‘TUF 22’ Recap: Episode 1

By: Mike Sloan
Sep 9, 2015
After weeks of seemingly endless promotion from Zuffa, the 22nd season of “The Ultimate Fighter” is finally here and after watching Episode One, it promises to be one of the best seasons in years.

This season follows a format of U.S.A. versus Europe, but the first twist for this cast is that the two coaches weren’t able to pick their teams, which will be comprised entirely of lightweights.

After several cut scenes of the combatants grabbing their bags at the airport and talking to the cameras, the loquacious and polarizing Conor McGregor struts into the TUF gym with his title belt around his shoulder. The immediate cut scene is of Dana White gushing about the Irishman almost uncontrollably, which is right before McGregor states that he thinks it’s tougher for European fighters to make it through the ranks in the sport of mixed martial arts.

White also boasts about how great the other coach, Urijah Faber, is and that he’s a legend.

Naturally, McGregor tells the eventual viewers that Faber, “is just… there,” and that he doesn’t see him as a competitor. “He’s not on my level. I smoked his teammate,” Conor proclaimed.

After the two coaches meet with Dana at the central table perched next to the Octagon. They trade friendly verbal barbs. Faber asks if Ireland is known for cantaloupes because, he said, McGregor’s head is like a cantaloupe on a toothpick. The comedy has officially begun at this point.

From there, the duelists took center stage. All 16 original candidates for team U.S.A. fought for the right to make it into the house; the same with the Europeans. Though some of the matches were unsavory in terms of non-action (evidenced by the editing team showing simple highlights), there were some serious scraps.

For the Americans, Ryan Hall scored the quickest win when he heel hooked Johnny Nunezinto submission, but aside from that drubbing, there was plenty of competitive action on both sides. Thanh Le tore up Andres Quintana with a plethora of kicks and punches en route to a decision win, as did Julian Erosa when he conquered Jason Soares. Jason Gonzalez took out Tim Welch with a perfect left kick to the liver in the second after a thrilling back-and-forth brawl and Chris Gruetzemacher administered one hell of a beating to Austin Springer’s body to get a stoppage of his own.

The Americans didn’t stop there as Tom Gallicchio quickly dispatched Mike Flach with a slick rear-naked choke and James Jenkins out-slugged Brennan Sevin to earn a decision win in what might have been the best match of the day. Finally, Billy Quarantello -- who was made fun of by Faber and White after reading his bio where he claimed to look like both Mark Wahlberg and Channing Tatum -- took out Brandon Ricetti in the second via TKO.

On the European side of the bracket, Sweden’s David Teymur edged Thibault Gouti (France) via majority decision. Sascha Sharma, from Germany, also won a decision over England’s Sean Carter, as did Swedish fellow Martin Svensson, who toppled Germany’s Mohamed Grabinski.

Englishman Saul Rogers took out fellow Brit Paulo Boer with a textbook rear-naked choke to earn his entry into the house. Poland’s Marcin Wrzosek followed suit by doing the same thing to Dutch fighter Djamil Chan. Not to be outdone, Sweden’s Frantz Slioa replicated the feat by submitting Scotland’s Martin Delaney in the exact manner.

McGregor’s Irish friend Artem Lobov dropped a decision to France’s Mehdi Baghdad in a fight that likely should have gone to overtime but didn’t. And finally, Spaniard Abner Lloveras won his match via TKO when Croatia’s Vlado Sikic repeatedly dislocated his shoulder until he couldn’t bear the pain anymore.

When all of fights concluded and the teams were secured, McGregor said he is excited to be working with the guys. He says his team is much tougher and skilled, and that he thinks his team should dominate the Americans.

Faber, on the other hand, didn’t appear too enthusiastic about not being able to pick his team. He called Team Faber the Bad News Bears, but stated that he likes the character of every fighter on the team.

After White flips a coin to see which coach will pick the first fight, it’s revealed that Faber wins the toss. The pick will be aired on Episode Two next week, and highlights include Faber making fun of McGregor’s python shoes. And, according to the show’s narrator, the first preliminary bout will have a, “shocking ending.”

The Teams of TUF 22

Johnny Nunez
Thanh Le
Julian Erosa
Billy Quarantello
Jason Gonzalez
Tom Gallicchio
Chris Gruetzemacher
James Jenkins

David Teymur (SWE)
Saul Rogers (ENG)
Mehdi Baghdad (FRA)
Frantz Slioa (SWE)
Abner Lloveras (SPA)
Martin Svensson (SWE)
Marcin Wrzosek (POL)
Sascha Sharma (GER)

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