The Ultimate Fighter is back, and this season UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre and number one contender Josh Koscheck will lead a cast of lightweight hopefuls through the six week competition en route to the live finale in December.
CAUTION: SPOILERS INCLUDED – 28 lightweight fighters have made their way to Las Vegas to compete for one UFC contract, and to help lead them to that goal on the 12th season of the Spike TV reality series “The Ultimate Fighter” are none other than UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre and number one contender Josh Koscheck, who have their own meeting to think about at season’s end.
As UFC President Dana White opens the season by introducing the coaches to the 28 hopefuls, he reveals that the Wild Card will be brought back for TUF12. Last season, Kris McCray used that Wild Card opportunity to make it to the finals. It remains to be seen what this season’s recipient will do with a second chance in the competition.
“There’s no secret what we’re looking for,” said White. “We want to see guys go after it, we want to see that killer instinct, guys who want to be fighters. And more than that, I want to see guys who want to be world champions.”
The next day, the fights – and the eliminations – begin.
Marc Stevens, who wrestled for Koscheck at the University of Buffalo, kicks things off against TJ “The Spider” O’Brien of Iowa and makes an immediate impression as he drops O’Brien with a right hand and finishes him off with a barrage of ground strikes just seconds into the bout.
Another New Yorker, Watertown’s Spencer Paige, takes on Torrance, California’s Steve Magdaleno, and both fighters show sharp standup attacks early on and also battle it out on the mat in an action-packed first round. They pick up where they left off in round two, but Paige begins tagging Magdaleno more and more, forcing the Californian to take the bout to the mat, but it was Paige who finished up stronger with his ground strikes, earning a unanimous decision victory.
California veteran Nam Phan is up next, and he will tackle another vet in former WEC fighter Mike Budnik. Budnik is able to get the fight to the mat a few times in the opening round, but Phan attacks well off his back and returns to his feet. Late the round though, a body shot drops Budnik, and Phan finishes him off with strikes, earning himself a spot in the house.
New Jersey’s Andrew Main is next lightweight to advance, as he comes from behind to defeat Jason Brenton via armbar / triangle submission.
WEC veteran Jonathan Brookins also moved into the house with a unanimous decision win over Ran Weathers, and also joining him were Sako Chivitchian, who decisioned Toby Grear, and Jeffrey Lentz, who submitted Daniel Head via rear naked choke.
Next up is an all-Florida battle, with unbeaten Paul Barrow of Tampa taking on Miami’s Alex “Bruce Leroy” Caceres, who enters the Octagon in the iconic Bruce Lee “Game of Death” track suit. And though he smiles before and during the bout, he’s all business, and after some competitive action early on, he submits Barrow via rear naked choke in the first round.
Michael Johnson is the next to advance, as he used his ground and pound attack to defeat Pablo Garza via unanimous decision. And the UK’s Aaron Wilkinson also moved on with a unanimous nod over Michael Richman.
Experienced H.I.T. Squad battler Kyle Watson sent Joseph Duffy out of the competition via rear naked choke submission, and Sevak Magakian did the same to JJ Ambrose, surviving a kimura attempt to win a unanimous decision.
Egypt native Amir Khillah took on Spokane’s Cody McKenzie in the next elimination bout, and it was McKenzie making short work of his foe as he put Khillah to sleep via his signature guillotine choke.
In the final bout of the opening round, Dane Sayers came flying out of his corner at the bell against Ariel Sexton, and though he missed his initial attack and took some huge shots, he roared back, almost pulled off a guillotine choke, and then finished things off via rear naked choke in the second round in a stirring finish to the first volley of fights.
After episode one, the following fighters have earned a spot in the Ultimate Fighter house for this season:
Next week, the teams get picked…
For weekly recaps of The Ultimate Fighter, as well as fighter profiles, stay tuned to UFC.com.