There's no better way to spruce up a show than to add nationalism to the mix and TUF is no exception. This season's twist on TUF is pitting UK fighters against the US. I'm not sure this will be the ratings magnet Dana White and Spike expect but TUF needed a shake up and this will do.
I expect the requisite jokes about bad teeth and the revolution to flow like champagne after the world series. Thank god the first two episodes focus solely on the fighters fighting their way in to the house.
The first episode featured the qualifying fights for the UK team being coached by the UFC's poster boy in England (and Europe pretty much) Mike Bisping. At the time of the taping Rich Franklin was fighting Dan Henderson for the " privilege" to coach the US team. So all three guys were present along with Dana White at the Wolfslair gym in England for the prelim fights.
To be honest if I was Rich or Hendo I'd be pissed off if I had to fly all the way to England just to scout some kids they won't even coach. Maybe that's just me.
There was some decent talent on display but no one jumped out at me as a clear cut favorite. Let's break down the fights.
At 155 Andre Winner defeats Gary Kelly by KO in the first round. Winner had some solid stand up but that's about all we know. Kelly was a disappointment as a Wolfslair fighter. Hopefully Winner has some more game if he wants to stay in the competition.
At 155 Jeff Lawson beats James Bryan by arm bar in the first round. It was obviously a pretty easy fight for Lawson. Bryan was terrible on the ground and Lawson made quick work of him. Hopefully Lawson doesn't always fight down to his opponent like he did in this fight (his ground game was very sloppy) because he could be in trouble.
At 170 James Wilks defeats Che Mills by heel hook in the first round. Wilks took a pretty good beating before locking in the submission. Hopefully he has better stand up than he showed otherwise he could be in trouble if he faces a good sprawl and brawl fighter.
At 155 Martin Stapleton beats Dan James by rear naked choke in the first round. Stapleton was one of the few who impressed me. His grappling was very solid. Hopefully he has more stand up skills than he showed but his grappling might be able to carry him through.
At 155 Ross Pearson defeats AJ Wenn by TKO in the first round. Pearson put the smack down on Wenn and almost KOd him in the first round before being saved by the bell. Pearson obviously has good striking and heavy hands. Hopefully his ground game is solid.
At 170 Nick Osipczak beats Tommy Maguire by KO in the first round. Maguire was a tomato can and Nick did not look impressive. He's one of the weaker links on this team. His striking was alright but as Hendo pointed out he has no power.
At 170 Dean Amasinger defeats Alex Reid by decision after three rounds. Dean did not look up to par against a total journeyman in Reid. Hopefully Amasinger shows something in the US he didn't show here because I doubt he'll get far with more performances like that.
At 170 David Faulkner beats James Bateman by heel hook in the first round. Faulkner, another Wolfslair product, obviously has good ground skills. Hopefully he has some striking to back it up.
Outside of the fights this season opened up in style - instead of the slimy, heat stroke inducing strip in Las Vegas it was the dreary, warehouse facade of an MMA academy in England. Dana White called everyone motherf****** within the first 37 seconds. And there was an abundance of the terms "lads" and "unlucky" - like everyone was playing a friendly soccer match - my apologies, football, we are in England!
Some of my favorite moments of the show was putting subtitles under guys who were speaking english (granted it was garbled gibberish to us "yanks" - oh yeah that joke was killed too - but still english). Also, I really enjoyed Martin Stapleton's cauliflower ear. It looked like James Thompson's ear on roids.
None of these guys seem like d-bags yet but it's still too soon to tell until they move into the house and get cabin fever. It seems like the whole team is excited for their shot at the UFC and to represent the UK. It looks like the Brits are really going to "have a go" as they say, this season.
Next week looks promising too. It appears as though the US team is taking this challenege lightly. Multiple people appear to pass out or not make weight (always a good start when dealing with Dana White and a bunch of savages). It will be interesting to see what happens when these guys get in the cage.
Last but not least my line of the night goes to Nick Osipczak talking about what he knows about his opponent Tommy Maguire: "I know he's 'ginger.' I've never fought a ginger person before so I’m looking forward to that."
Stay tuned for my WEC 41 and DREAM 8 previews and reviews along with my TUF 9 episode two recap next week. Until then,
Soccer kicks and head stomps...