’s Guide to TUF

By Scott Holmes Apr 6, 2007
Well here we are with the fifth season of SpikeTV's The Ultimate Fighter, the show that has propelled MMA to the forefront of America's entertainment consciousness. Anyone who watched the UFC Fight Night beforehand overheard Joe Rogan say that this season was going to be the wildest yet.

Let's hope so.

Unfortunately for fans, the first episode of TUF is always like the first day of new semester: you get a peek at the new people you'll be forced to spend time with, they hand you a syllabus but you don't learn a thing.

This season will have a couple of interesting wrinkles. For starters, the entire cast is comprised of nothing but lightweights. Not that long ago the UFC had shelved this division but now the tough n' tiny are back and we'll get treated to one of the more electric weight classes in the game.

This season the teams will be anchored by two lightweight legends in Jens Pulver (Pictures) and B.J. Penn (Pictures). Penn, widely regarded to be one of the most talented and well rounded fighters in MMA, will get his shot at coaching his team against one of the few men to have ever beat him. Pulver put a stop to Penn's early meteoric rise and has haunted the Hawaiian throughout his career.

Jens went on to stack up wins and amass a splendid record in all sorts of organizations and even got mixed up in some pro-boxing bouts as well. B.J. famously bounced back and mowed through the cream of the crop by beating names like Takanori Gomi (Pictures), Duane Ludwig (Pictures) (men who beat Pulver) and stunned the world by taking out Matt Hughes (Pictures) in a higher weight class.

The recent tradition of The Ultimate Fighter is to pit the two coaches at the end of the season, this time on the finale. Will Penn be able to avenge his loss or will Pulver and his little hands of stone make poi out of B.J.'s brains? Stick with me kids and we'll find out.

On to the fighters as the new squad moved into their digs at the UFC mansion, which looks to have changed the décor a tad by adding some airbrushing on the walls. Yes, airbrushing like the kind that they have on those mirrors you'd win at the fair. I wouldn't expect them to put too much love in that building since chances are it will be barely standing after these maniacs leave.

One by one the men pile in and right off the bat we find our first chatterbox, Gabe Ruediger (Pictures), who wasted no time by immediately starting talking smack. Upon hearing that fellow contestant Allen Berube is from Maine, he announces that "ask any gay guy where he's from and he'll say Maine." I searched the Internet and looked through some almanacs but I couldn't find any empirical evidence to back up that claim.

While the rest of the guys arrive and get settled in, B.J. and Jens are at the TUF training center stuck waiting together until UFC president Dana White arrives. Over the years, I've developed a healthy skepticism when it comes to "these two don't like each other" talk but I have to say the body language between Pulver and Penn is like when your at the red light with your window down and there's a hobo two feet away from your window. He's in your field of vision, but you damn sure ain't going to look over.

Dana gives a brief explanation of the lightweights' history and also mentions "both of the coaches are nutty too," which is a bit of an understatements since these two are nuttier than elephant poop.

Once Dana arrives the contestants are brought into the UFC training center and put right to work. Jens gets the first opportunity to scout the talent as the guys begin working on drills and sparring. Nate Diaz, the younger brother of Nick Diaz (Pictures), is immediately singled out as one to watch. Corey Hill is also lauded as dangerous, perhaps since he's 6-foot-4, which could be a daunting task for any 155-pounder.

Jens notices that all of the guys have come to the show in shape and determined. That's a relief considering that previous contestants haven't always shared the same desire.

After having tried to impress Jens, the guys were all worn out by the time that B.J. showed up. No matter how hard he tried they didn't have much oomph left, so he let them all go early and chalked it up to Jens being wily.

"The Prodigy" got a lot of respect from the fighters but some of the guys didn't seem to have much regard for Jens. When they are all brought together for the selection of the teams, Jens wins the toss and given the choice to pick first or pick the first match-up. Jen opts for the match-up.

Before he makes his decision for the first pick, B.J. just flat out asks the guys: "You who don't want nothing to do with Jens Pulver (Pictures) raise your hand." Then we cut to commercial.

Uh oh, this could be spicy!

Coming back out of the break, 10 guys decide to go ahead and raise their hand. Jens is visibly stunned, hurt and immediately gets a chip on his shoulder. Jens wants these guys to stick by their guns and asks that they keep their hands up. Then things get strange as both Jens and B.J. try to take over the selection process by having the guy just split into two groups. Dana decides that this simply will not do and reiterates that they have to pick just one man at a time.

We are also treated to Dana dropping his first two f bombs of the year. It's almost a rite of passage now; I think I'll keep a running tally of his usage of the word this season. I'm going to go ahead and say that he he'll break 50 in 10 episodes. If he doesn't, I'll eat my hat.

With loyalties already drawn in the sand, the teams shake out like this:

Team Penn is comprised of Gray Maynard (Pictures), Matt Wiman (Pictures), Gabe Ruediger (Pictures), Joseph Lauzon, Robert Emerson (Pictures), Andy Wang, Allen Berube and Noah Thomas (Pictures).

Team Pulver is Corey Hill, Nate Diaz, Brandon Melendez (Pictures), Marlon Sims (Pictures), Manvel Gamburyan, Cole Miller (Pictures), Brian Geraghty and Wayne Weems (Pictures).

Now that they've donned their team colors, Jens' team is talking shit and getting rowdy on the way back to the house. Corey Hill has been on the opposite team for five minutes and he's already calling Gabe Ruediger (Pictures) a bitch and says he wants to bite his face off. Fantastic.

As soon as Penn's team gets back to the house, Corey jumps right on Gabe and wastes no time telling him that he wants to fight him. They circle each other like dogs warily smelling each other's butt. Gabe mentions that Corey has suddenly turned into "DMX" (by way of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and says it won't affect him. Gabe does seem to be a little shook by the whole ordeal and heads off to his room.

It's a tad ironic since Gabe said he was going to try and get in people's heads earlier in the show. Oh Gabe how tables can turn.

Next morning its back to work as the guys begin training and B.J. is concerned by the fact that Gabe is twenty pounds over the weight limit. Gabe knows that if the other team finds out he'll be a marked man. Jen's boys also get a workout in and guys start calling out whom they want to take on in the first match.

Corey wants Gabe. Cole Miller (Pictures) wants Gabe. People love to pile on the fat man.

We stick with the weight theme as later Gabe realizes his porcine figure is actually expanding instead of shrinking. Does Gabe strap on the rubber suit and jog a stadium? No, he heads out to the van for a good cry. Let it be known that there are only two times in a man's life when he should cry: when mama dies or if the cops pour out your beer - anything else gets you blubbering you might as well go get yourself a pretty sundress.

In the typical TUF fashion we are led to believe that Gabe will probably be chosen when in fact Cole Miller (Pictures) decides to take on Allen Berube. You remember Allen, the man from Maine who does seem to have some stereotype in him, as he is the owner of a lobster restaurant back home.

Allen mentions that he got into fighting to give his restaurant some exposure and Cole must have figured that out as he seems to be totally confidant that he'll be able to dispatch of Cole and secure his place in the later rounds.

Berube gets the action going in their fight by attempting a takedown that only lands him in a guillotine choke applied by Cole. Berube is able to get out but Cole calmly puts him in a triangle and ends the fight halfway through the first round.

Cole tells the audience back home that he did exactly what he said he was going to do and indeed sets the tone for his team. Yes, our team can beat you with all the thrill of an "Antique Road show" rerun. While Berube might not have had the skills to dominate and go the distance on this show, I wouldn't recommend "dining and dashing" aka "chewing and screwing" him at his restaurant.

Again it was a pretty tame episode that just barely introduced us to these guys, however next week's episode promises to up the dramatic ante.

On a completely unrelated note, did anyone notice Kenny Florian (Pictures) taking swigs from an energy drink can that wasn't even opened? I predict the message boards will be lit up tomorrow with people claiming it was a "work."
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