The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17: "Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen" finally made its season premiere earlier this evening on FX Channel, featuring UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones coaching against unlikely division number one contender Chael Sonnen.
Joining them was a cast of middleweight hopefuls trying to bag the 'six-figure contract."
Episode one, "Enter the Octagon," gets underway as both coaches put over the horrors of living under the confines of a combat sports reality show, complete with select fighter
sob stories profiles giving us all the more reason to care, despite doing this dance for several years now.
But the slate is wiped clean, as far as I'm concerned. Hey look, a Station Casinos cameo!
What's different for this season is that for the first time ever, the contestants can bring their friends and families to watch them compete for a spot on the show. Just what every prospect needs: more pressure! The coaches meet for the first time and exchange pleasantries.
Dear God, I hope that doesn't last.
Speaking of, there sure are a lot of close up shots on this show. Anyway, the fighters are ushered in and what we have are 28 hungry middleweights. The winner of the show -- and his coach -- gets a custom-built Harley Davidson, along with the usual spoils.
We're not even 10 minutes in and we have our first fight. I like it. Oh yeah, half the group goes home today. Sucks to be them! Whoa, gratuitous product placement featuring a non-descript protein powder. That takes us to Jake "Honey Bear" Heun -- "a Chris Leben guy" -- getting submitted by the smaller Adam Cella.
Peace out, yo.
Next up is Zak Cummings (and his spartan beard) taking on Nik Fekete. These guys must hate the letter C. Fekete charges in with a kick, gets punched in the face and drops like a sack of Yukon golds, only to get pounded back into obscurity.
Why is Donald Cerrone auditioning for TUF? Oh, never mind, that's "Cowboy" clone Eldon Sproat. Opposing him is Kevin Casey and his "anger issues," along with a Gracie influence that proves to be too much for Sproaties 10 gallons of doom.
Rear naked choke FTW.
Here comes Scott Rosa and he's bouncing all over the cage while waiting for "The Hammer," Tor Troeng who mumbles something about math problems. Turns out the equation to beating Rosa was by way of submission in what Sonnen called an "underwhelming performance."
Clint Hester up next. He takes on Fraser Opie and Hester did what Tor couldn't and "impressed" the "American Gangster" by his unanimous decision win. Jones already tells the cameras he wants Clint on his team, which gets an eye roll from his opposing coach.
Uh oh, someone is reading Winston Churchill quotes.
It's Ryan Bigler and his boys, who must win the war against "Bones'" training partner Robert "Bubba" McDaniel and his tears of hard knocks. What, no piano solo? Step your game up, FX. Looks like it's Bigles turn to do some crying after getting pounded out in the second stanza.
Even worse, I now have that Bubba Sparxxx song in my head now.
Here comes Josh Samman, who is trying to get into the TUF house for the fourth time. Unfortunately, it has to come at the expense of Leo Bercier, who talks like Mason Verger and carries a few hundred years of Native American oppression into the cage with him.
Samman wins by way of "goofy double-fisted ground and pound" (Dana's words, not mine).
Kito Andrews shows up with his kids (single dad alert!) and gets paired off against Kelvin Gastelum before informing viewers that "losing is not an option." On TUF 17 it is, especially when you leave it in the hands of the judges.
Jimmy Quinlan and Mike Persons get express introductions and Quinlan smashes his way to a first round technical knockout win. Their entire segment was about 60 seconds long. I guess they didn't have any hardships to share with the camera.
That takes us right to a "terrified" Uriah Hall and his battle against 21-year-old Andy Enz (some people would rob their mothers, for the Enz). Turns out Andy is the one who should have been scared -- of the judges' scorecards. White wonders if Hall is "the guy to beat."
We shall see.
Gilbert Smith is shootin' the shit in his hotel room, looking very loosey-goosey, before the realization of living his dream catches up to him. On the flip side, Eric Wahlin is in Las Vegas because he's on the run from his past-due bills.
Smith, who's built like a comic book superhero, collects his debt by way of arm-triangle choke.
Nicholas Kohring and his Nate Diaz-ish drawl will tangle with Luke Barnatt, a towering Brit with an undefeated record. Nicky was game every step of the way, but wasn't able to overcome the massive reach of his foe and eventually got swept on the scorecards.
Time to speed up the fights as time is winding down.
Dylan Andrews, who grew up in a "marijuana grow house," gets a five-second intro before tangling with a psychopath from New Jersey named Tim Williams, who goes down on points in a spirited affair. Up next, Collin Hart is called "The Dick" but doesn't fight like one, showcasing a well-rounded game en route to taking a submission win over.Mike Jasper.
The finalized TUF 17 cast:
Dylan Andrews (16-4-1), 32, Gold Coast, Australia (by way of New Zealand)
Kito Andrews (9-2), 34, Sacramento
Luke Barnatt (5-0), 24, Cambridge, England
Leo Bercier (7-2), 31, Great Falls, Mont. Ryan Bigler (9-3), 28, Yona, Guam
Kevin Casey (5-2), Hawthorne, Calif.
Adam Cella (4-0), 27, Fenton, Mo.
Zak Cummings (15-3), 28, Kansas City, Mo.
Andy Enz (6-1), 21, Anchorage Nik Fekete, 32, Las Vegas
Kelvin Gastelum (5-0), 20, Yuma, Ariz.
Uriah Hall (7-2), 28, New York City (by way of Jamaica)
Collin Hart (4-1-1), 23, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Clint Hester (7-3), 25, Atlanta
Jake Heun (3-2), 25, Salt Lake City Mike Jasper (6-0), 29, Camarillo, Calif. Nicholas Kohring (3-0), 22, Valley Springs, Calif.
Robert McDaniel (20-6), 29, Albuquerque
Fraser Opie (10-5), 29, Milton Keynes, England (by way of South Africa) Mike Persons (3-0), 28, Manteca, Calif.
Jimmy Quinlan (3-0), 26, Metheun, Mass.
Scott Rosa (4-1), 26, Sparks, Nev.
Joshua Samman (9-2), 24, Tallahassee, Fla.
Gilbert Smith (5-1), Colorado Springs
Eldon Sproat (3-1), 27, Molokai, Hawaii
Tor Troeng (15-4-1), 29, Umea, Sweden
Eric Wahlin (5-1), 29, Taylorsville, Utah Timothy Williams (7-1), 26, Millville, N.J.
Now it's up to Jones (first fight) and Sonnen (first fighter) to pick their teams and here's what we end up with.
Dana tells the teams that not only is he bringing back the wildcard, which gives an eliminated fighter the chance to return, he's also dishing out a bevy of fight bonuses.
$5,000 per finish
$25,000 for best knockout of the season
$25,000 for best submission of the season
$25,000 (each) for best fight of the season
Stay tuned next week (at the regularly scheduled time of 9 p.m. ET) as Gilbert Smith takes on Luke Barnatt.
See you in seven!