Last time on The Ultimate Fighter, we saw bits of 14 fights and learned that the “characters” on this show will be Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres and Michael “No, Not The Olympic Sprinter” Johnson.
Or maybe not. Jeff Lentz has a nasty smoking habit and a bit of bravado, bragging about not tapping if he’s in a choke or armbar. If the arm’s broken, it’s easier to get out, he says.
Off to the important part of the episode: Team selection. Koscheck says he wants Michael Johnson #1, then Marc Stevens, who briefly wrestled for Koscheck when he was a college coach. GSP figures Koscheck wants to take Stevens, so he’s going to bluff and pretend that he has Stevens ranked #1. (Then Lentz, Sayers, Pham — all a ruse in neat, large handwriting.)
Kos wins the flip. Will he take first fighter in the draft or the rights to set up the first matchup? He opts for first fighter. He jokes that GSP might be bluffing.
But Kos falls for it! He takes Stevens. GSP immediately snags Johnson. “It works,” GSP says with a smile. And Dana White learned about the strategy somehow, congratulating GSP in a confessional.
- Kos: Sevak Magakian, who overwhelmed JJ Ambrose for a decision.
- GSP: Jonathan Brookins, who has a win in Bellator.
- Kos: Sako Chivitchian, whose judo national championships are greatly exaggerated but may still be a solid MMA fighter.
- GSP: Spencer Paige, who won the best of the prelim fights against Steve Magdaleno.
- Kos: Andy Main, who has a thin resume and barely got a few seconds of screen time in the prelims.
- GSP: Caceres, who smiles and briefly removes the comb from his hair.
- Kos: Nam Phan, going surprisingly low for someone with a lot of experience and an impressive prelim win.
- GSP: Kyle Watson, also going surprisingly low for his experience.
- Kos: Aaron Wilkinson, the Englishman with a surprising ground game for a Wolfslair product.
- GSP: Cody McKenzie, another guy who might’ve been expected to go earlier given his uncanny ability to beat everyone by guillotine.
- Kos: Lentz, who demolished Dan Head in the prelim despite GSP dismissing his chances.
- GSP: Dane Sayers, who broods over being the last pick.
First training session, and GSP tells us he’s going to be a “training partner” and let his coach do the coaching. His coach is Greg Jackson, one of the most successful in the business.
Koscheck says he has the advantage, and he addresses his “heel” label. “Meet me in person, and you’ll fall in love with me,” he says. I’ve met him, and he is indeed a good guy, but my wife shouldn’t feel threatened.
Fight announcement: GSP picks Caceres, the kid, to go out first against Lentz. GSP says Alex wanted the early fight. Will youthful enthusiasm work against him? Or is the gap in talent between Caceres and Lentz as big as it appears?
Back at the house, we see Caceres sparring on the lawn while a nervous Lentz watches. Caceres tells us he wanted to do martial arts from an early age when he saw Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon.
Lentz gives a shoutout to Kurt Pellegrino MMA, the New Jersey academy run by the successful UFC lightweight who shares Lentz’s affinity for unnatural hair colors. He also thinks he spotted a “tell” in Caceres’ sparring, saying Bruce Leeroy taps his foot before he swings.
Kos admits he has some concern about Lentz smoking, and he teases him about it in training.
The night before the fight, Caceres breaks out a “formal Chinese gi.” Lentz shadow-boxes on the lawn, cigarette dangling from his mouth like he’s auditioning for some sort of film on street toughs.
Lentz sprints to the cage like he’s Michael Johnson (the other one). He somersaults into the cage and stares at Caceres, whose ever-present smile grows wider.
Herb Dean is the ref. Both guys are 21, even though Caceres seems five years younger. Must be the smoking.
But if you’re getting the feeling that we’re all getting one giant misdirection from the show producers, leading us to believe that Caceres has this one in the bag, the first round confirms it.
Lentz pushes Caceres against the cage and keeps him there for a while. The fight gets interesting three minutes in, when Lentz lifts Caceres and finds Bruce Leeroy trying to slap on a clumsy guillotine while he’s up in the air. Caceres can’t hold it, and Lentz takes him down. A bit of ground-fighting, and then Caceres is back against the cage while GSP’s distinctive voice calls out for him to get back in the center.
Dean takes them back to the center with 30 seconds left, but Lentz controls the distance with sharp kicks and throws Caceres in the final seconds. Easy 10-9 for Lentz. Caceres did nothing competent in the round.
Round 2 looks like more of the same. Caceres manages a takedown, but GSP immediately yells at him to get back up. Lentz ends up on top.
Then we see that Caceres isn’t all hype. He starts working submissions from the bottom, keeping his poise when Lentz slams his way out. Finally, Caceres sinks in a leg triangle. Lentz taps.
White says he doesn’t usually root for people, but he likes Caceres. And so far, it’s hard to disagree. His cockiness is balanced out by a good sense of humor, and he graciously congratulates Lentz. The problem is that he clearly has some work to do if he’s going to contend in this tournament.
Next week, the promos tell us, we’ll also get a reason to dislike the kid. But that’ll be upstaged by a very special guest: Mike Tyson?