The TUF Diaries: Season 11

Only the odd anachronism now. This was a really weird season looking back, only comparable to the second TUF Brazil with the injury changes.

Onto TUF 11. This is a weird season looking back, because it was the season where it felt to me at least (I know for others it was far earlier) that TUF really jumped the shark and became not so must-watch as it once had been. I know who wins the matches but I can barely remember a thing about the season so I'm looking forward to this rewatch. When you actually look at it in 2013 too it was a stronger season than you'd remember, as there are still seven fighters from this cast on the UFC roster. Coaches were Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, building to a third fight between the two that nobody really wanted to see, unfortunately.

Episode 1 - So the first thing Fucking Dana White tells us is that he's fine with Tito at this stage and actually likes him again, but obviously Chuck hasn't buried the hatchet with him. I'd love to see them bury the hatchet now they're both retired, for the record. Anyway they bring in 28 fighters rather than 32, because this is the first season that has the WildCard format. 14 guys in the house and two of the first round losers fight for a place in the quarter-finals. This felt really smart at the time as the hope was that the eliminated guys wouldn't just go stir-crazy and start drinking as they did have a potential opportunity to return. Episode is of course the prelim fights to see who gets into the house. Quick, impressive wins for Jamie Yager (cocky afro guy), Brad Tavares, Kris McCray (annoying "savage" gimmick guy), Nick Ring and Kyacey Uscola. Tougher decision wins for Court McGee, Chris Camozzi and Kyle Noke. Point to make about the talent pool - Seth Baczynski and Constantinos Philippou who are both excellent UFC fighters actually lost in these pre-house fights while three of the other losers (Norman Paraisy, Victor O'Donnell and Jordan Smith) were also touted prospects at the time. Doesn't seem to be any bad fights based on the bits they show here actually. Comical moment comes when Norman Paraisy quits on his stool, to the disgust of everyone. Tito is horrified to which Chuck quips (to the camera) "it's almost as bad as tapping to strikes! Oh, wait.....Tito did that once". BURN.

Episode 2 - The teams are picked and to me they look pretty even, but Dana actually thinks Tito has a far stronger team and calls Chuck out about this, to which Chuck re-iterates he has faith in his guys. Well, I would hope so as there's no going back now, dude. First fight is Chuck's Kyle Noke vs. Tito's Clayton McKinney. Obvious winner there on paper as Noke had legit top level experience while McKinney was an unknown. McKinney is also complaining of a shoulder injury, really coming off like a whiner. He goes to a doctor to have it checked and it's actually a bruised bone, so TIto calls him out as mentally weak. Jamie Yager immediately establishes himself as the annoying guy in the house as he uses air horns to wake people up at lord knows what time. Interesting to see it's his teammates Kyacey and Clayton who are most pissed at him. Fight goes how you'd expect as Noke triangles McKinney in the first round. Post-fight is interesting though as McKinney tries to walk away but Tito stops him to show him the defense to the triangle that Noke caught him in. Great coaching but Clayton doesn't want to know, coming off like an ungrateful prick. A good beginning to the season.

Episode 3 - Bad news for Chris Camozzi. Apparently he's had a toothache since his elimination fight with Victor O'Donnell....but it's not a toothache, in fact he's broken his jaw, so he's gone. Back to replace him is Seth Baczynski, which based on the prelim fights was definitely a fair choice. It probably would've had to be him or Philippou I'd say but yeah, Seth was fine. After this we get more drama with Jamie Yager as he argues with Nick Ring in training and they almost come to blows. In a comical moment they randomly put Ring over as a camp character too, not sure why they'd do that but it's funny and he appears to play up to it as well. Fight is Tito's James Hammortree against Chuck's Brad Tavares. First round goes to Tavares, second to Hammortree, and then the third is close but Tavares takes it by preventing all of Hammortree's takedowns and landing the better strikes. Tito is furious with the decision but no doubt it was the right one as for once the judges didn't go with the guy forcing his opponent into the fence, thank fuck.

Episode 4 - Things begin with Nick Ring confronting Yager again over the fact that he was apparently cheering for Tavares over Hammortree. We then find out that Yager's formed his own stable - the MINORITY REPORT - with Hawaiian Tavares, Australian Noke, and McCray from wherever he's from. Noke finds this hilarious as he doesn't seem to care that he's considered part of this little group. Two fights in this episode. First fight sees Chuck's Rich Attonito dominate Kyacey Uscola early, before Kyacey manages to turn things around with a kimura attempt that puts him on top. Two brutal knees later and it's over with Rich unconscious. Unfortunately for Kyacey both knees were illegal and so he's DQd. Tito and Kyacey both dispute it but I mean, the replay clearly shows Attonito is no Koscheck and he got hit HARD. Tito is so pissed post-fight that he punches a door off it's hinges. Pretty overdone spot at this point! Sadly for Rich, later on he finds out he's broken his hand, and so he's out of the competition. Shitty for the guy, no doubt. Tito is desperate for a win now and he finally gets it in the next fight as Jamie Yager actually shows he isn't all mouth by absolutely running through Charles Blanchard, KOing him with a superman punch in about a minute. Yager looked AWESOME here seriously, like the most impressive you could possibly look on TUF. Really good episode with two fun fights.

Episode 5 - So it turns out as per usual DOCTORS SUCK, as Clayton hasn't got a bruised bone, actually he's torn his fucking labrum off the bone and he's got to have some serious surgery involving screws and all sorts. What kind of fucking quack would not realize that?! Anyway Tito shows a lot of class by apologising to him, but Clayton flips him off when his back is turned in a total bitch move. Fuck that guy. Everyone else who lost except Clayon is talking about the Wildcard slots, but Charles Blanchard also counts himself out as he got injured in the Yager beatdown. Hammortree feels it's got to be him and Kyacey as they both lost in controversial circumstances. Still don't see that, dude. Anyway fight has Chuck's Josh Bryant beat Tito's Kris McCray. Super-close fight with Bryant taking the first, Kris the second - although you could argue for both rounds the other way - but the third sees Kris gas and Josh outworks him for the decision. Good little fight actually if nothing spectacular.

Episode 6 - Kyacey Uscola now turns into a bit of a whiner as he feels Tito is overworking them in training which is why Kris gassed. Nobody else in the team including McCray himself actually thinks this is the case. To his credit Uscola confronts Tito and his coaches about it but by the end he seems to be convinced that Tito's ways are the right ones. Well, dude, he IS a former World Champ, maybe he has some idea of what he's doing. Sadly though he can't play Dodgeball for shit and gets hammered by Chuck in the coaches' challenge. Elsewhere James Hammortree takes a suplex from McCray in training and has to go to the hospital with a suspected slipped disc (!). Turns out he's fine, as it goes. Fight is Nick Ring - Tito's first pick - against Court McGee. Now, this is about the third time I've seen this fight I think and I still think Ring won both rounds. Nobody else but myself and Tito and a couple of judges agree though. Ring wins a decision and Chuck is livid and even flips out at Dana, who obviously has nothing to do with the decision. Blah. I still maintain Ring won the fight and the judges got it right for once.

Episode 7 - Nick Ring collapses in training with a reoccurring knee injury, which is an arc we'll come back to later. Fight is actually early on in the episode this time as it goes the distance, with Seth Baczynski beating Joseph Henle. Really, REALLY good fight actually with tons of action. I had the first for Seth, just about, second for Joe, just about, and the third clearly for Seth as Joe's gassed out by that point. Rest of the episode is focused on the Wildcard slots, which end up going to Kris McCray and Kyacey Uscola, clearly the right picks. And as a bonus, Dana gives Rich Attonito's slot to Court McGee as he feels he got dicked by the judges. I think that's fair too as Court looked better than Henle or Hammortree and clearly had more potential. Bit of a nothing episode outside of an excellent fight.

Episode 8 - Wildcard fight first and after having a phonecall from his wife to show him his newborn son, poor Kyacey comes up short as McCray taps him with a second-round keylock. Whole fight has McCray outgrappling him basically. Dana, Tito and Chuck then sit down to work out the quarters, and Tito comes up with the smart plan to rematch Ring and McGee as Dana and Chuck thought the judges screwed up. Chuck for some reason doesn't like this - I think he was just avoiding agreeing with Tito! - but that's the fight. Other three quarters are Seth vs. Brad, Noke vs. McCray, and Yager vs. Bryant. Buuuut, drama ensues. Nick Ring turns out to have torn his ACL and he needs surgery, so Dana comes to the house to talk to him and they decide it's best if he pulls out now. Dana tells the fighters this and goes to leave....but James Hammortree CHASES HIM DOWN THE DRIVEWAY to say damnit, he wants this fucking fight. Dana then comes back in and says dude, you've got it. Joseph Henle is furious, but I mean, as Yager says, "closed mouths don't get fed!". So we now get Court vs. Hammortree, and James is out of the tournament as quickly as he got back in, being dispatched with a standing guillotine in the second round. Court looks pretty fucking good here it must be said. Really fun episode.

Episode 9 - This one begins on a bit of a foreboding note as Tito tells his team that he's having issues with his neck and spine again and his doctor says he needs surgery. Uh oh. First fight sees Kris McCray outgrapple Kyle Noke for a three-round decision. I'm not sure how they got to the third round actually as it looked to me like McCray took both the first and second. Noke just couldn't seem to pull the trigger for whatever reason. Second fight is more interesting. Seth Baczynski and Brad Tavares go back-and-forth for a round with Brad just about having the advantage. A scramble in the dying seconds though results in Seth KOing him with an absolutely vicious soccer kick to the head. Brad is fucking OUT OF IT and it's another DQ. Seth even apologises and Brad is like "for what?" he's that out of it. Buuuut Tito and his coach Saul Solis think the kick hit Brad in the armpit, not the face. Solis then yells that they already had one bad decision go against them - meaning the Attonito issue - and Rich takes offense to this and calls him a fat fuck which causes more tension. Joseph Henle then gets involved and Tito flips and goes after him, and of course Chuck takes the opportunity to go for Tito and ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE. Word. Finally things get calmed down, but the episode ends on a cliffhanger. Fucking Dana White tells Chuck that Tito's pulled out of the fight and Chuck ends by saying he's going to punch him there and then. Best episode of the season maybe.

Episode 10 - Chuck doesn't punch Tito thankfully. Not much else on this episode as it builds to the Jamie Yager vs. Josh Bryant fight. And it's a fucking slobberknocker as both men absolutely go for it, with Yager playing the aggressor but Bryant refusing to go away and landing some huge shots of his own. They split two rounds and go to a third....but Yager quits on his stool, saying he can't see and he's exhausted. He's off to the hospital, but it turns out that there's nothing majorly wrong with him. Doesn't look good really given the amount of trash he'd talked. Anyway Dana then pulls Tito aside and tells him as he's out of the fight, he's also off the season and he'll be replaced as a coach. I still think this was a bullshit decision myself - there were TWO FIGHTS to go, why not let Tito finish out the season? But yeah, Tito is out and he flees the training center, leaving Dana to tell his team. This looks shitty at this point but then he comes to the house to explain the deal and apologise. I guess he needed time to clear his head. Show ends with the semis being announced - McCray vs. Bryant 2, and McGee vs. Tavares. And the show ends with Rich Franklin being introduced as the new coach, and a tease for the extra guys he's bringing with him.

Episode 11 - The extra guys turn out to be Forrest Griffin, Gray Maynard and Tyson Griffin, and they get to work coaching Kris McCray. First up though is the McGee/Tavares fight, and it's a really good one and a close one too before Court knocks him down and chokes him unconscious with less than a minute to go. Interesting point here is that Brad took a low blow right before he got knocked down. Probably should've used his full five minutes. So McGee's in the final after losing his first fight in the house, which was a big first for TUF as prior to this season the only guy to even win one fight after being brought back was Frank Lester!

Episode 12 - So the Jamie Yager issue finally comes to a head as he antagonises everyone again, this time by throwing flour from a window onto James Hammortree. By the time it's all kicked off, Hammortree, plus Clayton McKinney AND Kyacey Uscola want to kill this guy. Kyacey even goes as far as calling him out for a backyard fight, but Yager won't bite. Baffling decision here - you've got three guys who want to kill Yager, then you have Rich Attonito who's Mr Calm and copes easily with Yager's pranks. And somehow they booked HIM vs. Yager on the finale. Yeah, I know Uscola and McKinney weren't given fights, but why not book Hammortree to fight Yager to settle it? Blah. Anyway McCray vs. Bryant goes very differently from the first fight and this time it's McCray - with much better cardio - who outworks Bryant for the decision. Franklin's glee when he realizes he's the "first undefeated coach in TUF history" is comical. So the final is McGee vs. McCray, with Dana praising McCray for fighting five times in the house ("literally every Tuesday!").

A mixed bag season. In hindsight the talent pool was better than everyone thought at the time, and the rivalry between the coaches worked well. House drama was okay-ish, nothing to put you off watching like Julian Lane did on TUF 16. But really the wildcard concept was a bit damaged by the fact that another two guys also had to re-enter due to injuries, and you wonder who would've come out on top had we not lost Camozzi, Ring and Attonito early on. Still, better fights than the previous season and better drama than TUF 9, so this was alright in general.

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