We’re just three episodes in to the new season of The Ultimate Fighter, and Tito Ortiz is already off to a start reminiscent of the unprecedented winless streak that still taints the aura of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. His team has dropped its first two bouts, but has the opportunity to pull back to .500 with a pair of victories tonight. Of course, this also means Team Ortiz could also potentially double its current loss total, giving the squad coached by Chuck Liddell a significant lead in the competition. I don’t know what’s going to happen…but, thanks to the previews for this week’s episode, I do know that it will end with a door meeting its demise. Given the unfortunate track record of doors on this show, maybe it should be renamed The Ultimate Sacrifice.
Tonight’s episode begins with a recap of the miscarriage of justice that was last week’s Brad Tavares-James Hammortree fight. As we relive the start of the sudden-victory round, we see Team Ortiz turncoat Jamie Yager actually rooting for the opposition. Teammate Nick Ring doesn’t know what that was all aboat, but says he was let doan by Jamie. Afterward Nick confronts Jamie, and though he worries that his words went in one ear and oat the other, Nick walks away confident that Jamie will stay true to his team.
Back at the house, however, Jamie continues to fraternize with Brad, Kris McCray and Kyle Noke, a clique collectively known as “The Minority Report” (TMR). Once again, as was the case during Season 3, a team coached by Tito is splintered by a cross-team faction. But unlike the laughably pathetic Team Dagger, which lost whatever little swagger it had when Solomon Hutcherson lost his first fight, Nick worries that TMR could actually impact Team Ortiz’s chances in the competition. Yeah, OK – I can already hear the post-fight interview. “I was on the verge of winning, but then Jamie started to cheer for the other guy, and then it all got away from me.” Please.
It’s time for our first fight announcement of the evening, and because he maintains control by virtue of last week’s “victory,” Chuck selects Rich Attonito to take on Team Ortiz’s Kyacey Uscola. James predicts victory for his teammate, Kyacey, whom he thinks will win by “hulk smash.” Joe Henle, on the other hand, says his teammate is a “pit bull,” and believes Rich will carry Team Liddell to a 3-0 start.
Kyacey tells Tito that he and his girlfriend have a child on the way, and says that he needs to win the competition to provide for his family-in-waiting. Tito lets us know that he is confident that Kyacey will also be able to conceive his team’s first victory; Kyacey agrees, believing that he has better hands, wrestling and motivation than his opponent.
At a Team Liddell training session, we see that Kyacey may be onto something with that motivation thing – Rich ignores a coach while dry-humping a heavy bag, then notifies us that he goes by nicknames like Richie Boom Bots and Richie No Nose. How about Richie No Funny Jokes? This guy has more nicknames than Apollo Creed. Assistant coach John Hackleman says that Rich may be the most skilled guy on the show, while Chuck is confident that Rich will be able to take Kyacey down because “I’ve been told that Uscola has a lot of problems getting off his back.” Wow, Chuck, did you see that on the internet while you were looking up your fighters’ records online a few weeks back? Chuck is so confident, in fact, that he tells us he won’t even be in attendance for the bout due to “previous commitments.”
Back at the house, we learn that Season 11 has its own version of Sam Hoger – Kyacey says that he left a sweatshirt unattended in the house, and later found it in Jamie’s closet. Jamie denies having stolen anything, and although TMR member Kris claims responsibility, Kyacey engages in a verbal exchange with Jamie that involves about a half-dozen uses of the word “bitch,” a death threat, and a censor-beep parade that would make Dana blush. The argument continues during a van ride to the gym, and concludes with Kyacey apparently seeking TMR membership by referring to Jamie as “homie.”
The debate continues at the gym, as Tito seeks to make peace between Jamie and Kyacey. In a moment of unintentional hilarity, Kyacey complains that Jamie “never shuts up,” then himself goes on a seemingly endless tirade of name-calling against his teammate. Tito defends Jamie, debunking claims that he “stoled” some of Tito’s Team Punishment gear, but his teammates are unmoved. Finally, Jamie finds an ally at the house…even though he is on the opposing team. Rich welcomes a friendship with Jamie, even sharing some photos of his “thick and dark” wife. Maybe he’s hoping for an invitation to join TMR?
It’s Fight Day, and after a quick montage of backstage preparations, Rich makes his way into the octagon. It’s not clear who will win the war, but Rich has already won the battle of clichés by saying that Kyacey will “fold like a lawn chair, and that’s going to be all she wrote.” Kyacey, meanwhile, earns points for originality by saying that he hopes to “put him stiff.”
After the tale of the tape reveals that Kyacey has already had an overwhelming 33 pro fights, we are ready to get under way. The fighters take the center of the cage, and each lands a solid overhand right before Rich connects with a left-hook-overhand-right combo that sends Kyacey to the mat. Rich spends the next minute or so putting some serious ground-and-pound on Kyacey, who actually gets back to his feet…only to be picked up and dumped – hard – on his head. That actually gives me a headache just watching. Rich takes his back, but Kyacey shakes him with a kimura attempt that, unfortunately for him, winds up too close to the fence. Kyacey lets it go and moves into side control, but as Rich scrambles out, Kyacey delivers a pair of knees to this downed opponent’s head. Referee Josh Rosenthal stops the bout, disqualifying Kyacey and declaring Rich the winner.
Kyacey protests the decision vehemently, imploring Rich to get up and fight, while Tito angrily declares, “You’ve got to be joking me right now.” Sorry, Tito, but in fact no one is joking you. Dana walks us through replays of the questionable knees, which conspiracy theorists will undoubtedly spend the next several weeks claiming were grazing blows, at best. Kyacey storms off, saying he believes Rich faked being injured in order to get out of the contest, and has lost all respect for Rich as a fighter. In the aftermath, however, we learn that Rich suffered a broken hand during the fight, and is likely done for the remainder of the competition.
We waste little time in returning to the UFC Training Center, where we learn that Charles Blanchard will fight Jamie in tonight’s second bout. As we see their ridiculous height difference during their staredown, Tito tells us he likes the odds for this matchup, and says he will shoot himself if his team drops to 0-4. Come on, Charles!!
As Charles prepares for the fight, Chuck tells us that he is confident that Charles will be able to neutralize Jamie’s aggressive fighting style. Hey Chuck, nice of you to show up for training in a pair of jeans and clutching an iced coffee. Have a late night? Later, as Team Ortiz takes over the gym, we see Jamie working on his striking, as Tito says that he should pick up the “easy win.” Just to be sure he’s ready, Jamie concludes practice by jumping on top of the cage with his arms raised, making sure he is prepared to celebrate victory.
After an uneventful weigh-in, it’s time to fight. Amazingly, Dana is not present to announce the rules, so instead the just start with the action. Jamie makes no attempt to mask his intention to strike, prompting Charles to shoot in for a takedown. After Jamie gets away, Charles wraps him up again and tries for a slam, but is stuffed. Jamie escapes, and seconds later drops Charles with a single superman punch. Jamie pounces on Charles, who by now has gone fetal, and the referee stops the bout. Jamie wins by TKO, and earns Team Ortiz its first win. Afterward, the same guy who started tonight’s episode by disavowing the team concept tells his teammates that he wants to carry them. Which is kind of ironic, considering that he left the gym being piggyback-carried by Kris?
During the recap of last week’s episode, why did we see two quick shots of Tito wearing a TUF jersey emblazoned with “Team Punishment”?
I mean, isn’t this season called “Team Liddell vs. Team Ortiz”?
How bored do the fighters look when they have to sit in bleachers during the bouts?
Why did Jamie say he was cheering for both guys, when we only saw him rooting for Brad?
Was it just me, or did the Nick-Jamie confrontation look kind of staged?
What was Nick talking about when he was complaining that TMR was trying to “break social contracts”?
And did you notice that, ironically, he was giving this speech while socializing with members of Team Liddell?
When he walked up for his fight announcement, did Rich and his balding hairline remind you of Matt Lindland?
Why did Kyacey say that he hits harder than Rich, when they haven’t even trained together and thus wouldn’t know firsthand?
Even though Chuck knew about his “previous commitments” in advance, shouldn’t he have kept in line with previous coaches like Michael Bisping and Rampage by simply no-showing his guys’ fights?
Did Jamie really call Kyacey a “slut”?
Why didn’t Kyacey bother asking Kris why he would have taken his sweatshirt, instead continuing a pointless argument with Jamie?
How does the “Inside the Octagon” segment go from offering valuable news one week, to being complete fluff the next?
Given Tito’s history on this show of being a caring, hands-on coach, wasn’t it kind of surprising to see him make pretty much no effort to resolve the Kyacey-Jamie feud?
Don’t you think that Rich’s wife will just love being referred to as “thick” on national television?
And why does he always have a look of wide-eyed surprise during his confessional interviews?
Did we really need to have Dana’s worthless comments subtitled during the opening moments of Rich-Kyacey?
How painful did Rich’s slam of Kyacey look?
Why was the referee so slow to step in after Kyacey landed the first knee to Rich’s head?
After watching the ridiculous segment involving the guys sitting around and chanting/clapping while Kyle blew into that huge horn, weren’t you glad it wasn’t you having to live in that house for six weeks?
Even if he did get screwed, didn’t Rich realize that going out with dignity, as opposed to whining and complaining, would give him a better shot at earning a wildcard slot?
And, did you notice how Kyacey suddenly turned into Rich’s buddy when he realized Rich’s hand injury could be his ticket back into the competition?
In addition to looking weak by having to use both arms to break the door, didn’t it look like Tito was forcing his anger over the outcome, and realistically had no reason to be angry enough to break down a door?
Wasn’t it funny that, although Jamie and Charles were the ones facing off during the staredown, Chuck was the one who looked the most intimidating?
What is it with Rich and his love of assigning 45 nicknames to each fighter, himself included?
Isn’t it hard to visualize Kyacey’s belief that Jamie will both get his teeth kicked in and simultaneously continue “yapping his jaw”?
Speaking with the benefit of hindsight, what was Chuck thinking by picking Charles to fight Jamie, since it looked like a horrible matchup from the very moment the fight started?
As ridiculous as the name and concept are, isn’t it worth noting that TMR is 3-0?
Then again, doesn’t that just give you another reason to hope its members lose in the next round?
Mark Carpowich can be contacted at email@example.com.