The Ultimate Fighter: Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson, the 16th installment of the franchise, started much as expected, and had more production value than the previous live season.

Back to the old style, the season kicked off with 32 welterweight fighters squaring off in 16 two-round fights, the winner of each earning a spot in the TUF house.  Because of the previous season’s live format, the fights were only one round, which didn’t give all the fighters a chance to display their talents

It’s obvious that the taped format is, by far, superior to the previous live format, which received a lot of complaints and didn’t seem to work as well as Zuffa had hoped.  The gesture was nice, but it just didn’t make sense on a production level.

The stock administrative cast for the first episode included most of the usual suspects, including UFC President Dana White, the coaches—heavyweights Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson—Executive Director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, Keith Kizer, and referees Josh Rosenthal, Herb Dean and Steve Mazzagatti, among others.

During his introduction speech to the candidates, in a spine-tingling tone, Dana White made quite possibly his most profound statement ever when he said, “Do NOT leave the future of your [expletive] life to these judges.”  If that doesn’t get some guys fired up, what will?

Shortly after, the fights began.

The first fight was a vicious blast from Dom Waters, knocking out Kevin Nowaczyk early in round one.  The next three fights ended in another KO, a submission choke and a TKO by punches.

The fifth fight was the first that nobody, including Dana White, cared much about, because when you’re early in 16 fights, it’s tough to stomach a decision.  However, in that fight, Julian Lane did earn an upset defeat over Diego Bautista.

After this win, the fans received three submissions in a row, by Igor Araujo, James Chaney and Cameron Diffley, before the balloon deflated with a three straight decisions.

Fortunately, the decision streak didn’t last long, being followed by two submissions, another decision, another submission and one of the most spectacular KO’s of the night.

The final KO was delivered by Sam Alvey, who ended up being the number one pick of the night, as Carwin’s first pick.  The rest of the choices played out as follows.

Team Carwin
Sam Alvey
Bristol Marunde
Mike Ricci
Neil Magny
James Chaney
Eddie Ellis
Igor Araujo
Matt Secor
Team Nelson
Dom Waters
Michael Hill
Cameron Diffley
Colton Smith
Jon Manley
Nic Herron-Webb
Joey Rivera
Julian Lane

Honestly, while the house always proves to be a source of drama, the biggest conflict of this season will be between Nelson and White.  Nelson has always had a goofy attitude and this season is setting up to push White over the edge.

The episode concluded with a couple bits of good information.  The most important is the fact that any fight that results in a finish will earn the winner a $5,000 bonus.  An incentive designed to entice fighters to bang and keep it away from the judges.

The season is shaping up to be a great one, back to the old format, which seems to work better.

FULL RESULTS

Dom Waters def. Kevin Nowaczyk by TKO. Round 1, 0:32
Michael Hill def. Lev Magen by TKO. Round 1, 1:27
Bristol Marunde def. George Lockhart by submission (guillotine choke). Round 1, 2:23
Mike Ricci def. Jason South by TKO. Round 1, 1:50
Julian Lane def. Diego Bautista by unanimous decision.
Igor Araujo def. Cortez Coleman by submission (triangle choke). Round 3, 3:16
James Chaney def. Jerel Clark by submission (triangle choke). Round 1, 1:30
Cameron Diffley def. Zane Kamaka by submission (armbar). Round 1, 1:37
Neil Magny def. Frank Camacho by unanimous decision.
Jon Manley def. Ricky Legere, Jr. by unanimous decision.
Colton Smith def. Jesse Barrett by unanimous decision.
Matt Secor def. Max Griffin by submission (triangle choke). Round 3, 2:55
Eddy Ellis def. David Michaud by submission (arm-triangle choke). Round 2, 4:29
Joey Rivera def. Saad Awad by majority decision.
Nic Herron-Webb def. Tim Ruberg by submission (armbar). Round 1, 4:17
Sam Alvey def. Leo Kuntz by TKO. Round 1, 0:47

Photo: TUF 16 Cast (Josh Hedges/Zuffa, LLC)