Carrying over from last week’s discussion about The Ultimate Fighter’s viability, I’m going to bring up an idea that seems to come up every now and then.
Another "comeback season".
For those who don’t remember, season 4 of TUF brought back veteran fighters who had made appearances in the UFC but never ascended to a top position. It is rightfully regarded as one of the best seasons, both for the quality of the fights and how well it showcased several personalities. Who could forget the non-stop entertainment of "Mr. International" Shonie Carter, the ball busting of Charles McCarthy (who in all likelihood was suffering from a bi-polar disorder), and the sophomoric shenanigans of future sex offender Jeremy Jackson. Okay, maybe we could forget that last one.
Nobody benefited more from the show than Matt Serra. He became the de facto leader of his team and had memorable clashes with Marc Laimon and Matt Hughes (planting the seeds for their rivalry). He was in the middle of almost every memorable moment. Oh, he also won the tournament, earned a title shot against Georges St-Pierre and beat him to officially become the number one welterweight in the world for a short time. This actually happened.
Were they to reuse the concept today, the automatic title shot would be out the window. I’m thinking the winner would get a main event slot on a free card. Does that even sound like a worthwhile prize?
Let’s say the only restrictions are that contestants can’t have been on TUF before, competed for a UFC title or ever been in the main event of a UFC card. Who would you bring back? I look forward to your suggestions.
The first round is over and you know what that means. It’s time...to...get...KRUNK (do people still say this?)! Everyone is in good spirits and why shouldn’t they be? They know who the semi-finalists are, all of this tension has been released and...you know, it feels like they’re forgetting something. Not sure what it could be though.
Ah, well. SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS
Raquel Pennington is there to hang with Sarah Moras, who is frustrated about not getting to enjoy her victory. Pennington reminds me of Nate Quarry, in that she’s always there for someone to lean on. She’s a real "Rock", if you know what I’m saying. A real "Rock".
You see, Pennington’s nickname is "Rocky" and Quarry was known as "Rock" in his fighting days. Rocks are solid and stable, much like someone you would go to for comfort in a difficult time. Quarry was one of the more mature members of the original TUF cast and thus, like a rock. Pennington is like Quarry, thus also rock-like. Rock.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, we find out that Ronda Rousey is a former bartender. Also, she’s cosplaying Sarah Connor apparently:
"You broke my arm!"
"There’s 215 bones in the human body. That’s one."
If I was one of the contestants on the previous seasons I’d be jealous that the TUF 18 guys get to party with the ladies. From here on out, it will suck to not be on a cast with women. I’d rather be flirting with Jessamyn Duke than have to listen to Amir Sadollah’s collection of vintage fart jokes.
Party time is over and the semi-finals are looming. Pennington, Moras and Louis Fisette are convinced that Julianna Peña and Chris Holdsworth are the coaches’ favourites. It’s hard to argue with that logic, especially when you consider that Peña and Holdsworth had a previous relationship with Miesha Tate and her team. That said, the dissenters are treading a fine line between standing up for themselves and whining. Later in the episode we get Holdsworth’s perspective. He feels abandoned by his teammates who aren’t going to the semi-finals (he was the only Team Tate male to advance). Seeing Peña and Holdsworth jumping rope together like a couple of robots probably isn’t helping things.
Holdsworth v. Peña would be a dream finale.
In what must be a desperate attempt to get ratings, we’re treated to guest appearances by Cain Velasquez and Nate Diaz! Velasquez rides in like the Fonz, but there isn’t much he can do to liven up what is otherwise an extended Harley Davidson commercial.
Sit on it!
The cast hangs out in a hangar and gets to enjoy "Harley Davidson boot camp". This unfortunately leads us to what must be a lowlight of the entire TUF series: a tutorial on how to pick up a Harley that is tipped over. I can’t believe this show is struggling to find an audience.
Diaz acquits himself better as he actually shows up at the gym to train with Team Rousey. It’s a big deal for everyone, including David Grant who actually named his son Nate! I completely missed the TUF 5 connection between Diaz and Manny Gamburyan. It’s incredible how far both men have gone in their careers, with Gamburyan having challenged for the featherweight title and Diaz getting a crack at the lightweight strap. This coaching session brings it full circle.
The rest of the episode is all over the place. Holdsworth and Michael Wootten are struggling with the isolation; Holdsworth from his team and "himself", Wootten from his friends and family. The segment is packed with long shots of dark rooms and coffee dripping. You know, the stuff fight fans come to see.
Subtlety, thy name is The Ultimate Fighter.
There’s also an inspiring visit from Kenny Salvini, a former athlete who became a motivational speaker after a life altering accident. Pleasant as that was, you can tell they had trouble filling time this week. The episode kind of sucks.
One bright spot is Team Rousey’s handling of a depleted Wootten. Rather than forcing him to put on some false bravado, they acknowledge his fatigue and find other ways to prepare him for the fight that don’t involve overtraining. Take note overzealous camps!
Then again, considering the results...
A dominating performance by Holdsworth. He takes Wootten down like a sack of potatoes and advances to side control with ease. You’re seeing black belt jiu-jitsu here folks. Wootten tries to buck Holdsworth off, but that’s just a waste of energy. On the escape, a D’Arce choke almost puts Wootten to sleep. Holdsworth is all over him, slipping around into a rear naked choke. He squeezes and squeezes until his hand slips under the chin and that will do it. Much like Uriah Hall, Holdsworth is using the tournament as a showcase even though the UFC would probably have signed him without it. Hopefully, unlike Hall, he won’t suck.
All they do is win.
Next week: Sarah Moras v. Julianna Peña. Dana White admits that he isn’t high on Moras even after her impressive win over Peggy Morgan. It might have something to do with the fact that she’s chosen to channel the spirit of Gilda Radner.