So yeah, I know Punisher Bass and NewChallenger are doing their own reviews of this - 'The Season Cardio Forgot' which is a phenomenal subtitle - but here's my shortened take on the whole deal. It's classic TUF, people, you can't go wrong!
TUF 10 - We're back in late 2009 for this season and it was the first time since TUF 2 that they'd used Heavyweights and the first time that it was an all-HW tournament. For reasons that would be obvious to a blind man there were no pre-house fights this time, just sixteen dudes into the tournament. This was, I'm pretty sure, the ratings high for the series thanks to the involvement of a certain former street brawler as well as the massive feud between coaches Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson. Looking back they really did stack the cast too in terms of drawing viewers (not so much in talent) as they had four former NFL players AND the last IFL champ to go along with the afore mentioned guy.
Episode 1 - Literally like two minutes into the show and Rashad and Rampage are already bickering, with Rampage making fun of Rashad's knockout at the hands of Machida and Rashad accusing Rampage of quitting in his PRIDE fight with Shogun. It feels light-hearted at this point but it'd obviously become worse. Anyway no entry fights this time, I'm guessing because they would never have been able to find 32 half-decent Heavyweights for starters! It's an all-HW show. We've got fifteen guys in there and then Fucking Dana White brings in the sixteenth guy, saying he's talked more shit about this guy than anyone else ever. Rampage's immediate reaction? "Is it Tank Abbott?!". Close actually as it's KIMBO FUCKING SLICE. The immediate reaction from two of the younger, talented guys on the cast (Brendan Schaub and Justin Wren) is "fuck that guy". Big target on Kimbo's back right away as the feeling is that someone lesser known could still easily take him out and become a star off the performance. Comical moment? Roy Nelson in a massively egotistical soundbite saying "I thought I was the big surprise!". At this point even though he was the final IFL champ only the hardcores really gave a shit about him. Anyway Rampage shows that he's still a largely naive coach by picking Kimbo first. Surprisingly Rashad picks British kickboxer James McSweeney first rather than Nelson (the blatant favourite) or Schaub (who was seen as the top prospect on the show). Rampage picks the first fight and chooses the huge Abe Wagner to face off with smaller wrestler Jon Madsen, who looks like he could make 205lbs with a better diet and less powerlifting. Rashad finds this hilarious as apparently Abe has no ground game. And sure enough Madsen absolutely fucking smashes him, taking him down at will and cutting him open so badly that the quacks can see this guy's skull. 20-16 on one scorecard! Rampage says he was told Abe could wrestle but it looked like he'd never grappled in his life. Well, uh, didn't you watch the guy in training? An interesting beginning.
Episode 2 - Roy Nelson immediately clashes with Rashad's coaches (Mike Van Arsdale and Trevor Whitman) as he's not really following what they're saying, doing his own thing, and trying to get some of the other fighters to follow his lead. Whitman is FURIOUS about this. To me it's the reason why they shouldn't have super-experienced guys on TUF as I mean, even in 2009 when he hadn't been in UFC Nelson was an experienced guy who probably knew what he was doing with his own training (as opposed to a Kendall Grove who blatantly improved through training properly with Tito). Personally as a guy who's worked as a sports coach now for ten years I can say that what Nelson's doing here is the most frustrating thing you can have as a coach as it comes off as disrespectful and leads to lesser experienced people that you're coaching to question your methods. It's easy to deal with the lazy type who can't motivate themselves but it's harder to deal with the cocky guy who says "what's the point in doing this?". And as someone who's also trained under coaches far less experienced than myself I can say I've never done this, especially not in front of lesser experienced people. Nelson would've been better off talking to Rashad and his crew privately rather than in front of an inexperienced fighter like Justin Wren. Anyway. Rampage gets to pick another fight somehow (I guess this was part of the deal where Rashad picked first fighter, Rampage had two fight picks) and chooses the FUCKING MASSIVE former NFL player Wes Shivers to fight kickboxer James McSweeney, another guy who could easily (and in fact post-TUF did) make 205lbs. Shivers is a fucking giant, seriously. Dude is bigger than Ubereem and Lesnar I think. He comes out of the gate and takes McSweeney down, but literally within two minutes he's EXHAUSTED. I'm talking Mark Coleman leaning onto your knees style. His stand-up looks crazy bad at this point too, struggling to throw a punch to the point where he doesn't look capable of KOing anyone. McSweeney fights poorly himself, landing some decent shots but struggling to deal with the size of Shivers even when he's gassed. Fight is largely awful. McSweeney gets a majority decision and Rashad gets to pick the next fight. And it's ROY NELSON vs. KIMBO SLICE. Cue the biggest hype job on TUF since Leben vs. Koscheck in Season 1.
Episode 3 - Whole episode is devoted to the build for the big fight, which drew I believe the biggest viewership in TUF history. No surprise there! Interestingly though Kimbo to this point comes off like the coolest guy in the world, no lie. Where EXC built him to be like the new Tyson despite his lack of skill, here he's essentially portrayed as the new Forrest Griffin in that he knows he's got tons of holes in his game, but he's willing to work fucking HARD to close those holes, he's super-humble and just comes off like a really genuine, nice guy. He was probably always like this despite his background, but EXC just marketed him differently. Makes me thank fuck they're a dead promotion. Elsewhere former NFL star Marcus Jones gets the 'Big Baby' gimmick as he's this giant dude but he's into gardening and Dungeons and Dragons and he's emotional. This comes off hilariously. And Rampage and Rashad get into another petty argument - triggered by Rampage, it must be said - and McSweeney gets involved when Quinton randomly taunts him too. Fight comes and Kimbo does better than you'd expect standing with Nelson, but of course he can't deal with Roy on the ground and falls to a second-round TKO. You can't really say the fight didn't live up to the hype because it was decent enough. Post-fight Nelson comes off like a cocky prick again though and you can't help but feel for Kimbo.
Episode 4 - With Rashad in control he talks to some of his guys about future match-ups, planning to have Justin Wren take on Scott Junk, Brendan Schaub to face Demico Rogers, and Matt Mitrione to face Marcus Jones. Wren balks at this because Junk's his friend, but it looks like he's going to go for it until it comes out that Mitrione has leaked the fight picks to Team Rampage, earning himself the MEATHEAD nickname and pissing off his whole team in the process. The word is that he did it because he didn't want to fight Jones. We also get the first of what would become a tiresome gimmick in this season. Basically Marcus Jones comes down with a bit of a fever, sweating like Michael Jackson in a playground, and instantly the seed is planted that KIMBO MIGHT BE BACK IN THE TOURNAMENT. Seriously, this would go on like every other episode on this season. Fight is indeed Schaub vs. Rogers, and Rogers does well early on, taking Brendan down before - you guessed it - GASSING OUT and falling prey to a sweet anaconda choke from Schaub. Post-fight Rampage is so pissed off he walks out, leaving Rashad to give Demico a pep talk. And from there the seed is planted for Rampage to become the worst coach on TUF ever, even surpassing Ken Shamrock.
Episode 5 - Matt Mitrione starts whining about a "sore shoulder" which pisses Rashad off no end. This arc would continue for a few episodes after this one. Elsewhere we get a lot of Wes Sims on this episode which isn't a good thing. For those of you lucky enough not to remember Sims, he had a brief run in the UFC in like 2004 and got beaten by Frank Mir twice and then KOd by Mike Kyle. Here he claims he holds two wins over Mir. In this one he shows himself to be a bullying scumbag, as he picks on the weakest member of Rampage's team (Zak Jensen) and accuses him of masturbating in the bathroom. Guy is a fucking idiot, seriously. Thankfully Justin Wren does not fuck around and chokes him unconscious in the first round. So it's Rashad 5, Rampage 0. Again Rampage abandons his fighter post-match and this time Rashad confronts him about it and we get a big time confrontation that almost turns violent. Once again Rashad comes off like the good guy while Rampage is clearly not interested in coaching at all. Don't know whether this was an editing job, but Quinton is looking terrible.
Episode 6 - If Rampage looked like a bad coach in the previous episode, this is the one that really damns his reputation as he calls Darrill Schoonover "titties" over and over and over and OVER again until finally Darrill snaps and verbally retaliates. Suddenly Rampage is the victim and he's threatening to fight him. I cannot believe people actually cheered Rampage after seeing this as he comes off as a mean-spirited bully who can't take someone giving him some abuse back. And speaking of bullying, Wes Sims starts a poll of when Zak will finally break down as the abuse just doesn't stop. You would've thought being choked out would change the guy's attitude a bit but no dice. Fight is announced as Schoonover vs. Jensen and then Zak gets a cut in training. What do YOU think this leads to? Why, more teases that Kimbo is going to be back, of course! Doesn't happen, and Schoonover triangles Zak in the first round. 6-0 Team Rashad.
Episode 7 - ANOTHER verbal confrontation between the coaches and again Rashad is right, as he attacks Rampage for accusing his fighters of quitting, when really it's the other way around. All Rampage has to fire back with is taunts about how people boo Rashad and how his breath stinks. Fuck this guy. Fight is announced as Mitrione vs. Scott Junk. We get a funny confrontation involving Meathead in this episode too, as he loses his temper with Jon Madsen in training and can't even get his words out, preferring caveman-like grunts. Then when Rashad questions him about it he almost goes after Rashad. Really. This leads to Wes Sims trying to get him to snap in the house, wearing this ridiculous black gi and generally acting like a prick. You'd feel sorry for Meathead, but he's acted like a prick himself so c'est la vie. Fight is decent for all of three minutes before both guys gas out and the second round is a sorry round indeed. Meathead gets the decision and Rampage snaps and destroys a door. WORST COACH EVER.
Episode 8 - The final first round match between Marcus Jones and Mike Wessel is on, and Big Baby is literally Rampage's last chance. Following the previous fight both guys are hurt, with Junk struggling to see. More on this later. Wes Sims tries to make Mitrione snap again but he's too fucked up. Rampage decides to apologise to Schoonover.....and then squeezes his chest, causing Darrill to shove him and they almost come to blows. Somehow Rampage thinks he's in the right here. Sigh. Jones manages to armbar Wessel in the fight, mainly because Wessel's ground game fucking stinks. Dana and the coaches then decide the quarter-finals and Roy Nelson's attitude pisses Dana off big time. Fights are announced as Nelson vs. Wren, Schaub vs. Madsen, McSweeney vs. Mitrione and Jones vs. Schoonover. And Rashad then invites anyone from Team Rampage to train with him, causing another major blow-up. These two are far worse than Ken and Tito or Hughes and Serra.
Episode 9 - It's time for the Quarter-Finals, but first off there's a ton of drama surrounding Meathead, as apparently he picked up a concussion from the Junk fight. To be fair to Mitrione here if he did have a concussion - and the symptoms he's talking about suggest he did - there's no need for the other fighters to be hounding him about it. But then you can see their point as he clearly milked his supposed shoulder injury for all it's worth. The main reason for this whole deal of course is MORE TEASES THAT KIMBO WILL BE BACK. Good LORD. I mean, Kimbo comes off like a great guy but come on, enough with this. Fight is really interesting here with Justin Wren vs. Roy Nelson. Wren looks awesome in the first round, really taking it to Roy and beating him up before gassing in the second and letting Big Country back into it. Somehow the judges see it as a two-round decision for Roy. No clue what the fuck they were smoking because there's no way on this earth he won the first round. Wren is one of those major missed opportunities from TUF as his wrestling game was phenomenal and he was clearly improving at a fast rate, but just needed to get into better shape. I thought he won his fight on the finale undercard for the record but the judges thought otherwise and he was released.
Episode 10 - Meathead is now claiming he has a "swollen brain", but I very much doubt that'll help him be any smarter judging by what he's said recently. Anyway MORE KIMBO TEASES but they finally end in this episode as he discovers his knees are basically shot, his cartilage is fucked and he probably needs surgery. Coaches challenge channels Top Gun as they play beach volleyball and it turns out that fucking Mike Van Arsdale is an absolute whiz at it, pulling off everything outside of the legendary Maverick and Goose high/low five combo. Rashad wins the challenge just as he wins everything on this show. Anyway there's still questions over whether Meathead can fight, but Fucking Dana White shows up and outright says nobody's being forced to fight, but fighters get hurt and have to deal with it, and if the doctor clears Meathead then it's his decision. Fight sees Jon Madsen try and fail to outgrapple Brendan Schaub before falling to a second round KO. It's interesting, by the way, that Schaub's chin hadn't been tested at all so far as everyone looked to take him down.
Episode 11 - Dana decides enough is enough and outright talks to Kimbo about replacing Meathead, but then finds out about the knee issues and Kimbo ends up turning down the opportunity anyway due to the injury. Meathead then finds out he's cleared and decides to fight anyway, rendering all of the previous drama shit POINTLESS. Scott Junk however is in a bad way and has to have surgery on his eye due to a retina tear. He's been told his career is likely over and he may go blind. This causes Marcus Jones to ABSOLUTELY SNAP at Meathead, screaming right in his face, begging him to give him a reason to hit him. To Meathead's credit he just stands and takes this. You've got to think Jones was in the wrong here as I mean, Mitrione damaged Junk in the fight and so it's fair game to me. Anyway, everything's cool as Junk has successful surgery and is fine. Comical staredown between Meathead and McSweeney follows, as Mitrione won't back down and so James shoves him and is like "what are you gonna do? Make a move!". Unfortunately for Meathead he gets clowned in the fight as McSweeney outstrikes him and then guillotines him for the tapout in the first. Rampage has more success with Marcus Jones though, who uses his massive size and power to ragdoll Schoonover to the ground before KOing him from the top. Jones looks AWESOME here seriously, and if he had more of a chin and was younger he could've been a force.
Episode 12 - It's time for the semis, which are Roy Nelson vs. James McSweeney and Brendan Schaub vs. Marcus Jones. There's time for a little more drama first, though. Firstly McSweeney decides to write 'Linderman' on Zak Jensen's head, which to be fair Zak does agree to. But he actually writes 'Lindergay', which is pretty shitty. He gets worse. Zak goes into the bathroom and McSweeney opens a drawer to jam the door shut. Zak is claustrophobic and absolutely loses it, and when James lets him out, Zak throws a kick and a combo at him. McSweeney avoids and then throws a hard front kick and a right hand at Zak before holding him in a guillotine choke until he gasses and calms down a bit. This is still a bizarre scene to me as we were only a couple of years removed from Marlon Sims and Noah Thomas being booted out for fighting in the house, and even Junie Browning hadn't outright exchanged blows with the other fighters although he did throw a couple of shots. Dana isn't even brought in to deal with this nasty, shitty incident. McSweeney and Sims are probably the biggest pair of bullies that TUF has ever seen, not good guys at all. But then when Rampage is behaving how he does in this season is it all that surprising? In the semi-finals McSweeney actually lights Big Country up early before getting too cocky and showboating, and when he slows down a bit Roy cracks him, takes him down and then pounds him out for a first round TKO. One of the few times I was rooting for Nelson actually. Second semi sees Brendan land a heavy shot to stun Marcus early. Marcus takes him down and gets a decent mount, but Schaub escapes and then KOs him on the feet to win. Again, Schaub's chin wasn't tested at ALL here. He did look super-impressive in all of his fights though (and I think he's become underrated recently, but that's another story...). Oh, and lest I forget one more nasty confrontation between Rampage and Rashad, with Rampage reduced to repeating the same line over and over to Rashad who doesn't look at all rattled and says he knows Rampage is soft and he'll tire out in their fight because he'll be too slow. Great prediction actually.
This season's a difficult one to rate really. On one hand there was a lot of friction between the coaches which was entertaining, a lot of good characters, Kimbo Slice came off well and really, if he was younger and not so banged up he probably could've managed a short career with the UFC off the back of this as he genuinely did come off as a guy who just wanted to learn and improve, not at all like the street brawler he was portrayed as in Elite XC. On the flipside though the majority of the house drama was caused by bullying, which just isn't fun to watch at all. Main culprits were Sims and McSweeney as I said, but the one who came off the worst in the whole season was Rampage. Not only did he look like a fucking terrible coach, but his incessant taunting of Schoonover made him look like a mean-natured bully and in the confrontations with Rashad it was usually Rashad who was fully in the right. In a lot of ways Rampage is lucky he took that time off after the season as I think a lot of the fans would've turned on him, but obviously they'd forgotten about his shitty behaviour by the time he returned six months later. As for the fights, we did get some exciting stuff but it was quite clear that outside of Nelson and Schaub, the fighters weren't all that and the majority of them had serious holes in their games, mainly CARDIO, as I seemed to be typing the word "gassed" quite a lot of times in these recaps. Wes Shivers for example had possibly the worst cardio I've ever seen in MMA. And shit if you'd told me at the time that only three guys would be left from the season, I never EVER would've guessed Meathead was the third survivor! So yeah, I'd put this season under the section of "watchable crap" because really that's what it was.