Week 3 of the UFC's Ultimate Fighter Live managed to showcase both the good and the bad about this show. I'll start with the bad so that we can get that out of the way.
This week featured the launch of not just one, but two of my most despised TUF traditions. First, "The Leben." Named in honor of the first man to play this role, "The Leben" is that guy who just has to be the center of attention and who decides that there's no reason to treat anyone with, you know, decency. You may also call this "The Browning" if you prefer. Clearly that man is Chris Tickle, who is everything I dislike about TUF rolled into one package. I hope he actually makes it to the semi-finals, simply because I imagine his presence in the house when there is no fight looming will become even worse.
Second, "The Leben: Part II." Again, named in honor of the man who started it, this one is the dawn of the stupid pranks. It pains me to see these guys acting like 12 year olds, but here it is. And once again, that honor goes to Tickle (which, frankly, is often the case). Ugh. These vestiges of the old reality show based format are no fun, and it was a bummer to see them both featured so prominently.
That said, for the 2nd week in a row, the Live format came through to save the day. While nothing in Justin Lawrence vs. Cristiano Marcello was nearly as dramatic as the James Vick KO last week, for me at least, the anticipation of Lawrence vs. Marcello coming soon was palpable all show. I've been very excited about this fight all week, and the idea that it would be happening soon, and live, really drove me through the show.
The fight itself wasn't a barn-burner, but it was an interesting affair. Marcello (and, in turn, Urijah Faber and his team) displayed some really bad strategic planning. I get the idea that you should use Lawrence's assumption that Marcello will go to the ground against him, but to make it a stand-up battle ignores the strengths and weaknesses of your fighter. Marcello has bad striking defense - I said it last week, and Faber said it all fight. Having him trade on the feet with Lawrence made the KO almost inevitable. It felt like Team Faber was not accurately assessing Marcello, and that cost them.
Meanwhile, Dominick Cruz continued looking like one talented coach, and continued to go for the jugular with his fight picks, calling out Team Faber's #1 for next week. It worked once - will it work again?
Thoughts on Justin Lawrence vs. Cristiano Marcello:
- On the one hand, I would have liked to see Lawrence swarm and get another violent stoppage. But you can't win every fight that way, and the fact that he stayed calm and composed, took the fight to Marcello, and eventually got the KO shows much more about him as a fighter. A patient, smart performance that only cemented his spot as the show's top dog.
- Marcello asking Dana White for a shot in the UFC was touching to me, and I hope he gets it. He's got too big a striking gap to make a real mark in the UFC, but everyone loves a submission specialist, and I think he does deserve another fight or two.
- Many fans were high on both of these guys after the first episode, though I admit neither one made a huge impression on me. Rewatching those first fights, I came around. These are both very well rounded, smart fighters, and I'm looking forward to scouting each man more this week. Check back later in the week for a more in-depth preview.