Shortly after Coach Jon Jones made the first match-up of the season, dissension spread throughout his team.
After teams were selected in the debut episode, members of Team Jones submitted a list of when they wanted to fight and whom they wanted to face. The list was presented to the coaching staff, but Coach Jones had other plans.
Jones selected Gilbert Smith to face Team Sonnen’s Luke Barnatt. Barnatt has a sizable height and reach advantage over Smith, and the decision didn’t sit well with members of the team.
“Gilbert vs. Luke is really not a good fight for the first pick in the house,” said Team Jones’ Josh Samman. Samman wasn’t alone in his opinion. Teammate Bubba McDaniel voiced the same concerns.
Following Team Jones’ workout, Samman and McDaniel’s concerns were shared by members of the coaching staff, particularly assistant coach John Wood.
It wasn’t the ideal situation for Smith, who felt he wasn’t receiving positive motivation from his coaches or teammates. An emotional Smith had a bit of a meltdown in the backyard when showing a flag he brought from home with notes from his family and friends on it.
The meltdown caused teammate Adam Cella to question Smith’s mental state heading into the fight with Barnatt.
Not everyone shared the opinion that Smith wasn’t ready. Team Jones’ first pick, Clint Hester, believed Smith would win. “I’m confident that Gilbert can beat Luke. I think I have more confidence than anybody on the team,” said Hester. Cella also believed Smith would defeat Barnatt despite questioning Smith’s mindset.
McDaniel felt so strongly that Smith wasn’t ready to fight that he approached the coaching staff about it prior to Smith’s arrival at the gym.
Smith felt he was ambushed by his teammates, and he was. Coach Jones gave Smith his seal of approval and gave him a pep talk. “Remember why you’re here,” said the light heavyweight champion.
The opening round was competitive. Smith was able to close the distance and get takedowns, but was unable to keep Barnatt on the canvas. Barnatt landed jabs and also secured takedowns, but maintained dominant position longer. MMAWeekly scored the first round 10-9 for Barnatt.
Smith came out more aggressive in the second round. He let his hands go and closed the distance quickly. They battled for position inside the clinch and scrambles ensued when the fight hit the ground. The two separated with two minutes remaining. Smith began to land with punches, but as he dropped for a takedown, Barnatt landed a flying knee, rendering Smith unconscious.
“I tried my best and I’m going to continue to try my best,” said an emotional Smith following the loss.
With Barnatt’s win, Team Sonnen gained matchmaking control. Coach Chael Sonnen decided on Uriah Hall to take on Team Jones’ Adam Cella. The bout promises to end in “one of the nastiest knockouts” UFC president Dana White has ever seen.