’s Guide to TUF 9

By Scott Holmes Apr 9, 2009
Last week on the season debut of “The Ultimate Fighter,” we got the U.K. team all sorted out, but we still needed to find out who will be representing the American side of things. Heck, we didn’t even know who would be coaching the U.S. team.

OK, we all saw Dan Henderson slip past Rich Franklin at UFC 93 in January, but somehow Ben Linus moved the island and magically “Hendo” appeared as the coach. That was a “Lost” reference that loses all its steam now that I’ve explained it.

Henderson keeps his dreams for this season pretty simple.

“My goals for this season of the ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ would be (pause) to beat the hell out of the UK guys,” he says wryly.

At the top of the show, UFC President Dana White and Hendo hustle into the UFC Training Center in Las Vegas where sixteen hopefuls are eagerly waiting to have their dreams realized or crushed. Naturally, Dana launches into his usual spiel about how this will be the best/worst experience of their lives (story checks out). But before White can get his third f-bomb in, one of the contestants catches the vapors and falls into the arms of surrounding fighters.

Poor Jason Pierce took a chapter from the bestselling novel, “How to Faint and Find Success: The Phillipe Nover Story.” When he finally comes to he asks “Did I fall asleep?”

Uh, sort of. Dana attributes the moment to Pierce’s weight-cutting, but the world may never really know.

“Who the f--- wants it?” Dana asks after giving the boys the usual what-you’re-here-for speech, which always somehow comes off like he’s angry that they’re even trying. Actually, Dana has reason to be angry soon enough, as two of the sixteen drop out almost instantly.

The first victim is John Shackelford, who gets sent home ASAP after doctors discover a touch of the herpes virus that’s formed just above his forehead. Sucks for John since he didn’t even get to unpack his gloves.

The other casualty is Christian Fulgium. Fulgium shows up heavy and after a few hours of cutting, including him collapsing on the treadmill, he just can’t make it down to 171.

“When you quit sweating, you’re in trouble,” surmises Fulgium.

Dana White gives Fulgium the cold shoulder and the hard goodbye for missing weight and chastises the remaining contestants.

“This is the worst start to the season in the history of this show,” says White. “Season 9 motherf---ers, season 9! If you don’t know what goes on, on this show, I don’t know what to tell you.”

Dana also warns the American crew that the U.K. team has shown up hungry and mean.

“From what I’ve seen, the Brits might kick the shit out of these guys,” he says.

Freddie DeFreitas/

Kevin Knabjian and Mark
Miller didn't want
to fight each other.
On to the fights, the first match is hard to watch because you can just tell by their body language that Kevin Knabjian and Mark Miller don’t want to fight each other. These two Chicago boys are training partners and I’m sure they know all about each other’s aspirations. Nobody wants to be the one to destroy your boy’s hopes. In fact, it would take a special kind of evil to even expect the two to face off, an evil reserved for television producers and dream crusher Dana White.

Miller dominates most of the first round, finding his range early and pretty much striking at will. Miller’s hunched shoulders and power might remind some of a certain axe murderer from Brazil. Knabjian is comparatively listless and spends most of the round covering up while Miller tees off.

Knabjian’s corner admonishes him to let his right hand go and stop holding back. Knabjian listens well, because the second right hand he throws connects. And then the third and the fourth. Miller drops to the ground in a stunning turn of events, but Knabjian isn’t able to capitalize and finish him off. Once Miller gets his bearings back, he gets serious and wails on his friend mercilessly until the ref steps in halfway through the second round. Miller can’t even relish in his victory with his buddy leaving so bitterly disappointed.

Next up is the first lightweight fight between Paul Bird and Richie Whitson.

“I fight to the death,” says Bird beforehand, with the usual over the top hyperbole that some fighters seem to love.

Whitson, on the other hand, seems to be a dead ringer for snowboarder Shaun White, as discussed by Dana and Henderson. Whitson recently left his igloo in Alaska to head down to Henderson’s gym in the land of fruits and nuts -- California.

Bird decides to go all Iowa-style on the Alaskan early with a couple of nifty takedowns, but Whitson is very athletic and spunky in the cage. Once Bird’s options start to run out, Whitson’s overall fierceness takes over. Whitson stuffs shots and begins to maul Bird with some wound-up punches. Bird is glad to hand over his neck towards the end of the first round and let Whitson win with the rear-naked choke.

In the next clash, Santino Defranco gets his second shot at TUF, as he was passed up for season two after the show’s doctors discovered he had a brain aneurysm. Following surgery and time, Defranco is back, but things get off to a rough start for him.

Waylon Lowe absolutely dominates the first round, grounding-and-pounding Defranco against the fence for nearly four minutes.

White and Henderson both think that Defranco won’t answer the bell for round two after he is left in a crumpled heap.

Lowe and his corner are pretty convinced that Defranco is done as well.

“He’s going to quit,” says Lowe, as he and his cornermen watch Defranco struggle on his stool.

However, Defranco must have the same Svengali cornerman that also convinced Kevin Knabjian to put up his dukes. This time, the downtrodden is told to show heart.

“Look into my eyes and tell me what you are going to do. You’re going to fight,” says the wise cornerman.

Defranco does just that. Lowe shoots right away and Defranco counters perfectly with a flying knee that couldn’t have struck flusher. Lowe remains upright but dazed and Defranco pounces on him, taking his back and finishing him off with a clean rear-naked choke that makes Dana White and Hendo’s jaws hit the floor.

Next up is one of those long boring fights they choose not to show. Instead, they offer some highlights, complete with Dana White’s post-fight summation. Bottom line, Jason Pierce recovers from his weight cut and fainting spell to take a decision over Steve Berger and enter the house. From the highlights, Pierce seems to have his moments, but never finishes the seasoned Berger off.

Next up is another highlight-only fight between Cameron Dollar and Tom Hayden. Dollar is easy to spot with his mohawk haircut and the fact that he looks 19. Hayden spends two rounds helping Dollar get his hair to lay down by taking his back and pounding away on his noggin. Dollar’s patience and toughness pay off in the end though, after he sneaks out the back door and takes Hayden’s back for once. Dollar makes the most of the position by choking Hayden unconscious in seconds. Dollar survives to enter the house and looks to have not a scratch on him.

“Time to do the man dance,” says Demarques Johnson before facing Ray Elbe. Johnson has a strange demeanor about him, playing the cool cat card while Elbe touts his training time in Thailand. Thailand, of course, is known really for one thing -- muay Thai. Elbe never gets much of a chance to show off what techniques he picked up there once Johnson puts him on his back. Johnson just sits on his chest and throws haymakers until the ref calls off the dogs.

When the doctor asks Elbe what city he’s in, he answers “Nevada,” showing just how dissimulated Johnson left him.

So we have six fighters invited to enter the TUF house so far, but there’s still two more missing. Dana brings in the two alternates that will fight to take their place. Next week, we’ll see the two alternates face off against the remaining originals, Kiel Reid and Jason Dent.

Oh and the two alternates? Well that would be Frank Lester and Robert Browning. Yes, that faint banjo music that just started playing in your head would be because Browning is the younger brother of one Junie Allen Browning. This season just got interesting.
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