A few people have asked me what happened to my ULTIMATE FIGHTER recaps, but that was a one off thing. I missed the first episode of the new season, and was waiting to catch up to comment at all, but it took me until this weekend to finish going through the first seven episodes, and the effect was a bit underwhelming. This season’s fighters just aren’t outstanding, and lack compelling characters aside from Christian nutjob Dan with his “bathroom breaks” to preen in front of the mirror. (This year’s bathroom cam is a highly disquieting development.) Joey the deserter was just a big wimpy mooncalf, and even a sports psychologist knew he couldn’t handle the house, so his career was thankfully brief. Last season’s house full of banty rooster misfits was far more entertaining — maybe a melodrama and camera-time seeking freak like Gabe Ruediger and his high colonics isn’t such a bad idea.
That leaves coaches Matts Serra and Hughes for interest. Serra is almost too good to be true as the lowbrow guy from Queens who is almost eerily psychic with his ability to pinpoint other’s strenghths and weaknesses. Even his misfounded belief in Joey fits into this mold. And obviously, as a coach, he knows how to help his fighters pick on the weaknesses of their opponent and, more importantly, boost their confidence to the level they need in order to do it.
As for Hughes, while one can take glee in his total comeuppance from Serra (Serra’s team has won 6 out of 7 bouts so far, including many they were never expected to win) by the 7th episode, I actually began to feel a little sorry for him. Sure he’s a Bible-thumping bully and hypocrite, but he’s also been a great fighter for the UFC and this season is going to tarnish his image and he knows it.
Still, when you see Hughes giving one of his speeches about reaching down, and see the blank, fearful looks on his fighters’ faces, you know just how Shamrockian his performance has been thus far. Even if (as one would expect) Tommy whups Jonathan this week, Hughes will have only two fighters in the quarterfinals. He’s been more gracious than you would expect, all things considered.
And you have to admire how cunningly Serra is rubbing it in to Hughes by going in to comfort TEAM HUGHES fighters after they lose (Paul, Dan).
There were a few highlights in the first seven episodes: The first Peanuts strip was recreated when John Kolesci walked out of the room and someone said “What a nice guy! … What a shame someone has to beat the snot out of him.” And of course, Dana’s “Watch your head!” to J-Rock.
I dunno, maybe the TUF formula is getting a little tired. The quality of the fighters this year is certainly very green, and I can’t imagine any big stars coming out of it, especially in the competitive welterweight division. The most interesting part of catching up with this season was reading all the blogs about it, especially this from
Mac on Dan:
I’m not sure if he had ever done laundry before, but he ended up grabbing a giant wad of dirty clothes, along with various other random items, and tossing them directly into the washer with Paul’s clothes, mid-cycle. When Paul went to check his laundry, it was mixed in with a bunch of still-dirty clothes that weren’t his, and if I remember correctly, plastic zip-lock bags, an unopened energy bar, and loose almonds everywhere. The thing is, you couldn’t even really get that mad at him for it. Like I said, it was kind of like having a young child around the house. (One with ADDHD, anyway) You couldn’t get through to him by getting mad at him. Dan is just Dan. And we liked our crazy toddler of an Ultimate fighter.
Now that I’m caught up, I’ll be watching regularly, if only for the Hughes and Serra melodrama.
PS: Oh there is one thing I forgot to mention…one of the reasons this season’s fighters aren’t very compelling is that they seem to have been cast for their rock hard six packs and not their “mental strategy” if you know what I mean. I’ll say no more.