I fully anticipated season two of The Ultimate Fighter to continue where season one left off. After two episodes, I have to conclude that it’s not a dissappointment in general, and there were enough high-lights and low-lights to warrant a review.
Ongoing, I hope to review each new episode of The Ultimate Fighter, which you can catch on SpikeTV at 11pm EST, and the various re-runs that will air on this self proclaimed “Men’s Network.” You can also find more information at UFC.TV and the official Ultimate Fighter website
First of all, it would be fair to say that I’m a mixed martial arts fan, but I am not a hardcore fanatic. Some fans out there would probably know better the history of the contestants through their on-going struggles to reach the major leagues. The UFC is regarded as the professional league of mixed martial arts in North America. It should be noted that there are many other leagues out there such as Pride Fight and King Of Pancrase.
Season one helped the UFC discover their poster boys, Stephan Bonner and Forrest Griffin. At first glance, season two contestants look to be poised to produce more up and coming stars. They looked tough and skilled with a few exceptions (whom we will discuss later), but overall, the quality looks to be better than season one. This quality was not apparent in the first episode but delivered in the second episode.
Not unlike season one, the introductory episode is muddled with controversy. For the first time in the reality TV series, not one but two contestants quit on their own freewill. Eli Joslin complained that he could not stand the pressure of being sequestered and filmed. Looking at the way he fared in the physical conditioning testing, I feel he was simply psyched out by his own realization of his deficiences. Kenny Stevens is truly the weakest link of all the contestants so I applaud the coaches for calling him out. What a pansy! To quit the contest because he felt he could not make weight is the coward’s way out. If I couldn’t make weight, then I would want the weigh-in to decide my fate. I would not quit with only a few hours before the weigh-in, always to regret not giving my all.
Kerry Schall was also an unfortunate injury bowout. He did not seem to be in shape anyway. But ultimate fighting is a sport that knows no boundaries. That’s the beauty of this sport! I have always appreciated the science, techniques, training, dedication and determination of the fighters. An unorthodox looking fighter such as Luke Cummo may truly prove to be the new Diego Sanchez – the most skilled fighter from season one.
Luke Cummo was the last pick during team selection, mostly because of his looks and physical condition. The comparison to Diego is very apt. Both were considered to be spiritual, eccentric individuals and Luke certainly has skills and instincts that may outstrip his peers. He single-handedly took out two opposing team members to help his team win the team challenge. He is my darkhorse pick for the welterweights!
I don’t have a pick for the heavyweights as yet; not until more layers are peeled off in future episodes. I am generally not a fan of heavyweights because many of them rely on brute strength more so than the other weight classes, but this season’s crop of heavyweights look to be technically sound.
It was a sight to see Dana White, the president of UFC, lecture the fighters on the reason why they are here; and even more funny when Melvin Guillard used his fear of fighters leaving as a prank.
Melvin was also the most recently eliminated fighter but he did so with an outstanding effort in the ring. His fight against Josh Burkman ranks right up there as one of the best fights during the regular show airings of the reality series. Melvin looked aggressive during training and was my pick going into the fight. However, Josh did not let ego get in the way and executed his game plan perfectly. Josh was the better man on the ground, and though Melvin is as slippery as a slithering snake, Josh reduced Melvin’s aggression to a whimper by constantly taking the fight to the mats; controlling the tempo, scoring hits and points. The turning point may be when Melvin swung at Josh, only to meet fist to elbow, breaking his hand. Ouch!
Let’s take a look at the coaches, Rich Franklin and Matt Hughes. Both coaches are already prolific at their young age. But their age certainly shows through this season; especially when contrasted with the maturity of Randy Couture and Chuck Lidell from season one. I look forward to seeing Matt put the fighters through their paces. Matt is a great coach with an unwavering discipline for excellence. The opposing coach, Rich Franklin, is talent incarnate, and has proven himself time and again. Whether Rich can impart any of his skills to the fighters will be revealed in future episodes. Both coaches cannot stand not giving 100%, and will let the fighters know what’s really on their mind. I love their no-nosense attitude.
The one big improvement I want to comment on is the involvement of Randy Couture as the advisor/consultant for the team challenges. I found season one’s team challenges to be quite lame with the exception of one challenge where team members had to work together while tethered to retrieve flags. From the challenge in the season two’s second episode and the previews of future challenges, the first noticable difference is the importance of team work and the integration of fighting techniques into the challenges. Season one challenges were reduced mostly into conditioning races. Though conditioning is an important concept, I find such contest formats to be boring to watch.
The house interaction has thus far been tame, perhaps due to the troubles caused by Chris Leben in season one. Melvin’s occasional quibs were really the only stories thus far. There are signs of more conflicts happening, so look forward to seeing more controversy and good fights!
This has been a lengthy review, though really a quick summary of the first two episodes. I hope fight fans out there will share their perspective with us!
Who are your picks thus far? What are your thoughts on the coaches and the team challenges? And though there’s still a long way to go, how would you compare this season to season one? Who would win if we pit season one fighters with these new, hungry warriors? One thing’s for sure, SpikeTV has a winner of a reality TV series with The Ultimate Fighter: Season 2