Happy Birthday to me! What a gift on my 30th birthday — to have the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter begin after watching an action packed UFC Fight Night!
The show opens with scenes of winners from previous seasons: Mac Danzig, Diego Sanchez, Michael Bisping and a particularly fantastic showcase of Forrest Griffin’s rise to stardom. They then highlight the coaches — Frank Mir as former UFC Heavyweight Champ and breaker of Tim Sylvia’s arm; Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira as the only man to hold the heavyweight belt in two organizations.
Flash to a room filled with 32 very anxious guys pacing and looking uneasily around the gym. Dana White strolls in and has them line up to explain the rules. Just like last season, they must fight their way into the house. But before Dana even has a full sentence out, one fighter faints. His eyes roll back in his head and he’s out on the floor. Is it heat? Nerves? The other fighters get him back on his feet and Dana is able to continue (it was the Vegas heat…or so the guy says). He announces that there will be two weight classes — lightweight and light heavyweight.
Dana introduces the fighters to their coaches: former Pride Heavyweight champ, now UFC Heavyweight champ, and one of the greatest heavyweights to ever live: Nogueira. And former UFC Heavyweight champ and arguably one of the best heavyweights on the ground ever in the sport: Mir. With the coaches and their goals in place, the fighters are given 48 hours before they will fight for their spot.
As there are a series of shots of the 32 fighters training, the astute coaches are observing and commenting on what they see. Mir admits to feeling for the guys, as he can only imagine the pressure on them. Nogueira begins to talk about what he’s looking for in fighters. And I think Nog agrees with Mir. Nog…well…Nog’s English is a bit rough. Let’s just be thankful for captions (we all anticipated this…).
With 24 hours to go before the fights, and only a matter of hours before the weigh-ins, several fighters are working diligently to cut weight. On and off the scale they go looking for the magic number that will determine their fate. One LHW, Jason Guida (brother of Clay Guida) steps up and weighs in at 217, leaving 11 lbs to cut. According to him, it’s not a big deal. But Mir is watching him and notices that Guida is struggling. He’s cramping up, his muscles are locking. He has other fighters ice him to keep his core temperature down. And of course we couldn’t have a weight-cutting episode without the obligatory shot of a fighter, Guida, praying to the porcelain gods.
At the official weigh-ins, most guys are coming in at weight, or even under in some cases. Despite all the happy fighters, Guida is shown in a back room freaking out about his muscles cramping and possible quad tears. The doctors in the gym are concerned that he might be severely dehydrated and don’t believe he could lose any further weight safely. They want to get him weighed and finished so that they rehydrate him with IV fluids. Much to Guida’s dismay, he weighs in at 207. Because he misses weight, the Athletic Commission will not let him fight and he is dismissed from the show. While Mir feels for him, other fighters start badmouthing him…saying he wasn’t trying hard enough. Dana agrees and says that the Commission made the right call. Guida has no one to blame but himself. The last time we see Guida is in the ambulance as it is pulling away.
Dana White to the rescue! To take Guida’s place, he brings in an alternate, Mike Stewart, who thanks Guida for not making weight.
On fight day, the 16 fights will serve as the coach’s evaluations. Each coach’s individual trainers will corner the fighters. The winners of the premier’s 8 fights are bolded below.
The quickest, sickest fight of the day. After a moment or two of hesitation and feeling each other out, Soszynski quickly lands a great right. It drops Stewart and Soszynski keeps punching with Stewart barely covering his head to block the unrelenting blows. The ref stops it in less than 30 seconds. Dana calls Soszynski “a caged animal”.
Almost immediately the fighters come out and exchange leg kicks. More high kicks from Bernstein and another exchange of leg kicks. We see a good kick, jab combo from Bernstein. They begin to clinch, but Kaplan backs away swinging. This brings on another set of combos from Bernstein. Bernstein works in some knees and is almost nonstop. But Kaplan turns it on and returns some jabs. They clinch and we see a great knee from Kaplan. Up against the cage Kaplan gets Bernstein’s back. He gets him on the ground and mounts him. Kaplan looks for the choke. He gets it in deep and Bernstein taps.
Mir says Kaplan is someone the guys in the house should fear. In reference to Bernstein’s nickname, Dana says he was more like the butterknife. A guy named “the Machete” should have come out a lot tougher than that!
Pre-fight, Duarte promises to make Nover faint…again.
Round 1: Both come out aggressively. They exchange leg kicks. In the clinch, Nover lands some good knees but manages to hit Duarte in the groin: the fight is stopped to give him time. When they are restarted, the exchange a few jabs. Duarte catches one of Nover’s leg kicks and pushes him back. They clinch and both fight for the take down. Up against the fence, Nover works the knees. Roles switch but Nover still keeps up with the knees. This exchange of knees continues for a long time until Nover begins with foot stomps. To change the pace, Nover then lands some body shots. With no real action, Dean restarts them in the center. Circling….Nover attempts some high kicks. Duarte lands a huge right that rocks Nover and gets him on his back. In half mount, Duarte drops some elbows, and then gets full mount and Nover turns. Duarte continues with punches to the head. They roll and Duarte almost has a choke, but Nover punches behind himself and lands a flurry of punches to Duarte’s face from his back. Dana comments that Nover won the round from his back.
Round 2: Nover comes out kicking, Duarte jabbing. They clinch and we see more knees from Nover. He gets Duarte on his back. Nover is in half mount, landing some brutal jabs. He manages to turn and gets Duarte in a rear naked choke. Nover gets it in deep and Duarte taps.
Dana admits that before the fight, he had been making fun of Nover for being the fainting guy. After the fight, “he fucking shattered that image”.
Another ridiculously fast fight. Bruchez starts out with a leg kick, but Magee catches it and takes him down. Magee is in half mount, but flips around and gets Bruchez’s neck. Magee keeps is head in the squeeze for a while but Bruchez twists himself out. We see a lot of wrestling between the two with no exchanges. Bruchez manages to mount Magee’s back. They quickly roll over. Bruchez gets him in a rear naked choke and Magee taps.
I don’t know what to make of this fight, as they didn’t show much of it. Both come out swinging and the clips show the fight to be pretty aggressive. Dana talks about the big shoes Lance has to fill with his brother, Rashad, being such a contender in the UFC. They show the round ending with both fighters in their corners, but Evans is clearly in pain. He says Magalhaes caught him with a kick in the ribs that he is still feeling. He is unable to continue.
Very little is shown of this fight also, except for the coaches’ commentary. They show Britt stomping Jimmo, and Nog says he hates stomping. Making light of the situation, Mir turns to him and says they should make a deal for their fight that neither of them will stomp.
Another “highlight” fight. McLaughlin is shown dominating, until Garner reverses and nails him with an illegal knee to the head while McLaughlin is still on the ground. He’s clearly rocked and the fight is stopped to make sure he’s okay. He claims he is still lightheaded and cannot continue. The bout is ruled a No Contest via unintentional foul. This puts Dana in an awkward situation that he’s never been in before. Dana decides to send Garner home for the illegal knee. It sucks that it wasn’t intentional, but illegal is still illegal and McLaughlin was winning the fight until then anyway.
They saved the best fight for last! Dana jokes with Nog that Browning says he hates Brazilians. It looks like Browning will be this season’s Jeremy May. Mir, on the other hand, says he likes him just because he’s cocky. Speaking of cocky, Aguilar compares himself to Hitler (WTF???). He claims he should be “Raping…pillaging” and that he’s…a criminal. This is how he describes himself?
Round 1: Both come out swinging aggressively and exchange jabs. They clinch. Browning works the clinch and gets Aguilar down. Aguilar goes for an armbar, but Browning twists out. Browning is on top pounding on Aguilar. He has side control, turns to full guard, and then half mount. Aguilar goes for another armbar, but again Browning gets out. Back on their feet again, Browning connects with several of jabs. When Aguilar tries to clinch, Browning lands a nice body shot, followed by a left and a flying knee. Aguilar returns a knee. On the ground, Aguilar goes for another armbar but Browning kicks it out. Browning is back in full guard and does damage with some body shots. Aguilar goes for the triangle but Browning pulls out. Browning stands up and rocks Aguilar with a huge punch to the face. In desperation, Aguilar goes for a heel hook but Browning gains side control. Both look tired. Browning connects with punches from a stand-up position. He lands seriously damaging punches to Aguilar’s head. Browning has the one arm pinned and continues to punch Aguilar’s face. Aguilar is mounted by Browning and he continues the same punishment. With one arm trapped, Aguilar is not able to defend much. Browning is still swinging with back and forth punches to the head and the round ends.
Round 2: All are surprised when it is announced that Aguilar cannot continue.
Though Aguilar talked all sorts of tough, all are impressed with Junie Browning.
And what a way to end the night. The two biggest mouths so far duke it out with one big mouth ending up on top. After 8 fights, we are left with 4 lightweights and 4 light heavyweights. Already we are seeing some promising fighters. In my opinion, the guys to watch so far are Soszynski, Bruchez and Browning. Even in just the premier episode, we can see that they are both entertaining and skilled. Strangely, I am already looking forward to what the next episode has to offer.
In scenes from the next episode, the last of the fighters vie for the 8 remaining spots in the house. We are flashed teasing scenes of slug-fests, submissions, and the most titillating of all: a 3 round blood bath. And so season 8 begins!