The Ultimate Fighter: US vs UK - Episode One Recap
CAUTION: SPOILERS INCLUDED – For the first time in the history of The Ultimate Fighter series, it will be nation vs nation, as a team of up and coming mixed martial artists from the United States squares off against their counterparts from the United Kingdom in an effort to earn a six figure UFC contract at the season finale in June.
But before that can happen, the field of 32 competitors has to be whittled down to 16 – eight from each nation. In this week’s premiere episode, the show travels to Liverpool, home of the Wolfslair Academy, the gym which produced the UK coach and current UFC middleweight contender Michael “The Count” Bisping, who is eager to get his team together for the tip across the pond to the United States.
There’s a lot of great talent just waiting to breakthrough,” said Bisping, who was joined in the gym by UFC President Dana White and UFC stars Dan Henderson and Rich Franklin. The elimination matches were held before UFC 93 in January, a card that saw Henderson score a three round split decision win over Franklin and earn the United States coaching spot, hence the presence of both fighters in the gym.
“Tomorrow is the most important day of your life,” White told the fighters, who knew that gaining a spot on the show would be the first step to gaining the type of stardom currently enjoyed by show alumni such as Bisping, Rashad Evans, Forrest Griffin, Diego Sanchez, and Kenny Florian.
First up is one of Bisping’s Wolfslair teammates, lightweight Gary Kelly (2-1), who takes on London’s Andre Winner (9-2-1) in the first elimination bout. The two battle it out on even terms against the fence early on, but when Winner scores with a flush knee to the chin at close range, its lights out for Kelly, with referee Dan Miragliotta halting the bout in the first round.
Bournemouth veteran Jeff Lawson (13-2) is finally getting his big chance to get to the next level, but standing in his way is Bath’s James Bryan (3-1). Lawson is in control from the start of the lightweight bout though, eventually taking Bryan down and submitting him with an armbar in the first round.
Early favorite Che Mills (7-2) steps into the Octagon next against Leicester’s James Wilks (5-2), a British native who is returning home after eight years living in California. Mills comes out fast in their welterweight bout and is able to get Wilks to the mat, but there the submission ace takes over and he heel hooks Mills for the submission victory.
Back in the lightweight division, Rochdale’s Martin Stapleton (5-1) was impressive in taking unbeaten Dan James (3-0) to the mat and forcing him to tap out to a rear naked choke in the opening round.
The first bout to go past the first round pits Nottingham’s Ross Pearson (9-3) against Wisbech’s AJ Wenn (7-2) in a lightweight contest. The two 155-pounders scrap along the fence for much of the opening round, but late in the frame, Pearson erupts with a series of knees that leave Wenn on rubbery legs as the bell sounds. Wenn manages to make it out of his corner for round two, but Pearson doesn’t let him off the hook, dropping his foe with a left hook-right cross combination that finishes things off and sends Pearson to Las Vegas.
London welterweight Nick Osipczak (3-0) travels the TKO route in his bout as well, finishing off a fatigued Tommy Maguire (5-2) late in the first round.
In welterweight action, Nottingham’s Dean Amasinger (4-1) survived a series of triangle choke attempts from London veteran Alex Reid (10-9-1) to pound out a close decision win that saw the third sudden victory round called into service for the first time this season.
Joining Amasinger and company in the TUF9 house will be Bisping’s teammate David Faulkner (2-1), who pulled off a beautiful heelhook to submit James Bateman (2-1) in the first round.
Now it’s off to America for this elite eight of British bangers.
“America better be ready because these kids are coming over to put the stamp on ‘em,” said White, and Bisping agreed.
“We’re bringing over a team of killers,” said ‘The Count’.
After one week of action, the following fighters have earned a spot in the Ultimate Fighter house for this season and will represent the United Kingdom:
For weekly recaps of The Ultimate Fighter, as well as fighter profiles and a weekly blog from UK coach Michael Bisping, stay tuned to UFC.com.