by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Keeping things fresh and new is tough for any reality show, especially when you reach the eleventh season, but the UFC has come up with a new idea for “The Ultimate Fighter” that is showcased in this season’s premier episode.
With 28 competitors working to get into the house by fighting it out amongst each other, the 14 winners are left with a peculiar situation on how the tournament will break down with an odd number of fighters left over.
As UFC president Dana White explained in the first episode of the new season, they will employ a new wildcard format this season. The way it works is after the 14 winners from the preliminary round make it into the house, they will each fight and narrow the field to seven. Out of the seven fighters that lost their first round fight, the coaches will get together and select the two best fighters of that group.
The two fighters who were originally eliminated will fight each other with the winner earning a re-birth into the quarterfinal round of the tournament.
Making it into the house in the first place is where this all begins, and Dana White had a simply stated message for all the fighters who were about to put on their gloves and step in the UFC Octagon.
“Go in there and give it everything you’ve got,” said White. “Do not leave it in the hands of the judges or referees; don’t let that happen to you tomorrow, don’t do it.”
The fighters were fired up and the first round of action began for the middleweight cast.
The first match-up showcased Jamie Yager putting on a head kick clinic, as he knocked out Ben Stark to get things started. Hawaiian Brad Tavares followed that up with a great performance by making short work of Jordan Smith with a vicious knee and right hand combined for the knockout.
Kris “Savage” McCray landed a nice hip throw on Cleburn Walker that when slamming him to the canvas popped his shoulder out of socket and the fight was stopped. McCray made it into “The Ultimate Fighter” house, as well as Kyle Noke out of Greg Jackson’s camp. Noke picked up unanimous decision win in his fight.
James Hammortree punished Norman Paraisy for the better part of five minutes in their fight before Paraisy simply said ‘I quit’ between rounds and walked away from his shot at being on the show.
Court McGee went to war with Seth Baszynski for two rounds before getting a win, while Chris Camozzi needed three rounds to get a decision over Victor O’Donnell in one of the best preliminary fights on the show.
A training partner of Urijah Faber, Kyacey Uscola made short work of Brent Cooper with a knockout, followed up by Joe Henle, who pulled victory from the jaws of defeat when he snagged an armbar on Constantinos Phillipou after losing the majority of their fight.
Rich Attonito, Josh Bryant, and Charles Blanchard all worked their way to wins, and Clayton McKinney put the hurt on his friend Charley Lynch in one of the most promising fights on the card. McKinney smashed Lynch’s nose so bad it looked like two completely separate pieces when the camera zoomed in for a close up.
“I’m sorry I had to shatter your nose,” said McKinney to his friend after the fight.
And with that fight the first episode came to a close. Next week the coaches will choose their teams, and the war between Liddell and Ortiz officially begins. Oh, and the doors in the UFC gym don’t look very safe this season either.