The Ultimate Fighter: Season 18 After Thoughts

I have watched every season of the US version of the “reality” TV show The Ultimate Fighter. And each installment leaves me with one or two nuggets, but tons of forgettable leftovers. This time around, with coaches Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, I was actually annoyed at their constant bickering, the whole supposed ‘rivalry’ being shoved in my face each week. It made me feel like I was back in high school – you know, the part where you have to see certain people, who you don’t like, everyday. I guess the sure fire, “proven” way to get ‘the public’, a.k.a. people who don’t watch or care about the “sport” of MMA, to watch is to replay the “they really don’t like each other” card over…and over…and over…and over…and over again, until what was once something unique, the true, unmanufactured clash of personalities/ideologies/wills, is now something utterly predictable, bordering on mundanity. And I don’t necessarily blame Rousey or Tate for this. They are merely the actors doing what is expected of them, in this long running soap opera.

But I have to say that I was compelled by the four finalists that were on display at last night’s finale in Las Vegas. I found all of them interesting without the need of some pre-planned personality traits. Chris Holdsworth meeting Davey Grant for the men’s finale was a battle of two good guys – Grant, the committed family man from the UK and Holdsworth the consummate grappler from Northern California whose mindset was straight out of an Akira Kurasawa film. But it was obvious from the onset of the fight that Holdsworth was much more than a one-trick, blanket style ground addict as he exhibited a ‘be first’ striking game, that set up the 2nd round takedown and subsequent submission (rear naked choke) at 2:10. I have now doubt that Grant will be back stronger. But Holdsworth will surely face a bigger battle in maintaining the public’s interest in the UFC’s overflowing roster.

The first ever women’s TUF finale pitted 8-time world boxing champ, and likable single mom, Jessica Rakoczy against Julianna Pena, who seemed to be deemed, by the TUF editors anyway, as the ‘bad girl/dark sheep’ of the show. But I never really bought the negative portrayal of Pena that I was being force fed. It just seemed false to me. But hey, I wasn’t THERE, so who the hell knows. Regardless, I liked her, especially the strength it took to buck the isolation she encountered when so many in the house turned on her. But one thing is for certain, Julianna Pena is a natural fighter, one of the purest I have ever seen. As I told Miesha Tate last night, “You can’t buy or learn what she’s got.” Everyone knew she would be outgunned if she stood with Rakoczy. So she didn’t. Remember, this is MIXED martial arts. Pena charged in winging bombs and took Rakoczy down early, dominated with ground and pound from the mount, and finished Jessica by referee’s stoppage with one second left in round one.

In the main event Nate Diaz put an abrupt end to the trilogy between he and true athletic rival Gray Maynard with a fantastic display if long range, boxing inspired aggression, scoring a TKO (ref stoppage) at 2:38 of the first.