Episode one of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 9 is finally underway. The "US vs. UK" format features Coach Dan Henderson leading a stateside team against Coach Michael Bisping and his British squad.
We kick things off in the United Kingdom with UFC President Dana White riding in a creepy van like Buffalo Bill for a little rendezvous with Coach Bisping at the Wolfslair gym.
Dana greets the UK boys and tells them only half of the group of 16 gets to board a plane to the United States. Anyone looking for a trip to Vegas will have to fight their way onto the show.
Dana said it best: Welcome to The Ultimate Fighter motherfucker.
The first episode was taped prior to UFC 93 so both Dan Henderson and Rich Franklin are on the scene for the evaluations. It was no secret that "Ace" was disinterested in the coaching job, but I haven't seen such a catatonic expression since they took the batteries out of Vicki on "Small Wonder."
After a few mild pleasantries, the staff takes their place at the cageside desk and the elimination fights get underway.
Elimination bout #1: Gary Kelly (2-1) vs. Andre Winner (9-2-1)
Round 1: They trade blows and clinch. Winner pushes him to the cage and they exchange knees. Bisping talking it up for Kelly who trains out of Wolfslair. A stalemate against the cage. Winner creates a gap and drives his knee right into the exposed head of Kelly. Lights out.
Andre Winner defeats Gary Kelly via KO
Elimination bout #2: Jeff Lawson (12-2) vs. James Bryan (3-1)
Round 1: Both come out swinging and Lawson secures a takedown into top position. Lawson spins and sits on his face. More rotating and some early panting. Lawson swings into an armbar and after some scuffling locks it in for the tap.
Jeff Lawson defeats James Bryan via submission (armbar)
Elimination bout #3: Che Mills (7-2) vs. James Wilks (5-2)
Round 1: Che opens up swinging and they go to the fence. Wilks tumbles to the ground and eats a few punches but grabs a leg and rolls Mills right into a heel hook. From there it's academic.
James Wilks defeats Che Mills via submission (heel hook)
Elimination bout #4: Martin Stapleton (5-1) vs. Dan James (3-0)
Round 1: Brief exchange and Stapleton takes him down. James traps him for a bit and Stapleton sneaks in a headbutt. He spins and gets mount and lets the hands fly. James rolls into a rear naked choke, gets flattened out and eventually taps.
Martin Stapleton defeats Dan James via submission (rear naked choke)
Elimination bout #5: AJ Wenn (7-2) vs. Ross Pearson (9-3)
Round 1: Requisite feeling out process and they go to the cage. An exchange of knees and Pearson briefly sweeps him. Wenn back up and more cage hugging. Wenn drops a level buts finds nothing. Tries it again and Pearson reverses and shows him how its done with a big slam. They're back up and against the cage once again. Huge knees for Pearson who again picks up Wenn and slams him. And whaddaya know, they're back up and leaning against the cage. I catch Dana in the background not paying attention. He mutters something to Bisping in disapproval. They finally push off and Pearson unloads with a jumping knee. A stunned Wenn backpedals and eats a few shots at the bell. Referee Dan Miragliotta (on location) gives Pearson a shove across the ring to save Wenn and prove how tough he is.
Round 2: Pearson pauses for a moment, then rushes in and unloads on a helpless Wenn who collapses and eats a few extra punches for good measure.
Ross Pearson defeats AJ Wenn via TKO
Elimination bout #6: Tommy Maguire (5-2) vs. Nick Osipczak (3-0)
Round 1: Huge height difference, Osipczak is a giant -- especially against Maguire who looks like that kid from "The Sandlot." They immediately find their way to the cage and Maguire gets him down. He sort of plops down on him and shoves his crank in his face. Osipczak stands up into a guillotine. Maguire jumps up and uses his considerable weight to drag him back down. He loses the choke and his position but Osipczak kind of lazily stands up and backs away. Some sloppy striking ensues until Osipczak finds his target and repeatedly blasts Maguire into a heap.
Nick Osipczak defeats Tommy Maguire via TKO
Elimination bout #7: Alex Reid (10-9-1) vs. Dean Amasinger (4-1)
Round 1-3: "The Reidinator" goes all Marshall Applewhite for the camera while Amasinger does a hackneyed impression of B.A. Baracus. Both are unconvincing. We get the ol' TUF fast-forward job which is the Zuffa equivalent of an English Bobby standing on the street in front of a car wreck saying "Nothing to see here folks." Reid starts hootin' and hollerin' and I star to wonder if these guys have been tested for LSD. A third and final round sees the Reidinator come up short despite sounding off like Bobo the mechanical owl.
Dean Amasinger defeats Alex Reid via decision
Elimination bout #8: James Bateman (2-1) vs. David Faulkner (2-1)
Round 1: Faulkner is out of Wolfslair and Bisping predicts a win via heel hook or loss via mental breakdown. Faulkner for the takedown but they roll and go right back to their feet. The fence sees some more action. Bateman with a flying knee and misses. Both swing wildly. Faulkner charges and gets his arm caught but sneaks in a takedown. Bateman stymies him and rolls on top but Faulkner is playing possum and slaps on a fight ending heel hook.
David Faulkner defeats James Bateman via submission (heel hook)
Afterward Dana compliments the fighters for a display of good fights. I try to be forgiving since this isn't exactly the upper echelon of fighters but I wasn't particularly blown away by any of the Brits -- though I did see a lot of promise in a handful of them.
Dana gives the winners a pep talk and the losers a Viking funeral. Coach Bisping looks forward to molding his team into "Little Bispings" and blowing away the US Team.
Stay tuned next week as Team USA gets their crack at TUFdom -- but it doesn't look like a promising start as Yanks are seen passing out and donning the rubber suit for a date with the treadmill. Somewhere out there Bruce Springsteen is hanging his head in shame.
See you in seven!