The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14 is officially underway with a mixture of 32 bantamweight and featherweight hopefuls gunning for a "six-figure contract" under middleweight coaches Michael Bisping and Jason Miller.
The gang enters the Mandalay Bay and bantamweight Louis Gaudinot immediately stands out because of his green locks, reminiscent of Hermes Franca's purple disaster at UFC 103. UFC President Dana White is there to welcome them and inform them of the new fan voting system, where viewers will choose best knockout, best submission and best fight of the season.
The winners in each category get $25,000 at the live TUF Finale on Dec. 3 in Las Vegas.
Coaches Bisping and Miller are introduced to a round of solicited applause and Dana sells their achievements. He then gives a variation of the "do you wanna be a f'ing fighter" speech.
It's time for the elimination fights and Bryan Caraway tells the camera he's "super nervous and super scared." I can't blame him. I would be terrified of anything that might jeopardize a romantic relationship with Miesha Tate and you don't want to come home to a division champion having been bounced out in the opening round.
Here we go.
135 lbs.: Josh Ferguson (7-3) vs. Casey Dyer (5-1)
Round 1: Ferguson runs in, lands a few clean jabs and crushes him with a right. Dyer, who had the defensive prowess of Old Chief Woodenhead, crumbles and gets pounded into a quick stoppage. Ouch.
Josh Ferguson def. Casey Dyer via TKO (strikes)
145 lbs. Diego Brandao (13-7) vs. Jesse Newell (6-1)
Round 1: Newell comes out blasting, looks powerful but Brandao weathers the storm and gets a big takedown. Newell back to his feet and gets creamed with a thunderous left followed by a flying forearm to the ground. Yes, just like Hendo vs. Bisping, which Mayhem doesn't fail to point out.
Diego Brandao def. Jesse Newell via TKO (strikes)
135 lbs.: John Dodson (11-5) vs. Brandon Merkt (11-0)
Round 1: Both fighters pawing at each other in the stand-up. Dodson starts to take control of the striking and Merkt is fighting scared. He eats a brutal body blow and folds like a Trapper-Keeper. Dodson pounces to finish the job.
John Dodson def. Brandon Merkt via TKO (strikes)
145 lbs.: Dennis Bermudez (7-2) vs. Jimmie Rivera (8-1)
Round 1: Rivera comes out with frightening power and roughs Bermudez up from bell to bell. Nice display of offense as well as ground work but the real story in round one is the punishment from Rivera and the chin/heart of Bermudez. Both coaches (and Dana) are impressed.
Round 2: Both guys come out swinging with bad intentions but Bermudez looks the fresher of the two (despite the punishment) and starts landing clean. Rivera gets wobbled and Bermudez kicks it into overdrive and muscles him to the ground, flattens him out and pounds out the win. Great fight, amazing comeback.
Dennis Bermudez def. Jimmie Rivera via TKO (strikes)
135 lbs.: B.J. Ferguson (6-2) vs. Roland Delorme (6-2)
Round 1: Ferguson and his epic beard walk right into a guillotine. He huffs and puffs his way out of it and shoots again, this time getting himself wrapped up in a tirangle choke for which there is no escape. Sloppy and reckless.
Roland Delorme def. B.J. Ferguson via submission (triangle choke)
145 lbs.: Marcus Brimage (3-1) vs. Bryson Wailehua-Hansen (6-1)
Round 1: Crazy round. Brimage comes out and gets loud in the stand-up so the Hawaiian takes him down and controls him for a good portion of the opening frame. Hansen gets his back and almost has the rear naked choke but with just over a minute left Brimage hulks up, reverses, gets back to his feet and unloads a barrage of punches that would have killed most featherweights. Hansen's "coconut head" somehow survives the onslaught and gets saved by the bell.
Round 2: Brimage comes out and lands clean and hard on Hansen who won't go down, forcing Mazzagatti to come in and save him from brain damage. No idea how this kid was still upright but it had to be called. Chin of steel.
Marcus Brimage def. Bryson Wailehua-Hansen via TKO (strikes)
135 lbs.: Carson Beebe (6-1) vs. Johnny Bedford (17-9-1)
Round 1: Both guys come out grappling where they stay pretty evenly matched. When it does go to the feet, Bedford's reach gives him the advantage and he exploits it. Beebe hanging tough but gets rocked late in the round. Bedford pounces and cinches in a fight-ending guillotine.
Johnny Bedford def. Carson Beebe via submission (guillotine choke)
135 lbs.: Dustin Pague (10-4) vs. Tateki Matsuda (6-2)
Round 1: Both fighters opt to duke it out on the feet and while neither seems to have the advantage in skill, Pague towers over his Japanese foe and is able to use his reach to get the better of the exchanges. He takes it south late in the round but Matsuda is able to reverse and work from the top. Pague gets to his feet as time expires. Close round.
Round 2: They start out on the feet and Matsuda lands a few kicks but it quickly goes to the mat. Pague gets back to his feet and rocks Matsuda with a left. From guard, Matsuda lands a stinging upkick but Pague shakes it off and falls into guard to work from top. He controls the action until the bell.
Dustin Pague def. Tateki Matsuda via majority decision
135 lbs.: Paul McVeigh (18-6) vs. Louis Gaudinot (5-1)
Michael Bisping says "Mayhem" Miller looks like a cross between Josh Koscheck and a toilet brush. Zing. 1-0 Great Britain. Well, we've moved to the fast-forward "fight highlights," probably because this one went three rounds. Anyway, pretty evenly matched throughout until the end, when Gaudinot lands a wicked elbow and follows up with some ground-and-pound for the win.
Louis Gaudinot def. Paul McVeigh via TKO (strikes)
145 lbs.: Eric Marriot (20-5) vs. Bryan Caraway (15-5)
More highlights. Caraway wins both rounds through effective top control but according to Dana White he was "riding it out" and "playing it safe." Uh-oh. Doesn't sound like he's off to a good start.
Bryan Caraway def. Eric Marriot via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Josh Clopton (4-0-1) vs. Dustin Neace (22-17-1)
Fast-forward! Clopton seems to get the better of both rounds but Neace takes the decision, much to the chagrin of Dana and his coaches. You know the old saying about judges and hands ...
Dustin Neace def. Josh Clopton via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Matt Jaggers (20-7) vs. T.J. Dillashaw (4-0)
Round 1: Both guys successful in their strikes and landing cleanly, seemingly at will. These guys sure can punch but why does no one train defense? Anyway, Dillashaw gets it to the ground and takes over from top position. Jaggers finds his way back up and has success in the stand-up but after Dillashaw takes a big body shot, he takes Jaggers down and pounds on him to finish it at the bell.
T.J. Dillashaw def. Matt Jaggers via TKO (strikes)
145 lbs.: Steven Siler (17-6) vs. Micah Miller (17-4)
Fight highlights! Siler controlling the stand-up, nearly gets subbed in the second stanza, but roars back to submit Cole Miller's brother in the third round.
Steven Siler def. Micah Miller via submission (guillotine choke)
135 lbs.: John Albert (6-1) vs. Orville Smith (11-3)
Fast-forward! Albert beats him up on the feet and on the ground and secures the quick win via submission.
John Albert def. Orville Smith via submission (rear naked choke)
145 lbs.: Stephen Bass (10-0) vs. Karsten Lenjoint (7-1)
Fight highlights! Back-and-forth war until round two when Lenjoint gasses and gets triangled.
Stephen Bass def. Karsten Lenjoint via submission (triangle choke)
145 lbs.: Brian Pearman (7-1) vs. Akira Corassani (9-3)
Round 1: Sloppy fight. Corassani comes out kicking but eats way too many shots, gets taken down and nearly finished. He gets back to his feat and both guys, who are already gassed, just rock-em-sock-em robot each other until someone drops. It's Pearman.
Akira Corassani def. Brian Pearman via knockout
The elimination fights are officially in the books. The stats? Eight knockouts, five submissions and three decisions. Hopefully that's a sign of things to come.
Here are your TUF 14 contestants:
Bantamweight (135 lbs.)
Featherweight (145 lbs.)
They close the show with a video preview of what's to come. You know the one -- donkeys, fire extinguishers and gratuitous nudity. Good times.
See you in seven!