Season 5, from everything I’ve heard, is the craziest yet. This isn’t just the official press line, but with some close friends on the show they made it sound like total anarchy reigned. Editors note: With the plethora of MMA coming to TV these days, we here at OTM are going to try our best to recap and review all of the programming that is available. Coincidentally, we are ALWAYS looking for new talent to contribute to OntheMat.com so if you think you can write, watch a lot of TV or like attending event feel free to drop me a line at Gumby @ OntheMat.com Arguably no program is more popular, (or more directly responsible for the surge in MMA popularity in general then The Ultimate Fighter. Zuffa’s reality show was a stroke of genius for both the sport and reality programming in general; put a bunch of guys in a house, have them engage in some sort of contest, and keep the cameras rolling when people stop being polite and start being real. The added twist of course is that in the Ultimate Fighter, when people stop getting along, they have the opportunity to get it on, as in the Octagon. That’s correct, each week one by one a contestant is eliminated from the show the hard way. Brilliant as this concept is, I’ve personally been ambivalent about the show itself. While I’ve appreciated what the show has done for MMA, as a self-described “hard core fan” I’ve been ambivalent about how the show portrays the sport and fighters. The previous four seasons have been, from my perspective, uneven and I have definitely picked favorite moments and fighters from the show. Season 5, from everything I’ve heard, is the craziest yet. This isn’t just the official press line, but with some close friends on the show they made it sound like total anarchy reigned. I can honestly say I’ve never look more forward to a season premiere than I have this season of The Ultimate Fighter. The first episode begins right off the bat with declaring this season will be an all out war. Coaches Jens Pulver and BJ Penn are introduced. BJ Penn and Jens Pulver had a match in the UFC for Jen’s lightweight title five years ago, although a heavy underdog Jens pulled off a five round decision. Now not only will their team fight each other, the coaches will meet in the grand finale! The fighters pull up in the UFC vans to a brand new Ultimate Fighter House. (If you happened to watch the last season, you’ll recall the fighters trashed the house pretty good). The first fighter we meet is Corey Hill, a brash 6’4(!) lightweight. Allen Berube is next and a Maine transplant (with thick accent) currently owning and running a eatery in Tampa, Florida. Gabe Ruediger is next and he explains how he like to get in people’s heads. You may recall that Gabe is a sometime contributer to OntheMat.com and a good friend of mine. I don’t have nearly enough space to comment on his ability to get in people’s heads. Dana White makes his obligatory appearance to let us know that all of the lightweights are “nutty as hell”. Good observation. A recap of the history between Jens Pulver and BJ Penn is up next. BJ Penn is called one the most gifted fighters ever. Pulver may be one of the scrappiest guys who ever stepped into the Octagon. After giving up two rounds to Penn, Pulver took it upon himself to “piss in his Wheaties” and wound up winning a decision. The coaches will fight at the end of the season, and the bad blood and trash talking begins quickly. Dana White gives his pep talk to the coaches, and implores them to put their energies into the fighters coming on the show. Jens and BJ awkwardly shake hands and we’re on to the fighter evaluations. Jens goes first and states he’s more there to observe than direct. We get to hear the other fighters opinions of themselves. Joe Lauzon (who incidentally KO’d Jens on their meeting in the Octagon) says that he is most impressed by Nate Diaz (younger brother of Nick Diaz). Nate states that he started with Jens so it would be awesome to be on his team. Cole Miller is impressed by Corey Hill. Footage of Corey looking appropriately amped up is shown next. Pulver is impressed by everyone and declares he doesn’t want to pick. Penn’s evaluation is next and feels that the fighters are tired from the previous evaluation. BJ is unsure if Pulver purposely wore the fighters out so Penn couldn’t properly evaluate them. Penn sends the fighters home early. Gabe Ruediger declares he was sandbagging so he would wind up on BJ’s team (Note,, both BJ and Gabe spent their formative years on Ralph Gracie’s team and have known each other a long time. Cole Miller also wants to be on BJ’s team. All Berube declares that he wants to be on BJ’s team because in thirty years no one will remember Jens Pulver. Pulver wins the coin toss and opts to pick the first fight. This give BJ first pick of the fighter, but BJ drops a bomb by asking the fighters to raise their hands if they want to be on his team, and want nothing to do with Jens’ team! 10 out of the 16 fighters raise their hands. Pulver looks appropriately disgusted. Dana declared that BJ can only select one fighter, and a discussion emerges for quite some time about the appropriate rules for selecting teams! After a seeming eternity, BJ finally selects Gray Maynard as his first pick. Jens takes Corey Hill. The final team line up looks like this: TEAM PENN Gray Maynard Matt Wiman Gabe Ruediger Joe Lauzon Rob Emerson Andy Wang Allen Berube Noah Thomas TEAM PULVER Corey Hill Nate Diaz Brandon Melendez Marlon Sims Manny Gamburyan Cole Miller Bryan Geraghty Wayne Weems As soon as the fighters get back into the van the animosity begins. Corey Hill declares he doesn’t like Gabe and wants to fight him first. Back at the house Corey has a few words for Gabe and they bark at each other a bit to the amusement of the rest of the house. After the commercial break we have Penn’s first practice –at 6:00 in the morning. BJ’s coaches are Rudy Valentino, Tony DeSouza and his brother Reagan (who is at least as talented as BJ himself). BJ aims to minimize his fighters weaknesses and emphasizes their strengths. Gabe weighs in at 175 –20 pounds over the lightweight limit. This would be a definite problem should he be picked first. Pulver’s coaches are Matt Pena, Taisei Kikuchi, and Kirk White. Pulver declares that he isn’t the captain of this team, but he’s there to keep them in line. Pulver definitely emphasizes heart. As the winner of the coin toss, Pulver’s team is first to select the fighter and many of the fighters want to step up. It’s apparently going to be selected by coin toss who goes first, and back at the house Gabe feels it’s probably going to be him. After the commercial break it’s revealed that Gabe is actually GAINING weight as opposed to losing weight, and has a bit of an emotional breakdown. BJ gives Gabe a pep talk in the van, but many of his teammates are a bit bewildered by his crying. The fight announcement is made, and the match is set between Cole Miller and Allen Berube. Cole Miller is eager to be the first match and set the pace for the season. Allen Berube may be the least experienced fighter in the house, only really getting into fighting as a way to promote his restaurant. First fight of the new season between Cole and Allen. The first minute or so the fighter circle each other cautiously not really committing to any serious strikes. Allen shoots for a double leg and lands right into a guillotine choke by Cole. Allen escapes, but Coles does a good job of tying Allen up. Cole climbs his leg up for a triangle choke, locks it up and gets the tapout for the win. Allen Berube is the first fighter sent home. Allen feels that when you lose to a submission, it’s not really like losing because he wasn’t beat up (I would beg to differ). Allen continues saying that he just lost to a technique, but says this isn’t enough to put him off fighting. Next week on the Ultimate Fighter Team Penn turns on each after the first loss, a surprise guest makes an appearance, and a scribbled comment on the wall has Nate Diaz ready to go at it Stockton style in the house. Can’t wait.