And so it ends, the run of the Ultimate Fighter on SpikeTV, a run that gave rise to a culture of “dudes who train UFC” and a run that made the sport of mixed martial arts… well, if not a household name, at least something spoken of in violence-stricken alleyways and testosterone-heavy bars. From here on out, TUF is something we’ll have to tune in to the FX Network to watch, twisted into some semi-live incarnation that will likely lack the elements of pillow-urine and fruit platter-ejaculate marriage we’ve come to expect and associate with the reality television series. So let’s savor this last moment of purity, shall we? For this dance we’ve collectively shared, this romance of ill-advised product placement, canned drama and genuine combat, will never be the same again. It is truly the end.
Okay, savoring over.
There are two semifinal matchups left to get through, with Johnny Grunge and John Dodson rounding out the bantamweight selection and Bryan Caraway Seed and Diego Marlon Brando finishing out the featherweights. First up: Grunge and Dodson!
Having shared the same team for the season, the two young warriors have put their sensei – Jason “More often than not, referred to as just Mayhem” Miller – in the awkward position of not being able to coach either one of them for this semifinal bout. So Mayhem doesn’t, he just sits back and watches while Grunge spars with his greasy hair barely kept in place by a ragged bandana, and while Dodson hops around, leaping over flaming barrels rolled at him by some of his teammates and dodging high-velocity beanbag rounds shot from shotguns held by others.
Lame, shallow predictions and statements are made. “I’m going to punch him, and then when I don’t want to punch him anymore, I’m going to take him down and finish him,” says Grunge. “I’m going to fight him and then win,” says Dodson. “I have to calm myself down,” says Johnny Grunge whilst taking a late-night swim in the placid waters of the TUF House pool, a gesture that indicates his fighting isn’t necessarily fueled by emotion. “I’m awesome and you’re not,” Dodson says to the camera, pretending to convey the message to his opponent.
And then they’re fighting. Like Green-Haired Gaudinot versus the good Reverend Dustin Pague, there’s a heck of a size difference between the two, and the smaller Dodson’s ratatatat punching doesn’t seem to faze the longer, lankier Grunge. As such, the first round of their bout is pretty much contested solely on the feet, and it’s even. But then comes Round 2, where Dodson finds Grunge’s chin with a well-timed left hand and sends him falling to the canvas. The little sparkplug follows him down with a rapid-fire stream of hammerfists that leave Grunge snoozing, and convinced he’s in Ohio when he regains consciousness. Seriously. Ohio.
Dodson is understandably elated, as his ticket is now punched for facing TJ Dillawhack at Saturday’s live finale.
Conversely, Johnny Grunge is sad. “I didn’t think he had the power to knock me out, and I was wrong,” he says amidst sobs. “Also, why are all you guys here in Ohio? I thought TUF was filmed in Las Vegas…”
Onward! Bryan Caraway Seed is pretty darned scared about having to face the Brazilian 145-pound human killer Diego Marlon Brando, and we’re clear on this emotional baggage after watching the American tremble his way through a conversation in the TUF House hot tub. Is his fear unfounded? Well, Diego Marlon Brando did eat the souls of his two prior opponents earlier in the season, and while Caraway Seed is languishing in the hot tub, the camera pans over to Brando, who at that very moment is sharpening a cleaver on a patio stone as a prelude to chopping up raw steak to cook for dinner.
“I’d be scared of the guy but he’s only the size of my leg,” says Bisping of his diminutive ward back at the TUF training center, and we’re led to believe this is some sort of compliment.
Bryan Caraway Seed trains but his sheer and utter terror is noticeable by all. Coach Mayhem gives him a pep talk of sorts, describing how three weeks before his fights he wishes he worked at McDonalds or Starbucks in lieu of getting in a cage for a living. Caraway Seed is somehow not heartened by this.
At the weigh-ins the coaches trade back and forth banter, with Bisping asking Mayhem who will win and Mayhem not committing to a real answer. The charming Brit offers up a one-hundred dollar wager. That, Mayhem accepts.
It’s the last night in the TUF House, so of course it’s time to party. To kick off the festivities, Mayhem rides through the house on a BMX bike in just his underwear. He follows that up with bike jumps in the pool (the younglings follow suit with said bike). Then there’s beer pong. Meanwhile, in IHaveToFightTomorrowVille, Diego is telling Siler about God letting him know he’s going to help families in Brazil for Christmas and his brain is strong and some other garbled nonsense – his English so bad even the subtitles make no sense. Caraway Seed just shivers in a corner, overtaken by anxiety.
And then they’re fighting, and Caraway Seed’s wrestling strength is met with brick wall after brick wall of sprawled hips and knees and short punches off the tie-up. Also, just about every kick the Brazilian throws to the American’s lead leg lands with such force, Caraway Seed is spun completely around. It’s almost like watching a trained Muay Thai fighter take on a karate point-fighter, Diego Marlon Brando playing the role of the guy who knows how to fight for real and Caraway Seed playing the role of the man doomed.
That doom comes eventually, later in the first round, as Diego Marlon Brando stuns him with a punch, blasts him with a kick, knees him, punches the bejeezus out of him, and sends him alternately stumbling, falling to his back, and wobbling all over the place. Caraway Seed absorbs it all while on autopilot, and in return his body goes through the zombie-like motions of trying to get his assailant to the ground. But then comes a big punch while Caraway Seed is on the mat attempting to get some sort of guard, and the American is flattened. Diego Marlon Brando will face Dennis Bermudez at the finale.
With that, the fourteenth season of TUF comes to a close. What did you think?