The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 19 gets underway with featherweight rivals, ex-lightweight champions and newly-christened combat sports reality show coaches Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn, who tonight (April 16, 2014) attempt to lead 16 middleweights (185 pounds) and 16 light heavyweights (205 pounds) to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) promised land.
No time to be dicking around with formalities as TUF 19 rolls right into the elimination fights, which means 32 hopefuls will soon be just 16. UFC President Dana White is on hand to talk up the coaches and lay out the season ahead, you know, in case you haven't figured out how it works after 19 seasons.
Penn and Edgar are overly-chummy right off the bat. "He's cool, I'm cool," says "The Answer."
Just like the last couple of seasons on FX/FOX Sports 1, the incoming fighters get to bring their families with them, who can watch from the bleachers. First up is Daniel Spohn taking on Tyler King. Spohn opens with a body kick, then puts King out COLD.
I mean this dude went face first into the canvas in front of his mom. It was brutal.
Up next is Adrian Miles taking on Hector Urbina, who gets flamed by White for wearing some short-ass shorts. Like 70's basketball-player short. After a fast-paced back-and-forth affair, Miles gets subbed by a guillotine choke and Coach Penn is impressed.
Jake Heun is back after coming up lame in season 17, and he faces thug-turned-butt-kicking preacher Todd Monaghan, who wants to pay glory to God by hurting someone else to further his own cause. In other words, religion 101. Heun punches the back of the head about 27 times, showboats in the cage, and then locks on a couple of deep submission attempts.
Only to lose by armbar, which referee Kim Winslow calls a technical knockout (lolz).
Dublin's Cathal Pendred gets into the house on a bye because the promotion was unable to scare up an opponent in time, thanks to injuries and various other "shit happens"-type mishaps.
Roger Zapata is a new dad by exactly three days and had to leave his family behind to chase his dream. Opposing him is Tyler Minton, who brings his wife to "Sin City" to watch him do work. She will leave disappointed as Minton gets stopped by way of punches late in the fight.
Turns out everyone from the red team has short shorts and it's because someone said long shorts are bad luck.
Lyman Good up next and he's a former Bellator champion, but Ian Stephens takes him down and makes him look inept on the ground. "He looks like Vitor Belfort but doesn't fight like him," jokes White, who can now brag that his competition's champs can't even make it into the TUF house.
Josh Stansbury on deck and he throws hands against fellow light heavyweight Chris Fields, who proudly represents the fighting spirit of Ireland and even has Conor McGregor cheering him on. As Irish luck would have it, Stansbury blows out his knee in a fight he was clearly winning.
Here comes Anton Berzin as the youngest of 10 kids. He drops some knowledge in Russian and gets paired off with Cody Mumma, who is nicknamed "The Puma" and has a scraggly beard. White calls him a hippie and Penn predicts he will lose.
He was right.
Tim Williams battled back from brain surgery and like Jake Heun, didn't make the cut for TUF 17, but got a second chance at TUF stardom. Penn keeps calling him "Joe Lauzon." He squares off against Serbia's Bojan Velickovic, who gets mic'd up behind closed doors so we can hear him swap spit with his girlfriend.
Williams gets the standing finish toward the end of the fight and hey, he does look a little like "J-Lau."
Matt Gabel comes into his elimination fight with the reputation of a finisher, or so we're told, fighting Chris Weidman training partner Eddie Gorman. Gabel doesn't finish, nor does he win, as Gorman beats on him en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Josh Clarke submits John Poppie in a fight that got little fanfare.
Patrick Walsh up next and he's a wrestler from Boston, taking on fellow light heavyweight Doug Sparks, who wears bunny ears on his head. Some backstory about his parents having sex with a polar bear or something, I didn't quite get the reference, nor do I want to know.
Walsh spares us from finding out with a submission victory.
Here comes Daniel Vizcaya, who is fighting to put food on the table and pay his bills. He'll need to beat a "focused" Matt Van Buren to do it, but can't, so he has to go home and explain to his kids what happened. The fight game is just plain mean.
COMING. UP. NEXT. Ground guru Kelly Andudnson fights Corey Anderson in what Edgar called a "great fight," which is why we, as viewers, only got "performance highlights." Anderson wins by way of superior cardio.
Adam Stroup battles Dhiego Lima, who is the brother of Douglas Lima (the Bellator fighter) and lost a decision. Nordine Taleb -- who trains at TriStar gym in Montreal -- will try to avoid a similar fate against Mike King. After a great fight with lots of back-and-forth action (and a couple of crazy submissions), King pulls through with a decision win.
Don't be surprised to see Taleb get called back in case of emergency later this season.
Here are your TUF 19 contestants and their corresponding teams:
Matt Van Buren
First fight: Cathal Pendred vs. Hector Urbina
Stay tuned next week as we get our first "Team vs. Team" fight of the season and a bunch of other silly TUF-drama type things.
See you in seven!