And so we begin the eleventh season of The Ultimate Fighter. Yes, ten seasons have amazingly already come and gone, and now we return to watch frenemies/coaches Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell. These two are like a train wreck. You almost can’t help but watch.
The first episode (following an Ultimate Fight Night that showcased several TUF alum), began with much ado about nothing…well, a lot of hype over the careers of Ortiz and Liddell. Now, their epic feud becomes a war, where 28 middleweight fighters vie to become the Ultimate Fighter.
On day one, the guys pour into the (new and improved) gym, utterly awestruck. Dana, Tito and Chuck walk in to get the show going and welcome the newest training class. However, Dana surprises them with a new twist. This season will have a “wildcard.” There are 28 guys. Fourteen get into the house via fighting. Once the first seven preliminary fights are done, the coaches and Dana will choose two wildcard fighters to fight for a final slot, to leave eight guys for the quarterfinals. Once he drops that bomb on them, Dana gives his usual final “Hoo-rah” speech. He advises them to not to leave their fights in the hands of the judges or else they will end up regretting it and will spend the rest of the lives mad at themselves for blowing their one shot. I just hope these guys take those words to heart. It’s straight to the fights from there. They come fast and furious.
#1 Jamie Yager (2-1) vs. Ben Stark (3-1)
They come out and touch gloves. Nice body kicks from Yager. Yager then lands a nice head kick followed by another big one. The second drops Stark and he is out cold. Yager was cocky, “but he backed every ounce up.”
#2 Jordan Smith (10-1…fighter and teacher! Sorry, soft spot for teachers ?) vs. Brad Tavares (4-0)
As soon as they touch gloves, Tavares throws a nice leg kick. This is followed by a couple nice combos from Smith. They clinch. Smith tries to throw Tavares but can’t him up. Tavares controls Smith against cage. Tavares backs up, winds up, and with a big right hook knocks Smith out.
#3 Cleburn Walker (9-3) vs. Kris McCray (5-0)
Both come out fast and hard. McCray immediately hip-throws Walker and within a blink Walker is tapping. Due to hurting his shoulder? Looks that way.
#4 Norman Paraisy (5-1-0-1) vs. James Hammortree (5-1)
Another quick start. Paraisy shoots and slams Hammortree. He pins him against the fence. Back up, there’s a big overhand from Paraisy. Paraisy swings, misses and sort of falls. Hammortree takes advantages and pounces. On top, Hammortree drops some hammer-fists and controls Paraisy. Hammortree gets the full mount. NP rolls and puts in JH in the half mount. JH regains the mount and just rains down punches as the round ends.
Between rounds, Paraisy tells his corner men that he’s quitting…so much for proving that the French aren’t soft. Chuck and Tito are flabbergasted. Wow, they agree on something!
#6 Noke vs. Thompson — one-sided, extremely bloody, but Noke pulls out a win via decision
#7 McGee vs. Baczynski — total slugfest, with huge slams and takedowns for good measure. It goes a full 3 rounds and McGee wins via decision
#8 Victor O’Donnell (8-1) vs. Chris Camozzi (12-3)
O’Donnell immediately shoots but can’t get Camozzi down. Camozzi lands some knees, but O’Donnell manages to slam him. Back up, they slug it out. Camozzi lands a nice knee. Solid jabs from both and yet another knee from Camozzi. They end up on the ground and O’Donnell is saved from a pounding by the bell.
Round 2 brings more slugging. Big punches from both. Sweeping slam from Camozzi. They get back up. A charging slam from O’Donnell, but Camozzi goes for the triangle as the bell rings. It’s called a draw and it goes to a third.
Round 3 brings more of the same. O’Donnell slams Camozzi, but gets reversed. More nice knees from Camozzi, but he gets slammed again. He maneuvers off his back and gets back in control as the round ends. At this point, it’s hard to tell who’s gonna get this one. But someone has to win.
All three judges score it 10-9 for Chris Camozzi. Personally, I think they called it right. But I give a lot of respect for O’Donnell, who left in an ambulance with a broken orbital socket. I have a hunch he’ll be back.
#9 Kyacey Uscola (18-15) vs. Brent Cooper (5-1)
Uscola strikes first, but any tentativeness is short lived. They exchange briefly, but Uscola comes at Cooper strong. He lands a heavy right that knocks Cooper out.
#11 Attonito vs. Steffens — Total domination by the wrestler gets Attonito the win.
#12 Bryant vs. Rebello — Another wrestler vs. striker fight, and Bryant wins via decision.
#13 Flynn vs. Blanchard — Whose grappling is better? Um, that’d be Blanchard, the shortest guy in the room.
And the final fight of the night:
#14 Charley Lynch (6-0) vs. Clayton McKinney (4-2)
The battle of the funky hair starts with a fevered pace and McKinney immediately nails a takedown. They start back up and McKinney lands a solid knee. A brief exchange and they clinch. Beautiful hip-throw from McKinney. Excellent flurry of punches from McKinney followed by a knee. But he starts to fall back and Lynch charges. In McKinney’s guard, Lynch lands a few shots. McKinney goes for an arm but Lynch escapes. Lynch won’t let McKinney up, and instead peppers him with some leg kicks. Back up, McKinney goes in with nice jabs and knees. They clinch and McKinney lands a nice backfist. With a clearly broken nose, Lynch is backing up. McKinney lands a final awesome right that drops Lynch and it’s over. Total domination on McKinney’s part, but Lynch has got balls of steel.
So, there you have it. The fourteen toughest middleweights have earned their spots. Dana is actually impressed with what he has seen so far. The competition is going to be fierce this season, that is for sure, and for once it’s not just between the coaches.
The season 11 roster:
From the looks of the season, we can expect antics and fighting in the house, antics in the cage, and near-fights between the coaches. Gotta love it.