Sunday, June 24, 2007

TUF 5 - Finale

Well, I didn't bother to recap the two semi-final episodes. Take the pain. Here's the quickie version. Karo and Nate Diaz almost came to blows. Manny beat Joe. The fighters trashed the house. Nate beat Gray. All Team Pulver in the finals. People hugged.

Last night was the finale, which featured Nate Diaz v Manny Gamburyan. The promos for the show took full advantage of both Diaz' and Gamburyan's family, selling the clash as a meeting of "UFC royalty." A tad hyperbolic perhaps, but a good way of selling the card. And of course, the show also features the long-awaited clash between Jens Pulver and BJ Penn.

Because the show mainly featured matches, and not in-house shenanigans, I've decided to break down the matches into my Good, Bad and Ugly classifications. Primarily for the sake of consistency.

The Good
  • BJ Penn d Jens Pulver - BJ looked to be in the best condition he's ever seen, and was more than ready for Jens. But Jens was able to last a round and a half with BJ, before finally submitting to a rear naked choke.
    After the match, BJ and Jens hugged, and it seems that the 'bad blood' between the two of them has been cleared up. Which is good, given that the whole thing seemed to be more of a friendly rivalry than a feud. Plus, with Jens apparently dropping down to 145 in the WEC (watch out Urijah Faber) and BJ looking to go back up to 170 to avenge his loss to Matt Hughes, there isn't any point to these two 'feuding' any longer.
    And speaking of BJ/Hughes 3, I'm totally favouring BJ. He lost the last fight because of poor conditioning, and if the well-conditioned BJ from last night shows up, Hughes is in trouble. Which is fine with me.

  • Roger Huerta d Doug Evans - Huerta is the UFC's cover boy, quite literally, as he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated's first issue to address the growing popularity of the UFC and MMA. He's young, he's attractive, and he's Latino. Which is important if the UFC wants to tap into the Latino market. Particularly when their other prominent Latino fighter, Diego 'Dirty' Sanchez has all the charm and appeal of a scorching case of herpes.
    So it's understandable that the UFC would want Huerta to win. But this fight wasn't a cakewalk. Evans put on a good performance, most likely winning the first round. But in the second round, Huerta came out more aggressive. Even then, Evans took down Huerta twice, before Huerta was able to get Evans' back, and rained down punches until the ref stopped it.
    Evans may have lost, but he established himself as a strong fighter in the growing lightweight division. And Huerta solidified his position both in the division, and in the UFC.
  • Thalas Leites d Floyd Sword - Leites put on something of a jiu-jitsu clinic here, tossing Sword around before getting an arm triangle in the second half of the first round.

  • Joe Lauzon d Brandon Melendez - Joe was a TUF favorite until he ran into Manvil, and Brandon was fairly impressive. Brandon also didn't make weight, coming in at 157, but Lauzon still agreed to the match. Plus Joe gets a cut of Brandon's purse as a penalty.
    The first round was very good, with Joe going all out, and Brandon showing good submission defense and striking when the fight was standing. The first round ended with Joe trapping Brandon with a heel hook that, with another thirty seconds, would probably have meant victory. The second round continued with more of the same. Brandon showed great submission defense, just not enough to counter Joe's relentless attack. Joe finally got Brandon with a triangle choke as Brandon was transitioning out of giving up his back to Joe.
    Joe showed that his defeat of Jens wasn't a fluke, and his loss to Manny wasn't a stumbling block. And Brandon still has a future in the octagon, or another MMA organization, possibly a team based league.
The Bad
  • Cole Miller d Andy Wang - Okay, during the season, Andy got in trouble for choosing to stand and trade punches, rather than take the fight to the ground and utilize his Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt! So what does he do when he's given a chance on the TUF Finale? He stands and trades punches with Cole of course!
    Cole looked pretty good here, but not overly impressive, knocking Wang down with a high kick to the head, and finishing him with punches, although Wang argued that the fight was ended too soon. Cole will be pretty good in a few years, but he isn't at the same level of Diaz, Lauzon and Gamburyan.
    Wang? Wang needs to rethink his fighting philosophy. Like I said while rewatching Wang's fight during the Spike TV TUF marathon, if I'm Wang's corner man, I'm telling him that if he doesn't shoot for a take down in the first thirty seconds, I'm throwing in the towel. And then I follow through on that threat. Wang needs to be taught to fight to his strengths.
  • Nicknames - I've talked about this before, but now it's just getting ridiculous. Last night Joe Lauzon's nickname was J-Lo. Which I guess is funny, and maybe Joe chose it as a joke, but still, why would one want to be associated with that? And Brandon Melendez' nickname? The Murderer! What's next, The Rapist? The Pederast? The 911 Terrorist?
    Nicknames are all well and good, but only when they're earned, original and somewhat entertaining. Don't just take a nickname because you like the sound of the word. Otherwise you'll get names like Chilly McFreeze or the Shockmaster.
The Ugly
  • Gray Maynard NC Rob Emerson - Before the fight, this one was similar to Pete Sell v Scott Smith from the TUF4 Finale. Two guys, both friends, looking to beat on the other guy for 15 minutes, then go out for a protein shake afterwards.
    After the fight, this one was similar to Pete Sell v Scott Smith from the TUF4 finale, with the most bizarre finish on the show. The first round saw Maynard dominate Emerson with wrestling, but Emerson scored some good punches. At one point, Maynard really damaged Emerson with a strong blow to the ribs, made all the worse by the fact that Emerson evidently tore some cartilage on his ribs during training.
    In the second round, Maynard took Emerson down, and the force of impact caused Emerson to tap. But the force also knocked Gray out, as he essentially DDT'ed himself on the mat. Gray thought he won, but it was announced as a no-contest. Gray was livid, while Emerson positioned everything for a rematch.
    Not a bad fight, as both guys looked good (although Gray looked better), but the ending was a mess. And Gray's refusal to accept the decision made him look pretty bad. I can understand arguing, but he was almost petulant.
  • Nate Diaz b Manny Gamburyan - In the first round, Manny showed why being 155 lbs of muscle on a 5'5" frame can be a good thing, as he overpowered Diaz. Diaz tried for some submission attempts, but as Rogan and Goldberg pointed out, Manny's smaller limbs make it easier for him to escape potential submissions. Diaz was being overpowered, but he didn't lose his cool, and kept focused on the match. More importantly, Diaz let Manny wear himself out in the first round.
    When the second round started, Manny seemed ready to go, albeit a little winded, while Diaz seemed fresh. Manny shot in, and took Nate down, then started tapping. Manvil suffered another shoulder problem, which is what kept him out for two years before he got on the show, and he evidently aggravated in his victory over Lauzon.
    Again, this was by no means a bad fight, but the ending was ugly, made all the worse by the repeats of Manvil's shoulder injury. Obviously Nate will take the victory, but he didn't beat Manny. What is worse is the possibility that Manny may not fight again, given the continuing problems he seems to have with that shoulder. Should Manny be able to return, a rematch is more than in order. Maybe an Ultimate Fight Night with Manny v Diaz and Gray v Emerson?
  • BJ Penn's Post-fight Interview - or lack thereof. Jens gave a good interview, commending BJ, talking about his plans to train with BJ, and move down to 145, and how he learned from the show. When Joe went to talk to BJ, BJ said to go to, then ran from the ring like George W. Bush from a grieving war mother. When I went to the site later, it was down, giving an Internal Server error, which could have been a commentary on BJ's feelings, but was probably the result of too much traffic. As of my writing this, the site still wasn't working properly. I don't know why BJ decided not to do an interview, but it made him come across as bitter and childish. But I still like him better than Matt Hughes.
TUF5, despite the fact that it greatly disillusioned me on Dana White and the UFC, was still a very good season. Interesting characters, good fights, and some not too childish antics made for a good show. Hopefully TUF6 will continue that theme, although I'm not looking forward to having to watch Matt Hughes on my tv. Unless it's footage of him getting his ass handed to him by GSP over and over again.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

TUF 5.10

Okay, so I'm quite late in posting this. But I just started two new jobs, so I'm working oddly right now.

The show opens with Corey Hill in the sauna, talking about the fight with Buddy Rowe. What's that? You don't know who Buddy Rowe is? Why he's Corey Hill's motivational inner voice. This once again demonstrates Corey's rather unique personality and approach to the sport.

The most dramatic portion of this week's episode was Nate Diaz working out with Team Penn, as a result of his desire to spend less time around Corey Hill, given that he was preparing to fight Hill. Some of Diaz's Team Pulver teammates are less than enthused about this, a sentiment shared by some members of Team Penn. Notable amongst Team Penn members is Joe Lauzon, who has advanced to the semi-finals, and has a couple of nagging injuries that he doesn't exactly want to advertise.

Nate stays at the gym to work out with Team Pulver, and has a little tete a tete with Jens about why he was working out with Team Penn. Jens tries to understand Nate's reasoning, but doesn't quite get it. But he also doesn't get upset with Nate, and supports the decision regardless.

Jens also tells us that he's not cornering for either Nate or Corey. Good on him.

Corey and Nate have a very good fight. Just comparing Corey's performance in his first fight to this one, you can see just how much Corey has improved. Nate wins with a triangle choke after a few minutes of both stand up and ground work. More importantly, the end of the fight is followed by hugs and mutual admiration.

We then move on to the next fight of the episode, Matt Wiman vs. Manny Gamburyan. In order to better prepare Manny for the fight, Jens brings in Manny's cousin, Karo Parisyan. You know, the guy who throws opponents around like sacks of flour? Yeah, him. Parisyan gives all Team Pulver members a crash course in throwing.

Nobody except Karo and Manny seem to be giving Manny a chance. Dana favours Matt, BJ favours Matt, and Matt believes that God favours Matt. I think Matt Hughes and Tim Sylvia made similar contentions. And of course, we can never forget God's teaming with Shawn Michaels in a tag team loss to Vince McMahon and Shane McMahon.

In the fight, Manny outpowers Matt's attempts to take him down, and does more damage striking. In an upset, Manny scores a unanimous decision over Matt.

Matt shows his Christian side when he dismisses Manny's victory as a fluke, stating that "I still believe that I’m a much better fighter than he is… if I fought that guy ten times, I would beat him more times than he would beat me… It doesn’t make sense, him beating me." Classy guy that Matt Wiman.

The Good

  • Both fights were very good this week.
  • Corey Hill is a markedly improved fighter. If he improved this much in the six weeks or so he was in the house, he is going to be a real force to be reckoned with after six months.
  • Once again, Jens shows his reasonable and motivating side. While he may not have really understood why Nate wanted to train with Team Penn, he didn't freak out and go off. Instead, he listened to what Nate had to say, and did his best to ensure that Nate got what he thought was the best training possible. Hmmm, coaching without belittling, abusing, berating or attacking. What a crazy concept.
  • I'm impressed with Karo's willingness to come in and help all members of Team Pulver. While Manny may have been the reason he came, he didn't only help Manny. It's also impressive because Karo doesn't get the respect from the UFC that other guest coaches like Randy Couture and Matt Hughes have received.
  • After the kafuffle last week about Noah Thomas and Marlon Sims facing one another at the TUF5 finale next week, Dana sent down word from on high that not only is that fight not taking place, but also that "will never fight in the UFC - ever." Dana said that Spike announced the fight because they wanted it, but Dana never agreed, and he has no intention of allowing them in the UFC after the street fight. Good for Dana.
The Bad

  • I don't think Nate ever just said "I wanted to train with BJ because I don't feel comfortable training here with Corey."

The Ugly

  • Matt Wiman needs to learn to keep his mouth shut. If you're going to drop the God card before the fight, you'd better be prepared to keep it in play after the fight. Otherwise, you just come across as a hypocritical jackass. Unless, of course, you actually are a hypocritical jackass.
Next week, we get the announcement of the semi-final matches. It seems that Dana wants to see Nate v Manny and Joe v Gray, but Jens isn't too keen on the idea.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

TUF 5.9 - Killing Time

This week's episode begins with a recap of last week's fight. The official one, not the one between Noah and Marlon, which goes unmentioned this week. This week's fight is Gray Maynard versus Brandon Melendez.

We then go to a Team Pulver training session, where Jens is growing frustrated with Melendez's attitude, and Melendez is growing weary of Jens. Jens tries to talk to Brandon, but Brandon doesn't really seem to be listening. Everything comes to a head when Brandon insists he wants to ride the Airedyne after practice, but Jens wants him to do some stretching instead. Brandon really likes the Airedyne. It's his happy place.

At Camp Penn, Gray and BJ are sparring, and we get Gray's description of how BJ could have stepped it up at any time and taken Gray out. The sparring session gets pretty intense, but shockingly neither man snaps and loses it, and instead they just keep pushing one another to try harder. You know, kind of like a sparring session is supposed to work.

Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Pulver, Brandon asks for a chat session with the coaches. He tells them a bunch of stuff about wanting to get the most from his TUF experience, and how he wants to do some training with BJ, just so he can say he trained with both Jens and BJ. Jens tries to explain the whole 'team' concept to Brandon, telling him that 'nobody walks off and nobody gets kicked off'. Realizing that Jens isn't going to Wang him, Brandon acquiesces and everybody hugs and stuff to end the drama.

At Team Penn's session, BJ introduces a special trainer, Randy Couture. Most excited is Gray, who trains with Randy anyway, and is now getting a visit from his mentor. As Matt Wiman describes it, "Gray’s wagging his tail, bouncing around...Who wouldn’t be?" Randy gives the remaining four members of Team Penn some grappling tips. Hmmm, four is less than eight, which means these four guys get more time with one of the greatest fighters in UFC history than they would have if Dana hadn't kicked out three guys and BJ hadn't bullied another out in an attempt to compensate for his feelings of emasculation.

We also get more of a preview for Penn v Pulver II. BJ seems to think that Jens has been disrespecting him behind his back since BJ's defeat at the hands of Pulver. Jens feels that he was disregarded before the first fight, which motivated him then, and being similarly disregarded is motivating him now.

It is now time for our weekly installment of wacky house antics. This time the excitement involves Cole and Nate. The antics evidently began with Nate bugging Cole while he slept, which led to Cole covering Nate's bed in silly string and pinatas (?), which led to Nate and Cole wrestling and fighting with silly string. Everything appears to be finished when Cole and Nate throw each other's mattresses in the pool and a truce is called.

But Nate isn't satisfied. He waits till Cole is asleep, and sneaks in, douses Cole in cold water, then has Manny 'antique' Cole with baby powder. Standing there, wet and white, Cole realizes he is a beaten man.

We now get to watch Melendez trying to cut weight. Most impressive of this whole thing was the way that Andy Wang stayed with Brandon, keeping him motivated and just giving Brandon some company. After the less than stellar way Andy came off after his loss, and subsequent expulsion by BJ, this episode really redeemed Andy as a good person and teammate.

The fight begins around 20 minutes to the hour, so we can be fairly sure the fight is going two rounds.

After some striking, Gray takes Brandon down, but Brandon not only avoids being dominated, manages to try for some submissions, and gets to his feet. Gray keeps taking Brandon to the mat, but Brandon proves to be a better wrestler than anticipated, and Gray has trouble keeping Brandon on the ground.

The second round starts with both guys trading punches in the middle of the ring, with Brandon getting the better, causing Gray to return to grappling. Again, despite taking Brandon down with relative ease, Gray can't do anything, and Brandon gets in his own submission attempts before getting to his feet.

Finally Gray takes Brandon down and gets him in a guillotine. Brandon taps with just under a minute left in the round. A good fight, and either Brandon is much better than he was given credit for, or Gray isn't the wrestling machine he was being touted as. Or some combination of the two.

The Good
  • Once again, Jens comes across as a reasonable, intelligent, sympathetic person.
  • Randy's appearance was very good, and he not only gave BJ's only four teammates some good advice, he was even helping BJ out.
  • Andy Wang may not be a warrior, but he's a mensch.
  • Cole and Nate's antics are an example of rough-housing done right. No bones were broken, nobody was bloodied, and all parties were laughing at the end.
The Bad
  • At the beginning of the episode, during the recap, one of the fighters said that Cole "was a man, and went out and took his beating." What one has to do with the other is unclear.
  • I really think the fact that BJ is such a piss poor coach that four of his fighters are no longer with his team is giving the guys he has left an unfair advantage. BJ gets to spend more time with the remaining fighters individually than Jens. But then again, Dana seems to want one of BJ's fighters to win, and isn't shy about manipulating the show to help make that happen.
  • I'm not sure why Cole chose pinatas as the totems to send a message to Nate, but without context, it seems awfully racist.
  • While the Cole/Nate antics seemed to be all in good fun, Nate's interviews suggest that he wanted to actually fight. Did he not see what happened the week before?

The Ugly

  • Or did Nate see all too well what happened to the two guys who got kicked out for fighting the week before? They got to go home, see their families, watch some tv, read a newspaper, and do what normal people do. And then they got a fight on the TUF5 finale. That's right, the first matchup for the TUF5 finale undercard has been announced, and it's Marlon Sims v Noah Thomas. AKA, the fight they both wanted, and their motivation for starting that backyard fiasco. So last week, their antics so thoroughly disgusted Dana, and were seen as a slap in the face to those who have sought to bring legitimacy to MMA in North America. But now, those antics are seen as a reason to give these guys a fight on national TV, a UFC payday, and a shot at making it in the UFC. Which is it? Are these guys a disgrace, or are they UFC calibre fighters? Or are UFC calibre fighters a disgrace?

Next week, we get the two remaining fights. Manny Gamburyan v Matt Wiman, which I believe is an upset waiting to happen. And Corey Hill v Nate Diaz, which guarantees a Team Pulver fighter in the semifinals. Except Nate seems to turn his back on Team Pulver in an attempt to train away from his opponent. DRAMA!!

Friday, May 25, 2007

TUF 5.8 - Yard Tards

With last week's twofer, we are now done with the preliminary fights, and are moving on to the quarterfinals.

With that in mind, Dana gets BJ and Jens into a room to discuss matchups for the quarterfinal matches. Shockingly, this results in tension, and breaks down into insults and threats being exchanged. Dana's and BJ's selections match up, while Jens' picks differ slightly.

What was most interesting about this entire segment was Dana's admission that the selection of these fights is done in a way that favours the fighters who are seen as the strongest, and designed in such a way as to ensure that those fighters meet in the finals. While this may seem obvious, I found it interesting that Dana would admit to the subjective/manipulated/worked nature of the UFC (and the fight business in general).

Dana, BJ, and Jens each have their own opinions about the fighters on the show, and those opinions influence the matchups they decide on. Fights are not selected based on how entertaining they will be for the fans, or how two different fighters' styles matchup, but instead are selected based on what will make it easier for the preferred fighters to advance. In this case, the preferred fighters are Nate Diaz, Joe Lauzon, Grey Maynard and Matt Wiman. Or, BJ's three survivors and one of Jens' fighters. In declaring these four fighters to be the favorites, Dana is making it clear that Corey Hill, Manny Gamburyan, Brandon Melendez and Cole Miller are going to be put into situations where it will be particularly difficult for them to advance.

The four quarterfinal fights are announced as:

  • Cole Miller v. Joe Lauzon
  • Gray Maynard v Brandon Melendez
  • Nate Diaz v. Corey Hill
  • Matt Wiman v. Manny Gamburyan
I find the Hill/Diaz selection to be the most interesting, because it means that Dana wins either way. If Diaz wins, one of the favorites advances. If Hill wins, they can continue to market the freak show aspects of Hill, the oversized lightweight. I also find the Wiman/Gamburyan matchup to be an interesting one, because I think Manny is tougher than they are giving him credit for, and he could very well take out Wiman. Although, after reading Joe Lauzon's blog from this week, the choice makes a little more sense.

After the selections are made, we go back to the house, where the fighters are relaxing around the fire pit. Marlon 'Street Fighter' Sims is discussing why he and Wayne Weems are better losers than Noah Thomas and Allen Berube, because neither Weems nor Sims tapped out, while Noah and Allen did. Much of this discussion stems from Noah and Marlon's desire to face one another at the finale, and is clearly an attempt to set up some backstory for that matchup.

The discussion gets more heated, and Marlon tosses the chair Noah is sitting in. Shirts and mikes are removed, and Allen Berube takes on the role of Big John McCarthy, getting the middle of the two and telling them to 'get it ON,' while reassuring them that they won't get kicked out of the house.

Marlon gives Noah the first punch, and, much as he did in his fight against Matt Wiman, sticks his chin out for Noah to hit. Noah takes the bait, although the punch he throws is pulled and doesn't do as much damage as it could. They wrestle and scuffle, with Marlon taking Noah down, and almost cracking Noah's skull on the edge of the rock garden when he does so. While all this is going on, the rest of the gang stand around cheering and clearing potential hazards such as glass bottles out of the way.

The two break up, and Marlon says he doesn't want to do anymore because he doesn't want to get kicked out. Noah takes the opportunity to kick Marlon in the head. The fighting begins anew, and Noah goes for an armbar from the bottom. Unfortunately, Marlon is on his feet, and he elevates Noah and drops him on his head. Twice. Shockingly, Noah is bleeding, and a little upset that Marlon would do this to him while Noah was only trying to break Marlon's arm.

Eventually everyone settles down, with Nate Diaz likening the incident to the Lord of the Flies, and Cole Miller describing it as "the most technical streetfight he has ever seen."

The next day, Allen 'Monstah Lobstah' is preparing some seafood when the door to the house opens and Dana comes in, not looking happy. He calls all the fighters for a meeting in the living room where Dana unleashes another patented Dana f-bomb diatribe, where he derides Marlon and Noah for setting back the cause of all those who have sought to legitimize MMA and have struggled against the stigma of the sport as 'human cockfighting' (also go here) as everyone's favorite POW, John McCain has called it. Dana also includes the rest of the house in his rant, taking umbrage with the fact that they all stood around watching and cheering. When his speech is done, Dana makes two expected announcements, kicking Marlon and Noah out of the house, and one rather unexpected one, kicking Monstah Lobstah out for the part he played in the unpleasantness. This is now four people who have been kicked out of the house.

We now move on to the sanctioned fight portion of the evening, as Cole prepares to face Joe.

The first round is fairly good, with Cole using his long legs to avoid being dominated on the ground, although Joe is the clear winner of the first round. In the second round, Joe gets a warning for punching Cole in the back of the head. Shortly thereafter, Joe nails Cole in the back of the head with an elbow, earning a one point penalty, and giving Cole a chance to recover. After being examined by the doctor, Cole says he is able to continue, and the fight resumes.

Unfortunately, Cole doesn't seem to have the same fire he had before the elbow, and Joe starts to dominate. Eventually Joe has Cole's back, and starts ground n pounding till the ref calls the fight.

The Good

  • Before the elbow, Cole and Joe had a good fight going.

The Bad

  • As entertaining as it was, the fight between Marlon and Noah was an example of hypermasculinity at its worst. More importantly, it is a demonstration of the problems inherent in these reality programs, where people are put into unreal situations and told to behave normally. In this case, they are trapped in a house with strangers/competitors, and given no outlets for release. Add alcohol, boredom and a culture of violence, and you have all the ingredients for bad things.
  • Dana kicked out Allen Berube for his role in the fight, but shouldn't he have kicked out everyone who was there? Or did he only want to kick out eliminated fighters?
  • Now that we know that Dana sees all the footage from the house, how can we be sure that the comments from the fighters are accurate reflections of their opinions? Not only because Dana can edit what they say to ensure that only messages he wants getting out are included, but isn't it possible that people will censor themselves in order to ensure that they don't get Dana angry with them?

The Ugly

  • After the fight, Dana told Cole that he should never continue a fight if he doesn't feel like he is physically capable of doing so. But does this accurately reflect Dana's opinion, or just what Dana wants the Athletic Commisions to hear and see from him? Earlier in the episode, Dana admitted that Joe Lauzon is one of the fighters he wants to see in the finals. And as we saw with the Corey Hill/Gabe Reudiger situation, Dana will manipulate situations in order to get his desired result. Is it possible that Dana encourages fighters to continue, rather than take a DQ victory? Even if that sort of encouragement isn't explicit, isn't it implicit in the culture of masculinity that pervades the UFC? It is a situation similar to Vince McMahon's "wellness policy." While technically wrestler's are not supposed to use performance enhancing substances, time and again we see wrestlers with oversized physiques rewarded with title runs and main event pushes. Which is the actual policy? The one that is written down, or the one that is communicated behind closed doors, and in the actions and decisions of those with power?

Next week, Gray Maynard v. Brandon Melendez. Gray prepares by training with Randy Couture. Brandon prepares by arguing with Jens.

Friday, May 18, 2007

TUF 5.7 - BJ's Revenge

As per usual the episode begins with a recap of the previous week's fights. Debate over who really won the Emerson/Hill fight continues to rage.

Jens gets some time to brag on being 5-1. But if you saw the commercial for this episode, you saw that already.

Concerned over how BJ will emerge from this season, Dana pulls him into the office for a pep talk. Dana basically tells BJ that reports emerging from Camp Penn have BJ not doing proper cardio training, and BJ not leading his team properly. Dana warns BJ that he "doesn't want to be the Ken Shamrock of this season," burying Shamrock, who is, of course, now coaching the Nevada Lions of the IFL. Dana tells BJ that he has to be a team leader, and lead the team.

(Note, for full effect, read that paragraph again, but add fuck as every second word.)

BJ then says that he thinks that he will need to beat Jens down and retire him at the finale. What BJ's personal success has to do with the success of the people that he chose to train is unclear, but it does demonstrate what could possibly be part of the problem with Team Penn.

Back at the house, Emerson celebrates being a two-time loser with a keg and a hookah. Evidently Noah got them by putting them on the grocery list. Geraghty joins in the fun by indulging in a few beer bongs.

Taking Dana's words to heart, BJ calls his team together, and kicks Andy 'Weeping Warrior' Wang off the team for not listening to BJ's advice, and disrespecting BJ. Stunned, Andy is taken away by Tony DeSouza and the other assistant coach. Andy comes back and asks for an explanation. BJ tells him that it is a waste of time, and that Andy never listens. BJ doesn't come across very well here.

Dana is summoned to the gym, where BJ and he discuss BJ's attempts to assert some level of control over Team Penn. Dana tries to explain to BJ that he, in fact, actually can't kick someone off the team, particularly when BJ not only chose the team, but prompted that whole hand raising thing during the team selection. BJ is adamant, and Dana realizes that he has to find an Option B.

Dana calls Jens into the office, and asks Jens to take Andy on the team. Jens agrees, so long as the rest of the team concurs. Interesting. BJ kicks Andy off the team without consulting anyone, and while he's still upset over his tongue lashing from Dana. Jens, on the other hand, seeks the input from his team on allowing a new member. Curiouser and curiouser.

Jens asks the team if they would be willing to take on a new member who has been kicked off Team Penn. Everyone assumes the person is Noah, and say no. Jens tells them it's Andy, and they do a 180, expressing nothing but respect for Andy as a nice guy.

Dana and Jens inform Andy of his status as a member of Team Pulver, but Andy seems resistant. Part of Andy's trepidation seems to be because Andy was one of the hand raisers from the first episode. Jens says that wasn't an issue then, isn't an issue now, and won't be an issue in the future.

Despite this, Andy is still less than enthusiastic about this switch. He mumbles about loyalty to BJ, and still owing BJ something. This prompts an incredible Dana tirade, featuring liberal helpings of the word fuck. The essence of the tirade is that Andy should a) shut the fuck up, b) stop being a disrespectful little twerp, c) start thanking Jens for the opportunity, and d) try to make the most of it.

Jens finally takes Andy out to meet his new team, who greet him with hugs. Everyone walks toward the ring. Cue happy ending music.

Everyone gathers at the gym to announce the next fights. Jens picks Wayne Weems to fight Gray Maynard, which means that Marlon Sims will fight Matt Wiman.

Despite tearing Weems a new one on a previous episode, Jens has nothing but good things to say about him now, commending his willingness to learn, and the progress he has made in the past few weeks.

The fight starts at 10:30, which ordinarily would suggest that the fight was going to go the full two rounds, possibly even three.

The fight doesn't last that long. Gray knocks Weems down, and the fight goes to the ground rather quickly. Gray is on top, and Weems tries to get Gray's head, but can't do much. Eventually Weems gives up his back, and Gray starts raining down punches while Weems covers up. After a minute or so of this, Herb Dean calls the fight about halfway through the first round.

Weems loses his temper in the locker room, upset with his performance. Unfortunately, he doesn't cry. Pulver commends Weems for, among other things, actually getting into the ring, unlike other unnamed contestants.

With over twenty minutes to go, we prepare for the second fight of the evening. This would have been a good surprise, if they hadn't advertised that two fights would be aired on this episode, thus robbing the episode of the surprise factor.

Marlon is cutting weight in the sauna, while regaling Manny with his street fight tales. For example, Marlon has never been knocked out by a person, only by an Oldsmobile.

At the fire pit, Matt Wiman and others are discussing Marlon's stories.

We also get Matt telling us about his nickname "Moderately Attractive," which used to be "Handsome" but Matt changed it because he wanted to come across as humble on the show. BTW, Marlon's nickname is "Mr. Indestructible."

The fight starts at five minutes to the top of the hour, suggesting another short fight. Matt starts the fight by rocking Marlon with a hard right hand to the face. Marlon stumbles, and Matt pounces. He takes Marlon's back, and locks in a rear naked choke. Less than a minute in, Marlon is unconscious. Matt - "So much for Mr. Indestructible."

Marlon takes his loss well, and he actually doesn't come across as a giant tool for once.

The Good
  • Matt and Gray both had strong showings. Even better was their lack of bravado or ego. Team Penn may be 5-3, but those three are probably the strongest fighters.
  • Jens' willingness to take on Andy "Ronin" Wang was yet another example of Pulver's strength as a coach. Particularly with Pulver's insistence on consulting the rest of the team. How is this guy friends with Matt Hughes?
  • Dana's unloading on Andy Wang was thing of brilliance. As Ralphie says in A Christmas Story, "My father worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium, a master." That was Dana's rant.
The Bad
  • BJ's kicking off of Andy seemed like the act of a petty, vindictive child, lashing out at someone weaker after being called out by his daddy. I'm not saying that BJ wasn't justified, but nothing on the show thusfar had given any indication of deep rooted problems between Andy and BJ, save for Andy's shoddy fight performance.
  • I am so sick of that stupid standings chart. Dear Dana, hire a real graphic artist and get something that both looks good and serves a purpose. Or do you enjoy looking bush league?
  • As my roommate pointed out, if Dana is so concerned with how the fighters are training, and their conditioning, then why are they given a hookah, a keg, and a beer bong?
The Ugly
  • For the longest time, one of my biggest complaints about the show has been the fact that the start time of the fight indicates how long the fight will go. This time, the first fight started at a time that indicated the fight would go the distance. But instead it was over in two and a half minutes. This would have been the perfect example of the type of swerve I was hoping for, keeping us unsure of how long the fight would be. Would have been, had it not been for the fact that Spike TV advertised that the episode would have two fights! Instead of swerving us, the episode just told us that neither fight would last very long when the first fight started half an hour into the episode. Incredibly poor planning on the part of the show producers and the Spike TV promotions producers.
Next week, second round matchups are chosen, but BJ and Jens have trouble agreeing. And at the house, we get a demonstration of Marlon's street fighting skills. Hopefully Cammy and Chun-Li make an appearance.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

TUF 5.6 - Twofer!

After last week's Rutabega debacle, TUF is treating its viewers to not zero, not one, but TWO fights on this week's thrilling installment of "Who Does Dana Want to See in the UFC Lightweight Division?"

First up is Joe Lauzon versus Brian Geraghty. Lauzon is known as the guy who beat Jens Pulver in a stunning UFC upset just before Season 5 began. Joe has also been keeping a blog for the Boston Herald as the season progresses, which you can find here.

There is some discussion of Joe and Jens' history, with Pulver encouraging Geraghty to try to put that history out of his mind when fighting Lauzon.

The fight starts, and Joe attacks. He rocks Geraghty with some good punches before taking the fight to the ground and dropping some nasty looking elbows, one which misses, but probably leaves a nice dent on the mat.

Geraghty manages to wriggle away, and scramble to his feet. Unfortunately, when he does so, he gives Lauzon his back, and Joe pounces, catching Geraghty in a rear naked choke and getting the first win for Team Penn.

To celebrate his loss, Geraghty is this week's weeper, crying over the loss, and his poor performance. I swear, somebody has cried every week on this show. It's like a damn very special Oprah episode.

With fight 1 out of the way, preparation for fight 2 begins, featuring Rob "One Loss" Emerson versus Corey "Pro-Am" Hill.

Jens and Hill are strolling around discussing Corey's fight experience. Corey has told people that he is 8-0, but he comes clean(ish) with Jens, telling him he is actually only 4-0. The actual truth is that Corey has never had a pro fight, and has fought two amateur fights.

The fight begins, and Rob and Corey start trading punches. With his reach, Corey is able to keep Emerson at bay, and Emerson does a lot of backing up, occasionally throwing a leg kick, while Corey throws bombs, some of which actually connect.

Read that for five minutes, and you have the first round.

For the second round there is much of the same, although at the end Rob slips, Corey pounces, but Rob manages to lock in a heel hook as time expires.

The fight goes to the judges, who give Corey the first round, and Rob the second. It's time for a third round, or 'sudden victory' as it is now euphemistically called.

For a recap of the third round, go back to the description of the first round and read it again for five minutes.

Shockingly, BJ thought Emerson won the third round, while Jens had it for Hill. Dana, not impressed with either performance, thinks Emerson won, but I'm sure that Dana's giving Emerson a free pass for this second fight has nothing to do with that opinion. After the judges are awakened from their comas, they score the third round, and the fight, for Corey Hill.

Back in the locker room, Corey comes out of the closet and tells everyone that this was his first professional fight. Nobody tells Corey that these fights are all exhibition, so I don't think they really count as pro fights.

The Good
  • Joe looked excellent in his fight. He is the guy to beat in this competition, but I think Lauzon versus Manny would be a good finale fight.
  • Jens' attitude regarding his loss to Joe was refreshing, particularly given the way that some fighters like to make excuses after a loss (I'm looking your way Tim Sylvia!) Jens continually impresses me as a person, but he really needs to start keeping better company.
The Bad
  • Brian Geraghty did not look good. I think he can be redeemed however, given the fact that he was upset with himself and his performance, and not with Dana for favouring the wrong kind of fighter, as we saw in the first season with Leben and his losses.
  • Corey Hill was also unimpressive. However, given the fact that he was brought onto the show because of his height and potential, rather than his record, I'm not too upset. I don't want to see Corey Hill in the octagon fighting for the title in September, but I think that, in a year or so, he will be a force in the UFC.
The Ugly
  • After losing one of the best Ultimate Fighter fights ever with Nick Diaz, Rob Emerson earned the respect of MMA fans and fighters. I think he lost much of that with his loss to Corey Hill. Unlike his fight with Diaz, Emerson fought not to lose, rather than to win. And he still lost. But more importantly, he showed that he rises to just below the level of his opponent. Emerson could still be a great fighter, but he needs to do some training, both mental and physical.

Next week, BJ gets angry and kicks someone out. They can do that? If so, why didn't he do it with Rutabega? Also, we're getting two fights again, although it's unclear why. My guess is that the fighters didn't have enough zany antics to fill an entire episode.

Friday, May 04, 2007

TUF 5.5 - The End of UFC Legitimacy

This is it. The episode we've all been waiting for from the first episode. The One Where Gabe Loses Weight. But first, we get the recap. Then we get the non-Gabe related drama of the week. This week, the drama comes in the form of Noah getting stretched by Tony DeSouza. From what the show portrayed, Noah was a lippy, arrogant twerp, who thought it would be funny to insult Tony during training. Tony took offense, and proceeded to show Noah what grappling and submission style wrestling is all about.

There are two ways one can look at this. One is that Tony went too far and was picking on someone smaller, weaker, dumber, and less experienced than himself.
The other is that Noah has an attitude problem, and thinks he's the bee's knees. Given what we have seen from Noah in previous episodes, I believe this is the more likely of the two. From his bragging about being a Marine, which Noah seems to think a) is a good thing, and b) makes him somehow better than others, to his attitude before he got schooled by Manny, to the behaviour that drove Tony over the edge, Noah doesn't seem like a good person.

The incident certainly wasn't as bad as Bob Holly's assault on Matt Capotelli a few years ago on Tough Enough, and hopefully Noah will now take training more seriously, as he's now had his ass handed to him twice.

Now for the main event.

10 minutes into the show, the fight announcement is made, and, as anyone who saw the previews would know, Corey Hill called out Gabe Rutabaga. We then begin the grand adventure that is Gabe trying to lose weight. He starts out by eating ice cream cake. That makes sense. Gabe insists that he can cut the weight, as he's never had a problem doing so before. At the beginning of the adventure, Gabe is 21 lbs overweight.

The rest of the show features Gabe's attempts to cut weight, which finally culminate in BJ and Gray Maynard taking Rutabaga to the house where he is forced to ride the stationary bike in the sauna.

Hilarity ensues when Gabe "collapses." It is unclear whether this collapse was legitimate, or just Gabe playing the drama queen. I'm leaning towards the latter.

Back at the gym, we see Corey getting ready for the weigh-in, having made weight. With ten minutes to go before weigh-in, Jens comes in and tells Team Pulver they have to go back to the house.

When they arrive, they see an ambulance pulling away, and Team Pulver learns that Rutabaga has been taken to the hospital for dehydration.

It is at this point that Corey should be declared the winner by forfeit.

Instead, everyone just hangs out in the house, unsure what is going on. Gabe returns, and is shunned like an Amish kid who bought a GameBoy. He apologizes to people, but for some reason the house is unwilling to forgive the guy who has been insulting, rude, egotistical and self-involved.

The next day, everyone goes to the gym for a meeting with Dana, and the end of any claims to being a legitimate sport that UFC ever claimed to have. With everyone in the gym, Dana shows up and tears Rutabaga a new one. He then kicks Rutabaga out of the house and off the show. In a one-on-one interview, Rutabaga cries. I laugh.

Then, Dana proceeds to destroy the UFC's legitimacy. Rather than making the only logical choice and declaring Corey Hill the winner, Dana proclaims that "there are no free passes" and gives Rob Emerson a free pass back into contention. As punishment for Team Penn's inability to get Rutabaga to fighting weight, Team Pulver is allowed tp pick the next two fights. They choose Brian Geraghty to take on Joe Lauzon, and Corey Hill to face Rob Emerson.

Here's the problem with this whole situation. Corey Hill chose his opponent. His opponent was unable to meet the conditions of his fight, forfeiting his right to fight. Therefore, Corey Hill wins by forfeit.

Instead, Dana decided that Corey should be required to fight someone who has already lost a fight. In so doing, Dana has made clear that The Ultimate Fighter, and by extension the UFC, is sports entertainment, not an athletic contest. By rigging the competition in the name of entertainment, Dana White has abandoned any claims to being a legitimate sporting event.

While I can understand the need for fighters to replace an injured fighter, that wasn't the case here. This was a case of one team, after having been informed of who was to represent them in a fight, being unable to meet the requirements of that fight. As a result, the opposing team, having proven successful at meeting the requirements of the fight, wins. No questions. No debate. No free passes. If every player from the Golden State Warriors suddenly tears their ACL tomorrow, the Dallas Mavericks won't be allowed to play in GS' place.

UFC is no better than pro wrestling. How can we believe in the legitimacy of anything the UFC does when they make their manipulation and match fixing so blatantly obvious?

Next week we will have both fights announced this week. The only question is whether I will bother watching.