The second episode of the sixteenth (!) season of The Ultimate Fighter highlighted a lot of the problems that have led to disappointing ratings in recent installments of the long-running MMA reality series, with no signs of anything actually changing. There are a lot of ways to sum up this season so far, but the best is to say that it certainly isn’t “must-see TV”, or anything approaching it.
Well-Worn Tropes Make Their Return
It was the first real episode of The Ultimate Fighter’s newest season, meaning that the guys moved into the house, began training in teams, and the show began in earnest. In other words, it was time for the show to revisit the tired, well-worn tropes that it has lazily survived off of for years now, including:
–The obligatory, “wow, this house is awesome!” shots as the guys walk into the house.
–The riveting moments where the guys decide who is going to be in what bed. I know; I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, either!
–The seeds of a forced coach vs. coach rivalry, with this one lacking the fire of previous installments but instead taking a snippy, catty quality usually reserved to rivalries within high school cheerleading squads. The best thing we’ve got to go on is Shane Carwin and his team not approving of the way Roy Nelson coaches? Really? Making fun of his appearance, the way that Bristol Marunde (who sounded like Dana White, Jr. talking about Nelson’s “disgusting diet”, shaggy beard, and mullet- should help him get on White’s good side, even if it made him look like a dick) did?
Maybe the Carwin-Nelson feud will heat up, but for me I’d rather have no feud from the coaches at all than a manufactured one that feels forced and isn’t convincing whatsoever. These guys all of a sudden have a problem with one another? Okay. It’s also interesting that Carwin is really the coach only in name this season, as Trevor Wittman is clearly doing the largest share of the work, and Carwin has even resigned himself to not cornering his own fighters, saying “I have professionals for that.” It’s an honest and probably even smart method of doing things, but it also exposes the show’s format as being kind of pointless and misleading.
There’s Always One
Every season has at least one guy who stands out as the most obnoxious fighter of the bunch; the ultimate d-bag, if you will. This season, Julian Lane has stepped right up to the plate to wear that honor proudly, and nobody else is even close to contending at this point.
Attention-getting haircut that he self-consciously talks about as if anybody cares? Check.
Antagonizing other members of both the other team and his own because he has nothing else to do/wants television time/isn’t secure about his endowment? Check.
Being the first guy to suggest starting a prank war, because THAT never gets old? Check.
The best Julian moment of this show, and by that, I mean the worst moment, was when he said after his stupid, unnecessary confrontation with Matt Secor that Matt had better “sleep with one eye open…gonna have to watch your back now, bro.” Wait, what?
What exactly are you going to do, assault him while he’s asleep? What, you’re going to jump on him as he walks around in the kitchen and lock him in a rear naked choke? You had a ridiculously forced confrontation with the guy that ended with nothing happening whatsoever, but now he needs to “sleep with one eye open”? What a stupid thing to say.
And Then…There’s the Fight
This fight was really decided long before the fight actually took place. It was decided when we saw Cameron Diffley sitting in a regular bathtub of hot water while Neil Magny enjoyed the actual hot tub all to himself. If you’re just allowing your opponent to use the hot tub while you relegate yourself to a bathtub full of lukewarm water, you’ve already lost, my friend.
In all seriousness, though, it was clear early on that Cameron was in deep trouble. His standup looked very amateurish, as he was very timid and awkward, even. When he did throw strikes, he either reached in order to land ineffective straight rights to the body, threw lazy overhand rights that had no chance of landing, or flicked out leg kicks that can only be described as the type you might see in a very light sparring session.
Furthermore, when you want to get the fight to the mat, you don’t want to be the one backing up every time strikes are thrown. You need to be the one moving forward. Despite my initial doubts, Cameron did get the fight to the mat multiple times in the two rounds he fought Neil, but even with a plethora of leglock attempts that appeared to be nearly sunk in, he wasn’t able to submit his opponent, and his troubles continued.
How far will Neil go, based on his performance? It’s hard to tell, but I don’t think he’s one of the favorites by any means. He had trouble staying off of the mat against someone with awful striking and negligible wrestling, and his striking, while quick, was very rudimentary. He showed good movement early on, but seemed to lose focus and allowed himself to be backed up into the fence a little too often for my taste. I don’t think we’ll see much more out of Neil this season, though he won comfortably over Cameron.
Best Moment of the Show
With the fight itself not being the greatest and not a lot of entertaining moments that weren’t also face-palm worthy, I have to pick when someone was actually rational. In this case, it was Matt Secor saying something that you would hear very few TUF competitors saying- “I’m not here to eat food, sit in a hot tub, make friends…” he explained. In other words, he’s there because it’s a huge career opportunity and he wants to make the most of it. Not because he wants to party, play pranks, and be a douchebag on national TV. If only more fighters on the show had that attitude.