Vintage TUF – The Ultimate Fighter Season 10: Heavyweights – The Finale – Round & Round

Reliving The Season That Cardio Forgot

NewChallenger: We are now officially entering Twilight Zone territory for some people as we head back to December of 2009 where many of the faces look the same and YET…the world was very different.

The Palms Casino Resort was the host of The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights Finale and on paper, this is a heck of a card! In addition to our charming TUF 10 housemates, we have an appearance by Frankie Edgar who was on the verge of stardom and Jon Jones in his first big test at light heavyweight against Matt Hamill.

All that and the old trappings of these Spike TV broadcasts that we are all so fond of. Well…me, anyway.

Young GoldieAstonishingly, the guy in the middle is what I imagine a young Mike Goldberg would look like.

PunisherBass: As we’re shown interview clips of Kimbo Slice and Houston Alexander, which is in black and white and has been run through a very cheesy filter, it dawns on me that Kimbo has a real knack for dragging most of his opponents down to his level. Between his vastly superior experience and the fact that he wouldn’t have to cut any (or at least not nearly as much) weight for this fight, Houston should have taken this easily.

NC: Things that I miss from this era: the opening confessionals (Kimbo: “Houston…you got a problem”), the Zuffa gladiator, the aforementioned Face the Pain, and Logan Stanton.

Logan Stanton

PB: Allow me a moment to pour one out for Natasha Wicks. Her time spent cageside was brief but she’ll never be forgotten.

NC: Before we get to the main card, I’ll touch upon the two preliminary fights that aired on the television broadcast. Yes, this was the dark days when we would only get the highlights of the prelims and not be able to watch every plodding split decision between two regional fighters/TUF rejects/flyweights.

How did we survive?

Lightweight Bout: Mark Bocek (7-2) v. Joe Brammer (7-0-1)

I’m showing my Canadian bias here as I give a shout-out to the pride of Woodbridge, Ontario, Mark Bocek. Bocek retired a couple of years ago after a fine UFC career that saw him go 8-5 inside the Octagon. One of those wins was the curtain jerker of this card against Joe Brammer.

Brammer was an undefeated prospect that never became more than that after getting dominated by Bocek in this fight. He would actually only compete two more times before moving on from MMA. Bocek completely outclasses Brammer here, dictating pace and distance the whole time until he gets it to the mat. Once there, it only takes a couple of minutes to set up a fight ending rear naked choke.

Bocek Choke

Hope retirement is treating you well, Mark.

Heavyweight Bout: James McSweeney (3-4) v. Darrill Schoonover (10-0)

And now, more relevant to the subject at hand, we have Team Rashad favourite James McSweeney and Rampage’s best bud Darrill Schoonover. I remember rooting for Darrill in this one and if you’ve read any of our recaps over the last few weeks you’ll know why.

As much as we’ve dogged McSweeney, this isn’t a bad fight. I’m not saying it’s a good fight, but it’s not bad. That said, there’s still no reason for McSweeney to walk around like he’s King S**t of Kickboxingville. On more than one occasion he lets Schoonover hit him with potentially fight ending punches and Schoonover isn’t exactly Igor Vovchanchyn himself. McSweeney is at least able to stay a step ahead for the most part.

McSweeney TeepIt’s like that dude getting hit by a cannonball.

Credit where credit is due, McSweeney finishes with a nice combination starting with a flying knee. That win would improve his record to a sterling 4-4.

McSweeney Combo

Now onto the main card!

Heavyweight Bout: Marcus Jones (4-1) v. Matt Mitrione (0-0)

PB: Marcus Jones has to be one of the most awkward fighters I’ve ever seen. You know how a baby looks when they first learn to walk? Well picture a 6’6” 265 lb. man doing the exact same thing. It’s like a cross between Frankenstein, The Mummy, and a zombie. Arms out forward and incredibly stiff legged, no fluidity at all.

His basic movement isn’t his only problem here either, it’s his total lack of footwork. Any time he’s going to throw a punch, he plants his feet before leaning far forward and then swinging, sometimes he’ll also lunge in with his whole body. All it does is leave him open and his chin exposed.

On top of his piss poor gas tank, glass jaw, and other obvious flaws in his striking, his supposedly “excellent” grappling looks like anything but when he’s taking on a guy closer to his size. At one point he has Meathead locked in a guillotine for around 30 seconds, which Matt never attempts to push out of, he just stays posted up and lets Marcus burn his arms out and sap what little energy he had left.

Not that Matt is anything to write home about here, but I think the plan was that he could take whatever Marcus threw at him and give it back just as hard, so all he had to do was just wait him out. Let him make mistake after mistake until he hit E, and then go for the kill. Just a few seconds into Round 2, Matt lands a right to Marcus’ jaw and he goes down like a wet bag of s**t.

Mitrione KO

NC: Post-fight, Mitrione breaks out his classic line about having “retard strength”. I know it’s terrible to laugh at that…but I am laughing.

Before we proceed, I should mention there are things I don’t miss from this era: Hulk Hogan, Eric Bischoff, and Dixie Carter from TNA Wrestling in the crowd, 1000 Ways to Die, and Manswers.

Lightweight Bout: Frankie Edgar (12-1) v. Matt Veach (11-0)

NC: Frankie is, like, my favourite fighter ever, you guys. And Veach has all the charisma of a lemming.

This was the fight that earned Frankie a title shot if you can believe it. Keep in mind he had already knocked off most of the other lightweight contenders: Tyson Griffin, Spencer Fisher, Hermes França, and Sean Sherk.

Veach was no push-over, actually slamming Edgar twice in the first round. He couldn’t do much on the ground with Frankie’s ability to get up and Frankie was taking him apart on the feet, but you could argue that Veach got the first round. He was a big guy with big muscles and as you’d expect he experienced gas tank problems in the second round.

Even back then, the announcers were talking about Edgar dropping to 145, which would have relegated him to the WEC. He stuck around anyway, which proved to be a wise choice considering his next opponent would be B.J. Penn. I still thought he was a couple of fights away, but he would win this fight by submission (his first finish in almost two years) and that was enough to make him the mandatory challenger to Penn’s throne.

Edgar Combo

The rest is history.

Catchweight Bout (215 lbs.) Kimbo Slice (3-1) v. Houston Alexander (9-4 [1 NC])

PB: And now it’s time for the “Special catchweight fight” between Kimbo and Alexander. I don’t remember a whole lot about the buildup to this, other than Kimbo almost killed himself while trying to make weight. And I should note that this fight was given higher placement than any other TUF fight save for Nelson/Schaub later on, because f**k those other guys who actually notched at least a single win.

Before I go any further, this will be only the second time I’ve ever watched this fight, when I saw it live I thought it was so terrible that the scores should have been 3-2 instead of 10-9 because so little was actually accomplished. I’m also writing this on a Saturday afternoon, so drinking a whiskey sour right now doesn’t make me look like an alcoholic.

Since the fight itself is deepfried dogs**t on a stick, I’d rather talk about a couple gems from Goldberg.

“So, you wanna be an Ultimate Fighter!? Both of these men do!” The f**k are you talking about? Is Goldie not aware that Houston wasn’t on the show or that when offered a “chance” to be a replacement, Kimbo turned it down?

“We saw on the show that Kimbo’s knee is a little worn out.” If you mean bone on bone due to a total lack of cartilidge and needing a complete replacement, yeah I guess that could be considered “a little worn out” if you compare it to say… needing it amputated. Here in 2015 I don’t think Kimbo ever did go through with that surgery either, far as I know his knee is just as bad if not worse today.

Do you want to guess how many minutes tick by before the crowd gets sick of Alexander just circling counter clockwise around Kimbo? It takes two full minutes until they start booing this bulls**t. There’s a very brief flutter of excitement from them after a short exchange of kicks and punches, and then guess what happens. Nope, there’s no knockout, he just starts circling again. Round and round and round he goes, maybe his plan was to make Kimbo dizzy like he just got off a merry-go-round?

Too bad this foolproof plan has backfired since all he’s done is make himself tired, he continues going in circles but at a much slower pace than before.

Round & RoundLoop this for 15 minutes and you’re good.

Some people still bitch about Carlos Condit “running” from Nick Diaz, but Alexander LITERALLY just spent five minutes playing Ring Around The Rosie with Kimbo, just with a dash of leg kicks thrown in. Only in the UFC can you find this kind of excitement and skill!

Ashes, ashes, nobody’s going down…

If this was a videogame, Kimbo would be an end level boss and his knee would be the glowing red “AIM HERE!” magical weak spot. It’s too bad Houston didn’t manage his ammo very well and since Kimbo isn’t making any drops, all he can do is continue to circle strafe.

With cat like reflexes, Houston actually changes direction at one point and starts circling clockwise for a bit, but he’s soon back to circling to his right. Going out of his comfort zone was just too risky I guess. If you look closely you can actually see a rut starting to form near the edge of the mat. No one is enjoying this fight in the least, Goldberg sounds more enthused to rattle off a 1000 Ways to Die promo than describe any of the non-action taking place in the cage.

NC: I’m pretty sure watching this fight is actually one of the thousand ways to die.

PB: Seven. We had seven minutes of continuous circling before anything significant actually happened, which was a Kimbo jab followed by a takedown. Don’t get too excited because 10 seconds later Houston is back to his feet and goes back to work playing Runaround Sue, it’s paying off because the rut is now a full on ditch, if he keeps this up for another few passes he’ll turn the octagon into a dome, the inverse of the YAMMA pit.

No, I will not talk about these two trying to grapple with each other. F**k. That. Noise.

NC: I’ll just leave this here then.

Kimbo SuplexHow jealous was Fedor when he saw this?

PB: Ah wonderful, they finally decide to try fighting for a change in the third round. Too bad it’s little more than sloppy wild haymakers being thrown by two guys too pooped to s**t. For any aspiring fighters who might be reading this in the future, learn from these two, masturbation is NOT a form of cardio training.

As if the fight itself wasn’t bad enough, the commentary makes it even worse since they do nothing but praise Kimbo and criticize Alexander. I’m sure they had marching orders to make Kimbo sound as good as possible, but they’re in full on shill mode here, stop being so god damn biased!

Why oh why am I wasting my life watching this fight again? I could be doing something more productive like waiting around at the mall while my girlfriend shops or playing Fallout 4.

The end finally comes with the now infamous GIF.

Slice-Alexander

I’d like to think that somewhere, quite possibly in Quinton Jackson’s basement, Tiki was sitting on a couch watching this fight. One of those pink stuffed unicorns clutched in his arms, tears rolling down his face. He finally manages to eke out “Atta boy Kimbo… atta boy”. And then he falls into an eternal slumber due to an undetected gas leak.

Come on, you knew there was no way in hell I was going to let this be our final entry without taking some sort of pot shot at him, and if you didn’t you obviously haven’t been following along for the last couple months.

Light Heavyweight Bout: Matt Hamill (8-2) v. Jon Jones (9-0)

NC: To this day, I bet there are a lot of people who don’t know how Jon Jones got that one loss on his record. Anyone who saw it will never forget it, though I don’t mean that in a good way.

PB: This was the first time I actually saw Jones fight. I had seen that GIF of his spinning elbows and read on Cage Potato that was on the cover of FIGHT magazine, and that he had just made the move to Greg Jackson’s camp, so I was really excited to see him in action. I thought “This guy is going to be the king of 205 in two to three years”, little did I know he’d beat that estimate by a full year.

NC: Make no mistake about it, even back then Jones was being touted as a future champ. This is a short fight, but you can already see his great use of range and footwork, his speed, how he was blending his styles together. It helped that he was matched up with Hamill who he had a massive speed advantage over so he could throw pretty much whatever he wanted.

When Hamill finally got in close, Jones delivered a whip quick trip and then unleashed some of the most vicious ground and pound you’ll ever see. There were several points where Mazzagatti could have called this off, though I’ll play devil’s advocate and say Hamill always showed some signs of intelligent defence and if Jones wanted to end it definitively he could have gone for a submission from the mount. Instead, this happens:

12-6The angle these are thrown from would make Travis Browne flinch.

Now I’m as against the “12-6 elbow” rule as anyone, but the rules are the rules and Jones should have known better. There is a lot of confusion as Steve Mazzagatti initially takes a point away but then calls the match because Hamill says he can’t continue. Goldberg and Rogan say it’s a TKO victory for Jones and that carries on even through the commercial break.

It isn’t until Bruce Buffer makes the official announcement that we find out Jones has been disqualified.

Bones ReactionBuffer: “Ladies and gentlemen, referee Steve Mazzagatti has called a stop to this contest. Due to intentional elbows there’s been a disqualification of Jonny ‘Bones’ Jones. Therefore, the winner is Matt Hamill!”

PB: For those who might not be aware, Hamill was born deaf, but while he can’t hear anything he can read lips and knows sign language. So normally it’s not a problem for him to communicate, but when his face is full of blood and he can’t see jack s**t, it becomes a big big problem. So when Mazzagatti asked him if he was “okay”, he got no response because Hamill had no idea he was even being asked a question, so he took it as a “no I’m not”.

Steve Mazzagatti is an idiot. There’s also the fact that Jones dislocated Hamill’s shoulder with that slam of his, so it should have been ruled a TKO victory for him anyway.

NC: And that’s the 1 in Jones’ 21-1 record.

Hamill DownStill waiting for his shot at the belt.

Heavyweight Bout: Roy Nelson (13-4) v. Brendan Schaub (4-0)

PB: I had totally forgotten that Nelson walked out to Weird Al’s Fat, and it makes me giggle like a little girl.

NC: My friends were like, “Is he coming out to Michael Jackson?” And it took me a second to figure it out and then I just laughed and told them it was Weird Al. Roy is the best.

PB: There’s not a whole lot to say about this fight, Schaub is the faster fighter but Nelson is the harder puncher, and when it hits the ground we see that Roy has a lot more depth than simply smothering people.

Eventually that sledgehammer right hand of his finds it mark, and it’s the start of his reputation as a knockout artist and the first cracking of Schaub’s suspect chin.

Nelson KO

NC: Poor Brendan. He really does have a habit of getting knocked out in awkwardly memorable ways, eh?

And there we have it, our first all-heavyweight season winner, and really the first true heavyweight since it was Rashad Evans won the last time they implemented the big boys. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy, though you can tell Dana is almost choking on his smile the whole time. Roy takes the plaque from him and proceeds to press it against his face and his belly.

Did I already mention that Roy is the best?

Nelson TriumphantThe first of many victory rubs.

Before I sign off, I’ll just say that if anyone out there is keen to the idea, I encourage you to give it a shot and do a retro recap series of your own! If you can watch and you can read and you can write, then there’s nothing stopping you from taking a crack at it.

Nobody here is trying to be Hemingway. Write for fun and who knows, you might even find out that people are interested in what you have to say.

PB: Well here we are, we’ve finally reached the end of TUF 10. We really hope you enjoyed following along over the last three months. While we hardly broke new ground with this series, for me personally it was a milestone since I had never had a co-writer or anything even resembling an editor before. And I think the results speak for themselves. So thank you all for reading and thanks for all of the kind words and praise you’ve given us, it made all this hard work worth it.

Since people ask us each week if we’re going to do another retro season after this, and the answer is “maybe”. Neither of us have any qualms about continuing this partnership, we’re both totally down for it. The problem is time and our schedules.

We started planning this out way back in July, well before the series started running on BE, so there was a good amount of time invested just in the lead up. And that’s something we can’t put together right now, the time. Hopefully there will be a follow up in the future, but it could be six months, 12 months, or possibly never. We just have to say how the stars align.

So I want to thank everyone once again for joining us on this pain train, but all good things must come to an end. And in honor of the Alexander/Slice fight…

The Return Of The Ultimate The Ultimate Fighter

After 4 weeks of double dipping with The Ultimate Fighter 16 and The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes (the UK/Australia edition of the series), I was burnt out.  Maybe I oversaturated or maybe it was too difficult to provide stimulating analysis or maybe (most likely), TUF is a flat-out horrible program to watch these days.  Still, as time passed by without writing recaps I felt guilty.  I was ignoring my duty and even though nobody gave a damn about it but me, I knew what had to be done: Over twenty hours of TUF programming later I emerged with a greater understanding of self and an even lesser understanding of what it means to have a life.

It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it…

I’m going to have to tack on another eight plus hours this weekend as the two shows wrap-up with the Smashes finale on Friday (Sportsnet ONE, 6 PM preliminaries, 9 PM main card) and the TUF 16 finale on Saturday.  You might notice that I didn’t put the Canadian listings for the second event.  The TUF 16 main card is on FX Canada, with a replay on Sportsnet at midnight so even I won’t be able to watch it live.  This would normally be the part where the MMA fan complains about a major sports network choosing curling over MMA, but the fact is that curling would crush the TUF finale in the ratings and rightfully so: curling rules.  Even if there wasn’t a more favourable event to broadcast, the TUF finale would fare poorly due to the malaise around the series and the main event being changed from Roy Nelson vs. Shane Carwin to Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione; an exciting match to be sure, but one lacking in intrigue.

What I really want to talk about is the potential talent emerging from these shows.  TUF doesn’t produce high calibre fighters anymore.  Flyweight contender John Dodson won TUF 14, but he’s been fast-tracked in a thin flyweight division (and he would have become a contender with or without the show).  Before Dodson, the last two TUF participants to earn title shots were lightweights Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz.  They came from TUF 5 back in 2007 and that was arguably the last great TUF class (it also included Matt Wiman, Joe Lauzon, Rob Emerson, Cole Miller and featherweight contender Manny Gamburyan).  Out of the 32 contestants I’ve forced myself…*ahem*…had the pleasure to watch over the last few months, do any of them have a chance of making a dent in the UFC?

Australian ring girls Kristen and Kahili are clearly the top prospects, but they were NOT eligible for consideration.

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

*Michael Pastou (lightweight) and James Vainikolo (welterweight) are excluded due to the fact that neither man fought on the show.  Pastou was injured early; Vainikolo was a late replacement and was unable to make weight.

The Washouts

Luke Newman & Bola Omoyele (welterweights) – best friends, training partners and partners in crime.  These two had credibility coming from the same camp as opposing coach George Sotiropoulos.  All of that went out the window with their lacklustre performances, not to mention the ensuing controversy that arose from them sneaking a cell phone into the house and then letting a teammate text the result of his fight to his girlfriend!  That’s a huge no-no and Dana White showed leniency in allowing them to stay and train.  He punished them by ignoring them when it came time to replace an injured fighter and it was such an egregious offence that I doubt they receive a call the next time the UFC heads over to the UK or Australia.

Julian Lane (welterweight) – Lane was the most notorious member of the house, going off on a rampage at the slightest provocation.

Do not look at Mr. Lane.  Do not look at him in the eye.

While he was meant to follow in the illustrious footsteps of fellow psychopaths Chris Leben and Junie Browning, Lane’s antics only served to amuse his housemates and annoy viewers.  His act became so contrived that you actually wanted to see him throw a punch just so they would have an excuse to get rid of him.  Based on his lame performance in the octagon, he isn’t capable of hurting anybody anyway.

Eddy Ellis (welterweight), Nic Herron-Webb (welterweight), Patrick Iodice (lightweight) and Valentino Petrescu (welterweight) – all four lost in the first round and none of them showed enough to warrant a second look.  Ellis is too vanilla, Herron-Webb is too douche-y, Iodice is too young and Petrescu is too much of a carny.

Unacceptable.

Ben Wall (lightweight) – he got lots of face time during the season, both for his charming nickname (“Foxpiss”) and his rapidly ballooning weight.  After losing early, Wall was liberated and he proceeded to eat half the house.  Completely oblivious to the possibility that he might be needed to replace an injured fighter, Wall just wanted to eat.  Regardless, nobody will be able to take away the “fat man” championship that he won as the fighter to gain the most weight during the show.  On the final day, he weighed in at 198 pounds.  He fights at 155.

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

Xavier Lucas (welterweight) – better known as simply “X”, Lucas was one of the most beloved cast members in the house.  An injury to a teammate allowed him to fight twice, but he fell short both times.  With his easy-going personality and eagerness to scrap, Lucas is on the short-list of fighters the UFC will look to when booking their next Australian card.

Also: Pajamas.

Matt Secor (welterweight) – I’m probably overrating his chances here, but I thought Secor stood out on the show with his superior trash talking.  Anyone who engaged in a war of words with him usually ended up getting “ether’d”.  A smart mouth doesn’t guarantee results in the cage (often the opposite), but Secor did enough in a split decision loss to stay on the UFC’s radar.

Dom Waters (welterweight) – Waters had the misfortune of facing off with Mike Ricci in the quarterfinals and he wasn’t ready for that challenge just yet.  He had one of the best showings getting into the house and he has a marketable look (read: he’s big and black and he looks like Jay Pharoah from SNL).

Cameron Diffley (welterweight) – I’m putting Diffley here because of his accomplishments as a jiu-jitsu trainer.  I imagine he has some connections that could get him back to the big show sooner rather than later as long as he’s willing to put the necessary work in.

Win And You’re In

Brendan Loughnane/Mike Wilkinson (lightweights), Benny Alloway/Manny Rodriguez (welterweights) & Neil Magny/Jon Manley (welterweights) – the TUF finales traditionally fill out the preliminaries with contestants from the show, but for whatever reason the majority of the cast will not be participating in this weekend’s events.  The Smashes finale has some big names (Mike Pierce, Chad Mendes) along with Loughnane, Wilkinson, Alloway and Rodriguez who all made it to the semi-finals.  The TUF 16 card doesn’t include a single fighter from the show outside of the two finalists, emphasizing just how weak this particular class was (though Magny and Manley have been booked for UFC 157 in February).

For all six men, a win gets them another fight and a loss sends them back to the minors.  The opportunity is especially sweet for Wilkinson and Rodriguez who were removed from the tournament due to injury.

A Change Of Scenery, Perhaps?

Sam Alvey (welterweight) – Alvey had a solid resume going into the show and was one of the favourites to win it especially after delivering a massive KO to get into the house.  Unfortunately, the cut to 170 took a lot out of him and he was upset in the first round.  He said he’d like to return to middleweight and he’s the kind of fighter who should be prepared if called in on short-notice.

Grant Blackler and Richie Vaculik (lightweights) – Australia must have a shortage of talented lightweights, because Blackler and “Vas” were thrown to the wolves in this competition.  Blackler is undefeated at featherweight and Vas is actually one of the top bantamweights in Australia, so neither guy could get off against the supersized 155ers that Team UK trotted out.  Both men have promising careers in the UFC at their natural weight classes, particularly Vas who showed solid striking and footwork in the semi-finals against finalist Colin “Freakshow” Fletcher.

So You’ve Made It To The Quarter-Finals…

Bristol Marunde, Igor Araujo, Michael Hill and Joey Rivera (welterweights) – none of these guys lit the world on fire with their performances, but they did enough to eke out a victory and that has to stand for something, doesn’t it?  The good thing is they all have a hook:  Marunde is “the bleeder” (after every fight it looked like he’d stuck his face in a wood chipper); Araujo is “the homicidal maniac” (for threatening to murder his opponents in the streets); Hill is “the homeless guy” (for refusing to wear a shirt like Vaughn from Community); and Rivera is “Tantric” (for his words of wisdom that I am shamelessly posting again):

You’re not supposed to have sex before you fight, but having sex with my wife, it makes me feel proud.  I don’t always finish and I’m just doing it for her to make sure that she’s being taken care of properly.  Before I fight I try not to have, um, ejaculation…so I can keep my spiritual energy, keep it all in there.

The next wedding I go to that’s going in the guest book.

The Finalists

I don’t think that’s the proper way to rehydrate.

Colton Smith (welterweight) – I’m listing this last grouping in order of potential.  We begin with military man Colton Smith.  Smith made it clear that his plan was to take opponents down and pound them out on the ground, which he did with great success.  Unfortunately, his stand-up was terrible and he didn’t come close to finishing any of his opponents.  Good enough to compete on the show, but not good enough to be memorable, Smith epitomized the efforts of the cast this year.  He’s already discussed a drop to lightweight, but I don’t see him sticking around long.

Straight chillin’ UK style.

Norman Parke (lightweight) – only 25 years old, Parke had the most experience of the Smashes crew and he showed it, looking calm and composed and using his size to his advantage.  Parke is young, well-rounded and has the right attitude but I didn’t see enough to tout him as anything more than a project.  Still, could be a sleeper.

Whittaker (right) showing off the Matrix move.

Robert Whittaker (welterweight) – out of the 32 TUF participants this year, nobody showed more power than Whittaker.  Another young gunner at 21, Whittaker’s naiveté is almost a blessing in disguise as he throws hard strikes from all kinds of unorthodox angles.  More importantly, when he hits he hits hard as evidenced by the two first round knockouts that landed him in the finals.  Like Parke, it’s too early to be making any bold proclamations, but he has those heavy hands that some fighters are lucky to be born with.

This is how you create a spike in the female demographic.

Colin Fletcher (lightweight) – were this based solely on whom I think will become the most popular fighter, “Freakshow” would win by a landslide.  With his penchant for bizarre pranks and spontaneous nudity, Fletcher would have stood out even if he never threw a single punch.  Luckily, it turns out he can scrap and he turned out to be one of the more level-headed members of the house, refusing to become embroiled in any silly drama.  His best bit was when he pretended to be a replacement fighter for Team Australia named “Russell Bandingo”, a transformation that involved slapping on a blonde wig and “tanning” his face with a marker.  Not racist at all.

Yes, he looks like Tobey Maguire.  Please don’t hold that against him.

Mike Ricci (welterweight) – like Smith, Ricci is likely to drop down to a more comfortable weight of 155 when all is said and done; unlike Smith, Ricci looks poised to become a name in the UFC.  However, it can’t be stressed enough just how bad the competition was on this show.  Ricci took out Waters and Magny to get to the finals, neither of whom is near his usual level of competition.  The Canadian’s performance and demeanour were eerily similar to TUF 6’s Mac Danzig, who also ran through overmatched competition.  Danzig has become a reliable mid-carder, but hasn’t come close to matching his tournament dominance.  Expect Ricci to follow a similar arc.

I was going to nickname him “Savernake” because he kind of looks like Forrest and Savernake is a forest in Wiltshire and Scott trains in Wiltshire and…ah, forget it.

Brad Scott (welterweight) – now this guy is a sleeper!  With his scrunched up face and monotone voice, Scott drifted through the house, writing in his diary and taking care of his business in the cage.  His diary nearly got him in trouble with the others (though even this situation didn’t cause too much distress), but he persevered and worked his way to the finals with two gutty performances.  His opponent, Whittaker, is the more exciting and explosive but Scott is too cerebral to allow himself to get caught up in a brawl.  Like his American doppelganger Forrest Griffin, Scott is more likely to grind it out than go for a highlight reel finish and while that might not get the heart racing, it should lead to a consistent and meaningful career.

The Ultimate The Ultimate Fighter: TUF 16 v. TUF: The Smashes – Week 4

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 – October 10, 2012, TUF 16 – October 12, 2012)

The Cast

I’ll talk about Classic more in the “Drama” section, because there wasn’t much development outside of the featured fighters.  Nic Herron-Webb and Igor Araujo are chosen to fight and for the most part, it is a classic good v. evil match-up with Herron-Webb playing the irredeemable A-hole and Araujo as the affable Brazilian.  They’ve both got kids and while I respect both men for thinking of their children, Herron-Webb is a 22 year old who acts like he’s 12 and I feel kind of sorry for his offspring.  He’s also irrationally confident considering Araujo is a BJJ black belt while Herron-Webb specializes in “napjitsu” (because….*sigh*…he puts his opponents to sleep).

Araujo is a Greg Jackson guy who’s been grappling since 2000 (Matt Secor jokes that he “just started” doing jiu-jitsu) and he seems like a swell guy.  Carwin says that Araujo is “truly here to fight for bread and milk”, which I think is actually a really cool way to explain most fighters’ basic motivations.  Wait a minute, Carwin said something memorable?

Now it might sound like this category would be a shoo-in for Smashes this week, especially since they continue to do a good job of running short features on their fighters and their training sessions.  The Aussies head down to Cronulla to run up and down a set pair of sand dunes called “The Mexican”.  The setting is gorgeous.  On the other hand, the UK guys grind it out with the “Shark Tank” method, where one fighter stays in the centre of the octagon and runs a gauntlet of sparring partners, each one fresher than the last.  Sounds interesting, right?  Unfortunately, they automatically lose because of Norman Parke’s douchebag geisha tattoo.

G**dammit.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: 16, narrowly

The Coaches

Sotiropoulos continues to struggle with the funny, joking that last week’s knockout victim Luke Newman come train striking with them.  It doesn’t get much of a reaction and the UK Team make fun of the fact that his delivery sucks even though he probably spends hours working on his wisecracks.  Sotiropoulos comments on Parke hiding behind a pair of shades and Colin Fletcher says Sotiropoulos needs to get some new material.

Also, those are some sweet ass shades.

There seems to be a lot more interaction between the Smashes coaches and their charges.  Case in point, when Cameron Diffley politely asks Nelson to put more emphasis on cardio training, Nelson dismisses him:

Nelson: There’s a pool.
Diffley: Not everyone swims.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: The Smashes

Shenanigans

In what has to be one of the weakest pranks in TUF history, the Aussies leave some gym mats against the door of Team UK so that they’ll…fall slowly when the door is opened?  I have no idea what they were going for, but this somehow leads to escalation.  Team UK counters with the ol’ bucket full of crap (coffee, eggs, honey) tied to a door knob.  Xavier Lucas barely manages to avoid getting slimed…

This would make TUF a million times better.

…and the Aussies get their own dirty bucket and splash it around the UK war room.  Frankly, the exchange was more nauseating than amusing.

Smashes doubles up on the shenanigans when Fletcher decides to go streaking on the tennis court for literally no good reason.  He even does some naked hurdles, which makes me grateful for the digital blurring and the fact that I’m not watching in HD.

But does he put clown makeup on his penis?

Herron-Webb continues his dickish behaviour, taking Mike Ricci’s bed and throwing it on top of a gazebo.  There is an unwritten rule in the TUF series that contestants shouldn’t mess with each other’s sleeping arrangements and it rarely leads to anything good happening.  On the other hand, Herron-Webb is kind of growing on me if only for the fact that he never apologizes and tries to weasel his way out of everything.  That’s a true heel.

Araujo does his part too, engaging in some competitive…nuzzling…with Heron-Webb at the fight announcement.  James Chaney makes the great point that Araujo asserts his dominance by telling Herron-Webb not to touch his face and then giving him some light slaps on the cheek after.  Araujo then states that he’s “f**in’ crazy, man.  I want to eat some brains!”  Close round, but…

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: The Smashes for the Freakshow’s streak show

Drama

One thing I’ll say about the Classic crew, they ain’t taking no guff from coach Nelson.  His straw-drawing method from last week draws the ire of Michael Hill and even Julian Lane says he shouldn’t have been allowed to pick such a bad fight.  Speaking of losing control, we get to see the outburst that was teased last week as Secor awakens the beast within by wafting farts in Lane’s direction later that night.  Lane’s tantrum is incredibly contrived and I’m not sure if he’s quick to fly off the handle or if he just went to the Randy Savage school of acting.

He stopped short of accusing Secor of having “jealous eyes”.

So all in all, a disappointing scene that seemed blatantly put on for the cameras (even more so than usual).

Smashes doesn’t fare much better in this category as the main conflict revolves around the UK Team being slobs and the Aussies being none too pleased about it.  Somehow this show lasts almost an hour without commercials.

Advantage: 10-10 Draw

The Fights

TUF 16 Welterweight Bout: Igor Araujo d. Nic Herron-Webb via MD (19-18 x2, 19-19)

Araujo has a massive height and reach advantage (4 and 8 inches respectively).  He comes out with big kicks and follows up with a takedown that Herron-Webb is way too slow to stop.  The Alaskan shows a good rubber guard, but Araujo slips out and stands before dropping back down into half guard and moving to mount position.  He takes the back teases a choke before pounding on Herron-Webb relentlessly.  At first, I think he’s trying to teach him a lesson, but he soon struggles to finish.  Somehow, Herron-Webb is able to reach out and recover his lost mouthpiece even though Araujo is on him the whole time.

In the second round, Herron-Webb looks to have the cardio advantage and he manages o get top position.  He throws some damaging elbows, but he doesn’t stay busy enough and while he wins round 2, Araujo takes the lacklustre decision on account of his dominant first round.  Dana White thinks the judging was bogus (surprise, surprise), but Araujo pitched a shut-out in the first and a 10-8 made sense even if he didn’t do overwhelming damage.

TUF: The Smashes Lightweight Bout: Norman Parke d. Richie Vaculik via UD (20-18 x3)

Before and after the fight, everyone acknowledges that Parke’s size could be the difference (he’s the UK’s biggest lightweight while Vaculik, a natural featherweight, is Australia’s smallest) and that proves to be exactly the case.  “Vass” looks to have decent power for a small guy, but it’s just too easy for Parke to take him down and score points from the top.  Parke’s limited jiu-jitsu prevents him from maintaining or capitalizing on his positions, but he wins handily, maybe even taking the second round 10-8.  Vass showed a lot of heart and Sotiropoulos owes him an apology for picking this match-up.

Neither fight was particularly thrilling, with Araujo backing in for the win and Parke just being too damn big for Vaculik.  It’s worth mentioning that every fight on Classic has gone to a decision.

Advantage: 10-10 Draw

Final Score: 49-48 TUF: The Smashes

It was close, but Smashes takes week 4.  Overall, it’s just been more fun so far.  Classic really failed to deliver on the Lane outburst.  It was lame and lasted about three minutes.  However, the teaser for next week promises intrigue with Hill being accused of stealing chicken from the fridge!  How can you not watch this stuff?  In totally unrelated news, viewership fell to an all-time low last week (just 624,000 viewers).  I…just…please, just take us out, Kahili.

The Ultimate The Ultimate Fighter: TUF 16 v. TUF: The Smashes – Week 3

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 – October 3, 2012, TUF 16 – October 5, 2012)

The Cast

If any of these Smashes guys were competing in the US edition they’d need subtitles.  Being someone who watches the occasional BBC program and spends way too much time badly imitating accents, I quite enjoy the way these guys talk, but I can picture people having to rewind their DVRs to decipher the dialogue.  Throw in British and Australian slang and you have a recipe for disaster.

Smashes gives us spotlights on Bola Omoyele, Brad Scott, and Xavier Lucas (who lived in South Africa and had to deal with people giving him guff over his stammering; so Kenyon Martin basically).

The American Xavier Lucas

The stories aren’t thrilling, but it gives us some basic information until it’s their time to fight.  Speaking of which, the two contestants picked to fight this week are Luke Newman and Robert Whittaker.  Newman looks like the lovechild of John Turturro and Bret from Flight of the Conchords

Newman seems like an unassuming guy who isn’t looking for a fight, but is more than happy to punch your teeth out should it come to it.  He’s another former troublemaker who was deeply affected by the death of his Nan (“grandmother” and yes, I had to look that up).  He has a shirt dedicated to her and even though I shouldn’t, I must point out an egregious typo.

That’s right, everybody look at the insensitive and anal blogger.

Whittaker expresses how he feels he’s been overlooked.  The other Aussies confirm that he might be the best welterweight on the team.  He certainly thinks so, because when Sotiropoulos tells him he has a good chance of winning the fight, Whittaker says he has a 100% chance and that you “can’t get any more than that.”

While Smashes focuses on a tough morning training session that Pearson springs on Team UK, the Classic cast is taken out to a screening of the new MMA-themed Kevin James’ film “Here Comes The Boom”.  The whole segment is reminiscent of American Idol and that’s not something I ever wanted to write about The Ultimate Fighter.

I have to go after Julian Lane for a minute.  First, he flat out refuses to do a second round of cardio, uttering the two words every coach loves to hear: I can’t.  He admits that his cardio isn’t up to snuff and that he’ll be in trouble if the fight lasts longer than two minutes.  Two minutes!  Second, he ignores his corner’s instructions to stay away from the cage during the fight, though in his “defence” (for lack of a better term) he gets so blown up in the second round that I’m not sure he can even hear anything beyond a faint buzzing.  Thirdly, his whole sob story revolves around getting fired and his girlfriend having to work two jobs to support them and their child.  That sounds more like a deadbeat than a sympathetic figure.  He also mentions how he loves riding his Harley and wants to use the money to buy a Cruiser.

***** please.

*spoiler* He loses the fight and then starts crying about how he has nothing back home.  Sell your f***ing motorcycle!  Sell the jet-ski!

Michael Hill, kind-hearted Canuck that he is, offers some outstanding advice: Take these next four weeks and become a better man.  Lane just sobs, saying “I failed my daughter, man.”  You failed your daughter when you spent all that time taking care of that pink mohawk instead of holding down a job, motherf***er.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: The Smashes

The Coaches

Nelson decides to pick the next fight by drawing straws.  He clearly could not care less about this show, saying that he chose this method because it was less stressful.  He does show some signs of life when his fighters question whether Lane’s opponent, Bristol Marunde, actually made weight.  He has no actual evidence so when he asks Dana White about it, White is absolutely dumbfounded.

The Smashes coaches are far more lively this episode.  Pearson announces Robert Whittaker as “Richard” during the fight selection which was slightly disrespectful even though it was clearly an accident (he later says, “I can’t believe I f***ed up the first one”).  He makes up for it by asking Sotiropoulos “country or teammate?”  (Sotiropoulos and Newman train together with American Top Team).  He shows a lot of hesitation before declaring that Whittaker is his boy, but I can’t imagine anyone felt good about that.  Still, it was a nasty move on par with TUF 5 when BJ Penn told the contestants that if they didn’t want to have anything to do with Jens Pulver to just raise their hands and be honest about it.  Now that was nasty.

Sotiropoulos counters during the weigh-in by not acknowledging Colin Fletcher’s victory last week (he claims the score is “1-nil”) and pretending that he doesn’t know who Newman is.  I thought that was smart, but then realized what a dick move it was when you consider that they train together.  Damn, son!

Advantage: TUF: The Smashes 10-8

Shenanigans

The pranks this week revolve around the coaches…or at least they would if the fighters even realized that the TUF 16 coaches were alive.

The Aussies look to get back at Team UK for making a mockery of Sotiropoulos’ picture by taking an Arianny Celeste poster from the house and sticking Pearson’s face on it.  This leads to awkward out-of-context comments:

Benny Alloway: I guess we’re going to see Ross Pearson in some UFC ring girl clothes tomorrow.
Sotiropoulos: I thought a bikini would look great on Ross.

The whole procedure takes the Australian team many hours to set up and the end result is…kind of crappy.  Team UK doesn’t pretend to be amused or offended, noting that the other team must have spent way too much time on it.

When you look like this, everything seems boring.

 Smashes star “Freakshow” Fletcher continues to carry the comedic load, first constructing some weird, kind of phallic helmet to try and scare his mates…

“Kind of” might not be strong enough.

…then engaging in a juvenile contest with last week’s opponent, Ben Wall.  Wall says that “anything Fletcher can do, he can do better”, which I’m sure will be resolved in a mature and educational fashion.  They decide to snort lines of wasabi and Piri-piri sauce.  Wall throws up, so I guess…Fletcher wins?  He compares the experience to having “dirt smeared in me eyes…and kicked in the nuts…and me nose pulled nine inches off me face.”

Remember kids: Games like this never have a winner.

Of all things, this is what unites the two nations.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: The Smashes

Drama

You might have noticed that I didn’t mention Classic in the “Shenanigans” section.  I could easily have put Lane’s story there because hell, it made me laugh, but other than that there wasn’t much comedy.  As funny as these guys can be sometimes, this has to be the most boring cast since TUF 11 (Liddell/Ortiz).

However, both series’ decide to treat us to some weigh-in drama!  I know that it’s down to a science at this point, but the whole process still fascinates me.  Newman is dealing with the fact that he’s been sipping coconut water on the side (the sodium content retains water in the body) and Marunde is just dealing with being a large welterweight.  The Smashes ordeal is slightly more interesting, but only because he lies to his coaches about his diet.  Marunde, not the most electrifying character anyway, simply says how hard it will be to make weight and then…does it.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: The Smashes

The Fights

TUF 16 Welterweight Bout: Bristol Marunde d. Julian Lane via UD (20-18 x3)

Marunde is far more experienced than Lane and almost everyone was disappointed that he didn’t finish Lane off.  Lane shows some power, but his bad cardio was obvious to everyone and he was nearly defenceless in the second round.  Marunde could have been more aggressive with the leg kicks but he was controlling the fight and I can understand why he didn’t want to risk getting caught by a lucky punch especially in this tournament format.  Seriously though, Lane looked terrible, blinking a lot and taking deep breaths through his mouth.  If I saw someone like that at a club, I’d call a cab for him.

TUF: The Smashes Welterweight Bout: Robert Whittaker d. Luke Newman via KO (:19, R1)

Newman comes out throwing some scary hooks and he connects solidly at least once.  Whittaker has a good chin and he escapes.  When they get off the cage, Whittaker ducks under and connects with a lightning right directly on Newman’s chin that drops him.  The ref can’t get in there fast enough to call this one.

This fight comparison is actually closer than you might expect.  Marunde and Lane fought hard and even though Lane was tired, I never felt like he quit mentally.  Whittaker and Newman showed a lot in less than 20 seconds and it would have been great to get a couple of rounds out of them.

Advantage: 10-10 Draw

Final Score: 50-45 TUF: The Smashes

…and another thing!  Nelson’s straw drawing method looks doubly stupid right now because Lane could have used the extra time to get his cardio up to snuff.  I’m sorry, I can’t stop complaining about how much the US coaches suck.

Smashes gets the clear cut win, but both series showed a lot of improvement this week.  Even the ratings bounced back, with Classic cracking a million viewers again after plummeting below 800,000 the week before (an all-time low).  The TUF 16 preview promises to throw down the gauntlet with a Lane freak out next week so Smashes is going to need something special to extend their lead.

The Smashes victory means the attending ring girl gets the love.  Take us out, Kristie!

The Ultimate The Ultimate Fighter: TUF 16 v. TUF: The Smashes – Week 2

As my good friend Jermaine Dupri would say, I’ve been slackin’ on my pimpin’

…so I guess it’s time to turn it up.

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 26, 2012, TUF 16 – September 28, 2012)

The Cast

Things picked up last week as two genuinely entertaining personalities emerged: TUF 16’s Matt Secor (who made the remarkable comparison between a teammate’s hair and a vagina) and TUF: The SmashesColin Fletcher.  Secor administered some more sick burns, saying that he heard military man Colton Smith had to learn to walk when he was 3 months old because nobody wanted to hold him.  That is cold-blooded.  When habitual line stepper Nic Herron-Webb says he hopes Secor makes it to the quarter-finals, Secor shuts him down by saying “Why?  You’re not gonna be there, bud.”  This is after he quizzes Herron-Webb about his jiu-jitsu credentials.  Normally I hate a loud mouth, but not when the targets are asking for it.

Sam Alvey (Carwin’s #1 pick) is picked to fight Joey Rivera, who Nelson describes as a jack of all trades: in other words, he’s going to get smashed.  Both guys actually come off pretty well, with Alvey being a former band nerd who ended up marrying America’s Next Top Model cycle 11 winner, McKey Sullivan…

Now we know why he’s smiling all the time.

 …and Rivera explaining that he got into fighting to defend his mom from some bad boyfriends.  That’s a good son, right there.

Igor Araujo even scores some points for TUF 16 with his unique Brazilian/French accent!

The TUF: The Smashes cast get a visit from UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos and the results are…underwhelming.  I’m not surprised the contestants are star struck, but it doesn’t make for great television.

Otherwise, the spotlight is focused squarely on Fletcher aka “Freakshow”.  Like many fighters, Fletcher used to be bullied.  I wouldn’t have known from his, er, “unique” looks.  He starts talking about his wife and I’m thinking, “Oh, this should be good.”

That lady on the left is his wife.  No, seriously, his wife.

Holy s**t.  She looks like Bridgette Wilson-Sampras.  More highlights from Fletcher include referring to his fighting style as a giraffe cross-bred with an alligator, how his opponents can’t figure out what he’s going to do next because even he doesn’t know, and an exhibition of strikes designed to take his opponent’s eye out.  Fletcher is officially amazing.

Fletcher: “I feel like David Blaine’s rabbit.  I’m f***ing magic, son.”

His opponent, Ben Wall, is given the loving nickname “Fox Piss” and I’m not sure what that means but Team UK takes great pleasure in needling him for his sullen disposition.  He reminds me of another TUF veteran, Charles McCarthy (who also earned an endearing nickname, “Captain Miserable”).  His one quirk is that he likes to train to Japanese pop music, but there’s really not much to work with and Fox Piss might have cost The Smashes this round.  Freakshow and his freakishly hot wife aren’t enough to carry the day.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: 16

The Coaches

Pearson and Sotiropoulos seem to be on good terms, but there are finally some signs of tension between the two as they engage in some half-hearted trash talk capped off by this heated exchange:

We’ll see.
We will see.

Oh.  Snap.

I like Carwin, but he is a black hole of charisma and I’m not even sure Nelson even did anything this episode.  The coaches have not been a highlight of either of these shows.

Advantage: 10-10 Draw

Shenanigans

Team Nelson is up to no good again, taking Alvey’s bed and putting it on a flotation device in the pool.  Alvey feigns disappointment and crashes on the couch.  You can almost hear the production team shriveling at this dull turn of events.

Over in Australia, Team UK renews the recent tradition of defacing whatever image they have handy of the other team’s coach.  Fletcher climbs up on a support and places a mustache, an eye patch and a nipple ring on a giant banner featuring Sotiropoulos.  It’s not bad, but nothing is going to beat last season when Team Cruz made a thong for Urijah Faber’s butt chin.

So you’d think Smashes has this in the bag but as usual, Classic is tough to beat when it comes to unintentional comedy.  Alvey comes out wearing his favourite “Spartan” underwear, which causes him to come in super heavy at the weigh-in.  That alone would have been enough, but Rivera steals the show by sharing his philosophy on sex before a fight:

You’re not supposed to have sex before you fight, but having sex with my wife, it makes me feel proud.  I don’t always finish and I’m just doing it for her to make sure that she’s being taken care of properly.  Before I fight I try not to have, um, ejaculation…so I can keep my spiritual energy, keep it all in there.

Hey now!

Advantage: 10-8 TUF: 16 for the near-finish.

Drama

The injury storyline from episode 1 concludes with Michael Pastou (aka “UK Daryl”) being forced to withdraw from the competition.  Everyone is torn up about it and while we’ve seen this happen on TUF before, it never fails to resonate with me.  Win or lose, the program has proven to be such a valuable asset to a fighter’s career and I can’t imagine what it feels like to be so close to the next level only to be knocked back down.  My heart goes out to him.

The drama in the US house revolves around Herron-Webb’s inane attempts to “psyche out” the other team by staying up late whistling, playing pool and skipping rope.  Playing mind games is fine, but when you’re that overt about it you just end up alienating everyone and making yourself a huge target.  Even his teammates can’t stand him.

Advantage: 10-9 TUF: The Smashes

The Fights

TUF 16 Welterweight Bout: Joey Rivera d. Sam Alvey via MD (20-18 x2, 19-19)

Almost everyone in the house discussed how much they liked Rivera and how they were going to hate seeing Alvey take him out.  He shocks everyone by coming out firing, throwing two head kicks that Alvey only narrowly blocks.  From there, Rivera gets in close and nearly locks in a standing arm triangle.  The two men trade takedowns, but Rivera is more active going for a guillotine and a triangle from his back.  The second round is similar to the first, but Rivera continually uses his strength advantage to avoid bad positions.  In the middle of the fight, Nelson grabs one of his corner men to demonstrate a proper guillotine choke.  I wonder why more coaches don’t do that.  Regardless, Rivera pulls off the upset and poor Alvey ain’t smilin’ no more.

TUF: The Smashes Lightweight Bout: Colin Fletcher d. Ben Wall via UD (20-18 x3)

Freakshow lives up to his name, coming out in a clown mask and stumbling around like a hammered Keith Jardine.  His gangly body gives him a unique advantage in the clinch as he’s able to land a lot of high knees from that position.  Wall scrambles for a takedown, but Fletcher twists around and starts to work ground and pound from guard.  Somehow, he gets Wall’s back and he locks in a dragon sleeper, which I don’t see too often in MMA (maybe for good reason because Wall doesn’t look close to tapping).  Fletcher may have stolen the 1st with the late activity.  In the 2nd, Fletcher starts to make Wall miss, using every inch of his reach.  When they get back into the clinch, Fletcher bloodies Wall’s face with more high knees.  Here’s how the referee announces the victor: “Unanimous points decision…winner by way of blue corner…Colin Fletcher!”  I have no idea what that means.

A rough translation.

Both fights were solid, but nothing to write home about.  I think we’re likely to see Rivera, Alvey and Fletcher all fighting in the UFC someday.  Sorry, Fox Piss.

Advantage: 10-10 Draw

Final Score: 49-46, TUF: 16

The old guard strikes back, which surprised me as I thought the show was already going downhill.  A couple of things I couldn’t fit in another section; first, after Alvey’s loss, Carwin comforted the team with a mind numbingly boring story about his visit to the Intrepid.  It was like Randy Couture’s monologue in The Expendables, but worse.  Second, the totally hetero comment of the week courtesy of Herron-Webb: “I’m just gonna lay in Sam’s bed.

Uh…did I mention that Arianny Celeste was on ring girl duty this week?  Take us out, Arianny!

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!