For a season of The Ultimate Fighter to be enjoyable, you’re looking for three things:
- Memorable personalities
- Heated rivalries
- Good fights
If you have all three, then we’re talking about an all time great season. You can get by with just one. The personalities this season aren’t bad and they’ve at least tried to manufacture rivalries, but I can’t say I’ve been overly impressed with the fights. There’s only been one finish so far, which means we could be heading towards the depths of TUF 16, a season that had only 2 finishes in 14 fights going into the finale. That isn’t to say that finishes equal excitement or that decisions equal boredom. The problem is when the decisions happen because neither fighter is able to kick it up into another gear.
I’ve been entertained by the matches thus far; however, I don’t see myself going back and watching any of them anytime soon. When this happens, should we take it as an indicator of even competition or subpar fighters?
Richard Walsh and Matt Desroches are still buddy buddy after beating on each other. They exchange pointers, with Desroches referring to Walsh as a "disciplined human being" in a testimonial. This TUF house exudes civility. Maybe it’s the dull winter conditions, but I can’t imagine anyone getting their blood up surrounded by all that soothing wood panelling and fur accoutrements.
Perhaps I should have chosen a word besides civility because the next scene shows one of the Australians having to run "the gauntlet". I’ll let Kajan Johnson explain it:
The house rule is as follows: If one is playing pool and is unable to sink a single ball, then said person must complete a minimum of one lap around the house in the nude. While this person is attempting to complete his lap, it is the duty of the rest of the cast to pelt him with snowballs, buckets of water, etc., forming a "gauntlet" of sorts. After the offending person has completed his run, he is allowed to once again dawn [sic] clothing and rejoin society. Obviously, our youngest cast member, Jake Matthews, is the first one to have to complete this and does so like a champ, barefoot, at high speed with a sock on his dong.
I’m thankful they decided to edit out the majority of this tradition.
I know there’s some joke to be made here about sticks and balls and holes but...it eludes me.
Dan Kelly is apparently known as the "wine guy", while Olivier Aubin-Mercier is the "wine and cheese" guy. I wonder if it makes him mad when he goes to a party and nobody tells him how good the cheese is.
Johnson also wants to fight Walsh because he’s confident that Aubin-Mercier is going to advance and he has no interest in fighting his friend. Walsh is fine with that as he doesn’t like Johnson’s attitude and he considers him to be the easier fight. Luke Harris and Elias Theodorou compare Walsh to "The Bachelor" and all the Canadians are trying to get the final rose. Okay...
I have no excuse for taking this long to screen cap Elias’s skeleton pants.
Patrick Côté is away fulfilling other UFC obligations forcing him to miss practice. Team Canada doesn’t lose a step. Again, a poor choice of words on my part as Sheldon Westcott is battling a knee injury. He describes it as having one of his weapons taken away from him. There is also some drama with Johnson and Laprise who are starting to realize that they could be fighting each other soon. That must suck to have to distance yourself from someone who is both a friend and an ideal training partner.
The always important "teabag" defence.
Over on Team Australia, Israel Martinez continues to take charge. I like how he cusses folks out with a smile on his face. This episode, he dishes out some tough love for young Jake Matthews who is slacking off because his tummy hurts.
Ha ha ha, f**k you mother**ker.
He pushes Matthews to fight through it. Martinez and the other Aussies know that for a young guy like Matthews, the mental aspect of the game is the most difficult part. This training situation has to be a massive upgrade compared to what they’re used to back home. If the Australians weren’t used to high level conditioning and drills, they definitely are now. I should also mention that Martinez shows off some of the most impressive butt wiggling since Ronda Rousey.
I’m sorry I couldn’t animate this for you.
We get to see some more pad work from Kelly. According to a couple of comments last week, it’s not exactly high level. Nevertheless, Kyle Noke makes sure to hype up his man:
If you look at him, he’s very unassuming. He looks like he can’t do much. He doesn’t look athletic at all. He comes in, he hobbles around. His hands are all funny.
Let’s not set the bar too high, coach!
Faced with the prospect of fighting a dangerous opponent while on one leg, Westcott has a great quote:
Every time, in life, you ask for strength...you get struggle.
What he’s saying is that the darkest, most difficult times are when we find the strength that we need to get by. Kelly can relate. His child was diagnosed with cystinosis and will need a kidney transplant. The whole season he’s had this grizzled, weary look to him and you can understand why. Everyone in the house has great respect for his accomplishments, not only as an Olympic athlete but as a father and a human being. Westcott even goes as far as to say that he’s the most well rounded fighter on Team Australia, which can’t possibly be true.
Sheldon might not have time to properly assess his opponents because ABS
As a bonus, the fighters get to watch UFC 167, a card that lives in infamy among us Canucks. That was the night that Rory MacDonald lost to Robbie Lawler and Georges St-Pierre announced his retirement. I’m sure the Aussies must have enjoyed seeing the Canadians squirm, especially guys like Johnson and Aubin-Mercier who have trained at Tristar.
This brought back some unpleasant memories.
The only thing worse than watching your teammates in trouble would have to be seeing all that junk food brought to the house when you still have to make weight. That seemed cruel to me. At least there’s no mystery since there are only two fights left, but I admire Aubin-Mercier, Matthews, Harris and Vik Grujic for making it through the night without punching anything. Westcott has his own plan to stay relaxed:
I’m gonna eat some good food. Then I’m gonna watch some fights, go to bed, and most likely try to kill Dan Kelly in the morning.
They show the house’s reaction to GSP’s razor thin split decision win. Harris yells out "We’ll take it!" The Australians moan about the dodgy decision. I would have really enjoyed seeing more footage of the post-fight discussion, which must have carried on for days.
Kelly and Westcott both came in with injuries. Only one of them showed it.
Westcott comes out with the proverbial guns-a blazing, striking fast and efficiently. Kelly turtles up, which allows Westcott to get a body lock on him. Post-fight, Westcott says he was advised not to do this as judokas have a variety of throws from that position. Kelly might have been too hurt to capitalize, particularly after a couple of slams damaged his knee. He manages some sort of toss, but leaves himself open to an arm triangle. Showing incredible strength, Westcott drags Kelly down and secures the hold. The fight lasts less than a minute.
There is still a lot of show to go. That’s a pleasant surprise. Usually, you can figure out whether a fight will end in a finish or a decision depending on how much time is left. They should tweak it like this more often. Not only would it be less predictable, it would allow them to be more flexible with their format and narratives.
The recap and reactions are taking longer than the fight itself. Theodorou and Johnson are freaking out and you can tell the Australians aren’t happy about it. There’s no way the Canadians could contain themselves after Westcott’s beastly performance. Theodorou yells out "that’s a white belt!" in reference to Westcott’s relative lack of grappling acumen, another comment that the Australians take personally.
The mood is understandably more subdued in the Team Australia locker room. This is likely Kelly’s last shot at the big show. I really feel for him. He refuses to take a towel off of his face, unable to look his teammates in the eyes. The doctor says they will need to do an MRI on his knee. If something is broken, it will affect his ability to make a living outside of fighting.
They can’t get enough of Dan’s quivering chin.
Westcott had the right attitude regarding his injury. There was no reason to come out slow. If the knee was going to go it was going to go; it didn’t matter whether it happened at the beginning of the fight or later. Thanks to his valiant performance, I can finally post a screenshot of Canadian ring girl Stephanie Serfaty.
Please accept this blurry image. The internet has failed me!
Next week: The last welterweight match-up, Team Canada’s Olivier Aubin-Mercier v. Team Australia’s Jake Matthews. Côté says it will be "the fight of the season", which is as tired as Magic Johnson screaming that "the dunk contest is back".