The Ultimate Fighter’s 17th season continues to give fans a fresh breath of air with the new format that puts the focus on the fighters. Though there wasn’t much verbal sparring between coaches Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen, the fighters in this episode were the ones bringing issues to the table.
Team Jones had the first fight pick and chose Gilbert Smith vs. Team Sonnen’s Luke Barnatt, going after Sonnen’s number one pick.
As the episode begins, the men pick their rooms. But instead of seeing the guys going on downstairs to peruse the alcoholic beverages, the fighters on Team Jones are shown assessing the first pick, Gilbert Smith, who they don’t seem to think is the best man to represent them. Bubba McDaniel and Josh Hamman believe Smith is mentally week and doesn’t have the cardio to last.
On Team Jones his assistant coaches are Bubba Jenkins, John Wood, Frank Mir, and Stone Horse. Wood is shown wondering about Smith’s nerves and is also concerned about his mental state.
Following a training session, Gilbert asks the team why Jones had picked him. He says he hasn’t heard anything positive from his coache and it’s apparent everything is affecting him mentality. Then he confides to a teammate that he’s missing home and his family has the Colorado State flag with him as a reminder of home.
Back at the training facility, McDaniel and Hamman tell Frank Mir that Gilbert’s not in shape. Additionally,McDaniel tells Frank that he’s worried about Gilbert’s mental state. Later, the team confronts Gilbert with their concerns. Hamman and Bubba serve as the ring leaders and Gilbert says he’s not surprised, but feels “ambushed” by his teammates. Jones walks in after eavesdropping on the conversation and tells Bubba he believes in him and tells him to have fun. Jones gives Smith some advice about the criticism and tell him, “Controversy means nothing. It holds zero weight.”
In the next training session we see Jones working with Smith on his overhands. A strategy that Jones think will keep Smith from putting his chin up when he punches and best utilize his power.
Team Chael’s assistant coaches consist of Jamie Huey Scott McQuarry, Mike Dolce, and Vinny Magalhaes. Over at Team Chael the mood is light and the camaraderie is already blossoming. The team chants “Team Darkside” in a huddle as they break.
As the team heads back to the TUF house, Chael joins them. In a private moment, Chael tells Queens, NY competitior Uriah Hall that his goal is to get him into the next round. He asks Hall who he wants to face first. Hall explains he wants to go after one of Jones’ top guys: Josh Hamman, Adam Cella, or Bubba McDaniel.
Barnatt’s background is revealed and he states that his dad is a hippie and mom’s a Jehovah’s Witness. While he admits he wasn’t ever picked first for anything, MMA is the one thing that he’s good at. Once he started pursuing it he packed up and moved to Cambridge, U.K. to live in a gym & train full time.
We’re shown Chael assessing that the gameplan for the fight is simple. He thinks Gilbert can get Barnatt to the ground, but not more than once. Later, Smith jokingly goes up to Chael to ask the gameplan.
Looking at the matchup, evenUFC President Dana White says he has no idea why Jones picked Smith to take on Barnatt who towers over him at the weigh-in. Barnatt seems to already he think he’s got the fight in the bag as he talks to his teammates. Smith says Luke’s going to have to put him in a situation that he thinks he’ll die before he’ll quit.
Round One- The match begins with a straight up groin shot delivered by Barnatt. When the action resumes, we see overhands from Smith unleashed. Smith looks for a takedown and finally gets it. Barnatt gets up immediately and trips Gilbert. Gilbert works his way up and they clinch, Luke lands a knee. Smith lands another takedown by grabbing one of Barnatt’s knees. Barnatt gets up easily and they move to the center of the cage. Gilbert shoots for another takedown, but Barnatt winds up on top and has Smith’s back. Gilbert reverses the position and comes in towards Barnatt as he throws a flying knee that misses to close the round.
At the break Jones tells Smith he wants him to use his hooks and hit him in the face.
Round Two- Smith shoots in for a single leg right away. Barnatt grabs the cage, Mazagatti warns him, and Barnatt goes down. Barnatt gets up and wrangles Smith down with a trip. Jones yells to Smith to stay out of the triangle. Barnatt gets in some ground strikes and elbows on Smith. Smith looks gassed as Barnatt mounts him. Smith stands and immediately looks for the overhands, a couple land, but they have no power. Gilbert then gets KO’d as he literally walks into a flying knee from Barnatt.
Official result: Barnatt def. Smith via TKO, Round 2
Following the fight, Dana reiterates it was a bad match-up that Jones chose. Team Jones’ Bubba McDaniel calls out Kevin Caseyto fight. Back in the locker room, Jones says he hates losing. In his post-fight speech to them, Jones says he wants the team pissed off. Team Chael looks to keep the momentum going and they now have possession of choosing the next fight.
In episode 3, we will see Team Chael’s Uriah Hall (7-2) vs Team Jones’ Adam Cella (4-0). A fight that was previewed as having one of the nastiest knockouts in the promotion’s history.
The series resumes next Tuesday, February 5, on FX at 9 p.m. ET/PT (check local listings for Central and Mountain Time). In that episode – “Embrace the Suffering” – a fighter responds after being called out, coach Chael Sonnen gives advice to a fighter lacking confidence, coach Jones bonds with his team during a house visit and two fighters deliver explosive action in the Octagon.
TEAM SONNEN (1-0)
Luke Barnatt def. Smith via Round 2 TKO, episode 2
TEAM JONES (0-1)
Gilbert Smith lost to Barnatt via Round 2 TKO, episode 2