Did Louis Gaudinot's performance help him climb to top pick status? | Photo: Keith Mills
Last week, when the cast of “TUF 14” fought their way onto the show, several of the winning fighters celebrated their victories by yelling “I’m in the house!” Think of it as MMA’s version of “I’m going to Disneyland.”
Now, 16 guys are literally in that house and they all race around to check it out and claim their own bedrooms. Louis Gaudinot says he was warned that this huge, sprawling home can get small real quick with so many wild men packed into one place. Without any internet or TV, the boys find out quickly that there isn’t much to do but eat, so that’s what they do. The first night in their new home is an evening of barbecue-driven gluttony for men usually accustomed to caloric restraint.
The next day at the UFC training center, coaches Michael Bisping and Jason Miller survey the field in order to make their team selections. Miller calls it one of the most difficult decisions of his life, since he has such limited info to go by and doesn’t know the fighters’ backgrounds or personalities.
After a long roll down the mat, Dana White’s coin toss goes in favor of Bisping, who gets to choose either the first fighter or the first matchup. The Englishman opts for the former, something which Miller feels is better for his team in the long run. “Styles make fights,” Miller explains, believing he’ll be able to cancel out Bisping’s selections by pairing them in mismatches.
Bisping decides that Louis Gaudinot’s ghastly green hair is no deterrent and makes him the first member of the blue team. For his top pick, “Mayhem” chooses the electric John Dodson, who greets his new coach with a smile and a little dance.
From there, Bisping takes T.J. Dillashaw, John Albert and B.J. Ferguson. Miller selects Johnny Bedford, Dustin Pague and Roland Delorme to finish out the 135’ers, and expresses the opinion that he picked well with the idea of matching the fighters’ skills with his own coaching staff.
For his first featherweight pick, Bisping takes Brazilian slugger Diego Brandao, while Miller selects collegiate wrestling convert Dennis Bermudez.
Continuing on, “The Count” chooses Hamid Corassani, heavy hitting Marcus Brimage and Stephen Bass, who he asks to give him a “hot diggity damn” during the choice. This must be Bass’ catchphrase which was edited out of any footage from week one, one we will likely suffer through during the remainder of the season.
Miller rounds out his orange team with the likes of Bryan Caraway and Dustin Neace. “I thought Mayhem was gonna pick some of the guys we wanted, for sure,” says a delighted Bisping after watching the contestants he ranked from 1-4 fall into his lap while Mayhem picked up his 5-8 seeds in both weight classes. “If he had an ounce of intelligence, he’d be picking some of those guys, but he didn’t.”
“I don’t know, Bisping,” Miller says, scanning the room. “Some of your guys don’t look real happy. Seems like they want to be on the other team.”
Uncomfortable chuckles ensue, but the point is made. Later, Bisping grouses about it to the camera.
“What a stupid statement,” Bisping says. “Why wouldn’t they be happy to be on my team? I’m the one who won ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’ I’ve got 17 fights in the UFC. He’s a Strikeforce reject.”
Both coaches put their new pupils through a technical first practice session which seems to motivate both teams. After practice, Miller suggests that his team “hit the showers, two at a time to save water.” It’s an interesting style of team-building.
Of course guys wanted to be on Miller’s team. He keeps things fun. He also keeps it ridiculously modern, showing up at the “TUF” house with some fancy machinery that is supposed to clean up the blood and help with recovery time.
“Bad blood out, good blood in,” Bedford explains.
“That tells me they are watching out for us,” teammate Neace agrees.
Once the blood has been refurbished, it’s time for the first fight. With his matchmaking ability, Miller chooses wrestler Caraway to face Team Bisping’s Brimage.
Brimage fills us in on his background, having apparently been driven to the sport by highlight reels and anime.
“Quinton Jackson and ‘Dragon Ball Z’ are the reasons why I do mixed martial arts today,” Brimage explains. We all have our journeys.
Over on Team Miller, Caraway is trying to get prepared for his fight in between the ears.
“Bryan’s facing his biggest opponent: himself,” Miller explains. Caraway, one of the few fighters to admit to being scared and nervous in the opening episode, also copped to having been seeing a sports psychologist just before coming to “TUF.” When Mayhem Miller calls you a head case, well, you might just have a problem.
After practice, Mayhem and some co-conspirators decide to roll the tractor tires used for workouts into Bisping’s team room. It’s the first prank of the season and certainly won’t be the last.
Caraway and Brimage both make weight for their fight, but Brimage’s teammates break into a military-style cadence as the two square up.
“Darkness is gonna knock you out, big mistake to call him out!” Team Bisping chanted, as if they were running in boot camp. “Caraway’s a f---ing b---h, leave his body in a ditch!”
“That was adorable,” says Miller. “That was the cutest little show tune I’ve ever heard.”
Bisping isn’t so cheery after he finds tractor tires blocking the path into his team’s locker room, leading to the Brit tearing down the door in order to get in. Between Bisping and former “TUF” coach “Rampage” Jackson, the doors at the UFC training center just can’t catch a break.
But it’s time for the fight, and Brimage isn’t focused on the prank.
“When Caraway gets a few jabs in his face, he’s going to freak out,” Brimage forecasts “And then that’s when I hit him with the cross, that’s when I start ripping the uppercuts.”
At this point, anyone watching will be distracted by an obvious sound. Brimage immediately admits to his on-camera and heavily mic’d faux pas: “I farted.”
Meanwhile, Caraway says he couldn’t sleep and was up all night. He said that back home, his fretful nature caused his team to dub him “Nervous Nancy” before his fights.
The fight is on and Caraway immediately begins darting in and out, dipping low and showing that he wants the fight on the ground. After a little bit of timing, Caraway dives in under Marcus’ punches and expertly takes Brimage down with a double-leg. From there, it’s Caraway’s round to lose. He takes Brimage’s back easily and locks in a body triangle. Brimage does a good job of staving off disaster and constantly peppering Caraway with defensive strikes from a bad position. Caraway gets punched and tugged on enough to keep him from submitting Marcus, but still wins a decisive first round.
At the start of the second, Caraway shoots low again, but is thwarted by a flying knee from Brimage. The two swing wildly at each other for a few blows until Caraway backdoors Brimage and takes his back once again. This time, Caraway puts on another body triangle, but Brimage manages to wriggle loose and get to his feet.
Caraway begins to slow down; Brimage tags him with a knee and some body shots in a scramble that leaves Caraway exhausted. Brimage uses a nifty backwards roll to keep Caraway off his back, leaving Caraway spent in the middle of the Octagon. Caraway lies on his back, fingers laced behind his head in the MMA fan’s perpetual nightmare pose of inactivity. Brimage throws some kicks to the prone Caraway and referee Steve Mazzagotti eventually stands him back up.
The fatigued Caraway attempts a last-ditch takedown, lands it and finishes strong. Once he gets on top, Caraway takes Brimage’s back, pounds on him until flattened out, and then taps him out with a rear-naked choke. Team Miller takes the first win and retains the control for the next matchup.
Coach Bisping is disappointed, since he thought Marcus had some chances to put his foe away but “lost his discipline and turned it into a brawl.”
“God, I feel so good, guys,” says Caraway. “I’ve never been so emotional in a fight.”
“You’re going to make me cry,” says Mayhem.