For the first time in the history of The Ultimate Fighter, the bantamweight and featherweight divisions are being featured on the reality series, and leading these 32 hopefuls into battle on what promises to be one of the most action-packed seasons yet will be middleweight contenders Michael “The Count” Bisping and Jason “Mayhem” Miller.
“I’m really excited to help a batch of new guys start their UFC careers right here,” said Miller.
“I’m back here for season 14, I’m not gonna do anything differently,” said Bisping winner of TUF season three and a successful coach on season nine. “You either like me, or you don’t.”
As this season opens, UFC President Dana White doesn’t meet the fighters in the UFC Training Center. Instead, the Octagon at the Mandalay Bay Events Center is the setting for his introduction to the 32 competitors.
“The reason I brought you here today is because I want you to feel it,” said White. “I want you to take it in and look around at some of the banners up here. Not only some of the biggest UFC fights in history, but some of the biggest fights ever have been held here at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.”
And the next series of fights, to whittle the field down from 32 to 16, will be held in this renowned arena. In another new twist, fans will vote for the best fight, knockout, and submission of the season, with the winners getting $25,000 each at the finale.
After the coaches are introduced, the fights begin.
Josh Ferguson is up first against 21-year old Casey Dyer in a bantamweight bout. Ferguson wastes no time sending Dyer home, dropping him with the first right hand he landed and finishing him off with ground strikes in less than 20 seconds.
Featherweights Diego Brandao and Jesse Newell get called to the Octagon next, and Newell has some striking success early, but it’s Brazil’s Brandao who finishes things later in the first round with a left hook followed by a flying right forearm.
John Dodson was impressive with his punches and kicks throughout his bantamweight bout against Brandon Merkt, and it was a body shot that spelled the beginning of the end, with follow-up ground strikes forcing referee Steve Mazzagatti to halt the first rounder moments later.
East coasters Dennis Bermudez (New York) and Jimmie Rivera (New Jersey) squared off in a featherweight matchup. Rivera was in total control in the first round, dropping, slamming, and almost submitting Bermudez. The New Yorker got back in the fight in round two though, and after getting Rivera to the mat and taking his back, he finished off his foe with strikes. Bermudez goes to the TUF house via second round TKO.
Josh Ferguson’s brother BJ gets the next call to face Winnipeg’s Roland Delorme in a bantamweight scrap, but he won’t be joining his sibling, as Delorme finished matters in the first round with a triangle choke.
In featherweight action, Marcus Brimage was impressive in his stoppage of game Bryson Wailehua-Hansen. It didn’t look good for Brimage early, as he was controlled on the mat for much of the first round, but after reversing position, getting back to his feet, and opening up with his thudding strikes, he battered the steel-chinned Hawaiian for the rest of the round. In the second, Brimage picked up where he left off, and after another series of strikes, Mazzagatti stopped the fight, sending Brimage to the house.
Texas veteran Johnny Bedford scored the upset in an exciting bantamweight battle, using his wrestling and striking to set up a submission via choke of Carson Beebe, the brother of former WEC bantamweight champion Chase Beebe.
Tokyo native Tateki Matsuda is the first Japanese fighter to compete in TUF, but after two closely-contested rounds, it was Dustin Pague earning the majority decision win in the bantamweight bout.
In a back and forth bantamweight match, Paul McVeigh and Louis Gaudinot went to a sudden victory round, but in the third, Gaudinot surged ahead to earn the decision win.
WEC veteran Bryan Caraway moved on the final 16 at featherweight with a two round unanimous decision win over Eric Marriott, and joining him was veteran Dustin Neace, who upset unbeaten Josh Clopton via unanimous decision.
Highly-touted bantamweight TJ Dillashaw lived up to expectations, stopping Indiana’s Matt Jaggers via first round TKO, but in the biggest upset thus far, unheralded Steven Siler submitted WEC vet Micah Miller via guillotine choke in the third round to move on to the TUF house.
Earning the final bantamweight slot in the tournament was John “Prince” Albert, who submitted Orville Smith via rear naked choke in the first round. And in the final two featherweight bouts of the elimination round, Stephen Bass submitted Karsten Lenjoint via triangle choke in the second round, and Sweden’s Akira Corassani knocked out Brian Pearman in the first round.
Next week, the coaches pick teams. Here’s the final 16:
For weekly recaps of The Ultimate Fighter, as well as fighter profiles, stay tuned to UFC.com.
TUF 14 - Episode One Recap
Spoiler Alert - click below for a recap of episode one of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Miller vs. Team Bisping...