Watching this week's episode of UFC The Ultimate Fighter Live, I was struck by an unfortunate realization - I'm kind of burnt out on this season.
It's not anything that happened this episode. While this week's pair of fights lacked the drama of last week's two underdog wins, these were both entertaining fights. Vinc Pichel vs. Chris Saunders was a fun scrap, while Al Iaquinta scored a brutal KO win over Andy Ogle. Two live, free fights and one step closer to the finals should leave me with nothing to complain about. And I hate being negative. But...
Here in week 11, it just feels a bit like going through the motions, and watching the show felt too much like a chore this week. Because once you've seen everyone fight once in the opening round, what you end up with tends to be fights with great heart, but not always superb technique. I don't always demand flawless fighters, and many times its a fighter's flaws that make him intriguing, but that intrigue is hard to sustain over the course of 3 months.
And it looks like I'm not alone in this view, as this week's episode dropped down to 821,000 viewers - a 13% drop from last week's already low ratings. That makes this episode the lowest rated episode of TUF in its 15 season run. Ouch.
On an episode of Mauro Ranallo's MMA Show podcast last week, there was discussion of how this season hasn't succeeded in producing any emerging stars. And to a large degree, I think that's true. Michael Chiesa and Andy Ogle have brought out their personalities and have won me over in the process, but is there a real break-out star in the mix? At the moment, I don't see it. Which is unfortunate, as I do think this is a talented group.
And if you're talking talent, you need to bring up Al Iaquinta. With his 1st round KO of Ogle, he now stands tall as the favorite to claim the season. He's got good stand-up, nice power, and strong determination. He also has a total lack of personality, but perhaps that non-personality can become his persona if he keeps winning. He's definitely the one I am most interested to watch in the UFC right now, and the one I find most UFC-ready.
As for Pichel, he put in another nice performance, showcasing his relentless attack. That combo midway through round 2 was intense. He needs a bit more seasoning overall, but he's a tough fighter. His showdown with Iaquinta next week could be pretty great.
- Interesting set-up for the semi-finals. By pairing James Vick and Michael Chiesa, they insure that the finals will be an underdog story. That's not a bad move by any means, though it does make next week's fights seem a bit lopsided.
- I like the idea of revealing Renan Barao as Urijah Faber's opponent on the live episode. In theory. In practice, it came off kind of awkward and weird.
- Round 1 of Pichel vs. Saunders was super tough to score, and I could see it going to either man. A good case there for a 10-10 if you ask me.
- Why on earth would Faber wait until the day before the fight to pick Ogle and Iaquinta's coaches? That makes no sense.
- The fighters walking past the taped up giant photos of Faber and Cruz reminded me that this ended up being a pretty tame season as far as reality TV shenanigans go. Even the potential trainwreck of Chris Tickle has been silent.
- No Keith Kizer this week. Sorry fans. Though we did get a few shots of Cecil Peoples lounging on his stool to make up for it.
See you next week for our final episode of the season.