We’ve got our teams. We’ve got our first match-up. We don’t have Pranksters with Dynamite. Soldier on, dear friends.
The arrival at the house is mostly uneventful. I couldn’t help but notice that this is as culturally diverse a cast as I’ve seen on the show, always a welcome sight. This season we have several black men, a Mexican, two Irishmen, and Anton Berzin who comes from a family of Russian immigrants. I’m not saying the show should have diversity just for diversity’s sake, but on the most basic level it helps the fighters to stand out. I still have nightmares of the blandly vanilla characters from TUF 11.
Patrick is the one in the…ah, never mind.
The build up for this week’s match revolves around the hype for Cathal Pendred (who was BJ Penn’s
top 3rd middleweight pick) versus the relative anonymity of Hector Urbina, who was Frankie Edgar’s last middleweight pick). Pendred certainly isn’t lacking in confidence and why should he? He was the reigning welterweight champion for Cage Warriors, one of the top promotions in the UK. The whole situation gives me flashbacks to Shayna Baszler/Julianna Peña from TUF 18. While Baszler and Peña were both top picks, Peña was dismissed just as quickly as Urbina is in this episode.
The first training days are standard fare. Highlights include:
- Penn watching his guys roll and saying "this is the future of mixed martial arts". That made me wonder if he’s seen the show at all since the last time he coached.
- Edgar noting that it was a good thing that some of the guys he picked had to gut it out to win a decision.
- Ian Stephens saying he wants to fight like Edgar. They don’t show anyone saying they want to fight like Penn, though I’m not sure if that’s even possible.
Pendred and Urbina are a contrast in motivations. While Pendred does declare himself to be a representative of the MMA scene in Ireland, he also wants to make it clear that his biggest reason for fighting is that he wants to be the best. No money woes, no sob story, just the spirit of competition. He’s one of those guys who the UFC could have signed outright instead of making him go through a reality show. Dana White says as much himself.
Urbina is all about setting an example for his younger brothers who are aspiring athletes. He comes from wrestling crazy Ohio. That explains why his stand-up is so sloppy. He and Edgar take their time drilling some basic boxing, particularly variations on the standard 1-2 combination. It’s too bad Urbina has to fight first. His stand-up has a long way to go. There’s only so much that can be done when you have less than 48 hours to get prepared.
We get a heck of a staredown after the weigh-ins. Penn is loving it! He can’t stop laughing. I believe he’s genuinely happy to be part of this show again. The teams start yelling their support for Ireland and Mexico. Pendred and Urbina don’t need much to spur them on. They butt heads until their coaches intervene.
This would make for a decent poster.
We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for a message from our sponsor (delivered by Mike King). I’ve harped on the American editions of TUF for not showcasing their sponsors front and centre. At last, we’re getting some decent product integration. The gauntlet has been thrown down.
Eat your heart out, TUF: Brazil.
Let’s get the positives out of the way: the first round was fun. Urbina played the scrappy underdog to a tee. His hands are down, his posture is too stiff and he’s unable to control Pendred against the cage. So of course it’s Pendred who ends up getting caught. He gets way too careless separating from Urbina and he takes two or three good punches that wobble him. Urbina is all over him looking to finish, but Pendred recovers.
Urbina doesn’t let up, getting a big slam. The bad news is that Pendred is getting more stable with every second. Urbina then makes the common mistake of going for a guillotine choke that isn’t there. They both fire away and Urbina’s gas tank becomes a serious concern. He lets his hands drop again. Neither guy seemed too interested in stand-up defence.
Penn wanted a street fight and he got a damn street fight! Urbina takes the first round 10-9 with a knockdown and two takedowns. It doesn’t take an expert to see that he’s worn out though.
The next two rounds look a little something like this:
If you’re a fan of this position, this was the most exciting fight of all time.
Penn advised Pendred to get in and out and stop exchanging. Ironically, he wants him to fight like Edgar. The tactics prove unnecessary after a labouring Urbina falls prey to a slow double leg. Then comes the front facelock. The interminable front facelock. The most Urbina can do is to put himself at a weird angle where neither man can do much. Pendred can only score with piddly knees and punches, Urbina can’t get up.
The ridiculousness of the "three point" rule is on full display. Urbina keeps trying to touch the mat, but Pendred is big and strong enough to lift him up and throw knees in the brief window where Urbina isn’t making contact. It’s impossible to officiate properly.
Urbina’s limited stand-up proves costly. All Pendred has to do is press forward and Urbina turtles up leaving him open to body shots or, in this case, takedowns. Edgar begs him to get to his feet. I’m a little disappointed that he resorts to the Rampage Jackson "Get up! Get up! Get up!" method of coaching. After a great first round, Urbina didn’t have anything left and Pendred wins the fight. In an odd bit of embellishment, Steve Mazzagatti announces that Pendred won by "hard fought decision" (HFD?).
One more positive: Vanessa Hanson and Chrissy Blair are making their first TUF appearances. Good on ya, ladies.
Penn gives Edgar a hearty pat on the back as they emerge from their locker rooms. They can’t even pretend to be enemies? This is the anti-Sonnen/Wanderlei.
The first light heavyweight fight is next, with Penn picking Daniel Spohn to fight Todd Monaghan. Urbina was Edgar’s last middleweight pick and now Penn is going after his last heavyweight pick.
I prefer to keep these as recaps rather than reviews, but I have to vent: this episode was mind-numbingly boring. To say nothing happened this episode would be an insult to the abstract concept of "nothing". If these first two episodes were someone’s first exposure to TUF, I doubt they’d tune in for week three. They didn’t show anything interesting happening in either the house or at the gym. We didn’t learn much about Pendred and Urbina beyond the most basic observations. Not only was the fight awful, but because it went three rounds it ate up almost the entirety of the show.
They need to be more open to changing the format. When you have a fight this plodding, just give us the highlights. That would not only save the viewing audience from being bored, it would allow them to include a greater variety of segments on the program. Then again, that would also take more work and who has time for that? Certainly not the folks who run this show.
Just look at the ring girls…pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…
Next week: Spohn v. Monaghan. Also, Edgar and Penn exchange BFF bracelets.