What We Learned: The Ultimate Fighter Finale 18 Edition – Thoughts on Rousey vs. Tate, New TUF Champs and More

\Another season of “The Ultimate Fighter” is in the books and we’ve got two new champions coming into the UFC. We also had two fighters miss weight, the first two since Gabe “Godzilla” Ruediger missed weight before facing Corey Hill on Season 5. Not making weight on a season of “The Ultimate Fighter” has happened so rarely and it’s the only guaranteed way to get kicked off the show.

Now, with the finale over with and two new fighters added to the crop of TUF winners, it’s time to reflect upon the show and figure out just what we learned from this season of TUF.

Julianna Pena bucks the odds

She came in on a two fight losing streak and somehow managed to become the top pick of Miesha Tate. Top picks have historically rarely won the show; if I remember correctly it’s less than half a dozen out of the nearly 30 or so fighters who’ve been chosen #1 by either coach have gone on to win the show. And Pena did it, all the while being the underdog in nearly every fight she was in on TUF. That’s fairly remarkable when you think about it.

Midway through season 15 I took a look at it and the numbers haven’t changed drastically. It seems to be a TUF motif that when you’re the first at something on TUF that you wind up winning the show. John Dodson, Diego Brandao, Pena and both Brazilian fighters on debuts (first bantamweight/featherweight TUFs, first female TUF, first international season) all ended up winning guaranteed contracts.

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Chris Holdsworth is going to have to write “I will knock out my next opponent” enough to fill up the Team Alpha Male blackboard

Holdsworth was heavily hyped by Duane Ludwig and the gang going into the show. Holdsworth was the next great prospect to come out of the premier camp in North America for talent at lightweight and below, of course, and it showed. It is amusing he won via submission instead of strikes, as the team has seemingly done nothing but punch dudes into unconsciousness ever since Duane “Bang” Ludwig took over.

You can do a lot of negative things in the UFC and stay in their good graces. Missing weight isn’t one of them.

Anthony Gutierrez and Cody Bollinger were solid prospects who got on the show to fight at 135 despite never having competed at that weight class. Both were hyped heavily coming in, too. Gutierrez was in all the Nos Active commercials and Bollinger was the first choice from Team Tate. Part of me thought they were going to be the ones who wound up making the final because the show seemed to edit them early on to make them feel like two of the better fighters.

Both guys missing weight as badly as they did, and quitting when they still had a chance to do so, probably didn’t endear them to UFC brass. If they do get a second chance to get back into the UFC it’ll be as a late replacement, probably at their more natural 145. You only get one chance to make a good first impression and both guys did so. They just left a poor taste in the mouth of anything Zuffa by being tossed off the show because they didn’t have the self discipline necessary.

The shine might be off Ronda Rousey … but it’s not a bad thing

The one thing coming into this show was the UFC’s attempt at molding Ronda Rousey into this sort of sex kitten cage fighter. It’s why she’d go onto a show like “Conan” and discuss her sex life, et al, because appealing to low information voters (the mouth breathing, “just bleed” type) with “I’m a great athlete who destroys other women” isn’t quite good enough. It’s a sizzle to the steak and it felt unnatural and forced.

Zuffa and Fox seemingly want to portray her as this sort of cage fighting sex-kitten, I think, and this season of TUF showed that she’s got thatr Michael Jordan esque sociopathic attitude towards winning. Rousey has all the requisites to pull off being an Anna Kournikova for the MMA set, of course, but a lot of fans were turned off by it because it took away from everything she is as a strong, athletic woman.

Ronda Rousey the killer, who wants to beat Miesha Tate and her boyfriend in every event on the show and then in another fight, is a more honest version of the champion. I actually enjoyed her more when she had to be “real” on the show because this wasn’t a forced, filtered version of her personality coming out. This was the badass Viking queen who a thousand years ago would’ve been a female version of “Conan the Barbarian,” complete with a throne made of the skulls of her enemies. Everyone seems hesitant to promote Rousey in mainstream outlets as an athlete first; it’s kind of a shame because that aspect of her is the most interesting one.

There was more resonance with her talking about how she was going to make Miesha Tate pay for everything she said and did, including all of the stupid pranks, than in 100 interviews where she teased sex and violence. It was a glimpse into makes her tick and the fact that she’s this super athlete who only wants to crush everyone, and everything, in her path was awesome to behold. This was the Ronda Rousey that made the comparisons to Mike Tyson feel appropriate because she wasn’t smiling and trying to be cute for the camera. She wanted it out of her face so she could get back to the business of destroying things for fun.

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