Does The Ultimate Fighter Have Legs Anymore?
I'm not just talking about the jelly legs of all the no-stamina heavyweights dotting the show. Rather, this season of TUF banked on two quantities: a grudge match between "Rampage" Jackson and Rashad Evans, who seem to legitimate want to eat each other's throats, and of course, the return to relevance of Kimbo Slice. Neither panned out. Jackson's moviestar fantasies left Rashad hanging and, as happened to EliteXC, Kimbo's MMA prowess couldn't support his marketing push. With both those storylines down the tubs - whoops! Was thinking about Roy Nelson! Meant "tubes" - we were left with a conga line of snoozer matches that made the coaches' beach volleyball match the most compelling athletic competition to air this season.
It's not only the embarrassing cardio that makes me think TUF needs an overhaul. It's the format, which after ten seasons has grown brutally stale. We've seen every possible house antic, every training storyline, and the best classes of fighters from the show are still the first two (Griffin and top contender Diego Sanchez from the first season; Evans and Joe Stevenson from the second).
I'd borrow from two successful recent boxing initiatives: the Super Six tournament and HBO's 24/7 series. Put TUF on the shelf for a year, then give us a small (4, 6, or 8 fighter) tournament of contenders. Have it at 170 or 185, where the competition beneath GSP and Silva could really use some hype (plus a possible juicy AKA vs. AKA storyline), and then follow them with cameras and take us inside their camps. Give us an eye on the personal lives of the fighters and what being a UFC fighter is really about, which is something that hasn't really been explored much on air. The matches would be quality, there's plenty of potential for drama, and it would hold my attention far more than two fatties rumbling at each other for five minutes and spending the next five gassed.
Whither The Heavyweights In UFC?
Swine flu. Knee surgeries. Severe staph. Crazy Canadian bacterial infections. The UFC's heavyweight division is a mistaken lupus diagnosis and a painkiller addiction (which apparently is a welterweight problem) away from being an episode of House right now.
While Fedor had a great month, almost every other major heavyweight - the entire top of UFC's roster at 265 - went down with injuries or sickness. The most severe case is obviously that of Brock Lesnar, the resumption of whose career may still be touch-and-go. I'd link to the news, but nobody seems to know anything for certain yet.
Prior to late last year the conventional wisdom was that UFC's heavyweight division was the weakest of their weight classes. Then a funny thing happened: things got really good. Couture, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir all established themselves solidly and greener fighters like Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos all made names for themselves. And after the coronation of Lesnar and a fight of the year contender with Couture-Nog, the apocalypse hit and now only three of those seven fighters are walking around healthy. It's a rollercoaster: UFC's heavyweight division has gone from a joke to a party to a mess.