When The Ultimate Fighter 2 is at its best, it acts as a window to some of the most technically sound fighting to be found in the United States. Instead of depending on the natural “plot” of the show, which at its best is only mildly compelling, producers tend to rely on the fights that conclude every episode to keep the show interesting to the average viewer. But what happens when there is no “fight” to build upon, but instead an eccentric dance between two frustrated and hesitant men? For our answer, let us delve into tonight’s episode of Dancing with the Sta…errrrr, The Ultimate Fighter 2.
The highlight of this week’s episode was, surprisingly enough, the recap of last week’s episode. Joe really fought well, didn’t he? That was a great slam he used on Marcus, not to mention the great ground control he showed. Team Hughes really got a big win there. Without their best stand-up fighter, Team Franklin’s not only losing a great competitor, but also someone who could really help out in training. Wait, what’s that? I have to talk about this week’s episode? Damn it. I really dislike obligations. Well, if I must.
Despite the complete lack of action in the heavyweight fight that concluded the evening, there were a couple of notable things that happened in the house beforehand. Matt Hughes’ character continues to shine as he belittles, mocks, and taunts almost every member of Team Franklin. Whether it was Jorge for not fighting, or all of Team Franklin’s heavyweights for not being able to pull other people’s socks off quick enough in tonight’s challenge, no opposing fighter escapes Matt’s ridicule. It seems that his intense competitive nature overrides any social restrictions he should have when talking to people, but what exactly can you do about it? Fight him? A Catch-22 to say the least. Though he can come across as awkwardly immature, Matt’s character gave this episode at least some semblance of entertainment.
The before-mentioned heavyweight competition was fitting considering the spectacle of an elimination match that followed it. Three heavyweights from both teams were thrown into the octagon with long socks on, the goal being to work together and take the other teams socks off without losing your own in the process. Oh, and they had to stay on their knees the whole time. Just a thought, but the idea of the show is to advance the sport, right? The competition that followed resembled so many unspeakable acts that I’ve vowed to do myself and the sport a favor by staying away from unseemly adjectives. Needless to say, watching six large men grab at each other in order to pull one another’s clothing off is not how I wanted to spend my Monday night. Sure, I understand that the drill has significance in the world of wrestling, but is that all the interns could come up with? I can imagine the board meeting now…
Dana White – “Ok, guys. We have thirty minutes and no challenge prepared. I found these socks on the way over here. Anything?”
Faceless Intern #1 – “Eureka!”
Nonetheless, Team Hughes decimated their competition, winning the bout 6 socks to 0. Never before had I seen such flawless undergarment thievery, and fittingly enough, I wish to never see it again. Matt of course spoke his mind on the lack of competition, calling out Franklin’s heavyweights and angering a few of them in the process. Brad, one of those belittled heavies, in perhaps one of the more foolish moves in the entire history of the show, called out Iowa’s own Team Miletich; implying that they must have taught Matt how to pull clothing off of other men, seeing as his heavyweights were so adapt at it. I, for one, wouldn’t want to call out a person of Matt’s stature on national television, let alone Pat Miletich, Tim Sylvia, Robbie Lawler, or Jeremy Horn. But to insult them all at the same time, by golly, you’re just asking to be fighting at a farm show in Ohio for the rest of your life. Brad’s moronic insult almost reaches the point of career suicide that Bobby Southworth accomplished last season by cursing out the President of a company he wished to work for.
Despite the tickling fetish of a challenge with Team Hughes winning the right to name their opponent, the rest of the show failed to alienate any more viewers with unnecessary amounts of homoerotic situations. That is of course if you don’t count the next scene where Team Franklin showed up to train in their tighty-whities. That is, also, if you ignore the part where one of the heavyweights admits he didn’t have a pair of his own, so he borrowed some from Jorge “A Wolverine who doesn’t like to be poked” Gurgel. Even with this absurdity, the main concept behind the show remained; there was a fight to be had. Heavyweights Rashad Evans from Franklin and Tom Murphy from Hughes were chosen and the fight was set.
Both men were looked at as the weak links of their respective teams, giving their fight an extra sense of urgency. The training session montages were quick and formulaic, showing both Tom and Rashad in their elements; Rashad on his feet looking for the knockout and Tom on his back looking for a limb to twist. The talk of the fight was that Tom would have a much greater chance of winning if he took the fight to the ground because of his lack of stand-up mixed in with his bad knee, a piece of strategy that would play a large role in the fight later on. Rashad’s game plan was to do the opposite and force Tom to struggle and stand with his mixture of ineptitude and injuries.
In an admirable display of sportsmanship, clips were shown beforehand of Rashad and Tom’s interactions the night before the fight. They shared a comradery as they counted down the hours before the fight, joking and talking as they internalized the pressure of the impending match-up. It was a refreshing look at the brotherhood fighting creates. Though these men were about to intentionally harm one another for sport, they both remained fond of the other. These men, like many others, seemed to have discovered that competitive fighting isn’t a combination of hatred and malice, but of courage and action.
The next day the “fight” occurred. I wish I could tell you that the following description of the fight taxed my vocabulary, leaving me with only monosyllabic grunts to communicate with. I wish could say that what followed was compelling television, redefining our sport and sending the viewers into ecstasies the likes of which Bonnar/Griffin had only begun to compel. Hell, I’d even wish that what I saw tonight was mildly entertaining. But, as I’ve come to expect from the UFC’s bone-dry heavyweight division, the night’s match was the athletic equivalent of NyQuil.
I’ve thought of many ways to describe the fight in a way that wouldn’t put my readers to sleep, but with my writing style being what it is, you’re probably already betwixt and between. So, I’ll keep it short. Ladies and gentlemen, Evans versus Murphy, a haiku;
Round 1, Murphy clinched.
Round 2, Murphy clinched again.
Tom lands elbow. Ding!
Rashad danced and dodged his way to a unanimous victory, but made no friends in the process. As I watched the fight, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Genki Sudo as Rashad swooped and strutted his way around the ring. Despite the obvious physical differences, I found another, more blaring complication in comparing Rashad to Genki; Sudo actually finishes his fights.
Yes, it’s true, tonight’s episode left much to be desired. Surely not every heavyweight fight this season will be as bad as the first two, but my God, these two were terrible. You can blame the training or you can blame the fighters, but mostly, we have to blame ourselves for expecting too much from these guys. A good number of the contestants on this show are glorified amateurs, and to expect Fedor-esque feats from them is unrealistic and naïve. As with everything in life, you have to take what you get, but damn it all if I don’t want to get more.
Photos used with permission by the UFC®.
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