Myles Jury vs. Al Iaquinta Showed How Engaging The Live Format Of “The Ultimate Fighter” Can Be

Going into Friday’s fight between Myles Jury and Al Iaquinta the theme of the night could’ve been called “redemption” in a way. Iaquinta had been slated to try and fight his way into Season 12 and broke his hand the week before the final test of a prospect. Jury got a bit further than Iaquinta in Season 13 but tore his ACL the first week and had to leave on account of that. Both men had been looking for another chance to get onto the show and after winning fights on “The Ultimate Fighter: Live.” Now, three weeks into the show, something magical happened when they closed the cage.

We got perhaps the best fight on the show in many seasons.

Jury and Iaquinta engaged in the sort of wild brawl that established the UFC’s fortunes for the positive in Griffin-Bonnar. And while on a technical level the fight didn’t go off with the usual precision the UFC prides itself with, as the third round took longer to get going because of judges scoring issues, but the fight more than made up for it. And it showcased something about the new live format that being taped would’ve taken away from it: every fight feels important because it’s live and not taped.

This season’s “The Ultimate Fighter” now feels more like appointment programming because great fights like this one can happen any week. It’s the one thing that pre-taped reality programming can’t duplicate that live programming provides. Watching a taped show, no matter how good it is, always feels a bit off if only because we’re watching the equivalent to regular scripted television. It’s already happened and passed with the only people not in the know being the audience.

With a live fight every week this season’s TUF, 40 minutes of footage opening the show up as a summed up version of this week of filming, doesn’t make the show feel like a normal reality show that’s really six to eight weeks of intense filming spread out over twice as long a period or more of time like most reality shows are. It makes us feel like we’re in the camp with the guys; each week’s fight is something that gets built up to.

A fight like Iaquinta and Jury would’ve been hyped all week if this had been a taped show like it had for 14 seasons prior. It wouldn’t have felt like as much of a big deal because no matter how good the fight came off it had been taped and we’d been waiting to see it. Seeing it live, being built up to throughout the show as they prepared to fight at the UFC training center, made it feel more important. It’s why we remember a great fight like Bonnar-Griffin on the first TUF finale and don’t to a similar number of great fights from seasons past; it was live, not taped, and that immediacy gives it an urgency that taped fights just don’t have.

Iaquinta-Jury was a terrific fight but not the best fight in TUF history on either the show or any finale. It was, however, the first great fight of the TUF Live era and felt more important than any fight on the show in years.

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