The 16th season of “The Ultimate Fighter” franchise kicks off now, with 32 welterweight hopefuls that will be reduced to 16 in the first episode as they battle for a spot in the “TUF” house. The fights take place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center with the full lighting and effects of a live UFC event.
As the fighters trickle into the cage, they are greeted by UFC president Dana White who is prepared to give his obligatory “The Ultimate Fighter” motivation speech. White then introduces both Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson as this season’s coaches.
Coach Nelson gives a speech of his own and tells the fighters that exciting fights are great, but the focus should first be on getting into the house. Dana White disagrees.
“Big Country and I disagree. I’m looking for exciting guys. I’m looking for guys that are going to [expletive] bring it, and [expletive] blow the doors off this place today.”
What better way to start the season than with some Dana White F-bombs?
With that, it’s time for the first fight.
Kevin Nowaczyk vs. Dom Waters
Round 1 – Touch of gloves. Nowaczyk flashes his jab early. Waters looks really relaxed and is putting together some nice combinations. His left hook looks very good. Waters coming forward. Connects with a right hand, then a thunderous left uppercut that floors Nowaczyk. A few hammerfists later and it’s over. Impressive finish for Waters.
Lev Magen vs. Michael Hill
Round 1 – Magen throws first with his jab. Hill fires back with a three-punch combo and a kick. Magen looks much smaller than Hill. Nice one-two from Hill. Magen with a jab, but he’s one-and-done so far. Hill is putting together combinations. Stiff jab from Hill. Hill follows up with a shot to the body, then a brutal left hook that puts Magen out. Another big KO to start off the episode.
Bristol Marunde vs. George Lockhart
Round 1 – Marunde comes out swinging. Lockhart looks to tie him up. Marunde separates but gets caught with a right hand as Lockhart closes and puts him on the cage. Lockhart grabs an ankle and takes the fight to the mat. Marunde is being smothered, but he’s back up to his feet. Knees from Lockhart from the clinch. He drops for a double, then switches to the high crotch. Marunde locks up a standing guillotine but lets it go. Marunde turns and lands some knees in close. Lockhart fires back with some short punches inside. He’s not giving Marunde any space to get off on his feet. Marunde breaks free and steps back to create some space. Lockhart swings but only to set up a takedown and lands right in a choke. That was a slick move from Marunde as he locked up a modified guillotine. Lockhart is out almost immediately. Marunde advances with the submission victory.
Jason South vs. Mike Ricci
Round 1 – Ricci looks more like a math teacher than a fighter, but he’s here for a reason. Kicks by both guys to start. South with a leg kick. Ricci over the top with a winging right hand. South backs him up with a kick and a right hand, then drives him into the cage. He’s looking for a trip on the cage. Ricci is fighting it off so far as he battles for position. They break and reset. South with a kick. Ricci with a jab, then a laser-straight one-two combo that drops South. South looks hurt as he battles to survive. Ricci stays all over him, landing left hands under the armpit of South. South tries to stand but gets peppered by more left hands. That’s it, it’s over, and Ricci is in the house.
After four finishes, the next few fights are shown as highlights. Julian Lane takes Diego Bautista to decision and wins on the judges cards. Cortez Coleman is next and starts off strong, but wilts as the fight goes on, giving Igor Araujo a ticket into the house as he taps to a triangle choke.
James Chaney vs. Jerel Clark
Round 1 – Kicks to start by both guys. Clark looks to drop for a takedown. Chaney makes it easy on him by jumping guard. Clark puts Chaney on the cage, but it’s Chaney that quickly grabs an arm and goes to work. Clark is trying desperately to free his arm, but Chaney switches to the triangle. Chaney has a pretty slick game off his back from what he has showed so far. Clark isn’t doing much to defend and the tap comes. James Chaney moves into the house with a submission victory.
Zane Kamaka vs. Cameron Diffley
Round 1 – Diffley flashing his jab to start. Kamaka fires back with one of his own. Diffley feints, then executes a nicely timed takedown. This is his world. Kamaka goes for a guillotine right off the bat. Diffley stays patient and escapes but gets swept. Kamaka on top but this may not be where he wants to be. Diffley gets an arm and it’s over very quick. The tap comes and Diffley moves on.
Frank Camacho vs. Neil Magny
Round 1 – So Camacho is a golfer turned fighter. That has to be a first. Camacho wastes little time, landing a looping left hand to start. After they go to the clinch, Camacho continues to score inside with quick, short shots at close range. He takes it to the mat, takes the back and peppers Magny with left hands. Magny is in trouble. He’s hanging tough, getting back to his feet and firing back. Good round for Camacho.
Round 2 – Magny looks much more relaxed to start the second. Magny gets an easy takedown against the cage. Camacho gets back to his feet but is again taken down. Magny now landing with right hands. Camacho works back to his feet as they reset. Magny uncorks a nasty combo down the middle that connects. Camacho has a great chin, but looks tired. He’s eating punches and isn’t landing much. Looks like a sudden victory round may be in order.
Round 3 – Magny looks fresher as he takes the center of the cage. He’s loose now. He’s throwing perfectly straight punches in bunches down the middle. Camacho gets inside and takes the fight to the mat, then goes for a guillotine. Magny is relentless. He frees his head and is now on top raining down punishment. Camacho is bleeding and taking a beating. Magny is still on his back dropping big shots. Camacho to his feet, but only for a moment. He hits the mat and goes for another guillotine but may be too fatigued to finish. Magny is free, and is again punishing Camacho with a flurry of shots. He moves to a very high mount and continues to drop leather to the bell. All Magny in the sudden victory round, but it’s still in the judges hands. Magny gets the nod and moves on. Great fight!
It’s back to the highlights with the Ricky Legere Jr. and Jon Manley fight. The bout turns into a slowed down wrestling match that has Dana White calling for guys that want to impress in their fights. In the end it’s Jon Manley that gets a decision nod and an invitation into the TUF house.
Colton Smith and Jesse Barrett are next up, and Smith immediately draws the wrong kind of attention from the coaches as he fakes a touch of gloves to get a quick takedown. Smith used the early position advantage to maintain control and take the opening round. Smith would win the second round as well to earn a decision victory over Barrett to advance in the competition.
Matt Secor vs. Max Griffin
Round 1 – Griffin looks to establish his jab early. Secor immediately shoots but is stuffed. He tries again but it’s defended nicely by Griffin. Secor resets and drives Griffin into the cage looking for another takedown attempt. They hit the ground and in the scramble, Secor locks up a tight kneebar. Griffin looks like he’s in trouble. Somehow he manages to escape the submission. They reset and Griffin rushes in with winging punches. Secor locks him up and attempts to get the fight to the mat. Secor wants nothing to do with standing in this fight. Secor on his back now looking for an armbar. Griffin postures up and out of trouble. He drops a few left hands. He pulls out and steps away. Secor goes for yet another takedown but ends up with Griffin on his back and looking for a rear naked choke. He’s out of time. The bell sounds on Round 1.
Round 2 – Secor with a winging right hand that’s blocked. Griffin fires back and connects, staggering Secor. Secor has had enough. He shoots for the takedown and gets it. He moves to full mount immediately. The arm triangle is there all day but Secor isn’t going for it. Griffin is throwing punches from his back as the bell sounds.
Round 3 – Secor looks to be the more fatigued fighter to start. Griffin scores down the middle. Secor throws a half-hearted jab, but it’s just to set up a takedown. It’s effective though. He’s right back into full mount. Secor postures up and actually starts throwing some shots. Griffin looks to roll out of trouble but ends up in an armbar. Griffin fights it off and ends up on top. Now Secor goes for the triangle. Griffin is in trouble this time. There’s the tap. Secor advances.
The episode shifts back to the highlights with David Michaud and Eddy Ellis battling for a spot in the TUF house. After winning the first round, Ellis manages to secure an arm triangle choke from his back to finish off Michaud, securing his place on the show. Saad Awad and Joey Rivera are next, and they engage in another grueling bout that goes to the judges. After the decision is read, it’s Rivera that is awarded the decision victory.
Nic Herron-Webb vs. Tim Ruberg
Round 1 – Ruberg scores first as he lands with a big left hand before driving for a takedown. Herron-Webb fights off the initial attempt, but Ruberg stays aggressive and takes the fight to the mat. Ruberg on top now but isn’t doing much as Herron-Webb battles to control his posture. Ruberg scores to the body but Herron-Webb is sustaining little damage on his back so far. Ruberg pulls free and lands a couple of right hands before Herron-Webb secures his head and posture. Herron-Webb looking for a kimura now. Ruberg is defending and seems to be in a pretty good position to free his arm. Herron-Webb isn’t letting it go and rolls into an armbar attempt. Ruberg may be in trouble now. Herron-Webb still trying to rip the arm free so he can extend it, and suddenly it pops out. He torques the arm and Ruberg taps. Nic Herron-Webb advances with the submission win.
Sam Alvey vs. Leo Kuntz
Round 1 – Alvey is still smiling. This kid looks like he’s having a blast. Touch of gloves. Kuntz fires off a kick to start. Another. Alvey stalking despite the kicks landing. Kuntz changes levels and drives for a takedown. Not even close. Another leg kick. Again. Kuntz is peppering the leg of Alvey. Alvey staying calm. Kuntz leans in to throw, but Alvey beats him to the punch with a monstrous lead right hook that folds Kuntz up like a lawn chair. Huge KO win for Alvey.
So with that big KO, the 16 fighter roster is complete. Dana White addresses the guys in the cage after the last bout and singles out the top performers before reiterating to the fighters that being exciting is hugely important moving forward.
At the training center, the fighters arrive for team picks. The bonus amounts are announced, and the coin flip determines that Team Nelson gets the choice of either first pick, or picking the first match up. Coach Nelson goes with control of the fight pick, giving Coach Carwin the first fight pick.
Here is how the picks went down: