This page contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Learn more
Length: 12hrs 54mins
If the modus operandi of The Ultimate Fighter is to lay bare the personalities behind the fighters in order to generate emotional investment in individuals from the punters, a la Pro Wrestling, then Season Five surely constitutes a massive shot in the arm for the UFC’s Lightweight division. Dana White muses in the very first episode that “These 155lb’ers are crazy motherf***ers- I don’t know if they’ve got little man syndrome, or what.” Indeed, there are scarce few Nate Quarrys or Chris Lytles amongst the fifth TUF collective, which makes for the most incident packed series to date.
- Gray Maynard
- Matt Wiman
- Gabe Ruediger
- Joe Lauzon
- Rob Emerson
- Andy Wang
- Allen Berube
- Noah Thomas
- Corey Hill
- Nathan Diaz
- Brandon Melendez
- Marlon Sims
- Manvel Gambaryan
- Cole Miller
- Brian Geraghty
- Wayne Weems
Special features include:
- Finalist Profiles
- Cast Interviews
- Deleted scenes
- Behind The Scenes of The Ultimate Finale
The teams are coached by the group’s two 155lb pioneers- BJ Penn and Jens Pulver- and a shrewd move this proves to be. Both are of a magnetic disposition, albeit in a completely contrasting manner, and their real-life rivalry stemming from Pulver’s five round victory over Penn at UFC 35 serves as a catalyst for this series’ off-kilter vibe. The producers clearly intended to recreate the Ortiz-Shamrock scenario from the third instalment of the show, and this is in evidence from the very first episode, as Pulver works the sixteen fighters into the ground in overseeing the very first evaluation session, to the point where all the guys are absolutely exhausted by the time BJ and his assistants Tony DeSouza and Rudy Valentino arrive at the gym. Penn makes his feelings known during the interludes, accusing Pulver of deliberately working the fighters hard to leave him (Penn) in a position where he’d be unable to conduct any kind of meaningful overview. Armed with an agenda of retaliation, Penn causes uproar at the team selections: coin-toss winner Pulver elects to pick the first fight and give Penn the initial team pick; the Hawaiian, instead of calling out a name, tells the fighters to raise their hands if they “know for an absolute fact that you want to be on (his) team, and don’t want nothing to do (sic) with Jens Pulver’s team.” Peevish and unprofessional? Maybe. Quality television? Absolutely!
One area where the show runs a risky line in it’s bid to create stars when dealing with strong personalities does bite Dana and pals in the rear somewhat, as two of the four most antagonising contenders- Nate Diaz and Manvel Gamburyan- wind up in the final. These two set their stall out in the second episode, as Team Penn’s Rob Emerson elects to tag the wall of the games room with the sentiment “Suck It, Team Pulver!” while the yellow crew are at a training session. “Little Evil’s” mob return, and Diaz (initially) completely overreacts, ripping his shirt off and squaring up to the boys in blue, yet this is nothing compared to Gamburyan, who postures about, fuming about how he’s going to kill whoever wrote it, but upon finding out that it was Emerson, approached him timidly in “Yo, that’s not cool, bro” fashion, before stopping to tell Gray Maynard that although he’s not happy with the blue team, Gray is still “the man”. Matt Wiman sums this whole scenario up handily as “a sad day for humans.” Diaz went on to defeat Emerson in their preliminary fight, one that Dana White immediately thereafter told them was “the best we’ve ever had on the show”- whereas it doesn’t touch Jorge Gurgel vs Jason Von Flue from series two in the dramatic stakes, it was an unquestionably superior offering from a technical standpoint.
While Nate and Manny might not be heading to the top of any popularity leagues in the immediate future, the UFC may well have stumbled upon another star in the Forrest Griffin mould, in the shape of the 6′ 4″, incredibly raw and ridiculously likeable Corey Hill. Hill was admitted onto the show claiming a 4-0 record, but it actually comes to light as the series unfolds that he had never had a single professional fight previously. Big Corey trains and fights like Dwight Yorke used to play football- with a genuine smile on his face. Hill’s absorbing everyman persona gets us right behind him as something of a transient immersed in a new world: his non-fazed demeanour when meeting guest coach Jeremy Horn is exposed when he immediately admits that he doesn’t have cable, and doesn’t actually know who Horn is. “Gumby” makes this aside that much more endearing as he invites apparent quick-learner Hill to train with him at Salt Lake when the show finishes, promising him “I can make you into a monster.” Corey cuts weight, all the time talking to/spurring on his alter-ego “Buddy Roe”, as he spends periods aghast at the other housemates’ strict dietary plans, confessing that he routinely eats “hotdogs and fries with the kids.” The gargantuan fish-out-of-water boards the likeability train in the second episode, as he mentors Manny through his frustration at Emerson’s graffiti’ing antics. If Corey Hill commits to training full time and develops at the rate many on the show were convinced he would, the guy is a can’t-miss prospect amongst the casual fans.
Quirky comic relief is provided by 0-1 in the Octagon Gabe Ruediger, who comes into the house twenty pounds overweight, continues to eat badly, bugs Penn to send him for a bout of Colonic Irrigation as a short cut in cutting the bulk, attempts to get in his coach’s ear and campaign for his preliminary fight to be against unanimously perceived Team Pulver weak-link Wayne Weems, and just generally plays the early-Chris Leben card for all it’s worth, picking petty feuds with opponents and teammates alike. It all ends in tears (literally) for the man clunkily monikered “Godzilla”, as he fails miserably in his quest to make weight when called out by Corey Hill, and Dana White kicks him out of the house.
Andy Wang is a humdinger of a headscratcher- a man with considerable BJJ credentials, he ignores coach Penn’s instructions to take preliminary round opponent Brandon Melendez to ground, electing to stand and trade throughout the two round duration, losing the decision. Penn is understandably frustrated, and this comes to a crescendo later on when the blue outfit’s streak of defeats leads BJ to believe that a drastic shake-up is needed- “The Prodigy” storms into a training session and kicks Wang off the team. Dana White is at a loss regarding what to do, as this is an unprecedented occurrence on TUF, and so takes Pulver to one side, who after consulting with his fighters agrees to take Wang under his tutelage…. with Wang only accepting under extreme duress?? I don’t understand these blokes sometimes.
The major talking point of the series arrives as the fireside beers flow in the garden, and eliminated fighters Marlon Sims and Noah Thomas talk trash to each other, which ends up in a full blown scuffle as a group of the housemates egg them on. Once again, this totally antithesis’s the image of sporting credibility that Zuffa and others are trying to construct for Mixed Martial Arts in the face of conservative adversity, but nonetheless makes for exciting television. The main point of anticipation underpinning this lengthy segment is the prospect of how Dana White is going to react when he finds out…. you’re not sure to what extent he’s going to lose it, but you do know that fireworks are guaranteed. I won’t spoil it…..
Gamburyan’s first cousin Karo Parysian does a grand job in dispelling any good will he’s generated with UFC fans across his lengthy spell with the group in coming in to corner Manny for his semi-final fight with Joe Lauzon. A disagreement is ignited in the Team Pulver dressing room afterward between Parysian and Nate Diaz over something so minor and insignificant, I don’t even recall what it was. After the intial tension subsides, Parysian approaches Diaz in a very condescending manner, putting his arm around his shoulder and generally talking down to the upstart, causing Diaz to (justifiably this time) go off again, with “The Heat” shooting off about he was going to teach the rookie a lesson in a manner that evoked thoughts of Ken Shamrock at his most high and mighty.
The series finale is something of a mixed-bag, with a number of routine outings (Matt Wiman vs Brian Geraghty, Leonard Garcia vs the irritating Allen Berube and Joe Lauzon vs Brandon Melendez) interspersed with what is initially a controversial talking point that descends into overkill to the point of becoming annoying (the finish to Gray Maynard vs Rob Emerson), and a properly stimulating fight as the Roger Huerta mega-push continues, with natural bantamweight Doug Evans providing opposition. One man who should be in the UFC full time is Greg Jackson student Floyd Sword- vanquished by rising welterweight contender Thales Leites he may well have been here, but with a name so unspeakably awesome, a man should be given free reign.
The tournament final comes to a disappointingly premature conclusion: the short and stocky Manny Gamburyan controls the first round on the mat, and takes it 10-9 on my scorecard, only to suffer a reoccurrence of a long-standing shoulder injury when shooting out of the blocks in the second round, conceding immediately. Meanwhile, the first time ever clash of the coaches on the series finale pans out exactly the way all and sundry predicted the moment it was announced… with Penn winning at a canter, adding the second round full stop by way of a Rear Naked Choke.
Season Five constitutes an emphatic return to form for The Ultimate Fighter after an oft-dreary fourth run, boasting the whole repertoire of attributes that made the concept a runaway success in the first instance: contrasting characters, feuds, insight, downright petulance and a swag-bag of entertaining fights. Only the inconsistent series finale throws up the slightest hint of anti-climax.