Appropriately enough, last week’s recap episode had me thinking about The Ultimate Fighter and its place in the modern UFC. A recent Bloody Elbow comment thread included some stinging criticisms that had me reconsidering the whole endeavour altogether:
"It’s horrifying when you start looking at the list of all the great fighters who have had their fights delayed because they were coaching TUF. Early on TUF built up young fighters and promoted big fights between coaches. Now TUF saddles us with second-rate fighters on main cards and delays big fights between coaches." (MichaelDavidSmith)
"Well put. TUF is the biggest misallocation of resources and wasted opportunity cost in Zuffa history. They seem completely committed to never varying the formula either." (Nate Wilcox)
"With Ronda Rousey, for example, I understand that they are going to use TUF to build up her name and profile, but from March to December, she will not have had a fight mainly due to TUF. On top of that, she’s getting all these movie offers, and they could have possibly squeezed in two fights for her in that time frame, and most definitely could have done one fight in there." (chrisbboy82)
"Not to mention that since TUF is now on FS1 it’s drawing the worst numbers ever and this is for a program that demonstrably has fan appeal (based on DVR numbers, etc). They took their biggest star and buried her on a chump network for half a year."
Ouch. Even as one of TUF’s few remaining devotees, I can admit that the show has become a trifle. The last two seasons have been great fun, but there’s nothing that tells me that it’s capable of producing new stars. Gray Maynard is the last TUF contestant to main event a PPV and he was on the show 6 years ago. Since that time there have been 13 domestic and 3 international editions of the show and each one is a textbook example of diminishing returns.
This is the part where I’m supposed to make a spirited argument for the show and how it’s a cheap way to stock the roster and how it gives us a unique insight into the minds of the fighters and how fun it is to see adults acting like jackasses when mixed with alcohol and cameras...but I can’t. As much as I love the show, it’s on its last legs. All I can do is chronicle the last few seasons before good sense takes over and the whole operation is shut down.
We’ll always have Willa Ford.
On a brighter note, we open on Miesha Tate playing the big sister by bringing burgers to the most recent competitors, Josh Hill and Michael Wootten. It’s a tough scene for Cody Bollinger to watch as he’s next up and has about 15 pounds to cut. He jokingly says that he’ll cry the weight away.
Mike, could you not look me directly in the eyes when you’re downing that thing? Thanks.
Bollinger and his opponent, Anthony Gutierrez, apparently get along and now that I think about it, this is the first time we hear of that or anything in-depth about Gutierrez. Up until this episode, he’s been cast as the chauvinist and the jokester. His fight to get into the house got the highlight reel treatment so I can’t even tell you what his style is. He explains that he’s a fan of the Diaz brothers, which explains his classy behaviour. Ronda Rousey describes him as "annoying", "squirrely" and "unorthodox" stopping short of calling him a sparkplug. There’s a surreal scene where Bollinger and Gutierrez are sleeping in the same room together while cutting weight, made more so by Gutierrez being wrapped up like an infant.
MMA. World’s manliest sport.
WEIGHT CUTTING DRAMA
You can’t see me, but I’m licking my lips right now. I don’t know why, but weight cutting fascinates me. I’m not necessarily a proponent of it, just someone who appreciates the gamesmanship and hard work that goes into perfecting it. Some of my favourite TUF memories are of Bobby Southworth being dragged whining and complaining back into the sauna and Gabe Ruediger going for a colonic.
This struggle is not as fun to watch. In previous episodes, Bollinger has been painted as the consummate family man so seeing the desperation on his face as the weigh-in draws closer and closer is gut wrenching. Bryan Caraway says that weight cutting is the worst thing you could experience in your life, which is a slight exaggeration. I’m sure the women on the show who have given birth would argue (at least in terms of physical discomfort).
Team Tate is mystified by Bollinger’s weight, since he’s been sweating like a pig and not dropped an ounce. They speculate that either his water and sodium levels have gone haywire or he lied about where his weight was to start the day.
Prior to TUF 18, Bollinger had competed primarily as a featherweight. Add in the fact that the fighters can order and eat whatever they want in the house and that was a recipe for disaster. Bollinger breaks down and his coach does her best to keep him going:
Tate: You’re still crying. That’s good. You’ve got tears. You’ve got water in you. You’re going to pull it out.
Back at the house, Raquel Pennington steps in for support but nothing seems to work. Bollinger quits. He was Team Tate’s number one pick and one of the bigger names going into the show. Will he get a second chance? The previous TUF contestants to miss weight were Kenny Stevens (faded into obscurity), Ruediger (had a handful of fights in the UFC) and James Vainikolo (TUF: The Smashes, came in as a late replacement so his miss was somewhat excusable). That’s not fantastic company to be in.
It’s a somber scene as Bollinger admits that he could have made it but he just snapped. Tate says he wasn’t managing his diet during his time in the house. Dana White’s take on it is a lot more clear cut:
White: You took somebody’s f**ing lottery ticket and ripped it up.
Sounds about right. You have to wonder what was going through Bollinger’s head there. Having never put my body through anything like that I can only imagine the mental toll it takes on you. Still, knowing the stakes, I’m as surprised as anyone that he couldn’t find a way to gut out this ordeal.
For more information on extreme weight cuts, check out this article by Tim Ferriss and Nate Green over at fourhourworkweek.com.
Chris Beal is the only eligible replacement as Tate’s guys are on medical suspension. After some discussion, Beal is left hanging as Gutierrez wisely chooses to accept a forfeit rather than having to cut all of that weight again. Dana doesn’t blame him and the commission backs the decision.
Dana was more pissed about him putting his sweaty ass all over the furniture.
Of course, Rousey takes the opportunity to run down Tate for throwing Bollinger under the bus. I thought that Tate was contrite (she said she was "extremely sorry") and I’m not sure how she wasn’t supposed to sound shocked or disgusted by her fighter’s failure. Lost in that drama is the unfortunate reality that Gutierrez might have screwed Beal over. I mean, if Beal wanted to fight again he should have won his first one, but still...that’s cold-blooded.
The f**k did you just say?
I almost forgot there’s a fight this week. Sarah Moras faces Peggy Morgan. Moras gives us the inside scoop: I think she’s very pale...and a ginger...and really tall too so she’s kind of like a giraffe. She delivers the lines with the dryness of a mid-90s female stand-up comic. I keep expecting her to go into a bit about birth control or bad sex, but it never comes.
And what’s the deal with airline food?
We find out that Morgan has a kid. He’s seen her train so he has some concept of what she wants to do for a living. As strange as it must sound when he tells people that Mama fights in a cage, I think that’s better than telling your friends that Mama dances in a cage.
It’s a time-tested striker versus grappler match-up. I’m hearing a lot of "ifs" when discussing Morgan’s chances. My ginger giantess could be in trouble.
Morgan fights like she should, consistently landing jabs and straights. As expected, Moras shoots in and Morgan stops her at first with a nice whizzer. Moras powers through and gets it, immediately trapping Morgan’s legs. Someone on Team Rousey says that Moras is only trying to hold Morgan down, which ends up being incorrect. I understand that Morgan is limited on the ground, but the corner should do more than just tell her to stall. I could have told her that!
When she’s able to get to mount, Moras busts Morgan’s nose with an elbow. The mount attack is overwhelming and Moras goes after the arm. She wins with an armbar that even Rousey should be impressed by.
Last week, I made a gross error saying that Canadians were 0-2 in the house. I should have clarified and said Canadian men, because I completely disregarded Jessica Rakoczy and now Sarah Moras who has done her part to represent my country. My apologies ladies!
At the semi-final meetings, Rousey says that Rakoczy and Pennington are the best while Tate likes Julianna Peña. Everyone on Team Tate says they’d like to fight Rakoczy, showing either unity or the fact that they all know they’re bigger than her.
On the guy side, Chris Holdsworth picks Gutierrez because they’ve got some minor beef, apparently. He says he’d like to meet David Grant in the finale. Wootten also picks Gutierrez on the grounds that he thinks it will be an easy fight. Grant and Gutierrez say they’ll fight anyone.
After Rousey and Tate miraculously agree on the match-ups, your semi-final round looks like this:
· Jessica Rakoczy v. Raquel Pennington
· Julianna Peña v. Sarah Moras
· David Grant v. Anthony Gutierrez
· Chris Holdsworth v. Michael Wootten
Who loves ya, baby?
Next week: Holdsworth v. Wootten! And the return of Gabe Ruediger...okay, maybe not.