TUF fans have been whipped into a frenzy, feeding on the notion of Frank Mir using his broadcast savvy in a war of words with a non-native English speaker in Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira -- a war that will be recorded, translated, cleaned up during post-production and then subtitled. In other words, this season’s biggest fight will be Spike TV’s battle to make this even marginally interesting.
If you've just woken up from a persistent vegetative-state coma for the past few years, here's how this show is going to go down. Per last season's successful trial, once again 32 fighters have been brought in to try and win a spot in the TUF house. Just like last year, the fighters must fight on their first day, and the coaches will use those fights to evaluate talent.
The coaches will then choose their teams, alliances will be drawn and fates will be sealed. Also, Dana White will curse a lot. It's a rite of passage.
The first few episodes are usually pretty tame -- get in the first fights and then move on to all the compelling drama that exists within the walls of the TUF fighter house. This season, however, the fighters wasted no time bringing the histrionics. Before Dana could even get out his hellos, Phillipe Nover collapsed into the arms of his fellow fighters.
Concern washed over everyone's faces as Nover struggled to regain his composure. Luckily, it was only a case of Nover catching “the vapors” instead of a grand mal seizure. With no dire medical consequences, Nover got his color back and continued onward.
Dana gave the contestants the perfunctory speech about why they are all there and what prizes await the winners. He with a typical verbose Dana-White-sendoff: “That's it, f---ers.”
"The dreams of 32 guys are on the line," Mir commented.
Added Nogueira: “If they deserve to be champion, they got to work hard.”
We are off to a running start. Message boards should be teeming with quotations from these two very soon.
"Jason Guida weighs 205 pounds, we thought," said White, skeptical that Guida could make the sufficient drop.
Guida wasn’t worried, though.
"I'm not Gabe Ruediger,” he boldly stated.
Ouch, but before too long he was positively Gabe-esque, rolling around on the floor and moaning amidst cramps.
Guida came in over and got back on the grind until concerns over his blood pressure kept doctors from letting him continue his cutting. He was forced to step on the scale again, only to miss weight, and his towel fell off for added humiliation.
Other fighters were not sympathetic as Guida was removed from the show while taking it out on the officials. A missed opportunity for Guida to be sure, but it allowed alternate fighter Mike Stewart to get his chance.
The coaches joined Dana at the ringside evaluation table for the first fight of the season: the newly added Mike Stewart against IFL veteran Krzysztof Soszynski. Soszynski must have been sick of just cornering Team Quest guys as he jumped on Stewart like a junkyard dog, rocking him instantly and pouring it on until the ref had to call it off early in the first round.
Next up was Fernando "Machete" Epstein taking on Dave Kaplan at 155 pounds. “Machete” and Kaplan were content to exchange strikes for a few minutes until Kaplan eased his way behind Epstein and easily took a rear-naked choke to end the fight in the first round.
Phillipe Nover decided to feint and not faint once he got into the cage with fellow 155-pounder Joe Duarte. Duarte was one of my early picks going into this season, but the young fighter from Brooklyn surprised the room by giving Duarte a battle until finally securing a rear-naked choke to finish the fight in round one.
"The dream is to fight for a living," said Eric Magee after showing up with a thick Boston accent and some nightmare-inducing tattoos.
However, Jules Bruchez wasted no time eliminating Magee with another rear-naked choke that had him braying with confidence after the light heavyweight fight.
"See that s---? I didn't throw a punch!" Bruchez screamed, making his opponents chuckle around the cage.
Vinicius Magalhaes put an end to any hopes fans had of seeing Rashad Evans’ brother run the TUF table. Lance Evans sustained an injury from a kick from Magalhaes that caused him to quit at the beginning of round two.
Mir described light heavyweight Antwain Britt as having an "explosive build." The former UFC heavyweight champion was concerned with Britt's smaller frame, but Britt used his wrestling skills and explosiveness to beat Ryan Jimmo via decision.
Brandon Garner was catching a beating from Brian McLaughlin when he reversed position and scored with an illegal knee to a downed opponent. McLaughlin couldn't continue but was awarded the spot in the house despite the no contest.
Best new cocky-quote-machine award goes to Junie Allen Browning.
"What sets me apart from all the other guys (is) I can actually fight," Browning said, setting the stage for a decent season.
As Browning made his way to the Octagon, Mir joked with Nogueira: "He says he hates Brazilians.”
Mir's got his eye on Browning and would love to see Nogueira let him slip through unpicked.
Dana also told a story about Browning from the casting trials, saying the fighter had looked up while training and asked Dana what he should finish his partner with. Dana requested a triangle choke and Browning delivered, adding to his lore.
Browning wasn’t the only one talking smack. Jose Aguilar claimed that he's “straight gangsta,” whatever that means, and ran his mouth from the start of the show. Sadly the two most compelling fighters fought each other first.
"Can Jose Aguilar beat me?” Browning asked. “He has a better chance of getting me pregnant.”
Aguilar was well rounded, but Browning had more control and was able to hand out plenty of damage in round one. Browning kept the pressure on Aguilar from on top and pounded on him from the mount with elbows, looking sharp in the opening round.
"He shot his wad, I swear to God," said Aguilar's corner between rounds while begging him to continue. Aguilar called it quits, though, deciding not to step back in with Browning.
"I'm pretty,” explained Aguilar of why he shut it down early -- a far cry from his "straight criminal" prefight hype.
While Aguilar unpuffed his chest and slunk out the back door, Browning got ready to continue on with the other winners.
"I heard there’s free alcohol in the house," Browning said. “That ain't good."
Next week we’ll watch the other matchups to round out the final 16.