Welcome to my weekly review of The Ultimate Fighter 17. From here on out I will be posting my thoughts on the episodes every Wednesday, so, as Bud Light says…here we go!”
After a short but sweet montage of candid interviews featuring the newest contestants and coaches, UFC President Dana White gave the boys something extra worth fighting for in their attempts to get into the TUF House. In the first step towards a six-figure, three-year contract and a custom Harley Davidson, White allowed the fighters to bring friends and family to watch the elimination fights. This was a nice change, as the usually empty seats that surround the Octagon were full of life, and their cheers definitely filled the often dead sound. It also brought more intensity to their backstories and provided an emotional connection not usually seen in previous seasons.
With only fourteen men moving on, a lot of the opening fights were really entertaining, much unlike the opening night of TUF 16. Dana looked happy, and when he’s happy it seems everyone else is. The coaches this season are going to be awesome, as the interaction between Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen revealed both men can be friendly and are perhaps misunderstood, so I look forward to seeing where the chemistry will go as the weeks go by.
Below is a brief summary of all fourteen fights. If there aren’t many details, it’s because they weren’t really provided…
JAKE HEUN – Former college football player, Alaska boy named “Honey Bear”. Trains with Chris Leben in Utah.
Salt Lake City, UT
ADAM CELLA – Used to be a fat kid in high school, brought his girlfriend.
St. Louis, MO
Review: Great start to the elimination round. After a confident looking Jake Heun things going with quick strikes and a couple body slams on Cella, the initial reaction is that the Honey Bear has this one in the bag. With a sleek arm bar by Cella, the Leben student taps out early in the first round.
Winner: Cella via armbar
ZAC CUMMINGS – His wife is a bigger UFC fan than him – beard guy
Kansas City, MO
NIK FEKETE – Big on family, 32-years-old, nightclub security worker.
Las Vegas, NV
Review: My initial thought when they introduced Fekete was that he seemed a little old and tired, but I didn’t want to discredit him the way I did with Cella in the first fight. That was the wrong move, as the fight was over as soon as he went for an opening kick. He ate a big right hand by Cummings that dropped him, giving the Kansas City boy free reign on his face.
Winner: Cummings by TKO
ELDON SPROAT – Hawaiian cowboy who trained out of a garage, brought his buddies.
KEVIN CASEY – Raised by a single mother and has anger issues – grew up around the Gracies.
Review: Seeing a Hawaiian in a cowboy hat was a first for me, but unfortunately it may be the last. After throwing the opening move at Casey, it quickly turned bad for Sproat when he was brought down against the fence. He did manage to cut Casey above the eye. The bloody mess was over quickly after Casey put the choke on him and forced him to tap.
Winner: Casey by rear naked choke.
SCOTT ROSA – He’s super anxious, even the coaches and White notice.
TOR TROENG – He’s an engineer at a University in Sweden… Nicknamed “The Hammer”.
Review: Rosa was noticeably nervous as he hopped all over the Octagon before his match against Troeng. I would be too if I had to face an engineer nicknamed the Hammer who hailed from a far-off land. Unlike the power punches I was expecting, Troeng took Rosa out without breaking a sweat in the opening round.
Winner: TOR by Submission
Review: I often find Brits to be the ultimate bad boys, so when Fraser walked onto the scene with his funky hair and tattoo-covered body, I felt that he would give Hester a run for his money. Turns out the boys down South are tough as nails, too. The Atlanta-native Hester picked Opie apart – much to the pleasure of the coaches – with takedowns, wrestling and striking to easily advance into the house.
Winner: Hester by decision
RYAN BIGLER – Comes from a small island.
BUBBA MCDANIELS- Super close with mom and sister. Misses his two kids, cries for his shot to be in the UFC. Trains with Jones.
Wichita Falls, TX
Review: Coach Jones has worked with McDaniels before and said that when he is on, he’s on… but which Bubba would show up? While I was swayed by Bigler’s pursuit to put Guam on the map, it was hard to envision he could beat Bubba with Jones encouraging him from the sides. With much of the fight being dominated by the American, the ref stopped it after Bigler could no longer defend himself.
Winner: McDaniels by TKO
JOSH SAMMAN -Fourth time trying out for TUF. Brought his girlfriend.
LEO BERCER – Born on the reservation. Proud Native warrior.
Review: This was a tough one to predict. A hard-raised fighter born on the reservation trying to break the stereotypes surrounding his culture or a guy who’s auditioned for TUF four times. Samman went for the quick takedown and delivered some big body shots before yelling “Are you guys ready?” and pummeling Bercer double-fisted to show his enthusiasm. Sonnen enjoyed it. A defenseless Bercer was unable to recover.
Winner: Samman by TKO
KITO ANDREWS – Single father of two sons. Grew up very poor. Seeing his kids cry makes me melt. 34-years old.
KELVIN GASTELUM – Works a 9-5 shift in an office, fighting is his passion. Doing it for family. Youngest fighter in TUF history… 21 years old.
Review: Seeing the intensity of a single father in the octagon with his kids looking in, I had a feeling this was going to Kito. He started off strong on the 21-year old Gatelum,, but as the fight wore on coach Sonnen pointed out that based on Gatelum’s conditioning he was able to stay in control, thus outlasting the 34-year old. His kids were still proud of him.
Winner: Gatelum by decision
JIMMY QUINLAN – Says he has competed in over 1,000 fights.
Review: Quinlan used his strong wrestling skills from the start to take control and outperform Persons in the first round. After keeping him to the ground and utilizing his strengths, a dominant delivery of punches from Quinlan forced the end of the fight.
Winner: Quinlan by TKO
URIAH HALL – Jamaican born trouble-maker who found confidence in MMA.
ANDY ENZ – Loves his father very much.
Review: When a man who found confidence goes up against a man who always had it, what do you expect to happen? Both known for striking, this fight was a lot of thrill the entire time. With some opportunities on the ground, spinning kicks and a close submission for both fighters, it became evident Enz’s skills were slightly outmatched. Class act for Hall, who took the time post-fight to talk to Enz and his family.
Winner: Hall by decision
GILBERT SMITH – Doing it for his wife and kids. Wife tells him, “You shouldn’t be afraid of your dreams.”
Colorado Springs, CO
ERIC WAHLIN – Poor guy losing money, needs to make child support payments and pay his bills.
Salt Lake City, UT
Review: Wahlin shows his soft side when he says he doesn’t know if he can physically compete with the other guys, but he has nothing to lose. Point one to Smith. After a bone-crushing body slam and a good amount of time on top, Smith closes out the Salt Lake City hopeful when an opportunity for the triangle presents itself.
Winner: Smith by triangle choke
NICHOLAS KOHRING – Momma’s boy.
Valley Springs, CA
LUKE BARNATT – Used to wear a suit to work every day. Tall and slim, living on a shoestring budget.
Review: While Kohring put up a great fight against the tall frame and big reach of Barnatt, the stockier momma’s boy was unable to get the decision in a fight completely dominated by the Brit who reminded me of Stefan Struve.
Winner: Barnatt by decision
DYLAN ANDREWS – Grew up in a marijuana drug house.
TIM WILLIAMS – “South Jersey Strangler”.
Review: William’s face is covered with scars, so my initial thought is this guy can scrap. The undefeated Jersey boy took a big right punch and managed to recover, but ultimately it was the New Zealand native who showed the edge in this fight, which could have gone to a third round.
Winner: Andrews by decision
COLLIN HART – “The Dick” is a bouncer at a bar.
Santa Rosa, CA
MIKE JASPER -Undefeated 5-0 and was a quarterback in semi-pro football.
Review: In the last fight of the night, the wrestler Hart utilized his best game to take out an undefeated opponent. In what appeared to be a pretty quick bout, Hart found a chance for the rear naked choke and never looked back.
Winner: Hart by rear naked choke
With Sonnen winning the coin toss, the coaches draft and the teams look like this:
Luke – first overall pick due to his “conditioning”
Clint – second overall pick because of his attitude
Dylan – Last pick
Things to take note of for the upcoming season:
-Dana is bringing back the “wild card”, meaning whoever loses, the coaches will decide which two guys get to come back.
-$5000 for finishes: knockouts, submissions etc…
-$25,000 for best knockout, submission, fight of the season. ($75,000 total)
-Dana says he has witnessed the ‘nastiest knockout’ ever.
-And an ambulance is spotted. What reality show would be complete without the ambulance scene?
Stay tuned for my video review of next week’s episode of TUF featuring the first fight as selected by the coaches.
LUKE (1st overall pick)