The second episode of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 begins with a brief recap of the premiere, in which coaches Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen pick teams. After choosing sides, Jones selects his own Gilbert Smith to take on Team Sonnen’s Luke Barnatt -- much to the chagrin of Smith’s teammate, Josh Samman, who had hoped to compete right out of the gate.
The fighters enter the “TUF” house for the first time following the elimination round, running up the stairs one after the other to choose their rooms. Robert McDaniel concurs with Samman regarding Jones’ first pick, announcing that his lack of control in the matter makes him want to scream.
Back at the gym, Jones runs his boys through the wringer at practice with the help of assistant coaches Frank Mir, Bubba Jenkins, Stonehorse Lone Goeman and John Wood. Preparing the stocky Smith for the lanky Barnatt is this week’s primary focus, but neither Samman nor McDaniel like what they see out of their teammate.
“Gilbert versus Luke is not a fight that any of us are very comfortable with,” says Samman. “The more time I spend with Gilbert, I don’t think he’s ready in terms of cardio. I think there’s more that he could be doing while we’re here to get in better shape.”
Jones holds an informal coaches panel, during which Wood expresses his concern over the matchup. In the van on the way home from practice, Smith tells his teammates that he has yet to hear any positive reinforcement from his coaches. Frustrated at the lack of encouragement and missing his friends and family, Smith breaks down into tears in the backyard with Adam Cella, who later relays the happening to Samman and McDaniel.
During Sonnen’s training session, the former two-time middleweight title challenger introduces his coaches: Vinny Magalhaes, Clayton Hires, Jamie Huey, Scott McQuary and Mike Dolce. Sonnen takes a hands-on approach, putting himself through the same workout as his men in order to better understand their limits and judge their recovery times.
In the Team Jones locker room, McDaniel tells coach Mir about Smith’s emotional episode in the backyard. McDaniel and others in the room are worried about losing control of the picks and it negatively impacting the entire team down the road. Later, the squad collectively tells Smith point-blank that they do not believe him ready for the fight. Smith defends himself from what he describes as “an ambush” while the coaches eavesdrop through the closed door. Jones finally walks in and reinforces his confidence in Smith, a move which his fighter greatly appreciates. As Jones later works with Smith on throwing overhand lefts, teammates Cella and Clint Hester espouse their belief that Smith will win the fight.
Sonnen and his coaches drop by the fighter house to visit the squad and talk a little strategy. The leader of “Team Darkside” pulls Uriah Hall aside and explains one of his primary goals is to advance the favorite to the next round. Hall has no interest in beating around the bush and tells Sonnen that he wants to fight tough competition right off the bat.
“I want to fight Josh. I want to fight Adam,” says Hall. “I want to take out their best players.”
Smith and Barnatt weigh in, and the Brit tells his mates that even if Smith manages to navigate the enormous height and reach disparity that he will still hurt Smith with elbows from the guard. Smith says that while he does not enjoy hurting people, the desire to win sometimes requires him to send people to the hospital. Smith then delivers what appears to be a carefully rehearsed Rocky Balboa impression, announcing that in order to beat him, Barnatt will have to kill him, which means Sonnen’s fighter must be ready to die himself. I guess that would make us Adrian in this equation, leaving the skinny Barnatt to play Ivan Drago. Hang on, I’ll stop laughing about this horrible remake in just a minute.
Both men are now in the cage, and referee Steve Mazzagatti starts the action. Barnatt catches his foe with a low kick to the cup, but Smith recovers quickly. Smith works hard for a single-leg takedown, but Barnatt works right back to his feet before hitting a nice outside trip. Smith also escapes to a vertical base quickly, pressing the Brit against the cage. Barnatt grabs a Thai clinch and lands two sharp knees to the body. Both men score takedowns, but neither can keep the other down. Barnatt stuffs another attempt and transitions to Smith’s back briefly before allowing the American to grab another single-leg. Barnatt pops back up and starts to work his jab again, landing a crisp right as the round expires.
Round two begins with both men winging punches before Smith snatches another single-leg. Barnatt again defends and regains his base, touching a doubled-over Smith with elbows and knees. Smith again takes Barnatt down, but Sonnen’s man once more responds with a wall-walk. Barnatt hits his trip one more time and tries to secure mount, but Smith will not accept it, rising to fire that overhand left followed by a right hook. Just as Smith looks to be turning the tide, he dives on another takedown only to be met with a flying knee square on the temple. Mazzagatti waves the fight off before Barnatt can even follow up, as Smith is out cold.
“Gilbert lost the fight tonight before he got here,” says Jones. “I don’t feel as if he ever really got the ball rolling, and Luke came with better cardio and more confidence. I don’t think cardio should ever be a reason for losing a fight.”
After Team Jones’ defeat, McDaniel calls out Team Sonnen’s Kevin Casey in front of the whole gym as a way to perhaps influence Sonnen’s decision for the next fight and maintain some semblance of control over his future. Casey is not a big fan of this technique.
The attempt is not immediately successful, as Sonnen picks Uriah Hall to fight Adam Cella next week in what apparently results in one of the most violent knockouts UFC President Dana White has ever seen.