Length: 749 mins
The country vs. country concept provided a shot in the arm for The Ultimate Fighter in many respects. The inherent rivalry in presenting the show in such a way added an increased sense of importance over which team would come out on top. This was greatly assisted by the underlying conflict that would develop between the coaches which at times played off a classic pro-wrestling style dynamic with the cocky heel, Michael Bisping and the All American good guy, Dan Henderson. As such the ‘Brits vs. Yanks’ theme would lead to a pretty memorable season.
Early episodes would centre on forming each respective team, so UK qualifying matches were held at the Wolfslair and provided a very fast paced episode 1. Andre Winner, Jeff Lawson, James Wilks, Martin Stapleton, Ross Pearson and Nick Osipczak all blew past their opposition in impressive fashion. Next up was current Celebrity Big Brother winner Alex Reid whose decision loss to Dean Amasinger was the first fight to be given the montage treatment. In the final bout of the show Dave Faulkner scored an impressive submission victory via heel hook and with that the UK “team of killers” was formed.
Back in Vegas for episode 2 the tone is set for the occasional mishap of the American team when Jason Pierce faints while the guys are given instructions. Then we’re presented with a guy who has herpes on his head and obviously can’t continue, not the best start for Henderson’s team. Then a guy can’t make weight, and Dana quickly loses his mind. Eventually the US has some semblance of a team taking shape with standouts such as DaMarques Johnson and Richie ‘Shaun White look-alike’ Whitson.
The fighters enter the house at the start of episode 3 and it doesn’t take long until the alcohol begins to flow. Just as quickly it becomes apparent that Rob Browning is an utter fool. Much like his older brother (another former TUF sandbag) Browning gets a lot of bad heat immediately with his fellow housemates that certainly helps build interest to his fight, in which he doesn’t deliver and is promptly pounded out. Frank Lester also earns his spot after initially being an alternate and with that the teams are finalised.
In the gym the US team have more issues over who is on weight, while team UK largely keep to themselves with the exception of their outspoken coach. Fights are announced and Bisping begins to study tape since he missed the US qualifying matches due to visa issues. The work pays off as his first nominated fighter Nick Osipczak dispatches of Mark Miller with a very impressive KO from a right high kick.
“It’s not supposed to be this easy” says Bisping following the second victory for the British after Andre Winner blows past his opponent. He is silenced somewhat (or he would be had he bothered to turn up to watch the fight) once DeMarques Johnson puts a first win for the Americans on the board. However harmony in team America is beginning to strain as the insults start to flow. "Why don't you pull your stupid wiggity-wack hat right over your F**king dumb face.” Indeed.
Apparently Bisping overslept, thus missing the aforementioned fight. Next up Cameron Dollar scores a surprisingly slick submission victory that proved to be almost as satisfying as his catchy name. It appears that momentum could be shifting back to team US following the victory, that is until Frank Lester exclaims that “my teeth got knocked out” en route to an arm bar defeat at the hands of part time Brit James Wilks. Poor Frank coughs up a stray tooth upon the decree that team UK currently leads the season 3-2.
Episode 7 featured the emergence of US whiner Jason Pierce, not being very likeable and evidently being afraid of fighting. Worried claims from Richie Whitson that the infection on his face ‘is not herpes.’ As well as the hilarity of UK guys missing hitting a tire with a sledgehammer and even somehow hitting themselves with it. However the highlight of the episode had to be perhaps the worst game of tennis ever committed to film in the coaches challenge. Whitson came back from the infection only to be stopped by Ross Pearson’s arm bar late in the first round.
By episode 8 Pierce seems convinced that he’s at death’s door and when Henderson tells you not to emit too much negative energy you should really take heed and not complain about minor injuries. He’s not the only one with problems as Dave Faulkner has no gag reflex and can’t keep his gum shield in, seriously. Henderson changes the pace of things for team US with a game of ‘Ultimate Frisbee.’ Team UK absolutely top this with an impromptu in-house wrestling match (springboard pool suplex anyone?) Finally Jason Dent finishes UK funny man Jeff Lawson with an anaconda choke.
Frank ‘no teeth’ Lester gets another shot after Pierce drops out. After Henderson switches the times for training Bisping blows a stack at the prospect of having to wake up early to train and some more gas is thrown on the fire leading to their UFC 100 clash. Things get even more heated when Bisping throws water over DaMarques Johnson, he gets him right in the eye but then immediately apologises and makes light of it which was quite funny. Even funnier were Dave Faulkner’s last ditch attempts to find a way to keep his gum shield in, indulging in a hypnotherapy session. In the final prelim fight Lester out hearts Faulkner who quits on his stool prior to their impending sudden victory round.
After much deliberation Dana settles on who will fight who in the Semi-finals. Welterweight Semi-finals
- DaMarques Johnson vs. Nick Osipczak
- Frank Lester vs. James Wilks
- Cameron Dollar vs. Andre Winner
- Jason Dent vs. Ross Pearson
The guys have a barbeque and Pierce continues to annoy, now becoming a full fledged snitch as he passes off information about his team mates to their opponents. Thankfully Whitson and later coach Dan put him in his place. Johnson takes a decision over Osipczak in what most watching agreed was ‘a hell of a fight.’
Andre Winner stops sucking his thumb long enough to beat Cameron Dollar with an impressive triangle choke. After dislocating his shoulder in training only to have Bisping quickly pull it back into place (ouch) Ross Pearson gains a hard fought decision over Jason Dent and with that the first, all British, final is made.
The final episode of the season starts with Frank Lester and Dan Henderson comparing their ears. This would lead to the Semi-final rematch of Lester and James Wilks where, unfortunately for the likeable Frank and his cauliflower ears, he would go on to lose again. Prior to this we’re treated to Bisping trying to knock a coin off of his forehead by repeatedly hitting himself, unknowing that there wasn’t a coin there to begin with. This soon escalates into a dramatic food/water/flour fight. Following Lester succumbing to a late onslaught of knees from Wilks we have another entertaining season in the bag. And with that, the finale…
What the Ultimate Fighter Season 9 finale will be remembered for was not the 2 TUF finals, but for the main event of the show, a fight that has earned numerous fight of the year accolades and is widely regarded as one of the most mesmerizing wars of attrition in recent times. That fight was between Diego Sanchez and Clay Guida however prior to that was a slew of entertaining and eventful contests featuring a few familiar faces from the season.
Cameron Dollar was unable to capitalise on his marketable image falling to a first round anaconda choke at the hands of Jason ‘no charisma’ Dent.
Nick Osipczak looked impressive against the limited Frank Lester with an elementary rear naked choke.
In the lightweight final Ross Pearson rolled on to score himself a well earned TUF crown with a hard fought decision victory over fellow Brit Andre Winner. Much of the somewhat underwhelming 3 rounds were spent in the clinch and was a razor close contest that could have gone Winners way. I think Pearson’s determination to finish strong was what gave him the nod and his impressive follow up victory recently at UFC 105 has shown him to be a worthy TUF champion.
The welterweight final was a much more one sided affair as James Wilks surprised DeMarques Johnson with a dominating victory after he overwhelmed the American early and finished him with a rear naked choke seconds from the end of the first round to clinch the title of TUF champion.
Ultimately what we had here was an enjoyable season that was perhaps surprisingly dominated by a crew of young British fighters who did a great deal to increase the profile and respect afforded to the UK MMA scene.
There isn’t much to be said of the TUF 9 main event that hasn’t already been written. If you haven’t already seen Sanchez vs. Guida then WATCH IT! Until a best of 2009 set is released this fight alone is ample reason to purchase the season and as an archetype for what modern day MMA has become it is a fitting end to the finale card and this entire collection.
The collection also features an extra disc of outtakes and bonus scenes that are worthwhile and in some cases quite funny. It rounds off what was a solid season and a collecting that is certainly worth checking out.