This week on UFC The Ultimate Fighter Live, we were treated to another very entertaining fight in the opening round, albeit one that was somewhat tarnished by some questionable judging. But we'll get to that fight in a minute, because in many ways, the fight took a backseat to this week's guest judge - Strikeforce champion Ronda Rousey.
It would have been easy for the whole Rousey segment to come off poorly, and at a few moments, it was in danger of getting too weird, with a bit too much drooling and "A woman in the TUF house!" vibe. But ultimately, this was a great segment that really highlighted how TUF can work well.
Dominick Cruz brought in Rousey to show his team some throws from her impressive Judo repertoire. And those throws were intense. In her fights, it's clear she has a wide range of techniques, but this footage emphasized just how good she was with these throws. I seriously could watch an hour of just her teaching and demonstrating throws - great stuff. That was cut together with testimonials from the fighters about how badass she is, which, when combined with the training footage, came across as sincere and not pandering.
If Strikeforce wants to keep pushing Women's MMA, Rousey is the key, and this was the perfect way to increase her exposure to the larger UFC audience. She came across as likeable, super talented, and a bit scary. A perfect way to use the show to build someone up.
Once Rousey left, we focused on Sam Sicilia vs. Chris Saunders. Like I said, this was an entertaining fight, but the judging left many scratching their heads. After the second round, two judges gave Saunders the nod 20-18, while one went 20-18 Sicilia. Dana White post-fight praised the action, but said he saw it even after 2, which is how I had it as well. It's a TUF fight, so I'm not going to get crazy indignant here, but I did find all 3 scores off-base. Giving Saunders round 2 is bizarre - he clearly was getting hit more and fading as it went on. A third round may have gone Sicilia's way. As for round 1, some are arguing that it should go to Sicilia, but I say no based on the big headkick from Saunders. Maybe it's the kickboxing fan in me, but as I see it, one near KO trumps a round of back-and-forth, no matter who had a small advantage in that back-and-forth.
I am curious to hear other thoughts here. How did you score it?
- Man, Faber loves the shoulder rub after giving his pre-fight pep talk. It was more subtle this week, but he goes for it every time.
- Speaking of which, the less said about Team Alpha Male squirting oil all over each other while jumping around in their underwear the better.
- The guys were horribly awkward around Rousey in the house, but that was much better than being horrible douche-y, so props to them.
- Cruz describes Faber by saying he's nothing but overhand rights and guillotines, which is an interesting idea that I must think about more.
- I'll be curious to see how next week is structured. Will we get the first two quarter-finals announced? Or will we have to wait until the next week to find out?
Sam Sicilia vs. Chris Saunders:
- Putting aside the judging issue, this was a fun fight, and for the second week, TUF showed the kind of scrappy war you want from the show.
- Saunders was more technical, but I didn't like how he faded in round 2. That, combined with his win in the prelims, makes me a bit concerned about his ability to pace himself over 3 rounds.
- The more I think about it, the more I think Sicilia really lost out here. He was definitely gaining momentum through round 2, and a 3rd round could have closed the deal for him. Now, he's in a must win situation for the finale if he hopes to stick around.
- Our last opening round fight, and a tough one for Ogle. Rio's wrestling is good, and I'm not sure that I see a path to an Ogle victory at the moment. I like Ogle, but a Rio win puts us at 4-4 in the quarter-finals, which I kind of prefer. Check back Friday for more details.