Reliving The Season That Cardio Forgot
Punisher Bass: The year was 2009 and Dana White was adamant that the UFC’s heavyweight division was more exciting than it had ever been before. The PPV monster Brock Lesnar had just unified the heavyweight title by beating Frank Mir at the wildly successful UFC 100 event, knockout artist Shane Carwin would be getting his chance later in the fall, and White was proud to announce that they had signed famed backyard brawler turned MMA fighter Kimbo Slice for the next season of The Ultimate Fighter.
But I was still a neophyte MMA fan at the time. I had been following the sport for less than a year, UFC 100 was the first event I watched live instead of reading a live blog, and I only haunted Cage Potato instead of Bloody Elbow. I knew what TUF was about, but because I hate reality shows I had never watched any of it, so I figured the upcoming 10th season would be a good jumping on point.
I was wrong, I was so so so wrong.
Honestly, the entire season could be best summed up with this simple GIF:
I really could just end this right here and be done with it. It’s not only that Houston Alexander and Slice are sucking wind so bad the first five rows of the audience are in danger of passing out from oxygen deprivation, but take a look at poor Josh Rosenthal, he’s so embarrassed by what he’s seeing he involuntary facepalms. That was TUF 10 in a nutshell.
But that would be taking the easy way out, and I don’t want to take the path of least resistance here, so over the next several weeks I’m going to be rewatching and recapping the season that was TUF 10. But there’s a twist… I won’t be doing it on my own.
I’m going to be teaming up with Bloody Elbow’s unofficial TUF guru NewChallenger for this series. We’ll be working together over the next while because misery loves company.
So I need to go warm up the time circuits and fill Mr. Fusion, that means NewChallenger will take over from here.
NewChallenger: 1.21 GIGAWATTS!!!
How do I follow up that glamorous introduction. I am not worthy. And I’m not just saying that because I never finished the TUF: Brazil 4 recaps.
The truth is that like so many others, I finally succumbed to TUF burnout. Blame it on the contestants, blame Dana White, blame it on the inane and outdated premise of the show…for whatever reason, I could no longer get my blood up when it time to write about the long running reality series.
So when Punisher Bass came to me with the idea of recapping a “classic” season, I was reluctant at first. But I thought about how fun it would be to work on something that’s already finished, alleviating the pressure of hard deadlines (my only weakness) and I started to consider it. Then he suggested recapping TUF 10 aka TUF: The Heavyweights and..
PB: Actually, you were the one who first proposed the idea of working together on something, and that was well over a year ago. I put you off for all that time before this idea came to me, so just remember that you brought this on yourself.
NC: And that’s what really hurts.
I was mentioning TUF burnout and one of the big reasons is that people are tired of seeing the same weight classes. Like clockwork, a season will be announced and you’ll hear “Gawwwwwd, lightweights and welterweights again?!?”
Look, the UFC can be held accountable for a lot of things but it’s not their fault that the majority of mixed martial artists’ body types happen to fall into the 145-170 range. Alas, we do not live in a world of super agile mythical beasts and monsters.
PB: There is where I get to humblebrag that I’m actually one of those giants and monsters. In real life I stand 6’6″ and weigh around 300 lbs, in fact there are only two heavyweights on the current roster who are larger than me, Stefan Struve and Travis Browne. I live in a world surrounded by dwarfs and hobbits.
NC: If you’re wondering, in the 29 combined domestic and international editions of TUF, heavyweights have only been featured three times and TUF 10 was the first to feature them exclusively. If you’ve watched any of these seasons, you’ll understand why. Here are some notes on the other two:
- TUF 2
- Split cast with welterweights
- Season 10 coach Rashad Evans would go on to defeat the massive Brad Imes in the finale, then immediately drop back down to light heavyweight
- No fighters in the heavyweight bracket would have significant heavyweight careers, though Imes once recorded two straight gogoplata finishes, so there’s something
- Other notables: Keith Jardine (LHW, MW), Seth Petruzelli (LHW)
- TUF: Brazil 3
- Split cast with middleweights
- Antônio Carlos Jr. beat Vitor Miranda in the finale, both would drop to middleweight within a year
So even when the show has featured heavyweights, it hasn’t really featured heavyweights, ya dig? If there’s one thing we can say for sure about TUF 10, it’s that most of these dudes are heavyweights.
PB: During the opening montage, I catch a brief glimpse of my favorite heavyweight ever, Shane Carwin, knocking Gabriel Gonzaga the f**k out. I involuntarily smile while thinking of UFC 116 where he knocked Brock Lesnar out in the first round to unify the HW title. Then I’m saddened when I remember he was eventually forced to retire without ever defending it due to injuries.
PB: Then Dana White informs me that their heavyweight division has never been more exciting and this new crop of fighters will only make it better. Mmmhmm….
I think you’d be hard pressed to provide evidence that the 2015 roster of heavyweights is any better or worse than the 2009 incarnation.
Mike Rowe says that this season will feature 4 former NFL players, 3 UFC vets, and my UFC avatar Roy Nelson. There’s also going to be none other than Kimbo Slice joining in on the fun. Just for s**ts and giggles, here’s what happened to Kimbo about a year before this episode aired.
- Rashad Evans (14-1-1) had just lost the LHW title to Lyoto Machida and fighting Rampage at the end of this season was meant to put him on the fast track to a rematch.
- Rampage Jackson (30-7) was on a two fight-win streak, having finally avenged a pair of losses by knocking Wanderlei Silva’s soul out and then taking a convincing decision from Rashad’s buddy Jardine.
PB: I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m the suburbanite white boy from the midwest, but I really wish I could turn on subtitles when Quinton is talking here. I’m having a lot of trouble keeping up with him.
NC: I actually like how this season starts with the two of them talking trash like a couple of old men in the park. It’s a big comedown from the intense intro.
Rashad says that Rampage is “too slow” and that his head is “too big”. Both true. Rampage counters by saying that Rashad “ain’t fought nobody” (except, you know, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Machida…)
PB: He and Rashad trade insults back and forth until the cast starts making their way through the (cardboard) door. And they sure are binguns, I think it’s fair to say that none of these guys will be dropping to light heavyweight when the season is over.
NC: Rampage is blown away by the 6’6” Marcus Jones aka “The Darkness”.
PB: As they file in, we’re shown a few interview clips with a few of them answering questions about their background and why they’re here, that kind of thing.
NC: “Big Country” Nelson is far and away the most experienced and accomplished fighter in the cast. No surprise, he’s one of three contestants still competing in the UFC today. We also hear from two of the NFL players, Marcus and Wes Shivers.
PB: Quinton starts razzing Rashad about his (then) recent loss to Lyoto Machida which also cost him his LHW title. So Rashad counters by reminding Quinton about getting KO’d by Shogun Rua, too bad he didn’t bring up the times Silva left him in a heap in PRIDE.
NC: Even more insulting, Rashad actually accuses Rampage of quitting against Shogun, which results in a game of “you quit”/“I never quit”. It’s safe to assume that this riveting exchange lasted about ten minutes before it was edited down for our sakes.
PB: Dana makes a special introduction for Kimbo Slice, and I swear I can hear him go “ka-ching!”, meanwhile Brendan Schaub says “F**k him. F**k that guy”.
I’m inclined to agree with him here and would probably do the same if I was just basically told “None of you guys are worth half a s**t as much as this guy right here”.
It dawns on me that whatever the hell Slice is wearing on top of his head looks like a giant rubber nipple.
NC: I feel compelled to remind people how just how famous Kimbo was when this season aired. He had little more than an illustrious street fighting career, a 3-1 professional MMA record, and an appearance on the Drake & Josh Christmas special under his belt, and he was arguably one of the five most famous fighters in the world!
Sound crazy? When now deceased promotion EliteXC had to pick a headliner for their CBS debut (the first primetime MMA event to air on a major American network), they chose Slice’s match with journeyman James Thompson. An estimated 6.51 million people tuned in to the main event, a record that would stand until the UFC debuted on FOX in 2011.
Dana had been dogging Kimbo for years (more so when he was signed with competing leagues, obviously) and he’s happy to put his money where his mouth is.
PB: “I got Kimbo Slice. Don’t even be thinkin’ about him, he my first pick, he ain’t even gotta train.” Quinton says (I think). Clearly he’s showing his world class coaching ability right out of the gate and putting his years of experience as a fighter to good use.
NC: Say what you want about Rampage, he knows what this show is really about.
PB: Fighter evaluations start. Is it just me, or does Matt Mitrione look a lot like Chris Pratt?
NC: White guy with short hair and a beard? Checks out in my book.
Rashad has got Greg Jackson and Trevor Wittman in his corner, not to mention two Jackson’s MMA fighters on the show in Schaub and James McSweeney. Rampage has Tiki Ghosn and his brutal facial hair.
PB: And we have our first Tiki sighting! Take a shot!
Quinton’s method of evaluation is for the guys to spar and spar hard, which apparently isn’t sitting well with all of the fighters.
NC: Especially when you consider that these guys can all kill each other with one punch. This doesn’t seem like a great idea.
PB: “Roy Nelson got a big ass belly, he was fat”. Keen observation there Quinton.
This is followed up by him yelling “We got titties! We got titties!” in reference to Darrill Schoonover walking by. He then makes kissy faces to the camera and drives this unfunny joke into the ground by repeatedly saying “titties” about 4,000 times.
“We noticed that one of fighters, he was kind of a fat, pudgy guy, like a heavyweight…and he had some titties.” “Go ahead and shake them titties. Do a little dance like this with them titties. Be happy you got titties!”
This is going to be a long f**king season…
Jackson says “Kimbo Slice’s standup was really impressive”, I’m not sure if he was being serious or sarcastic. He then describes Kimbo’s ground game as simply “lacking” all while we’re shown footage of him being outgrappled by Meathead. I repeat, he’s being schooled on the ground by Meathead.
NC: We probably won’t be seeing Slice/Mitrione at Metamoris anytime soon.
PB: It’s time for the coin flip, which Rashad wins. He opts to get first pick and he uses to draft…James McSweeney? I swear I burst out in laughter and surprise when I saw this, my memory was of him selecting Roy Nelson first, so this was a shock to me.
NC: Nelson goes ninth overall!!! Unreal.
PB: Jackson makes the 4,001st “titties” joke of the episode and then promptly selects Kimbo as his first pick. If any of his coaches voiced any sort of objection, then we weren’t shown it, and if they didn’t then they should be fucking ashamed of themselves.
NC: Wes Sims makes a big scene when he’s picked and Dana has this wry smile on his face like, “I’m remembering now why I cut this guy in the first place.” Wes jokingly claims that he’s the only man to beat Frank Mir twice (in reality, he was disqualified in their first bout and then KO’d in the rematch).
When it’s down to Zak Jensen, Rampage jokes that he’s picking the camera guy instead. Cold.
Team Rashad (Gold)
- James McSweeney
- Brendan Schaub
- Justin Wren
- Jon Madsen
- Roy Nelson
- Darrill Schoonover
- Matt Mitrione
- Mike Wessel
Team Rampage (Silver)
- Kimbo Slice
- Abe Wagner
- Demico Rogers
- Wes Sims
- Scott Junk
- Wes Shivers
- Marcus Jones
- Zak Jensen
In retrospect, you can see that Rashad’s team is leaps and bounds better than Rampage’s team. Almost everyone there would go on to either have multiple UFC fights or capture titles for smaller promotions.
They establish early on that everyone is gunning for Kimbo. This is what the recent iterations have been missing. Not just a famous name like Kimbo, but long term storylines for viewers to get invested in. Every episode these days feels so slapped together.
PB: Team Gold have their training session followed by Team Silver, with Quinton wanting to see what kind of cardio everyone has. “I was pretty impressed with most of ‘em”, either Jackson has very, very low standards or he needs to get his eyes checked.
NC: In the words of Rampage himself, at one point it looks like Marcus might puke his heart out onto the mat.
PB: Quinton decides the first fight of the season will be between Abe Wagner and Jon Madsen. Evans thanks Quinton because he believes Madsen’s wrestling background will provide the perfect path for an easy win.
I noticed that they didn’t show anyone stepping on the scales before the fight. Isn’t that something they normally do on TUF, or are they just figuring none of these guys are going to crack the 265 lb limit?
NC: The parade of flabby bodies didn’t make it past the first focus group testing.
Abe is a director of finance and operations at a large company with a background in mechanical engineering. Presented with this information, Rampage tries to stump him by asking “what’s 10 times 2”, which Abe quickly answers. I’m not sure Rampage would even know if he was right or not.
In the locker room, Rampage tells Abe to stay relaxed, which is promptly followed by Abe puking into a bucket.
Team Rampage’s Abe Wagner (7-2) v. Team Rashad’s Jon Madsen (3-0)*
(* Records according to Sherdog, not the records listed on the show)
PB: It’s time for the fight. After a quick glove tap, Madsen scores a takedown about 10 seconds in and spends the next three minutes stuck to Wagner like s**t to a blanket.
PB: Yeah I have a real way with words, don’t I?
With roughly two minutes left an elbow from above cuts Abe wide open and he starts bleeding like a stuck pig.
La Magra gets a hard-on.
At 20 seconds left to go the cage is starting to look like the aftermath of the elevator scene in The Shining.
NC: Let’s not forget that round allowed us to get a glimpse of the infamous Rampage corner work. He never stops shouting helpful advice like “let’s go!” and “do what you gotta do”. Tiki one-ups him by asking the referee to “stand ‘em up!” and telling Abe to improve his position without actually offering any tips on how to do that.
Not to be outdone, Rampage reaches deep down for a “You gotta do something, Abe!”
PB: That is a really really big watch Stitch is wearing there.
NC: Well he earned his money in this one.
PB: Quinton just tells Abe he needs to win, that he needs to knock Madsen out. On the other side of the cage Evans tells his fighter he’s doing well and he needs to mix things up to keep Abe off balance.
A pseudo glove tap from Madsen leads right into another takedown just five seconds in and Quinton scolds Abe for trying to be a sportsman. They were both already huffing and puffing before the bell, and it’s only going to get worse from here. After a minute of stalling on the ground, the ref puts them back on their feet.
And another takedown from Madsen, and Quinton just keeps yelling “You gotta finish him Abe! Work to get up! Get up! GET UP!”. Sage advice there Quinton. After another standup and another takedown, we hear him continue to order Abe to simply “Get up”.
With 20 seconds left and yet another standup, Jackson yells that Madsen is just going to do the same thing again, and when he’s right he gets pissed off and storms away. Tiki follows right behind him like a loyal dog.
Thank God this episode is almost over, that fight was terrible. To paraphrase George Carlin, “This was like watching old people f**k, sloppy and slow”. Both fighters are so spent, if you asked them to blow up a balloon they’d probably die.
Shockingly, Madsen gets the UD making it the first victory for Team Gold this season. Rashad praises his guy while others tell him that Quinton walked away he was so pissed off.
Quinton orders his team to never touch gloves again, because I’m sure that’s the only reason Abe got cracked open like a rusty pipe. Speaking of poor Abe, as the doctor is taking care of it, it’s clear that he got fucked the fuck up, a huge gash on his head deep enough to where you can see his skull. Dude got Sanchezed.
Doctor: “Yeah, it’s going to hurt.”
Abe: “A lot?”
PB: I have to say, hiring Mike Rowe to be their narrator was a brilliant (if predictable) move, his voice makes even the silliest ideas sound legit and exciting.
NC: Rowe is great. Sadly, I think this was one of the last seasons he would do.
And so we come to the end of the first, er, thrilling (?) episode. As snarky as we can be, I actually recall greatly enjoying this season and this first episode was intriguing if nothing else. They got a good mix of personalities, the heat between Rashad and Rampage was ever present without being grating (yet), and KIMBO!
Come on Punisher Bass, let’s turn that frown upside down.
PB: Easier said than done my friend. I forget, did we already know at this point that Quinton was “retiring” to go shoot The A-Team remake, or did that news break part way through the season? I do remember it basically killing all of the heat between them since we knew there wouldn’t actually be a fight at the end. Yeah they did eventually square off, only it was about 6 months too late.
NC: No, the movie was a surprise to DW and let me tell you, he was not happy.