With the latest introductory fights into the TUF House officially broadcast, and teams picked, this week start’s the countdown to the finale. From here on out we’ll be seeing which fighters can survive the weeding out process that is “The Ultimate Fighter” and get a shot at a guaranteed UFC contract. Last week I posited five questions that were going to be answered on the first episode this upcoming season. Now we can get some answers.
1. How deeply invested are Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson into the coaching?
Neither fighter was insanely chatty, outside of Nelson getting under Dana White’s skin fairly early, but both were focused on the fights. It was interesting to see how many times Carwin jumped out of his seat like a fan would.
2. How polished are TUF 16’s prospects?
Not very. The usual rule of about six fighters who’ll stick around for more than a handful of fights might be pushed to a handful. There’s much more rawness to this year’s cast than in the past couple years; most of the fights that took place to get in the house looked closer to regional MMA events than the more polished ones that generally tend to wind up on a UFC card.
3. Who wants it badly?
They may not be polished fighters but the cast on the whole was looking to finish fights as opposed to squeak by on points. Outside of the handful of fights clipped because they were apparently grinding decision wins this was a fairly exciting this was a cast that was trying to end things quickly.
4. What’s the future for some fight camps?
It was hard to tell because a lot of the guys who won weren’t concentrated in certain camps.
5. Will tempers flare early?
You bet. Day 1 and Roy Nelson clearly got under Dana White’s skin when Dana was imploring fighters to be exciting and go for the finish against Nelson’s “just win, baby” attitude about getting the win even if it’s not exciting.
With the teams picked we come to the first real pivotal moment of the season: the first fight. With Roy Nelson controlling the first fight, as Shane Carwin got the first pick, there are several things to look out for in the first fight.
The very first fight sets the pace a coach is willing to set. Is he trying to match up his best fighter with who is perceived as the worst or is he looking for the best stylistic matchup? Think of TUF matchups as a chess game; a coach’s goal is to get all eight of his fighters into the next round but that’s never happened. Rashad Evans has gotten the most fighters into the next round at seven in his season with Quinton Jackson and that’s rarity; usually one coach gets five and the other three or it’s even at four apiece.
The key is to figure out which of your fighters you think has the best chance at winning and get them in favorable matchups early. Running a training camp day in, day out, gives each coach the best gauge as to who is his top four fighters. They are his back row pieces, the knights and bishops of the chess board, and the goal is to protect them at all costs. After that getting some of the lesser pieces into the next round in upset wins over the back row pieces of their opponent become the next goal.
The back row pieces are key here and they’ll be determined by two factors: draft status and actual training. Shane Carwin isn’t going to get a bad matchup for Sam Alvey because he’s the perceived best fighter in the house by virtue of being the #1 pick overall. Matt Secor, on the other hand, isn’t going to get the best style matchup early because he was Carwin’s last pick; unless he wows during training expect him to be plucked off the board by Nelson and one of his perceived better fighters.
Chess may be an odd comparison for a reality show about fighters but it’s one of the better ones to use to explain the fight matchups; Nelson and Carwin are going to use the matchups in their favor to maneuver around the board to have the most pieces remaining at the end of the game.