Many of you know I didn't think highly of the 10th season of The Ultimate Fighter. Most of my complaints were valid, although Rampage and Rashad did end up fighting each other in the end, which was nice. I thought the UFC did a couple good things for season 11, and of course, you can't have good without bad. Here are my thoughts on season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter.
Fighter Talent Improved: There weren't any circus picks this season like Kimbo that were mainly there just to boost ratings. They went out and picked some of the best middleweight prospects in North America and I thought they did a great job. There are many fighters who have a potential future in the UFC like Kris McCray, Brad Tavarez, Rich Atonito, Court McGee, Josh Bryant, Nick Ring, Kyle Noke and even Jamie Yager and very few duds.
Bringing back the "Win to Get In": I LOVE this system. There's no better way to get introduced to a fighter than to watch him fight and win just to get on the show. When they do this format, the first two episodes are usually my favorites. That was something that sucked about season 10 (most likely due to the potential of a Kimbo loss) and I was so happy they brought it back. What could possibly be better than watching 14 fights over two episodes? (Other than seeing 16 fights)
Focusing on Training: One of the things I never liked about The Ultimate Fighter was all the lame crap they'd focus on in the house. Whether it was drama between fighters, stupid pranks or idiots getting drunk and ruining their once in a lifetime shot. That isn't MMA. I really liked that they focused on the training this season. You got a nice in-depth look at how Liddell and Ortiz prepare for fights, plus the drama actually mattered this time. The drama was more focused on injuries that occurred during training or fights and also team chemistry after potential overtraining before fights. That's stuff that actually happens all the time in mixed martial arts.
Rich Saves the Day: I was not pleased about the coaching matchup to begin with, so I was actually very happy when they kicked Tito off the show and brought Rich Franklin in for the last week. Rich brought in a solid team (Forrest Griffin, Tyson Griffin and Gray Maynard) and they did a great job with Kris McCray. They didn't overwork him like Tito did and he ended up avenging his first round loss to Josh Bryant to earn his shot at becoming the next ultimate fighter. Rich is also a MUCH more appealing fight against Chuck than Tito was, so I'm actually looking forward to it tomorrow.
The 14 Fighter Format: It just didn't work. You have 16 fighters for a reason, you don't need a wildcard, and I doubt they will do it this way again. Sure some are going to counter this by saying "Oh, Kris McCray and Court McGee lost their first round fights and made it to the finals" but I would say this: They already have a wildcard, it's called injuries. People get hurt every season, it's a part of mixed martial arts. It happens a lot. McCray and McGee were the two best fighters who lost their first round matchups and I guarantee they would have been chosen to replace the injured Nick Ring and Rich Attonito anyways. Problem solved. We didn't need to see Casey Uscola or James Hammertree fight again.
Jamie Yager's All-Around Douchey Behavior: I know, I know. Each season they seem to pick someone as "the bad guy" and it wasn't hard to figure out early that it would be Yager. He got off to a rough start when he was a part of the group that woke people up at 3:00 am with airhorns. Then of course, he got into it with his own teammates as tensions boiled between Yager and Nick Ring during sparring sessions. Ring also got pissed at him for cheering against his teammate James Hammertree in his fight. Next it was Casey Uscola's turn to get pissed at Yager when he accused him of stealing clothes which actually had to be settled by a team meeting with Ortiz. Yager earned a respite from drama after winning his next fight, but it came back even harder when he quit on his stool against Josh Bryant in the quarterfinal matchup. This of course resulted in one last round of annoying pranks that ended with Yager stealing people's shoes as well as throwing rice, beans and flour at his own teammates which led to a final confrontation between Yager, Hammertree and Uscola. Yager has potential to be a pretty good fighter, but honestly I hope Rich Attonito creams him on the finale because of his attitude.
Tito Being Injured All Along: How many times has Tito said he was fine only to blame everything on pre-existing injuries? Tito said he would only fight Chuck if he was 100%, so why even accept the fight and coach for all but the last week of season 11 when he already knew he had a neck injury? This screwed Chuck, Dana White and the UFC over. They didn't have nearly as much time as they needed to hype up a Chuck and Rich Franklin fight, and that's not fair to either fighter.
Domestic Abuse Charges Against Tito: Even if they ended up being bogus and both drama queens are happily back together, this was a rough week for MMA. I'm not a fan of fight sites stooping to the paparazzi level, but this was all over the place. People were assuming the worst, making bad jokes, getting banned left and right, and of course, you had a prolific couple calling each other liars and drug addicts via hastily made press conferences. I'm glad it's over. The worst part was that this was happening right as Tito was redeeming himself in the public eye by working hard and caring about his team on The Ultimate Fighter.
Chuck vs Tito 3: I wasn't the only person that rolled their eyes when this was announced as the coaching matchup. Chuck was supposed to retire and Tito is even less than relevant after taking so long off the sport and coming back with a lousy performance against Forrest Griffin at UFC 106. I would have rather had Tito vs Forrest 3 than Chuck vs Tito, at least they split their two fights. Come on, Chuck decisively knocked Tito out both times he fought him. There was absolutely no reason to book this fight in the first place. There was absolutely nothing to prove with this matchup, just like Ken Shamrock's last fight against Tito. What had Tito Ortiz possibly done in the last 3 1/2 years to earn another shot at Chuck Liddell? Exactly.
If you have anything you'd like to add, feel free to mention it in the comments.