TUF 17 Recap, Week 1: A New Take Rejuvenates Ultimate Fighter Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen

January 22, 2013
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TUF 17 Logo Team Jones vs. Team SonnenThe Ultimate Fighter returned on Tuesday night with a two-hour premier, narrowing the 28 welterweight hopefuls down to the 14 fighters that fought their way into the house.

The essence of the series is primarily the same as past seasons. There are 28 fighters trying to win a spot in The Ultimate Fighter house via a series of elimination bouts in the opening episode. The winner goes in the house; the loser goes home.

The series will see the 14 competitors fight their way through a series of tournament bouts, while shacked up in close quarters for six weeks.

The overall winner at the TUF 17 finale earns an automatic six-figure UFC contract and the title of The Ultimate Fighter.

Where the Team Jones vs. Team Sonnen series immediately sets itself apart from past season – at least if the premier episode is any indicator – is in the production.

Yes, there are some good fights and promising athletes, but the production in the first episode is geared much, much more towards storytelling than past seasons.

We didn’t get to see every second of every fight, much of it being highlights, but with 14 bouts crammed into two hours, it wouldn’t make sense to try and do that. Just take a look back at the TUF Live season where the premier’s elimination bouts left people feeling flat and discombobulated.

TUF 17’s stronger storytelling mix does what it should; it gives the viewer a chance to make some sort of connection with the fighters.

From the single dad trying to make a better life for his kids following an emotional custody battle to the kid raised in a marijuana grow house or the kid who was always misunderstood and picked on that found martial arts as his way out to the struggling fighter trying for the fourth time to make it onto the show.

Without the background behind the fighters, you just have a bunch of fighters that you don’t know going at it in the cage. For hardcore fans, that might be enough, but to succeed on television, The Ultimate Fighter needs a bigger audience than the hardcore fans provide.

A strong aspect of the storytelling that set TUF 17’s premier episode apart from seasons past was the inclusion of family and friends. Each of the fighters was allowed to bring some of their family or friends to watch the elimination bouts, cheering them on.

That small adjustment alone allowed for more intricate storytelling and livened up the atmosphere around the Octagon when the competitors fought.

In the end, the fights, regardless of how heartbreaking a fighter’s story was, are what determined who made it into the house, and when all was said and done, we had 14 hopefuls.

TUF 17 Elimination Bout Results:

-Adam Cella def. Jake Heun by Submission (Armbar)
-Zak Cummings def. Nik Fekete by TKO (Strikes)
-Kevin Casey def. Eldon Sproat Submission (Rear Naked Choke)
-Tor Troeng def. Scott Rosa by Submission (Rear Naked Choke)
-Clint Hester def. Fraser Opie by Decision
-Bubba McDaniel def. Ryan Bigler by TKO (Strikes)
-Josh Samman def. Leo Bercier by TKO (Strikes)
-Kelvin Gastelum def. Kito Andrews by Decision
-Jimmy Quinlan def. Mike Persons by TKO (Strikes)
-Uriah Hall def. Andy Enz by Decision
-Gilbert Smith def. Eric Wahlin by Submission (Arm Triangle)
-Luke Barnatt def. Nicholas Kohring by Decision
-Dylan Andrews def. Tim Williams by Decision
-Collin Hart def. Michael Jasper by Submission (Rear Naked Choke)

Jon Jones vs Chael Sonnen TUF 17Before coaches Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen selected their teams following the elimination bouts, UFC president Dana White took care of a couple of housekeeping items.

He let the fighters know that with seven fighters per team, this season would see the return of a Wildcard bout. Of the fighters eliminated in the opening bouts of the tournament, White, Jones, and Sonnen will select the two they feel most deserving to come back and fight a wildcard bout. The winner of the wildcard bout earns new life in the tournament and moves on to the next round.

Knockout and submission bonuses are once again in effect, so any fighter that wins via a finish scores a $5,000 bonus.

There will also be Knockout, Submission, and Fight of the Season bonuses, with the winners of each category awarded $25,000 at the end of the season.

Coach Sonnen won a coin toss and opted to select the first fighter, leaving Coach Jones to set up the first fight.

Team Sonnen (in order of selection):

Luke Barnatt
Uriah Hall
Zak Cummings
Tor Troeng
Jimmy Quinlan
Kevin Casey
Kelvin Gastelum

Team Jones (in order of selection):

Clint Hester
Josh Samman
Bubba McDaniel
Gilbert Smith
Collin Hart
Adam Cella
Dylan Andrews

Following the picks, the coaches deliberated with their teams and assistant coaches before Jones matched-up the first fight.

“The team came with me with a list (of who they wanted to fight and when),” said Jones. “I saw Gilbert wanted to fight Chael’s number one pick. I thought it would be a huge morale boost for our team if we could take Luke out in the very first fight.”

With that reasoning, the first tournament fight will be Team Jones’ Gilbert Smith going up against Team Sonnen’s Luke Barnatt… and Sonnen appeared to like the pairing as much or more so than Jones.

“Luke vs. Gilbert is about as good of a match-up as we could ask for,” declared Sonnen as the show came to a close. “Luke is gonna win this fight and we’re gonna take control of the competition.

“And when I take control, I don’t give it back.”

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  • GoNoles

    couldnt really tell much about who the better coach will be but my money is on chael. jones is young, he only knows so much right now given he is the best lhw in the world and chael has the knowledge and can motivate. that there is a deadly combo

  • Mike mckinney

    GoNoles, I pretty much agree with you. I think they’ll both be good coaches. It will just be up to the fighters who they’d have fit with better.
    Chael is a smart guy. I was a bit surprised he chose the first fighter, but he knows more than I do.
    It will be interesting. I think there’s a lot of people that will be angry that sonnen won’t be playing the character they hate. People won’t want to like him even though he’s extremely likable.
    Then there will be people angry because they like the character that sonnen has made for himself, and he won’t be giving them that. At least not the whole time.
    Looks like there can be some fun fights as well.

  • bajafox

    The production was way better than previous seasons. The format was refreshing and IMO an improvement. Can’t wait to see the rest of the season.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hsuie63 Steven Hsu

    It simply felt like a more honest production, than the previous season.. Chael didnt talk smack, like everyone expected him too, rather just try to be a honest mentor to these guys…now you actually feel like you slightly cares about who wins…beside just waiting for the “chris leben” in the group

  • Nosgoth1979

    It’s still fairly early in the season, but there hasn’t been as much trash-talking as I’d expected, but it’s been the best season in years. I don’t usually re-watch episodes this fast, but I’ve already gone back and watched the entire first episode! Seeing that I’m an employee of DISH, I was thrilled when we released the Hopper a while back because it has this massive hard drive. It’ll hold 2,000 hours of my shows, so I’ve been able to store the entire seasons of several of my favorites, and I haven’t even scratched its storage space yet.