‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 12, Episode 1: Fight! (x14)

Time for another season of recapping, deconstructing and dissecting The Ultimate Fighter!

We know the coaches — the venerated Georges St. Pierre and the vilified Josh Koscheck, subject of some guy’s USA TODAY profile today. Now we get to meet 28 prospective cast members in 40-some minutes of TV.

Let’s say this up front: I don’t like the current format of 28 guys trying to fight their way into a 14-man show in which two first-round losers will get another chance. In theory, the idea is that the prelim fights separate those who “want to fight” from those who don’t. In reality, an unlucky draw can eliminate a really good prospect.

What I’d rather see: Have 24 guys fight for 12 spots. THEN pick four “wild cards” to bring the field to 16. The “wild card” concept isn’t needed during the tournament because it forces someone to fight five times in six weeks. If a good fighter loses in the first round, chances are good that an injury will open a slot in the tournament. At the very least, they can bring him back to fight in the finale.

A 12-fight preliminary round would still be chaotic. With 14, it’s a mess. The only way to meet the fighters is to be a geek with misplaced priorities like yours truly, who has been rounding up info from MMA Junkie, the enthusiastic MMA Valor blog and the ever-helpful Sherdog fight finder. And Wikipedia.

Onward …

Continue reading ‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 12, Episode 1: Fight! (x14)

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‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11 semi-finale

Two hours! Two semifinals! Crabman arguing with Uscola in the house! Are you ready?! Do you wish this wasn’t on opposite Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals and some MLS games?

Let’s go …

The first bit of suspense is in the opening credits. Will they replaced Ortiz with Franklin? The answer: Yes! That must’ve cost some money.

I spoke with Franklin on Monday for a story you’ll see Friday, and it’s strange to see him here.  Coming in so late in the season put the mild-mannered fighter in a tough spot.

Continue reading ‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11 semi-finale

‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 10: Iceman 1, Crabman 0

We start with Chuck Liddell taking out his frustration over Tito Ortiz pulling out of their fight, ranting in front of an amused Dana White. Tito says Chuck doesn’t understand what he’s going through.

Then, in one of the most abrupt segues in Ultimate Fighter history, we have the weigh-in for the Josh Bryant-Jamie “Crabman” Yager quarterfinal.

As we get to the part with teammates talking up each fighter’s chances, we see Kyacey Uscola casting doubt on Yager. They’re both on Team Ortiz. Or is Yager officially on Team Yager now?

Yager, though, gives a good analysis of the Bryant bout. Bryant is busy taking out the trash.

Crabman should be the favorite, based on the speed of his prelim and first-round wins. Bryant needed a majority decision to get into the house, then labored his way to an upset of Kris McCray.

Steve Mazzagatti is the ref. Crabman is the tall one. It’s one of the biggest height differentials in Ultimate Fighter history. We’re off.

Continue reading ‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 10: Iceman 1, Crabman 0

‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 9: If only Tito could burn the tape

Two quarterfinals and the explanation of what happened to Tito Ortiz to scrub his fight with fellow coach Chuck Liddell? Seems promising.

Must be busy, because we start with a weigh-in. Kyle Noke and Kris McCray are bummed because they’re buddies, and they have to fight. They’re also two of the best guys on the show, and one of them has to go out early.

Tito went to his neck doctor, and they want to do surgery. He says he has fought hurt for the last six years and doesn’t want to fight Chuck at less than 100 percent. Someone on the Web is surely cataloging all of Tito’s devastating setbacks and miraculous recoveries. I’ve written at least one of them.

Seems anticlimactic, doesn’t it?
Continue reading ‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 9: If only Tito could burn the tape

‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Quarterfinal catchup

Quick look at the quarterfinal matchups, posted here so I can focus on the Tito drama in tonight’s recap (if the previews are to be believed):

* Court McGee (Liddell) def. James Hammortree (Ortiz), submission
* Kyle Noke (Liddell) vs. Kris McCray (Ortiz)
* Brad Tavares (Liddell) vs. Seth Baczynski (Ortiz)
* Josh Bryant (Liddell) vs. Jamie “Crabman” Yager (Ortiz)

Noke-McCray

Noke has been a forgotten man this season, appearing little on screen since dismantling Clayton McKinney in the first fight of the first round. All else we know about him: He was Chuck Liddell’s first pick, and he was a bodyguard for Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter himself. Noke spent much of his screen time in that first episode thanking the late Irwin for his support. His resume includes a draw against current Bellator champ Hector Lombard and and a win over George Sotiropoulos.

McCray, for me, is the local guy, living a county or two away and fighting in the local UWC. He had a good record of winning fights in rapid fashion until Josh Bryant shocked him by surviving the first round and finding McCray’s gas tank empty. He got a wild-card slot and returned to fight Kyacey Uscola, again going to the second round but getting a solid submission win.

This should be the highlight of the quarterfinals.

Tavares-Baczynski

Tavares is part of Team Crabman / Team Yager, the unofficial group of pranksters and yappers who were irritating in the first few episodes but have faded into the background. He won a close decision over James Hammortree, perhaps not deserving a third round but taking full advantage of the opportunity. The coaches seem impressed with Tavares.

Baczynski came into the house to replace Chris Camozzi, who won his prelim fight but broke his jaw and couldn’t continue. Baczynski lost his prelim fight to Court McGee, which looks less and less negative as McGee progresses through the tournament. Personality-wise, we don’t know much.

Bryant-Yager

Bryant won a tough prelim fight to get into the house, then surprised everyone by outlasting McCray.

Yager was marching steadily down the Josh Koscheck / Junie Browning road to infamy with a couple of early pranks and feuds, but he has either settled down or become less interesting to the camera crew and directors. His personality may be grating, but he has looked sharp in two brief appearances in the cage.

‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 8: Wild

Already at the eighth episode? And we still don’t know why Tito isn’t fighting Chuck. We still don’t know if any two fighters will be healthy enough to fight in the finale. We still don’t know if anyone eventually tapes Crabman’s mouth shut.

We do know the wild-card matchup. One wrinkle: Kyacey Uscola gets special dispensation to take a phone call from his wife, who has just delivered their baby boy. It’s a touching scene. Kris McCray, his opponent, sincerely congratulates him. No trash-talking going into this one. McCray, humbled by his earlier loss, says he’s probably the underdog. No, Kris, you’re not.

Steve Mazzagatti is our ref, and we’re underway before the first ad break! That has to be a record.

Uscola seems looser and more confident early, letting his hands go a bit. McCray answers with kicks. Then an Uscola leg kick catches McCray badly, and his corner urges him to pounce on his grimacing opponent. But McCray recovers quickly and lands some shots against the cage.

It’s one of the quietest fights in the show’s history. Tito, as promised, is keeping his mouth shut, not willing to pick sides between teammates. Other fighters are also staying out of it. You hear one or two guys from each corner.

McCray catches Uscola in the groin with a knee, and Mazzagatti breaks them up, giving Uscola time to recover and, more importantly, escape from being pinned against the cage. But McCray presses the action again and easily takes the first round.

Continue reading ‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 8: Wild

‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 7: Medic!

We’re reminded right away that last week’s decision was pretty dumb. Nick Ring looked tentative, and Court McGee should’ve earned a third round. The early hints are that McGee might be back as the wild card or as a replacement for the injured Rich Attonito.

Ring endures some teasing from Tito Ortiz about being tentative, but it seems there’s a reason for it. Ring checks in with a doctor and says his ligaments are “loose” and need to be tightened. Not sure if that’s possible. In any case, the season’s turning into a battle of attrition.

The last two fighters to go are Seth Baczynski, who lost a close prelim to McGee but was picked to come back when Chris Camozzi was hurt, and Joe “Chris “Jesus” Ferguson” Henle. (They call Henle “Caveman,” which means we could have a Caveman vs. Crabman matchup if he were ever paired up with Yager). White thinks Baczynski is an overwhelming favorite, mostly because Henle was getting knocked around in his prelim until he snagged an armbar.

We meet Henle, who seems to have literally stumbled into MMA. He turned pro in July. Rich Attonito says Joe is one of the nicest guys he’s met, but he doesn’t seem confident in his ability.

Continue reading ‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 7: Medic!

‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 6: Overwork pays off

Since we last saw our 14 confined middleweights, we’ve learned that the Tito Ortiz-Jenna Jameson domestic drama was a misunderstanding. But we still have no idea why Tito has been pulled from his fight against coaching foe Chuck Liddell.

We begin with a debate about the intensity of Tito’s practices. Kyacey Uscola think they’re being overtrained, and he appeals to his experience. Others disagree.

Tito calls a team meeting, which Uscola rightly recognizes as a bus set to roll over him. He tries to make his point, but he obviously has a choice of going to the mat over the issue or letting it go. He chooses the latter. Veteran experience again. He already lost his fight, so his only hope of getting back in through the new “wild card” is to play nice.

We have four remaining fighters for the first round, and we know very little about the two on Chuck’s team aside from their facial hair. Joe “Chris “Jesus” Ferguson” Henle stood out in the promos but hasn’t made a peep since. Same with Court McGee.

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‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 5: Epic struggle

After a week in which Tito Ortiz traded accusations with longtime girlfriend Jenna Jameson, with whom he has started a family, it’s a relief to see an episode that focuses on the fighting.

We don’t see much in the house besides some idle speculation of which losing fighter should get a wild-card slot to return to action. Clayton McKinney is out of action with a shoulder injury. Rich Attonito won but can’t continue because of a broken hand. But with three first-round fights to go, we’re still a long way from getting an answer on this.

Tito has the right to pick the matchups, and he sends out Kris McCray against Josh Bryant. McCray cracks up Bryant at the staredown, and other fighters says Bryant doesn’t really act like he wants to fight. Not sure why else someone would spend six weeks cooped up in a house with these guys.

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‘The Ultimate Fighter’: Season 11, Episode 4: The doors of perception

To review from last week (check the recap for a full rundown of the episode and the teams):

– Chris Camozzi’s jaw injury forced him to leave the house and show. Seth Baczynski, who lost a close decision to Court McGee in the prelims, took his place.

– Charles Blanchard gives massages, which some insecure people in the house find funny.

– Brad Tavares beat James Hammortree on every scorecard except that of Tito Ortiz, who apparently blacked out for the last 3:30 of the fight. Luckily, his card doesn’t count.

– Crabman (Jamie Yager) is getting closer to being this season’s Junie Browning.

On to this week …

We start with a recap of last week’s fight, and we learn that Yager was cheering for Tavares. Tavares is not on Yager’s team. Yager’s teammate, Nick Ring, isn’t happy about that. Ring already had feuded with Crabman, but they patch things up. We think. Yager has formed his own “team” that he calls “Minority Report.” It’s Yager (African American), Tavares (Hispanic), McCray and Kyle Noke (Australian). The others call it “Team Yager.” And worse.

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