10 Thoughts On The Season Premiere Of Season 17 Of “The Ultimate Fighter”

There isn’t much television I actually watch outside of sports. It basically comes down to a handful of shows over each of the primary viewing seasons. I don’t have much patience for network television and reality shows; I like to be able to sit down and crank out a season of something. I view a television show like a film in that I want to watch it NOW and can’t wait a week to find out what happens next. It’s why what I watch on television has to mean something; it’s a time commitment that I don’t give to just anything. When you write about television and film as a hobby you have to pick and choose your spots; I’ll prefer to sit down and just power through an entire season than watch it week to week.

But I have to watch “The Ultimate Fighter” when it airs.

It’s been tough to keep doing that though. Sixteen seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter” later it’s more difficult to be that way because the quality has dipped down appreciably over the years. The talent has gone from being the best prospects in the country to being a handful of good guys as the best bypassed the show directly. Watching the show felt more out of obligation than anything else for a lot of long time fans; I’m not the only one who followed it via DVR instead of life.

If you’ve been watching this show as long as I have you know that the shelf life of the show seemed to be expired. Moving it to Tuesday is a bit easier on the schedule, of course, but I consider this a “make or break” season for the show. And so did the UFC, I think, because now the entire show has been revamped. I can’t believe how excited I am for this season based on the first episode alone. Definitely one of the best debuts for a season and it leads into another show that’s appointment television in “Justified” like an added bonus.

10. I love the new presentation

You can tell FX has really been working with the UFC to revamp the presentation. The show had grown stale in terms of how it looked and now it looks like a show that deserves to be on FX. It’s shot much more like the “UFC Primetime” in terms of look and feel. This is a revamp and it’s much needed; the subtle things are the ones that impress me the most. The audio cues are tighter and don’t feel as dated as the original.

It feels like this is an FX property now as opposed to a Spike TV property that’s been ported over onto FX like the last two seasons have felt like. You can tell the difference in production staffs; Spike TV didn’t do much to rock the boat. FX took the basic format and has changed it to make it significantly more compelling.

9. The talent level is as good as advertised

The one thing about the past couple seasons is that there were a lot of guys you scratched your head at who somehow managed to get into the house (and wound up having a couple fights in the UFC). There’s some of those guys this season but there’s a lot of guys I’ve seen fight before on bigger shows. There may not be a world champion in this group right now … but in a couple years one or more of these guys will be in the equation. You see a lot of guys who remind me of Costas Philippou when he tried out for the show; ready to be a world beater … but not now.  They will be in a couple years, of course, but they need some seasoning.  This isn’t a case of guys who aren’t good enough to be on the main card of a regional show that gets on AXS TV.  You’ve got some serious talent here.

8. Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones are professionals … but they aren’t friends

Chael’s clearly trying to get under his skin early … and Jones isn’t trying to show it but it’s working. There isn’t an outright hostility, like Cruz and Faber, but they’re being professional enough to show that they aren’t going to be friends. In the corporate world you go along to get along with some people and they are clearly doing just that. Sonnen isn’t doing anything that would make him out to be a jerk, of course, but he’s slowly needling him in a lot of things and Jones is gritting his teeth and bearing it. This isn’t Chael Sonnen acting like some generic 80s pro wrestler, which is nice to see every now and again.

7. There was a sense of urgency in everyone trying to get in the house

It’s the one thing that’s been missing for a couple of seasons. Guys fought like this was their only chance and that they’d never sniff the UFC again. Guys were just flat out hungrier than they’ve been in some time. I don’t think there’ll be a need for another expletive ridden “Do You Want To Be a FIGHTER” speech from Zuffa boss Dana White to guys just lollygagging their way through the six weeks of shooting.

6. Jones and Sonnen are both students of the game

One of the things you can tell about a fighter is who does it more on instinct and who trained really hard. Hearing Sonnen and Jones discuss fighters and give coaching is something; they aren’t giving generic commentary about the fights and fighters. They’re discussing things like hand movement, et al, which can give an astute fan a deeper look into the fight game.

5. The family aspect makes things that much more interesting

Letting guys bring their family to the elimination fights may make more for drama, of course, but there was something cool to having a big crowd watching the fights. Felt less stale than an empty gym, of course, but having a crowd makes MMA feel bigger than a bunch of guys fighting in an empty gym does. MMA needs a crowd or else it’s just a glorified training session, I think.

4. Josh Samman looks like a handful

Every now and again you get a guy that winds up being much more of a pain than he’s actually worth on a TUF season. Samman so far looks to be that guy as he has a schedule of who should whom, et al, and seems to think he knows more than Jon Jones. It’ll be interesting to see how he interacts with the light heavyweight champion.

3. Uriah Hall looks like Cheick Kongo’s Mini Me

Give him a French accent and you could easily see him being like Crank Kongo, Cheick’s little brother. He’s got a similar double leg as well; it’s a big scoop and a slight slam. It’s in the hips. He’s got some amazing hands, too. He’s my early pick to win the show; he reminds me of watching Diego Brandao on Season 14. Just really impressed with him; he looks like he could be a Top 25 guy in a couple of fights in the UFC proper. I’d love to see him in an elite camp; you can tell he’s about to outgrow his current one. Such an impressive fighter and that’s not to take anything away from Andy Enz; Enz should be on the show too he just happened to take on one of the elite guys to get in the house.

2. Gilbert Smith is a scary man

If there was a guy who could win on sheer intimidation alone it’s Gilbert Smith. He looks Tarzan and doesn’t fight like Jane as well. If there’s a guy who looks like he should be in the UFC on a sheer physique factor alone it’s him.

1. The teams are going to make for some fun elimination fights

You can tell who Jones and Sonnen like during each fight, of course, and each team reflected it. I’m curious to see how far they progress under each guy.

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