As my fall season reverie continues, I’ve been faithfully watching the opening episodes of TV’s premiere line-up. I love the new Hawaii Five-O, adore Nikita, and now, every Wednesday, I may actually be tuned in (or at least my DVR) to the Ultimate Fighter – Lightweights showing on Spike.
In this season, the opening episode made something very clear. UFC Superstars Georges St. Pierre (GSP), 20-2 and Josh Koscheck, 17-4, do not like each other. Both GSP and Koscheck are set to fight each other in the T.U.F. (The Ultimate Fighter) Grand Finale to be held on December 11th at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I know I just did an article on two French-Canadian boxers, but make no mistake on the skill and ability of MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre. He is the current Welterweight Champion in the UFC.
A quote by GSP says it all for this season of T.U.F. – Lightweights. GSP said, “I’m the perfect good guy versus the perfect bad boy.” And I love it already. GSP had defeated Koscheck back in 2007 with a unanimous decision. It’s always fun to see how fighters turn into coaches during the course of the show. But, as the past seasons have revealed, it doesn’t always evolve into fighters in the hunt of a UFC contract getting better. Quite the contrary, the T.U.F. show usually turns into ego trips for the coaches and the drama and attention of the show is just another build up for the eventual showdown of the two head coaches. Or, there’s hype of a fighter (let’s all try to forget the Kimbo Slice experiment). And I, with every intention, always try to stick with the show, but eventually lose interest.
But here is where I think this particular season seems entertaining and interesting, and will more than likely keep my attention as to how the show will unravel. First, GSP is a very low key and smart fighter and coach. Even as the opening episode showed the preliminary bouts as to which fighters will be chosen in the house, there is a quiet intelligence to GSP that he is always thinking.
By contrast, Koscheck emerged from the first season of T.U.F. and become a standout competitor and fighter for the UFC. He’s fierce and tough, a true hard core battler that trains and fights with heart.
The format for the Ultimate Fighter begins with 28 fighters fighting for a place in the house. The show has added the wildcard that after the 7 preliminary bouts, there will be a wildcard 8th fight between two losers and the winner will get the final slot in the quarterfinal. It’s all to determine which lightweight will come away with the UFC contract.
I love the beginning episodes of T.U.F. only because I already have a few expectations for the show. There’s usually a bromance. Mix in a quirky fighter that misses his family. The hot headed fighter that just wants to fight. But mainly, in the opening episode, there are opening bouts for elimination and it also reveals a glimpse as to how the coaches’ egos play out in the selection of the teams.
In the first bout, Marc Stevens, an acquaintance of Josh Koscheck, fought against TJ O’Brien, 14-3 and within the first 13 seconds, Stevens scored an overhand right that led to an impressive ground and pound and TKO victory. In the second bout, Spencer Page, 7-2 went up against Steve Magdaleno, 6-2. Paige went on to win.
With Dana White, GSP, and Koscheck looking on, it makes for great drama for each coach and even Dana White to see the potential of each fighter. It’s also an opportunity to see as to what coaches are looking for when they notice the fighters’ abilities.
In a 3rd bout, Nam Pham, 16-7, went up against Mike Budnik, a 35 year old former X games competitor that decided to give MMA a shot with 8 years of jiu-jitsu. Within a round, Pham executed a well placed liver shot and Budnick went down. Pham wins by TKO. The opening episode of T.U.F. also showcases the fighters that stand out as the characters of the show.
A New Jersey fighter with pink toned hair named Jeffrey Lentz, 6-1, put GSP on notice. GSP, without even seeing Lentz fight, put an X through Lentz and put him as the loser. Within two rounds, Lentz showed an amazing ground and pound game and even had Dana White counting how many punches he threw on his opponent. The bout ended in favor of Lentz by submission.
There is Alex “Bruce Leroy” Caceres, 4-2, a Florida based fighter that in his opening bout, paid homage to Bruce Lee by wearing the yellow and black savate like outfit seen in “Game of Death.”
Although it was perceived “he came out looking like a banana.” Bruce Leroy is pegged already as a character and had a smile on his face the whole time he was fighting. UFC President likes Caceres on his personality. Bruce Leroy stated “Hope you enjoy my fights. I’m here to display martial arts in its fullest form and whole heartedness.”
Finally, the opening episode showcased the athleticism of Michael Johnson, 8-4. Johnson immediately took the attention of both GSP and Koscheck for his athleticism, stand up, and showed that he is a “beast on the ground.”
So, for an opening episode, The Ultimate Fighter – Lightweights is far from over. There are distinct personalities in the house. There are two distinct coaches. In the next episode, GSP and Koscheck pick teams – and it’s not without drama either!