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Sixteen men from across the Americas travel to Las Vegas with one dream, one goal – to become The Ultimate Fighter.

Determination. Discipline. Excellence.

Recaps by Joe Van Ginkel, GSNN


FACT FILE:

Host:
Willa Ford
Coaches: Randy "The Natural" Couture and Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell
Packager: Zuffa, LLC; Spike TV
Airs: Mondays at 11:05pm ET on Spike TV


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Episode 2 - January 24

Greetings again from Anaheim, CA, and the "Game Show Man" Joe Van Ginkel, here again with this week's The Ultimate Fighter recap.

UFC Training Center
The show opens with Dana White going over the basic idea behind the show over footage of the show's coaches, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, fighting in a previous UFC bout, and of the various contestants on the show training.

Ultimate Fighter House
The fighters are seen making breakfast on the morning of the fifth day. Middleweight Chris Leben notes in confessional that he hates "dealing with normal people, and a lot of these kids are real plain." Middleweight Diego Sanchez is seen dumping a load of vegetables and grains into a blender for a shake. Light heavyweight Forest Griffin notes that "if there's food in the house, Diego takes the best portion of it."

The fighters load into the van for the day's training. Unlike last week's show, the fighters attend training by team.

UFC Training Center
Team Couture is the first to take training. Focus switches variously on Leben (whom Couture notes as having a "wide open" style), light heavyweight Mike Swick, and middleweight Chris Sanford ("a pretty skilled fighter, but he showed up here in terrible shape," per Couture). Couture is impressed as to how well his team is coming together. Light heavyweight Jason Thacker, who last week had some trouble, notes in confessional that he's "in the deep end, sink-or-swim."

Ultimate Fighter House
At the house, Sanchez continues his, shall we say, "hoggish" habits, switching between a hot bath and a cold shower…four or five times, much to Team Liddell light heavyweight Stephan Bonner's chagrin.

UFC Training Center
Team Liddell is next to train. Focus is shifted between middleweight wrestling specialist Josh Koscheck (whom Liddell wants to teach striking techniques to add to his arsenal), middleweight Kenny Florian, Forest Griffin, and light heavyweight Bobby Southworth. Liddell is clearly excited to see what results from this competition.

Ultimate Fighter House
Bonner, who has been whining about Diego Sanchez's excessive habits, at last confronts Sanchez. Sanchez tries to smack talk Bonner into a fight, but Bonner wisely keeps his cool and walks away.

Team Challenge
On the morning of Day 6, the teams are brought out to Lake Mead for the first team challenge. Host Willa Ford tells the teams that the losing team's coach will have to choose one of their team (in a particular weight class; this challenge is for the light heavyweights) to be eliminated (this is different from the previously mentioned Elimination Bout, but all indications point to this type of elimination being only for this week). For this challenge, the coaches are seated in a recliner (one for each team), and the team must carry the coach through an obstacle course. They must maneuver the chair over and under a series of hurdles, around a buoy in the shallow end of Lake Mead, and finally across the finish line. The race starts, and Team Liddell cuts across Team Couture's lane (forcing them to switch lanes) and starts to pull ahead. They reach Lake Mead well ahead of Team Couture, who drop Couture several times in the water. Team Liddell wins handily. Ford congratulates Team Liddell and informs Couture that he must make a decision as to whom to send home.

Ultimate Fighter House
Back at the house, the alcohol starts to flow again. Light heavyweight Lodune Sincaid gets himself drunk, and starts to do a variety of strange things. Griffin tries to warn Sinclair, that he might get cut for being a drunk. Meanwhile, many of the fighters are seen sitting around the dining room table. Amongst them are Swick and Leben. Leben points out that he's happy Swick's on his team (both are on Team Couture), but he wouldn't mind knocking him out…again. Swick points out in confessional that he and Leben had fought previously in January 2004; we are shown footage of the fight from a lesser MMA organization. Turns out that Leben knocked out Swick with a headshot, and that Swick's loss to Leben is his ONLY loss. It's clear that Swick wants a rematch (and hence begins what I suspect will be a recurring storyline…hmm…). At this point Sincaid comes down stairs from his room, in a rather feminine outfit, and begins to play a tasteless (but still quite funny) string of practical jokes. (Chris Sanford mentions that he is apparently making fun of what appears to be his own homosexual orientation. Sincaid on the other hand, says that he's engaging in psychological warfare: he believes that his fellow fighters might be averse to grappling with someone admitted to wearing thong bikinis.) For example, he bends over to pick something else, giving the people around him a rather gratuitous view of his backside. He also tries to get Mike Swick to give him a hug, but Swick won't do it, saying he "wouldn't give a hug to someone wearing 'man-panties.'"

The next morning, the Team Couture light heavyweights are seen packing their things, and all the light heavyweights leave for the UFC Training Center.

UFC Training Center
The light heavyweights line up in their teams, while Liddell, White and Couture stand on one side of the arena. An elimination ceremony takes place, and Couture selects the fighter he wants remain on his team. Eventually it comes down to Thacker and Sincaid. He has kind words for all the fighters, but it is, unsurprisingly, Thacker who is eliminated. He gets farewell hugs from the rest of the team, and then he is sent on his way.

Ultimate Fighter House
The light heavyweights return to the house. Swick, Leben and Sincaid sit at the table discussing Thacker's elimination. Swick is a little down about it, but Leben is clearly apathetic. They agree that Thacker was tough but not cut out for this contest. Meanwhile, Leben and Sanchez begin drinking again. A drunk Sanchez rubs himself with baby oil and begins a bizarre bodybuilding posedown to the amusement of the rest of the house. Later, Leben and the others are seen sitting at the table. Leben is boasting that he could go out for a wild night, and still kick ass. Swick is seen in confessional, saying that he's going to have a hard time working when the fighter he has his only loss to is on his team. The two talk smack to one another, and Swick challenges Leben to a rematch after the contest. Middleweight and Team Couture teammate Nathan Quarry warns Swick not to let Leben get to him. But Leben comes back, still talking smack, but says that he will grant Swick his rematch, even if it's for free (Leben: "Even if we have to do it in the f---ing backyard.").

At 1:00 am that morning, Sincaid and Leben are seen in the backyard. Sincaid is trying to get Leben to go in the house and go to sleep for training in the morning. Leben however wants to use a telephone. Apparently there are none in the house, so he is willing to leave the house to find one…which is expressly against the rules. Sincaid is unable to convince Leben to come back inside, and so to the surprise of the rest of the house, Leben jumps the fence and wanders off in search of a pay phone. IN the meantime, the other fighters, especially Southworth, talk to Sincaid about his antics. Sincaid has a moment of pause, and decides to give up drinking, dedicating his change of lifestyle to Thacker. He goes on to say that he believes drinking is for cowards, and that he is a "warrior. If I can be a warrior in the ring, I can be a warrior in life."

UFC Training Center
The next morning, Team Couture arrives for their training session. Sanford approaches Couture about Leben's behavior. He is clearly sick of Leben's antics and tries to convince Couture to act. Couture is not happy about it, and assembles his team for a brief meeting. He expresses his disappointment towards Leben's behavior, but does not act directly to curb it. Sincaid on the other hand, apologizes for his own antics. It turns out he had a "moment of clarity:" if he screws up here, he has nothing - and we mean NOTHING - to go back to.

Team Challenge
Later, it's the middleweights' turn to compete. Their challenge is a telephone-pole-carrying race. Each team has a pole to use: they must first bring it to a "stop-n-saw" where they must saw the pole into four pieces, then carry the pieces onto a reassembly point, then bring the rebuilt pole to the finish line. Host Willa Ford then blows her whistle to start the race. Again it is Team Liddell who gets the early lead. At the Stop-n-Saw, Team Couture has trouble sawing the log. Team Liddell manages to get a big lead and doesn't look back, easily winning the race. Against it is Randy Couture who must eliminate a fighter. Going into the final break, the Team Couture middleweights are despondent. Leben is almost certain he will be eliminated, and chalks up the loss to what he calls a "lackluster team."

Ultimate Fighter House
The next day, the middleweights discuss the team challenge. Sanford, Quarry and Alex Karalexis (the fourth Team Couture middleweight) are sure that Leben will be eliminated today. They pack up their things again and leave for the training center.

UFC Training Center
The ceremony takes place much as it did for the light heavyweights. Again, Couture first picks who will remain. This time it comes down to Sanford and Leben, and Couture eliminates…

Sanford?!?!

Couture claims that he is looking to put the best fighter he can out on the mats, and that he believes Leben will be it. Sanford is given his farewell props, and leaves. Sanford expresses his disappointment in confessional as the show closes.

My thoughts: This was a hard episode for Team Couture. They lost both challenges, and had to give up two fighters. On one hand, they did cut some fat (in Thacker, proving my theory that he wouldn't last long). On the other hand, I find Chris Sanford's elimination highly questionable from a rules standpoint. On any other show, Chris Leben would have been IMMEDIATELY disqualified for violating the rules about leaving the house. Here, he is permitted to continue. Anyone who believes Couture made his decision without some kind of unfair influence from the producers is very likely deceiving themselves. I can only suspect that Sanford was sacrificed to allow the producers to continue to develop and manipulate the situation for the sake of creating conflict. Now, you must understand: I realize the need for conflict on any television show. Without it, there is no story and no reason to watch. However, this show is about sport fighting, one of the most basic of conflicts there is, and there are certainly other storylines developing here (the underlying competition for starters, also Sincaid fighting his alcohol addiction, and Sanchez and Bonner going at it over Sanchez's excessive habits). This decision seriously undermines the competition's credibility, IMHO. We'll see if Leben can pull his act together, or if his self-destructive behavior will continue.

More next week from the Game Show Man.

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