TUF Cast Puts on Show before The Show

By Josh Gross Apr 9, 2005
LAS VEGAS, April 9 — There are four remaining fighters eligible to win three-year UFC contracts. But that didn’t prohibit the 12 other men on the first ever cast of The Ultimate Fighter from showing what they could do in front of a Las Vegas crowd. Six fights, five finishes and a whole lot of finished drama … this is the TUF under card.

The final dark bout was also the under card’s longest, as Sam Hoger (5-0-0) outworked Bobby Southworth (8-4-0) to win a unanimous three-round decision. Judge Glenn Trowbridge had it 30-28, while Jeff Mullen and Tony Weaks scored it 29-28.

Both Hoger and Southworth were cautious in the opening period and if a round could have gone to Southworth it was this one. Periods two and three clearly belonged to Hoger, the least-liked fighter among the 16 who lived in the house. Much of that derision came from Southworth, who routinely made it a point to squabble with the 24-year-old Pat Miletich-trained fighter.

A Southworth low blow led to the best exchange of the second round. But with Hoger’s lack of power and Southworth’s inability to land damaging shots, the crowd continually voiced its displeasure, showering the small room with jeers.

Aware that he’d need a stoppage or overwhelming round to win the fight, Southworth fired out of the gate in the third period’s first moments. The 35 year old from Santa Cruz, Calif. put Hoger on the mat for the first time in the fight. But little happened there.

A minute later it was Southworth on his back. Hoger worked from the guard, yet seemed content to control and wait for the clock to wind down. At fight’s end, Hoger stood with his hands raised and ran to the opposite side of the Octagon. Southworth followed but the bell sounded by the time he reached him. An overjoyed Hoger smiled a wide smile and relished his victory.

TUF’s most controversial if not popular cast member Chris Leben (17-1-0) stopped Canada’s Jason Thacker (4-2-0) with strikes on the ground 1:35 of round one.

On paper, Leben was far too much for Thacker. But the 29-year-old from Whonnock, British Columbia, requested the bout after the embarrassment of seeing Leben urinate on his bed during the show’s debut. After the fight, the 24-year-old Leben publicly apologized, saying the incident is a major reason he’s given up drinking.

For Thacker, the first fighter to be dismissed and only one of two not to exit by way of fighting, the chance to compete was a welcome one. Twice before the opening bell he aggressively moved towards Leben only to be stopped by Nevada State Athletic Commission inspectors.

He could have used them a few moments later after walking into a Leben right straight.

Thacker stumbled backwards but was lucid enough to pull guard. He remained game from the bottom, yet offered little in the way of escapes or offense. With little to worry about, Leben found leverage from various positions and pounded away until referee Herb Dean was forced to halt the contest.

“I kinda got jacked on the show,” a less-than-gracious Leben said after the dominating performance. “I had that cut. I had Josh “The Blanket” on top of me. I want redemption.”

Leben’s nemesis on the show, Josh Koscheck (5-0-0), manhandled Chris Sanford (5-1-0), winning by knockout 4:21 of the opening round after a heavy downward right from half-guard crashed into the middleweight’s chin.

Sanford, like Thacker, was dismissed before getting a chance to fight — and he surely hoped to put on a better performance. In Koscheck he had a big challenge on his hands. The most athletic member of the 16-man cast and a multiple-time NCAA All-American wrestler, Koscheck is capable of putting most men on the mat if he wants them there.

Early on, it appeared he was eager to stand and strike with the 37-year-old Sanford, a capable striker out of the Cesar Gracie camp. Absorbing a sharp overhand right, however, quickly changed his mind.

“He caught me with a good, hard hook,” Koscheck said. “I was like, ‘whoa.’”

From there it was takedowns and ground-and-pound. Koscheck, 27, worked to pass the guard, and he did before Sanford created space while working for a heel hook. It was easily countered and the wrestler started to score with punches and elbows.

Sanford worked to get back to his feet, but half-standing against the fence only set up a perfect high-elevation Koscheck double-leg slam. It was the night’s first big takedown and the three-quarters filled arena exploded.

The end came suddenly. From half-guard, Koscheck snapped a right hand that connected perfectly. Sanford was out, but referee Steve Mazzagatti didn’t notice before Koscheck landed five unanswered shots.

Fighting for the first time since being picked for TUF, Gresham, Oregon’s Nate Quarry (12-1-0), victim to a nasty ankle injury during training that ended his competition, stopped Lodune Sincaid (15-3-0) with strikes 3:17 of round one.

It was a thorough performance for the middleweight. Quarry, who’s helped UFC light heavyweight champion Randy Couture prepare for next weekend’s bout versus Chuck Liddell, looked sharp, peppering Sincaid’s head with almost anything he wanted.

“I wanted to show why I was there, why I was picked,” he said afterwards.

He did just that, countering a Sincaid’ overhand right with a straight punch of his own. Quarry’s best blow of the bout, a body shot that ripped into 31-year-old Sincaid’s midsection, gave way to the finish.

“As soon as I landed the body shot I looked into his eyes and I saw he was fading fast,” the 33-year-old Quarry said.

Sincaid covered and absorbed multiple punches and kicks before referee “Big” John McCarthy jumped between the two fighters. The ending was somewhat surprising in that both men remained in their feet — a finish rarely seen in mixed martial arts.

Despite competing at light heavyweight during the taping of TUF, Mike Swick (7-1-0), who came up short against Stephan Bonnar in the semifinals, put his stamp on the middleweight division by putting the stamp on Alex Schoenauer (10-1-0), knocking the taller man out 20 seconds after the opening bell.

Swick’s speed was the difference — for each Schoenauer strike, he offered three. Two left hook-right straight combos stunned the 28-year-old Argentinean. As he stumbled back-first towards the cage Swick, 25, unleashed an awkward overhand right. The shot met its mark and Schoenauer, who met his fate on the show by tapping to Forrest Griffin, slumped to the canvas.

“I got to set the pace,” Swick declared after the impressive showing. “This is my division.”

Two men who were one-and-done on TUF fights battled to a quick finish in front of a still-filtering-in Cox Pavilion crowd when welterweight Alex Karalexis (5-0-0) stopped Josh Rafferty (7-4-0) at the 1:40 mark of round one.

Karalexis countered a Rafferty’ guillotine to drop hard rights and lefts on the Cincinnati, Ohio product. The two briefly separated before Karalexis, training out of Las Vegas by way of Boston, dove back into the 24-year-old Rafferty’s guard.

It was then that Karalexis, perhaps the smallest fighter to compete at middleweight during the show, dropped the fight-changing punch. He looked to referee Steve Mazzagatti to jump in, but when the referee didn’t move Karalexis hammered home additional shots.

“His eyes rolled in the back of his head and I told him he was out,” said the 27-year-old Karalexis.
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