It’s time for a new season of The Ultimate Fighter, and you’re in for a treat.
For the first time ever, the esteemed reality show will see the inclusion of featherweights and bantamweights – two weight classes that were folded into the UFC upon the death of World Extreme Cagefighting in late 2010.
It’s no secret that the Ultimate Fighter has been scraping the barrel in terms of top-tier talent over the past few years. There have been plenty of serviceable fighters appearing on the show, but it’s been a long time since a true title contender emerged from the Ultimate Fighter house.
That changes this season. Because the featherweights and bantamweights have been flying under the radar until this year, there has been plenty of top talent that hasn’t made the transition to the big stage of the UFC. The pay scale between the bottom of the WEC and the top of, say, Tachi Palace was roughly the same, so fighters were content to stick around the indie leagues and hone their craft. That all changed with the inclusion of the two weight classes in the UFC earlier this year. The pay might not be much better, but the exposure is exponentially greater.
Suddenly, the UFC is the place to be for lower-weight fighters looking to make a name for themselves.
The Ultimate Fighter 14 will give a much-needed shot in the arm to the UFC featherweight and bantamweight ranks, and coaches Jason “Mayhem” Miller and Michael Bisping will provide the kind of ludicrous fireworks that make for great television entertainment. I expect a lot from this season, and I think it will deliver in spades.
EPISODE 1: SCRAPPERS
We get a quick introduction to the lighter weight classes – it’s pretty much the same thing I wrote above. Dana says there was so much talent in both weight classes that they decided to include both in the show.
The rundown: 32 fighters will face off to determine who goes into the house. We’ll be left with eight featherweights and eight bantamweights, who then enter a tournament to determine the next two Ultimate Fighter champions.
We get an introduction to both coaches. Bisping says Miller is insane if he thinks he’s going to come in and make a name off of his back, and Miller responds by saying he’s going to smash Bisping.
Dana White says they decided to host the elimination bouts at Mandalay Bay to give the contestants a brief taste of what fighting in the big time is actually like. That’s a first for this show; the bouts have always been held at the Ultimate Fighter gym. The guys walk into the Events Center and hop in the cage for Dana’s traditional speech.
Dana reveals the big surprise: fans will vote for best fight, best knockout and best submission. The winners will receive $25,000 in bonus money. This makes them very happy, obviously.
And we jump right into the fights. No play by play on the first-episode fights, because some of them will appear in cut form. Instead, we’ll offer a brief recap and fill you in on the high points.
JOSH FERGUSON vs. CASEY DYER (135): Ferguson’s brother is on the show and they both say they would love to fight each other in the finals. Ferguson absolutely wrecks Dyer with a right hand and ends the fight in 14 seconds, then does some gymnastics. Josh Ferguson d. Casey Dyer via KO, round 1
DIEGO BRANDAO vs. JESSE NEWELL (145): Brandao is super intense. He’s also super talented, and destroys Newell with a left hand followed by a diving punch. Mayhem remarks that it looked a lot like that one time when Bisping got knocked out by Dan Henderson. Brandao screams something and Mayhem says “I don’t know what you’re saying, but I feel you!” Diego Brandao d. Jesse Newell by TKO, round 1
JOHN DODSON vs. BRANDON MERKT (135): Dodson looks super comfortable and relaxed. He drills Merkt with a nasty hook to the body that sends Merkt reeling, then finishes him with punches against the cage. John Dodson d. Brandon Merkt via TKO, round 1
Mayhem says he feels like he should have paid money for a ticket to these fights.
DENNIS BERMUDEZ vs. JIMMIE RIVERA (145): Bermudez has an interesting back story. He was going to college when he found out that he was going to be a father, so he dropped out to take care of the baby. Two years later, he found out the baby wasn’t his. That sucks. This was a great grappling battle. Rivera took most of the first round and nearly had submissions on Rivera a few times, but Rivera turned the tables in the second and earned a ref stoppage victory while pounding Rivera while on his back. Dennis Bermudez d. Jimmie Rivera via TKO, round 2
BJ FERGUSON vs. ROLAND DELORME (135): Sadly, my dream of seeing the two brothers face off in the finals was shattered here, as Delorme submits Ferguson with a triangle choke in the first round. Delorme has excellent jiujitsu and will be a force to be reckoned with in the house this year. Roland Delorme d. BJ Ferguson via submission, round 1