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TV Review: The Ultimate Fighter 3 Episode 2 – “The Basketball”

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I missed episode two but was lucky to catch the re-run tonight prior to this week’s upcoming episode three of The Ultimate Fighter 3 on Spike TV. Episode two started flying out the gate. On the last review, I wrote about the changes in the fighter selection format. The change meant that it only took a few minutes into the show before we knew who would be the next pair of fighters. Removing the time spent on silly challenges freed up more time for viewers to get to know the fighters and their training regiment. Episode three featured the light-heavyweights as Team Shamrock kept the pressure on Team Punishment by choosing Jesse Forbes to fight Noah Inhofer.

Team Punishment (Ortiz)
To prepare for the fight, Tito Ortiz gave Noah a basketball training aid to keep his guard up. The basketball played a bigger role later in the show; so much that this episode was named after it. With some clever editing, it looked as if the basketball was gifted prior to the fighter selection. But it did not make any sense for Tito to focus on helping Noah if he did not know that Noah entering the ring this week.

Viewers got to appreciate more of Tito Ortiz’s hands-on coaching. But members of Team Punishment did not appreciate the fact that Tito had been giving deaf competitor, Matt Hamill, more attention. Tito even hired Matt a sign-language interpreter who signed 92 words-per-minute to ensure that Matt was not missing any instructional opportunity.

Being the father figure that he wanted to be, Tito visited the house and cooked a spaghetti dinner for the team – a first for any Ultimate Fighter coach. I wondered if the fighters cared about a low-carb, high-fiber, high-protein diet, or did they simply eat anything given the amount of energy they expended throughout the training.

Team Shamrock
On the other team, Ken Shamrock decided that it was best for the team to take two days off from training. His philosophy aligned with previous coach, Rich Franklin, who did not believe in over-training prior to fights. However, Ken was the first coach to encourage recovery by doing nothing. Rich Franklin got his team to at least keep active through enjoying other sports.

What happened during the days off? And what happened to the basketball? Well, when you have a bunch of testosterone-filled men in a house with nothing to do, pranks ensue. At the fighters’ residence, Jesse Forbes was portrayed as an immature and destructive youth who broke vases by shooting pool cue balls through them. This attribute perfectly raised the tension between Jesse and Noah when Jesse punctured Noah’s basketball with a steak knife. Noah displayed tremendous maturity by turning the other cheek, and not confronting Jesse’s mischief.

After the days off, Ken’s coaching became a tug-of-war between the contestants and his “my way or the highway” style. Ken was disappointed that the intensity dropped and pointed the finger to Kalib Starnes’ lack of effort. Kalib defended himself strongly by stating that he did not want to risk injury since he had reached the semi-final round.

The Fight
On fight day, Noah met Jesse in the octagon while nursing a slight ankle-roll injury. Noah’s pre-fight game plan was not to face Jesse on the ground because of Jesse’s wrestling background. The battle wrote a different story as Jesse quickly took Noah down and worked his way into a dominating side-mount position. Noah was fighting his own fight and not listening to his corner’s instructions. Jesse pushed his advantage, cornering Noah into the fence. While Jesse was working the ground-and-pound game, Noah sneakily heisted his hips, pushed off the fence and scored an arm-bar submission win.

I really appreciated the new feature showcased in this episode – the Amp’d Mobile replay. Dana White and the two coaches broke down the final moments of the fight and broke down the elements of the hip-heist that eventually gave Noah the victory. Ken Shamrock “saw it coming” and Tito commented that Jesse had done the worst thing possible when facing an arm-bar – trying to pull away instead of driving towards the opponent to keep his arms bent. This replayed was informative and helped fight fans further their knowledge of the sport.

Prelude to Episode Three
Team Punishment had wrestled the control of the fight match-ups from Team Shamrock. I look forward to checking out Tito’s strategy in the upcoming episode. Some fans have commented that season three was surpassing season two, but had not lived up to the high bars set by season one. I had a different opinion after watching the first two fights of this season. The fights thus far had not gone past the first rounds because the fighters brought more intensity and were more technically sound. If this trend continues, I expect the semi-final rounds to host the best fights that this realty TV series had offered thus far.

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