The Ultimate The Ultimate Fighter: TUF 16 v. TUF: The Smashes – Week 1

For the first time ever, there are two versions of The Ultimate Fighter running side by side.  Last year, TUF 15 (aka TUF: Live) and TUF: Brazil had some overlap, but there was enough distance between the two that a direct comparison wasn’t warranted.  However, with the Australia/UK edition of TUF and the American edition having started on September 20 and September 21 respectively (not including the previous week’s preliminary fights), it makes a lot of sense to put the shows head-to-head and see which version is superior.  Despite the experience of “TUF Classic”, I actually have The Smashes going in as a slight favourite due to it naturally feeling fresher, but let’s see how this shakes out.

Team Colours:

Team Carwin (actually yellow on the show, but brown for the purposes of this article)
Team Nelson
Team Pearson (actually blue on the show, but red for the purposes of this article)
Team Sotiropoulos

(TUF: The Smashes – September 19, 2012, TUF 16 – September 21, 2012)

The Cast

TUF 16 got a lot of the fighter backgrounds out of the way during the preliminary show leaving them free to focus on team dynamics during the first in-house episode.  There are a couple of Canadians in the house, Mike Ricci and Michael Hill, and they immediately bond over an air of superiority and wine.  I’m filled with national pride at this point.  From a talent standpoint, Shane Carwin’s team has three guys who have fought for major promotions: “Smilin’ Sam Alvey (Bellator), James Chaney (Tachi Palace Fights) and Bristol Marunde (Strikeforce).

Huh.  I wonder how ol’ Sam got his nickname…

I don’t know much about the Smashes cast, but at a glance it definitely feels like TUF 16 has the stronger roster.

Since it’s meant for a new audience, Smashes has to provide some extra scenes in the introduction, including a look at the selection process and footage of the fighters saying good-bye to their friends and family.  It’s a nice touch, even for veteran viewers.

5 minutes in and the accents are already making everything better.  Richie Vaculik talks about his enjoyment of surfing.  An Australian who surfs?  Get outta town!  At age 19, Patrick Iodice is the youngest TUF contestant ever and he reminds me of a young Kenny Florian.  Speaking of resemblances, Brit Michael Pastou looks a lot like my friend Daryl…

…if Daryl were on a steady diet of horse steroids.

UK Daryl serves as the focus of the first episode, drawing a lot of attention for being one of the bigger lightweights in the house.  He shares the story of how his wife left him due to his passion for MMA.  This focus all but foreshadows something horrible happening to him and sure enough, he hurts his arm during training and has to go to the doctor.  Sorry, UK Daryl.

Other highlights are Valentino Petrescu (who is both Romanian and an ex-carnie making him my cousin Derek’s favourite fighter by default) and Colin “Freakshow” Fletcher who arrives at the house wearing some kind of blue bodysuit and a bowler hat.  He looks like the lovechild of the Green Man and Mr. Mxyzptlk.

Even though the TUF 16 guys could likely kick the majority of the Smashes’ guys asses, the Smashes’ gang is showing way more personality right now.  Also, accents.

Advantage: 10-10, Draw

The Coaches

Carwin and Roy Nelson act exactly as you would expect, with Carwin being the educated and straight-laced coach while Nelson plays things a bit more laid back.  It’s almost like a cliché-ridden buddy cop movie.  One’s an engineer!  One has a mullet!  Together, they are…Heavy Duty!  Pew Pew!  They editing team is really going to have to play up that difference, because neither guy seems too interested in being on television.  It should be noted that while we haven’t seen Nelson’s trainers yet, Carwin brought in the big guns.  His staff includes Trevor Wittman (a prominent figure on Team Rashad Evans during season 10), UFC fighters Pat Barry and Duane Ludwig, and reigning Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nate Marquardt.  It’s unfortunate that Roy Nelson was denied his coaching staff of TNA superstar Kurt Angle, former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion “King” Mo Lawal, BALCO president Victor Conte and José Canseco.  I may have made that last one up.

George Sotiropoulos and Ross Pearson on the other hand seem way more involved, undoubtedly spurred on by the Australia vs. UK angle.  They seem genuinely invested in the success of their countrymen.  This is also the first season to have two coaches who are a product of TUF (Sotiropoulos – season 6, Pearson – season 9).  Another quirk that I like is that the contestants are close enough in weight to the coaches that they could actually fight some day.  So if they feel like beefing with the opposing coach, it could actually end up going somewhere (unlike the Cody McKenzie/Josh Koscheck feud, in which Koscheck came off as being totally gay bones for McKenzie).

Advantage: 10-9, TUF: The Smashes

Shenanigans

If I never see another prank on the show, it will be too soon.  The TUF 16 “hilarity” revolves around Julian Lane setting up a jug of flour to fall on Ricci.  Ooh, sick burn!  You know it’s a bad sign when you long for the days of the “upper-decker”.

The Smashes doesn’t fare much better as the Aussies decide to (brace yourself) move the UK team’s bags to another room!

Still, the new edition is going to run away with it due to some unintentional comedy courtesy of Petrescu and Benny Alloway.  During the post-weigh-in photo op, Petrescu pushes Alloway’s arm out of the way, which leads to the never homoerotic forehead to forehead showdown.  The situation is not helped by Alloway saying, “I just want to go to him, and, you know, f**k him.”  I’m not paraphrasing.

Advantage: 10-9, TUF: The Smashes

Drama

TUF 16 showcased a growing rivalry between Lane and Matt Secor who addresses Lane’s mohawk, saying that it’s pink and “the colour of pu**y, that’s why we like it.”  For whatever reason, Lane doesn’t take this as a compliment.  Amusingly, the two share a bed right next to each other.  So I guess anytime Secor is feeling lonely he can just look over at Lane’s hair and think warm thoughts.  I didn’t find their bickering particularly compelling, but next week’s teaser promises a dispute revolving around one housemate whistling too loudly.  Hoo boy.

The Smashes centred on the predictable segregation between the two teams and UK Daryl’s arm injury.  It turns out that he has a torn bicep and when the news is delivered it crushes him instantly.  It looks like he’s going to need surgery, but the episode leaves it open to whether he’s going to try and work his way through it.  It’s not a positive in any way, but I’m a sucker for injury drama so another point to The Smashes.

Advantage: 10-9, TUF: The Smashes

The Fights

TUF 16 Welterweight Bout: Neil Magny d. Cameron Diffley via UD (20-18 x3)

Nelson won the coin flip last week and decides he wanted to pick the first fight.  He tells Neil Magny he got him something for his birthday: a fight with respected Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu trainer Cameron Diffley.  Nelson believes that Diffley’s specialty will put Magny in some awkward positions, but it’s Magny who controls the fight with a nice jab and takedown defence.  When the fight does go to the ground, Diffley takes too much time going for leg submissions instead of sweeping as Nelson suggests.  Unable to get his BJJ game going, Diffley drops the unanimous decision to a sharp Magny.

TUF: The Smashes Welterweight Bout: Benny Alloway d. Valentino Petrescu via TKO (:42, R2)

It looks like a mismatch as Petrescu has several advantages going in his favour: he’s bigger (Alloway looks like he could make lightweight easy), one his coaches trained with Alloway in the past, and the motherf**er used to be a carnie!  None of that seems to matter when they get in the cage as Alloway shows good evasiveness while waiting for an opening.  Petrescu lands some solid shots, but an errant kick leads to Alloway executing a beautiful takedown that likely wins the round for him.  It’s a moot point in the second as Alloway lands a funky half hook/half uppercut that Pearson calls a “shovel punch” that leaves Petrescu all shook up.  He falls face down on his knees and Alloway follows up with punches to win by TKO.  The Smashes fight was definitely more exciting and surprising especially considering how I thought Petrescu would have Alloway for breakfast.

Advantage: 10-9, TUF: The Smashes

Final Score: 50-46, TUF: The Smashes

So the expansion series takes first blood, as I thought it might.  There’s a different feel to it that you can only get from a dramatic change in setting.  There’s less cynicism.  Other Smashes highlights that I didn’t have a place for in the column are the magnificent seaside view from the Australia house, a stirring visit by Dana White and two new ring girls, Kahili Blundell and Kristie McKeon (who is apparently Pearson’s girlfriend).  Take us out, ladies!

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