Instead of adding another live blog to the ginormous pile of them littering the internet waiting to waste away out of pure reader apathy, I’ve decided to cover this season’s episodes of The Ultimate Fighter post-mortem, instead. And no, it has nothing to do with the episodes now taking place on Friday night. Nothing. At. All.
Hey, You Got Your Emotions In My Violence!
In a typical season of The Ultimate Fighter, the most emotional thing that takes place is a fighter (understandably) getting choked up after a losing a fight and letting himself/his family/his trainers/his coaches/his pet dog down. Every now and then, we also get someone who really, really needs to see his girlfriend of six months, too. (A short note on Noah Inhofer: he hasn’t fought in 3 1/2 years, but he did end up marrying his girlfriend, who he now pulls pranks on and engages in hijinx with before posting the videos on YouTube.)
Anyway, imagine my surprise when on this week’s TUF, we were exposed to actual emotions! My surprise, in all fairness, was probably not equal to the confusion experienced by the many “bros” watching around the country from frat houses, college dorms, and Mom’s basements, though.
Michael Chiesa, who had previously appeared on the episode to say that he was happy to be in the TUF house because he’s “kinda homeless”, got some awful news from home as his mother calls to say that his father passed away. What followed was a really poignant moment where the only person on the show that Chiesa really knows, Sam Sicilia, consoles Chiesa over his loss. And promoters wonder why it’s not cool to have training partners fight one another?
Giving credit to Dana White for “allowing” Chiesa to fly home for the funeral would be about like giving credit to someone for giving them a 10% off coupon for their next trip to your Chinese buffet after they crapped themselves for two days because of some bad sweet and sour pork. Still, it was doubtlessly good for Chiesa, who must have felt like he belonged anywhere else but in that house after receiving that kind of news.
Cruz-Faber Feud Lacks Fire
Was it just me, or did Urijah Faber’s confrontation of Dominick Cruz over Cruz’s comments in the UFC Magazine seem a little…tepid? Forced, maybe? I don’t wanna say that it seemed like it was just there to encourage people to buy the magazine, but…okay, it seemed like it was just there to encourage people to buy the magazine.
Regardless, Cruz was just as elusive in the brief conversation as he is in the cage, as he readily apologized to Faber’s parents if he got his facts wrong (the quote was about Faber’s parents buying him a gym, which Faber understandably took as being portrayed as a spoiled kid who hasn’t earned what he’s got). Faber looked like a bit of a simpleton as he had to get the last word in, telling Cruz to just leave families out of it. Never mind that the quote wasn’t really about Faber’s parents. If I say, “You have a car because your parents bought you one,” who is the principal subject? You? The car? Your parents? Urijah Faber’s sense of self-doubt? Between that and Cruz’s crafty move at the end of the show (more on that later), the TUF 15 score is now Cruz 1, Faber 0, in my book.
And Then…There’s the Fight
This show’s fight was between Team Cruz’s James Vick and Team Faber’s Daron Cruickshank. Cruickshank set himself up for embarrassment with these words before the fight: “I’m 10-2. I’m a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. What’s he done?” Now, besides the fact that you can get a black belt in Tae Kwon Do from your local YMCA in a couple of years, it was just a cocky thing to say. I mean, I don’t want to say Tae Kwon Do has been ruined by the proliferation of “McDojos”, but the last time I got my daughter a Happy Meal I had the option to substitute a black belt for the Barbie toy for an extra $1.99.
After a really awkward, obviously-staged live pep talk from each coach to his fighter, the fight was underway. I have to admit that I was buying into Cruickshank as a real badass for a minute. The problem is, Vick didn’t buy into it. He was very tentative at first and I thought he was gun-shy, but he obviously knew something I didn’t, as he landed a picture perfect knee right as Cruickshank shot in for a puzzling, unnecessary takedown. Apparently Cruickshank didn’t watch the Thiago Alves-Martin Kampmann fight, because he was unaware that the MMA gods do not take kindly to takedowns for the sake of takedowns.
I find the “time a knee strike on the takedown” technique really interesting, perhaps because we mostly owe it to Chuck Liddell. What’s that? Liddell never knocked a guy out that way? Well, he was close with his half-kick-KO-thing on Renato “Babalu” Sobral, but you’re mostly right. Still, that’s missing the point.
Royce Gracie didn’t just convince everyone (including the guy who played Al Bundy) to take up jiu-jitsu, but he also taught us that when you get taken down, you immediately secure the guard. Any other action was not sensible.
It wasn’t until Chuck Liddell that I saw someone disregard that advice completely and not get destroyed for it. When I first saw Liddell get taken down and then simply stand up, it was like watching Criss Angel make the serial number on a dollar bill disappear, or whatever the fuck he does. Okay, it was actually way cooler than that. Even the great Randy Couture couldn’t hold Chuck down.
Over the years, other fighters with pretty good wrestling backgrounds also decided, “Hey…why should I just lay here? I’d rather be standing up, so why don’t I just stand up?” Now, it seems like something that began as Liddell’s special ability has become something that the majority of MMA fighters can do, depending on their opponents. The use of the cage, which used to be seen as an advantage for the wrestlers, has been instrumental for allowing fighters to avoid watching the clock tick away from their backs, too.
What I’m getting at is that between having the confidence that you can stand back up again and some other factors (brisk referee stand-ups, judges acknowledging active guards), getting taken down isn’t as scary as it once was. This gives fighters like Vick the ability to throw caution to the wind a bit and try to time a knee like he did on Friday night. In the past, you didn’t see it much. After all, if you miss the knee or it doesn’t hurt your opponent, you’re pretty much giving him the takedown and unless you can submit him, the round. Now, that’s not the case, and the sport is better for it.
One last note on the fight: you could almost feel bad for Cruickshank, if he didn’t have a history of being a douchebag in the cage. Hey, Cruickshank- at least Vick didn’t land another unnecessary punch at full-power, then celebrate by posing for a picture using your limp body as a prop!
Best Moment of the Week
As I alluded to earlier, Cruz pulled a great move when it came time to select the next week’s fight. He picked his number one fighter, karate-based violence expert Justin Lawrence, and told Faber to go ahead and pick his opponent. The implication, of course, is that it doesn’t matter who Lawrence fights, and I love it. What a confidence boost for Lawrence. Faber responded by stammering for several moments about who he should pick, then asking his team, “Who’s ready to fight?” The response? It could only be described as seven people murmuring things like, “Well, I could probably…” or “I guess I feel okay…” I mean, it was so wishy-washy, Charlie Brown himself was seen shaking his head in the background. Excellently played by Cruz, and the fact that no one wanted to fight Lawrence speaks volumes.