Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was back in business earlier tonight (Jan. 29, 2013) with "Ambush," episode two of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17: "Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen" on FX.
After a brief look back at last week's eliminations (see them here), the gang moves into the TUF house. As expected, mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters accustomed to competing at local pubs for $250 a pop are a lil' starstruck by their fancy new digs.
Team Jones heads to the gym for its first training session and hey look, it's former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir! Gilbert Smith is fighting first and his team has a vote of no confidence in his cardio and overall ability. Solidarity FTW! It doesn't help that Smith is getting all weepy in the backyard over his friends and family.
He also uses the word "love" a lot (gulp).
Likewise, Team Sonnen is doing work at the facility with Mike Dolce and TUF 8 runner-up Vinny Magalhaes bringing up the rear. This group sounds a little more cohesive as Luke Barnatt gets ready for Smith, but we'll see how unified they remain when guys start losing fights.
Uh oh, an
A few members of Team Jones get together to tell Gilbert he's not ready, citing a direct correlation between his potential loss and the direction of their careers. "Bones" comes in and gives Smith a verbal pat on the back, telling him to ignore the haters and just do his thing.
Will he make his coach "look stupid" during the fight?
Coach Sonnen swings by the TUF house to boost morale and talk his fighters up. He may be a clown outside the cage, but he makes a pretty good coach. Barnatt gives us some background on his path to MMA and it involves having no money.
Welcome to the real world, aspiring fighters.
Both Barnatt and Smith make weight without incident and their staredown pose draws unintentional laughs because of the height disparity. Even UFC President Dana White questions why Jones picked the vertically-challenged Smith to try to get the team's first win.
Can't say they didn't warn him.
It's fight day and Smith assures viewers he doesn't want to hurt anyone, but will hospitalize your ass if it comes down to winning or losing. Conversely, Barnatt just wants to win -- and win impressively -- because his pride is on the line.
Whoa, Smith just went all Heaven's Gate with the no blinking routine and started rambling on about going to that place where you have to be ready to die.
Middleweight elimination fight #1: Gilbert Smith (Team Jones) vs. Luke Barnatt (Team Sonnen)
Round 1: Touch of gloves and right out of the gate, Smith gets plunked in the yams. Brief recovery and it's back on. Smith paws and drives for a takedown. Coach Jones shouts, "Finish hard for me!" Uh, what? Barnatt falls on his ass but is able to work back to his feet and then takes Smith down -- but not for long. They struggle against the cage and Smith eats a few knees. Smith with a single but can't hold it and it's back to a stalemate. They break away and swing leather. Smith taunts before falling on a takedown attempt. Nice. Barnatt with some non-threatening ground and pound. Smith reverses position and gets back up to his feet. Jones trying to instruct, but can't be heard over all the screams from the peanut gallery. Back to the center of the cage and the round ends with sloppy striking.
Round 2: Jones tells Smith, "He doesn't like getting hit in the face, so I need you to hit him in the face." Sage advice. Too bad Smith ignores him and opens with a failed takedown. Barnatt on top but can't capitalize. Gratuitous Harley Davidson pop-up ad. Against the cage and they wrestle for a wing. Barnatt loses an armbar attempt and falls to his back. He climbs to his feet and drags Smith down. Someone in the stands yells "Nice!" but maybe he's watching a better fight on his iPhone. Smith muscles his way up and they break away. Smith lumbers in low and Barnatt cracks him with a flying knee. Gilbert collapses and Barnatt is waved off. Peace out.
Final result: Luke Barnatt def. Gilbert Smith via knockout (knee)
Following the fight, Dana plays the "I told you so" card. Jones blames Smith's conditioning while "Bones" buddy Bubba Jenkins calls out Kevin Casey to try to save face for his team. Casey is not amused.
Sonnen saunters in for his next fight pick and it's Uriah Hall to face Adam Cella. White calls the match up "interesting." Jones says he "hopes for the best." Hard to sound sure of yourself when your team is down 0-1.
Here's the updated TUF 17 roster heading into episode three:
Stay tuned next week for Hall vs. Cella, which results in "one of the nastiest knockouts ever seen in the fight business." I think we'll be the judge of that.
See you in seven!