The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) combat sports reality show was back on FOX Sports 1 last night (Weds., April 20, 2016) for season 23, coached by Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and division No. 1 contender Claudia Gadelha.
Together, they'll lead a pool of 32 strawweight (16) and light heavyweight (16) mixed martial arts (MMA) prospects to the promised land -- though only four will make it to the live finale in July (more on that here). In fact, last night's premiere eliminated 16 of the original 32 (eight from each division).
Don't hate the playa...
We kick things off with UFC President Dana White joining the coaches for the first round of fights. On deck we have Mellony Geugjes (0-1), 23, from Amsterdam, Netherlands against Amanda Cooper (1-1), 24, of Bath, Michigan. Geugjes looks good on the feet, but follows Cooper to the ground after a slip and gets armbarred for her efforts.
Amanda Cooper advances.
Next up is Eric Spicely (8-0), 29, of Stoughton, Massachusetts. Opposing him is Kenneth Bergh (3-0), 26, from Oslo, Norway. Spicely goes right for the takedown and it doesn't take much effort to get Bergh's back and choke him into submission.
Eric Spicely advances.
Now we move to police officer Ashley Cummins (3-3), 28, of St. Louis, Missouri, going head-to-head with Lanchana Green (2-1), 26, from Darlington, England. Green gets taken down and dominated for the entire first round, then comes back in the second stanza and shucks off the takedown, unloads brutal Muay thai, and wins by technical knockout.
Lanchana Green advances.
We take a quick break in the action to visit Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, Nevada, because three of the contestants vying for a spot in the TUF 23 house are from that camp. That includes Khalil Rountree (4-0), 26, who is paired off with Muhammed DeReese (5-0), 27, of Titusville, Florida. After a back-and-forth first round, Rountree connects and starts soccer kicking the ribs, which leads to a brutal technical knockout finish.
Khalil Rountree advances.
Then comes the next Syndicate MMA fighter in Jamie Moyle (3-1), 27, as she tries to overcome Alyssa Krahn (3-1), 28, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Krahn demonstrates some impressive throws early on, but succumbs to a more technical ground game at the end of the first frame.
Jamie Moyle advances.
That brings us to Myron Dennis (12-4), 27, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, challenging Jamelle Jones (6-2), 28, Atlantic City, New Jersey. After a couple of sloppy exchanges followed by some takedowns, Dennis scores a standing technical knockout that could be called an early stoppage -- though Jones offered no protest.
Myron Dennis advances.
Ashley Yoder (4-1), 28, of Indianapolis, Indiana -- with Dan Henderson in her corner -- takes center stage and she will fight Keith Jardine's (of TUF 2 fame) main squeeze Jodie Esquibel (5-1), 29, from Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you've watched any of the TUF 23 previews then you know who advances, but we'll play along anyway. Yoder wins a controversial split decision and the gym loses its shit.
Ashley Yoder advances.
Moving on we have Norman Paraisy (15-4-2, 1 NC), 30, of Paris, France, coming back after his failed run on TUF 11. Opposing him is Elias Urbina (3-0), 22, from Weslaco, Texas, who is the brother of UFC welterweight Hector Urbina. Paraisy performs horribly and loses a decision, but insists he cleared his name.
Elias Urbina advances.
Next up is J.J. Aldrich (2-1), 23, of Aurora, Colorado, taking on Kristi Lopez (2-0), 33, from Quartz Hill, California. Aldrich, who trains with top strawweight contender Rose Namajunas, dominates in the stand up and wins a lopsided unanimous decision.
J.J. Aldrich advances.
On deck is Abdel Medjedoub (3-0), 30, of Mila, Algeria, taking on John Paul Elias (3-0), 27, from Fresno, California. Elias married a Playboy playmate and that will help him deal with the unanimous decision loss that kept him from the TUF house.
Abdel Medjedoub advances.
Cancer survivor Tatiana Suarez (3-0), 25, of Fontana, California, must try to beat Miesha Tate protege Chelsea Bailey (2-0), 23, from Chewelah, Washington. Bailey, who gives up five inches in height, is unable to overcome her larger foe and drops a decision.
Tatiana Suarez advances.
Now we have Philip Hawes (3-0), 27, who trains with Jon Jones in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and bring a tremendous amount of buzz into his elimination bout against jiu-jitsu specialist Andrew Sanchez (7-2), 27, fighting out of Fairfield, New Jersey. Like Snap said: Don't believe the hype! Hawes went down on points after his wrestling game was neutralized.
Andrew Sanchez advances.
Time for international flavor as Irene Rivera (6-2), 22, of Barcelona, Spain, trades leather with Kate Jackson (7-2-1), 29, from Lostwithiel, England. After a competitive first round, Jackson pulled away in the second stanza to win by technical knockout.
Kate Jackson advances.
That brings us to the last of the Syndicate MMA fighters in Cory Hendricks (3-0), 27, of Lynden, Washington, taking on the lone Brazilian -- and decorated grappler -- Marcel Fortuna (8-1), 30, from Tubarao, Brazil. A very close fight returns a unanimous decision win for Hendricks.
Cory Hendricks advances.
That brings us to Amy Montenegro (7-2), 32, of Forks, Washington, facing international fighter Helen Harper (4-1), 28, from Farnborough, England. Montenegro promises her age and experience will come into play but they don't as Harper is able to score a fairly routine armbar.
Helen Harper advances.
Our final fight features Joshua Stansbury (7-2), 31, of East Liverpool, Ohio, who blew out his knee in his TUF 19 elimination fight. Opposing him is Trevor Carlson (10-2), 27, from Spring Creek, Nevada, and his neck is shaped like a fire hydrant. It doesn't do him any good, as Stansbury dominates him from start to finish and wins by first-round submission.
Here are the 16 contestants who enter the TUF house for episode two:
And now we break them down into opposing teams after Coach Gadelha wins the coin toss and chooses to pick first fighter as opposed to first fight:
Coach Jedrzejczyk gets first fight and goes right for the jugular, sending Khalil Rountree into a light heavyweight battle against training partner Cory Hendricks, who was not only picked second-to-last, but also came out of his elimination fight with a banged-up foot.
Will it matter on fight night? Find out in seven days!