight pick, heâ€™s concerned about the possibility of Myles being the first pick. Itâ€™s discovered, after an MRI, is that Mylesâ€™ ACL and his meniscus are torn. Doctorâ€™s orders? He canâ€™t fight. Both Brock and Myles take it surprisingly well and want to just let it heal. That is until Dana breaks the news that because he canâ€™t fight, he canâ€™t stay. But he vows to be back in the UFC. Taking his place will be Chuck Oâ€™Neill.
Team Dos Santos makes the first fight picks and opts to put Shamar Bailey (Dos Santosâ€™ #1 pick) up against Nordin Asrih (Lesnarâ€™s last pick). Itâ€™s definitely an interesting fight choice. Is JDS trying to pick off Lesnarâ€™s boys from the bottom up? Creative strategy? Or just a bad idea?
Nordinâ€™s strength is striking and his gameplan is to keep it standing for 10 minutes. Lesnar knows that he has his work cut out for him. Shamar is said to be violent, aggressive and a fast, strong wrestler. His goal is to control the fight and to finish it wherever he can.
(My thoughts â€“ Shamar already looks like he has the better skillset to win this fight, but I do not like his cockiness. Unfortunately I donâ€™t think Nordin has a shot in hell)
Bailey attacks first and quickly gets and keeps Asrih down. He manages to get Asrih away from the cage, but even with side-control Asrih is able to look for a crank. So far Bailey is not able to do much with his side-control. Finally he lands a few punches. As he spins around, he allows Asrih to get up. But itâ€™s not long before Bailey gets Asrih down on his back again. This time in half guard, he does a little more damage with some elbows and hammer-fists. A continues to work hard to look for the advantage. Bailey backs up and drops down a couple big fists. Bailey ends up back in half guard and continues to do a lot of nothing but shifting his weight. A few punches here and there, but Asrih is defending himself well. The round ends with Bailey struggling to get back into Asrihâ€™s guard.
Ho hum round. Where was the great wrestling??
Asrih comes out with a big kick but misses and slips. Bailey pounces and keeps Asrih on his back. In half guard again, more of the same continues, with a few more punches. Asrih spins and gives up his back to Bailey, but itâ€™s quickly reversed and Asrih looks to choke Bailey. The excitement is short-lived as Bailey turns it around to get side control on Asrih. He alternates a few knees and elbows and Asrih looks to work out of it â€“ and this continues for a solid 2 minutes. Finally Bailey manages to get the full mount and it looks to mean nothing until Asrih turns and gives up his back. Bailey does nothing with it and allows Asrih to return to his back. In a final push, Bailey rains down some huge punches with 30 seconds left. The round ends in the same boring fashion.
Winner: Shamar Bailey via Decision
According to Lesnar, Asrihâ€™s lack of wrestling is what lost him the fight. But Dana really put it best â€“ Bailey literally laid on Asrih for 10 minutes. Yes, itâ€™s a win, but it wasnâ€™t exactly spectacular. It came down to wrestling, but I hope for Baileyâ€™s sake that wasnâ€™t all he had in him.
This season on TUF:
Drama, drama, drama. A lot of one-liners from Lesnar. Some injuries. And possibly some great fights. One of the most anticipated seasons yet (mostly because of Lesnar and Dos Santos, for sure), I am interested in seeing how much talent comes out of this season. I think they should’ve had to fight their way into the house, so being that they were just given a pass, they’d better be good.