Overall, I like the format of this show and think it’s an improvement over The Apprentice. As we enter the second round, I’m liking the format even more: the winner of each physical challenge dictates the elimination bout. Lots of interesting strategy to think about.
Key Moment #1
The remaining fighters voted back in Ahmed the “Baby Face” after Juan de la Rosa pulled himself out. This seemed crazy at the time, but Ahmed did seem to control himself, aside from his normal squeaky bluster. The strategy behind the vote – to piss off and rattle Ishe – was both stupid and funny in that sophomoric high school way (of which I am often accused, I must admit).
The physical challenge was actually fun and cool to watch this week: the fighters had to run while carrying three medicine balls through multiple layers of elimination, ending with the prospect of making baskets with the heavy balls (all the while wearing boxing gloves!) followed by smashing a sculpture of a fighter’s face. Jesse won: you have to admit that the little dude is quick, agile, and will likely be around until very late in the competition.
There were two shows back-to-back this week. First up was Ishe v. Sergio Mora. I’ve said before that Mora is a likeable, charismatic guy. He reads fairly widely and didn’t vibe with the voting Ahmed back into the competition thing, which means he’s likely sane.
Key Moment #2
The Ishe v. Sergio “Latin Snake” Mora bout was unbelievable – among the best boxing matches I’ve ever seen. Mora worked the Sugar Ray-inspired psych out approach to perfection, frustrating and finally defeating the heavy hitting Ishe. Mora put on a mental clinic – I was skeptical of the kid’s tactics (make him beat himself, etc.) at first, but he proved me dead wrong. Count me on the Mora Bandwagon from now on.
The Contender comes across as great reality TV because in the end it’s real: it comes down to professional athletes battling it out with every inch of their bodies and every ounce of mental fire.
In the second fight, Gomez soundly defeated Ahmed. It wasn’t as exciting a fight, during which the thing that surprised me the most was how much I rooted for Ahmed to make it a good match. He came on late, but his overall conditioning was no match for Gomez’s dogged, bashing style.
Was there ever a reality show contestant that had more hot air and less to back it up with than the trash-aholic Ahmed?
Key Moment #3
During the physical challenge (pulling harness carts filled with family or loved ones around the horse track at Santa Anita) Joey let Peter Manfredo win, ceding him control of the subsequent bout as well as control of a new truck. This caused a big stink in the house – lots of power play and psychological tactics talk. I thought it was a little overblown as the remaining contestants got a little too into the “mental aspects” of the competition.
But, you know, whatever works.
Six fighters are now left… the fights are getting really good. Very hard to say who will win.
I dig The Contender. Good stuff, good TV.
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