The season premiere of the “Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen” Ultimate Fighter is over, and what an entertaining and interesting two-hour special it was. The usual pageantry was on display, the back-and-forth verbal jousts between coaches was evident for all to see, and most importantly, there were submissions and knockouts aplenty. So what did we learn about this new season? Here are 10 things we learned from the premiere…
#1 Custom Harley Davidsons can’t compete with cold hard cash as far as fighter incentives go
At the beginning of the episode, with all the fighters and coaches gathered in the TUF Gym, Dana White announced that the winning coach and winning fighter would get to pick any Harley Davidson motorcycle they want, and customize it to their heart’s content. It didn’t exactly blow their minds with excitement. However, at the end of the episode White offered more incentives, this time $5,000 per submission and KO, plus $25,000 for the best submission, KO and fight of the season. Now that’s more like it.
#2 The theme of this episode was “crying”
Yes, I know I can’t relate to these men’s struggles in regards to family and financial worries, and it was clearly clever editing on Zuffa’s part to showcase the cascades of tears from each emotional fighter as they bade farewell to their loved ones. But enough became enough, as every little thing began to turn the water works on for these emotional brutes. Imagine how they’ll be if they win?
#3 The ‘girlfriend cam’ is kinda weird
Yes the ‘girlfriend cam’. That little live feed at the corner of your screen showing a fighter’s girlfriend/fiancée as they are either being pummeled into the canvas or doing the pummeling themselves. I must admit, watching their dreams of getting half of their partner’s potential six-figure UFC contract turned to dust was a regrettable joy for me to watch.
#4 Watching your son knock another man out shouldn’t gives you fits of excitement, or should it?
When Zak Cummings TKO’d Nick Fehete in the third fight, we saw his darling mother jumping up and down screaming that her son had put another man to sleep with his fists. Now maybe I’m being harsh, but I thought that was a bit much. Though I must digress, should I ever brave the cage, I wouldn’t be surprised to see my own mother attempting to scale the outer walls of the cage as I eat punch after punch from my eager opponent.
#5 Filling up the TUF Gym with friends and family is cool
It’s cool, yes. It also probably heaps unnecessary pressure on each fighter to perform and take risks. Oh wait, that’s exactly what the UFC and FX would want to happen. Their master plan to get fighters to go for the jugular from the outset worked like a charm, with no less than nine of the fourteen fights ending with an impressive finish. It’s all about ratings!
#6 Tor Troeng has a cool name
“The Hammer” hails from Sweden, and if I know anything about those Swedes (and I must stress that I don’t), it’s that they will quietly and effectively go about their business while all those crazy Americans get drunk and wrestle each other in the swimming pool (refer back to this post later when it turns our Tor is not who I thought he was). He may not be the “Mightiest Avenger”, but he looked calculated and professional in the Octagon. He may be one to watch.
#7 There were some seriously impressively fighters on show
Clint Hester (def. Frasier Opie by UD) was very good. Jones almost lost his head watching his mirror image suplex and takedown his way to an impressive win. Bubba McDaniel (def. Ryan Bigler), being Jones’ training partner, was obviously going to advance, and he looked good in the process, though his family looked like a ZZ Top fan club. The show-off Josh Sammann (def. Leo Bercier by TKO) was impressive, though whether he was showing off to his lady or to White wasn’t clear. Another dominant wrestling performance came from Jimmy Quinlan (def. Mike Persons by TKO). Can you spot the trend? Uriah Hall (def. Andy Enz by UD) looked like a bionic MMA machine. Though he didn’t finish his fight he looked the most impressive out of everybody. Plus, he seems like a really nice guy. And last but not least, the only Englishman in the house, Luke Barnatt, whose Stefan Struve impression was effective and he looks like he’ll be a handful.
#8 Chael Sonnen wastes no time getting into Jones’ head
Yes, I know we learned a long time ago that Chael likes his mind games, but it was still great to see him attempting to get into Jones’ head, with the champ struggling with comebacks of his own. Predicting Jones’ picks during the fights was a clever ploy by Sonnen, who would appear to have sussed out this TUF coaching spiel rather early on. He also got first pick of the fighters, choosing Barnatt, with Jones for some reason then pitting his smallest fighter in Gilbert Smith against Sonnen’s giant number-one pick.
#9 Jon Jones’ favoritism in certain fights was just plain rude
In a few of the fights, Jones was clearly rooting for and coaching one fighter. While unethical in the sense that one fighter is getting top-class coaching from the reigning light-heavyweight champion and all his opponent his getting is calls of “Come ooooooooon!” from his lady love on sidelines, it was also clear that Jones only helped a fighter out when they were already clearly in the ascendancy. Say what you will of that.
#10 We still don’t know who the guy everyone’s afraid of is!
Tuning in to watch this episode, many of us were wondering who this vicious knockout killer marauder that White kept talking about was. Though there were a few exciting and impressive fighters, nobody stood out to me. Though I must hark back to my entry about Troeng. Could he be the silent assassin? I would put my money on him mowing through the competition without so much as speaking a word for the rest of the season. I’ll probably be wrong, to be honest.
Here’s the two teams in full:
Team Jones: Clint Hester, Josh Samman, Bubba McDaniel, Gilbert Smith, Collin Hart, Adam Cella, Dylan Andrews.
Team Sonnen: Luke Barnatt, Uriah Hall, Zak Cummings, Tor Troeng, Jimmy Quinlan, Kevin Casey, Kelvin Gastelum.
The Ultimate Fighter: Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen returns to FX next Tuesday night (and on ESPN UK in the UK and Ireland) as Team Jones’ Gilbert Smith takes on Team Sonnen’s Luke Barnatt.