The Ultimate Fighter

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Spike TV and the Ultimate Fighting Championship have been running a reality show called "The Ultimate Fighter." They pick 16 unsigned MMA fighters who are competing for a UFC contract, a new car, watch, etc.

If you're into MMA, TUF is definitely worth watching. Of course, there's the usual reality TV schlock: dividing people up into two teams, ridiculous physical challenges, team infighting, and team membership juggling by the organizers, etc., but after the first few shows, all eliminations were decided by fights, with the loser going home. (In a nice touch, the competitors were required to bring their gear to the matches and the losers had to leave right away.) The fights aren't all good, but a lot of them are, and in some cases they're more interesting than the pro UFC fights, since the action can be a little slower and easier to follow.

The final matches were shown live last night on Spike. The card was:

MiddleweightDiego Sanchez v. Kenny Florian
Light heavyweightForrest Griffin v. Stephen Bonnar
-Ken Shamrock v. Rich Franklin

It will be showing again tonight at 10 PM and Monday at 11 PM. I strongly advise you watch it. The Griffin/Bonnar fight in particular is one of the best I've seen this year.

(Spoilers below the fold)

The Sanchez/Florian fight was fairly lackluster. They're nominally the same weight but Sanchez was clearly naturally bigger and stronger. He dominated the entire fight, taking Florian down and then pounding him until the ref had to stop the fight.

The Griffin/Bonnar fight was outstanding. Both Griffin and Bonnar clearly wanted to stand and slug it out, which they did for the full three rounds. Midway through the second round, Bonnar opened up a cut on Griffin's nose, but the ref let the fight continue. Towards the end of the second round, both fighters started to look very tired, with Bonnar dropping his hands a lot and at one point they both just put their hands on their hips and stared at each other in some sort of de facto truce. Still, they started the action again and stuck it out through the entire third round, slugging the whole way. At the end, the decision went for Griffin, but UFC decided to give Bonnar a contract as well (though he didn't get the car, etc.) I was very impressed watching these guys. It wasn't so much that their skills were so good as that they just gutted it out despite clearly being completely gassed.

The Shamrock/Franklin fight was reasonably good as well. They initially traded punches and then Shamrock ankle picked Franklin and got very close to a heel hook but couldn't bring it off. Standing back up again, Shamrock went for a high kick and slipped and Franklin immediately got on top of him and just started punching. Shamrock seemed unable to defend himself and the ref stepped in and stopped the fight.

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KenFlo was clearly out classed, but props to him for giving his whole heart to fight in a bigger weight class and for making it that far. Weird to think he trains only one town over from me...

The Bonnar/Griffin fight was DEFINITELY one of the top 25 fights for me, and one I will show people to try and get them into MMA. It was certainly a slugfest and obviously lacked more of the "advanced" takedowns and ground work of most UFC fights, but it was still awe inspiring. Great showing and on cable tv no less! Hooray for non-PPV events.

Is it too much to hope for a season 2?

I agree about KenFlo. He was pretty clearly outclassed, but he stuck it out anyway.

As for Season 2, they're taking applications now. IIRC it's lightweights and heavyweights this time.

I thought the Shamrock fight was weak. As long as he's been fighting MMA, you'd think he'd know that high kicks are not a good idea if you've got any other options, especially early in a match against a guy with kickboxing experience. It was even worse because he demonstrated good punches and submissions before going for such a lame move.

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