The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) returns to FOX Sports 1 (FS1) later tonight (Weds., April 18, 2018) for its first-ever “Undefeated” season; meaning, all of the fighters selected to compete on season 27 will enter the famed TUF house with undefeated records.
Somebody’s “O” has got to go.
Coaching the cast of 16 mixed martial arts (MMA) hopefuls — split between the featherweight and lightweight divisions — are UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and UFC 205-pound kingpin Daniel Cormier.
“DC” is jumping up in weight to challenge Miocic at UFC 226 in July.
Episode 1 gets underway by introducing fans to the new batch of fighters. Richie Smullen comes from the same gym as former TUF coach Conor McGregor, so it will be interesting to see if “Notorious” makes another cameo.
Here they are.
Thailand Clark – 7-0 | 28 | Fort Worth, Texas
Joe Giannetti – 6-0 | 22 | Norwell, Mass.
John Gunther – 6-0 | 32 | Cleveland, Ohio
José Martinez Jr.– 4-0 | 27 | Lorain, Ohio
Luis Peña – 4-0 | 24 | Hillsboro, Miss. by way of Naples, Italy
Richie Smullen – 3-0-1 | 26 | Arklow, Ireland
Mike Trizano – 6-0 | 25 | Ramsey, N.J.
Allan Zuniga – 13-0 | 25 | San Miguel, Costa Rica
Jay Cucciniello – 8-0 | 31 | Malaga, Spain by way of Dublin, Ireland
Tyler Diamond – 9-0 | 26 | Oroville, Calif.
Brad Katona – 6-0 | 25 | Dublin, Ireland by way of Winnipeg, Canada
Bryce Mitchell – 9-0 | 23 | Cabot, Ark.
Suman Mokhtarian – 8-0 | 25 | Sydney, Australia
Dulani Perry – 4-0 | 31 | Houston, Texas
Kyler Phillips – 5-0 | 22 | Surprise, Ariz.
Ricky Steele – 5-0 | 29 | Boise, Ida.
In walk the fighters, then the champs and their respective coaching squads. They get right to the evaluations.
DC’s looking at wrestling, having the fighters look for takedowns against each other. He believes that the format of fights (two rounds, third only if needed) favors wrestlers, so he’s focusing on that aspect of the game.
“Gotta sprawl unless you have a black belt,” he intones.
Miocic, meanwhile, seems to be taking a more general approach to his evaluations. One nice thing is that he and DC appear to be on excellent terms and are having fun in there, which I find much more endearing than canned anger.
Dana White makes his appearance, hyping Miocic and Cormier as the GOATs in their respective divisions. The coin nearly lands on its side before ultimately landing on Team Cormier. DC elects to take the first fighter.
Featherweight: Kyler Phillips, Suman Mokhtarian, Jay Cucciniello, Dulani Perry
Lightweight: Mike Trizano, John Gunther, Joe Martinez, Alan Zuniga
Featherweight: Tyler Diamond, Bryce Mitchell, Brad Katona, Ricky Steele
Lightweight: Richie Smullen, Luis Pena, Joe Giannetti, Thailand Clark
Last pick Dulani Perry appears totally unfazed by his position in the pecking order.
Afterwards, Miocic picks the first fight: John Gunther vs. Joe Giannetti . Miocic speaks highly of Gunther, his training partner, while Cormier is confident Giannetti is already UFC-level. Dana White gives them the customary pep talk and, after word from our sponsors, it’s off to the house.
As everyone piles in and claims bunks, the aforementioned Perry states his theory that, since everyone is undefeated, there won’t be any elitism, at least until they start beating one another.
Man, they are really hammering on that “undefeated” thing.
After the usual soundbites, we head over to Team Miocic’s first training session. UFC vet Chris Camozzi numbers among his staff. Miocic claims that his loss to Stefan Struve was the best thing that ever happened to him, so he knows what his crew have yet to face.
Team Cormier next. DC is an enthusiastic coach, working alongside Cain Velasquez. Cormier champions the importance of keeping opponents constantly uncomfortable and in pain, which makes me even happier that I don’t have to deal with that training session.
Back at the house, Gunther delights his teammates with his tales of alpaca shearing. We get to see the Cleveland native’s home video, and by “home” I mean “van,” complete with piss bottle. He touts the convenience of the situation. Aside from his work at Strong Style and his parents’ house, we also see him jump into ice water in his skivvies and swim from one hole to the other. The man knows no fear.
And yes, we do see an alpaca shearing. Gunther does a surprisingly solid impression of its scream and uses some of his grappling to hold its head in place.
Giannetti’s turn. Over footage of his earlier fights, which show some nice grappling, he claims to not be great anywhere, but to be “good everywhere.” He describes Velasquez as the most intimidating person he’s every seen. Cormier works on instilling a sense of urgency, as Giannetti’s usual gritty slogging isn’t well-suited for short fights.
Giannetti’s home video prominently features his extremely well-named boxer, Frazier. He was bullied for being big when he was younger, leading him to learn to fight. He’s got a pretty tragic backstory, all things considered.
Gunther describes his style as “chaos.” Miocic wants him to move his head and look for takedowns off his 1-2. Cameo from former UFC and GLORY competitor Dustin Jacoby. Gunther’s fight footage features him getting beaten to Hell and back before coming back to finish his opponent with ground-and-pound. He doesn’t put much stock into his “0” and just wants to fight tough guys.
By the time they come back from commercial, there are less than 20 minutes left in the episode. Methinks we’re getting a finish.
DC visits the Miocic locker room with a proposition: the fighters on each team face their counterparts (first pick faces first pick, second pick faces second pick, etcetera). Miocic doesn’t seem sold. Suman Mokhtarian, his #2 featherweight, wants Team Cormier #1 Tyler Diamond. Diamond does not take kindly to this.
The weigh-ins go off without a hitch. We’ve got a fight.
155 lbs.: John Gunther (Team Miocic) vs. Joe Giannetti (Team Cormier)
Round one: Giannetti immediately drills Gunther with punches as the Team Miocic rep drives in. As Gunther takes him to the fence, Giannetti locks up a power guillotine that puts Gunther to sleep.
Final result: Giannetti def. Gunther by technical submission (guillotine choke)
Gunther has no idea what happened, but seems in good spirits afterwards. GIannetti asks White for a bonus; White assures him he’s got the best finish so far in the season, but afterwards does indeed assure Giannetti he’ll get some extra dosh.
It’s down to featherweight for the next fight. Miocic sets his #1, Kyler Phillips, against Brad Katona.
That’s all for this week. See you in seven.