The first season of The Ultimate Fighter featuring 16 undefeated athletes is officially underway, with head coaches Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier kicking things off this week with team selections and the first fight already in the books.
This season will feature unbeaten fighters at lightweight and featherweight, with only two walking away with an unblemished resume after the toughest tournament in sports plays out.
As the episode gets underway this week, there's no rest for the weary, as the heavyweight and light heavyweight champion are introduced as coaches and they immediately shift into training drills to see what kind of fighters they're dealing with this season.
Cormier, as a two-time Olympic wrestler, wastes no time putting the athletes through takedown drills to get things started. Cormier notes that with these fights all taking place in rapid fire fashion over the course of six weeks, with each matchup being scheduled for only two rounds (and a potential sudden victory round if the fight is tied), then he believes wrestling will be a key in every situation. Cormier takes the approach that if he can load up his team with the best wrestlers, then they will have the best opportunity to control where the fights take place and that will give them the edge in this tournament.
As for Miocic, he decides to work on grappling drills, with the fighters showing off what they have once the action hits the ground. The evaluation time is rather short, but the coaches take their notes and Cormier ends up winning the coin toss, which allows him to pick the first fighter in the competition. That means Miocic will end up picking the first fight.
Here is how the team selections broke down:
Team Cormier: Tyler Diamond, Bryce Mitchell, Richie Smullen, Luis Pena, Joe Giannetti, Brad Katona, Thai Clark, Ricky Steele
Team Stipe: Kyler Phillips, Suman Mokhtarian, Mike Trizano, John Gunther, Jose Martinez, Jay Cucciniello, Allan Zuniga, Dulani Perry
Following the team selections, Miocic announces that John Gunther will kick things off against Joe Giannetti from Team Cormier as the lightweights get the tournament started.
Now it's not a huge surprise that Miocic chose Gunther to be on his team as well as making him the first fight considering they are actually teammates under the same gym in Cleveland.
While they don't actually train together all that often - Miocic has Gunther outsized by about 60 pounds - the heavyweight champ is well aware of his work ethic and toughness, which he believes will be a key factor to help him win this fight.
Gunther reveals in his behind the scenes footage that he actually lives in a van in Cleveland, but never seems to complain about not having an apartment or a bed to call his own. Gunther was one of 10 children growing up on a farm in Ohio and he says that after the 8th grade, he ultimately decided he just wanted to work and school was no longer that important to him.
Now Gunther runs his own shearing business, where he works exclusively with alpacas and llamas to cut their fur while spending as much time as possible in the gym to get ready for his next fight.
As for Giannetti, he's actually grown up in a somewhat similar situation in his hometown in Massachusetts.
Giannetti says that after his mom left his family when he was just a kid, it was up to his father to raise him and his sister as a single parent. At times they entire family would be homeless or without food for days as they struggled to survive but they always did it together.
Giannetti eventually got involved in martial arts after growing up as an overweight kid, which resulted in him being bullied and picked on a lot at school. While Giannetti says he never got into many fights, it eventually led him to martial arts, where he eventually developed into a 6-0 prospect who is now dedicating his entire performance to his father. Giannetti says that his father sacrificed everything for him and his sister and now he wants to make him proud by winning The Ultimate Fighter.
With time ticking away until the contest, Miocic and Cormier get their fighters ready, and without further ado it's time for the first lightweight matchup of the season to go down.
JOE GIANNETTI VS. JOHN GUNTHER
Gunther comes storming out of the gate, pressing forward with immediate pressure but he's eating a lot of shots for his trouble. Giannetti continues to back up while throwing a barrage of punches and knees as he continues to tag Gunther, who finally pushes him against the cage wall, trying to slow things down. Unfortunately, Gunther was tagged by several hard shots, and when he dives in for a takedown, he leaves his neck up high and that allows Giannetti to grab onto a guillotine choke. Giannetti wrenches up on the standing guillotine choke as Gunther struggles to fight out of the hold. Eventually, the fighters fall to the ground with Giannetti still holding onto the choke, and a second later Gunther is out cold as the fight is stopped early in the first round.
Joe Giannetti def. John Gunther by submission (guillotine choke) R1
"I feel amazing, I can't believe I just won on The Ultimate Fighter!" Giannetti said after the win. "DC knew the perfect game plan and I am so happy I got the win."
Giannetti definitely set the stage with his ultra quick submission that UFC President Dana White notes might be one of the fastest in the history of The Ultimate Fighter.
With the first fighter through to the second round, Miocic kicks off the featherweight division by pitting Kyler Phillips from his team against Brad Katona from Team Cormier.
Following such a shocking result in the first fight, can Phillips help Team Miocic get back on the board and redeem the heavyweight champion or will Katona pick up yet another win for Team Cormier as the featherweights see action for the first time this season?
Tune in to next week's episode of The Ultimate Fighter: Undefeated to find out.