UFC Recap: Let the Whining Begin
‘The Ultimate Fighter 17′ rolled out episode two of the new season Tuesday night, with the winning fighters from the season premiere making their way into the house.
The fighters raced like school children to claim their bunks and talk about the awesomeness of the house.
“I live on a budget,” Team Sonnen’s Luke Barnatt said. “This is more than an upgrade. I’m psyched. Free food for six weeks…brilliant.”
But how truly awesome is the house? “Astronomically…extraordinary,” said Team Jones’ Gilbert Smith. Whoa.
After the fighters make themselves at home, two Team Jones fighters get the soap opera portion of the show going, complaining that the pick of Gilbert Smith to fight Josh Barnatt was not a wise choice. “It makes me want to scream right now that I have no control over making that pick,” Bubba McDaniel lamented.
“Gil versus Luke, it’s not a fight that any of us are very comfortable with the more that we start to spend time with Gilbert,” Josh Samman said. Samman and McDaniel are concerned about Smith’s ‘muscularity’ and that his cardio seems suspect. While it might seem like the fighters are being too critical, the coaches are seen sharing the same concerns.
Smith himself asks his teammates in the ride back from the gym why Jones picked him to fight first, and he senses that something just isn’t right with the team vibe. “I have yet to hear anything positive, like ‘Yo, you got it, you impressed me, anything. It’s not very motivating. It’s actually pissing me off,” Smith said.
In the next scene Smith is seen confiding in teammate Adam Cella, and he starts to sob. He’s saddled with worry and missing his family. Just 7 minutes into the second episode and we already see a fighter starting to crack. It’s scenes like this that separate ‘The Ultimate Fighter 17′ from other so-called ‘reality’ shows. Lose a leg on ‘The Amazing Race’? You go back to the exact same life you had before. Get cut from ‘The Biggest Loser’? You go home and try to lose weight there. Perform poorly or completely crack on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and not only are your dreams crushed, but you’ve also just blown the career opportunity of a lifetime.
McDaniel and Samman decide to confront Smith and tell him they don’t think he’s ready for the fight with Barnatt. Jon Jones eavesdrops on the conversation from the hallway. He gives Smith a needed vote of confidence. “I believe in you, and that’s why I stuck with you. As long as I believe in you, you got nothing to worry about, my friend,” Jones told Smith.
While division may have seeped into Team Jones, Sonnen and company end a training session with a bunch of laughs by renaming themselves ‘Team Dark Side’. Sonnen also drops by the fighter house to hang out and foster some camaraderie. It’s smooth sailing for Chael and his team. Luke Barnatt seems ready and focused. And the first fight of the new season is ready to go down.
Smith and Barnatt touch gloves and Barnatt lands a kick to Smith’s crotch. Referee Steve Mazzagatti calls time. “That can’t happen again,” Mazzagatti tells Barnatt. Hopefully that’s not an omen for the season. They restart and Smith scores first with a takedown, but can’t do much with it. Barnatt gets up and returns the favor. Smith continues to try and get inside and work for more takedowns. Barnatt tries to ward them off. Somewhere in the distance, Dana White yawns.
Round 2 is Groundhog Day. Smith works for takedowns and Barnatt tries fight them off. It’s grapple city. We finally get a big strike with just under two minutes left in the round. Smith shoots in wildly and is met by a Barnatt knee that lands crisply on Smith’s head and drops him to the mat. Game over. Team Sonnen 1, Team Jones 0. Luke Barnatt advances.
Chael Sonnen picks the next bout, selecting Uriah Hall from his team to face Team Jones’ Adam Cella. Cella is the underdog and Hall is the favorite. Who do you like in this bout?