This just may be the year that a Spike TV producer is forced to go overboard.
The thirteenth season of “The Ultimate Fighter” began he other night, and if episode one is any indication of things to come, compelling television TUF 13 will not be. Discord between the two coaches? At first glance, it seems as if former heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar and top contender Junior dos Santos are one compliment and firm handshake away from inviting each other over for Sunday dinner. A selection of fighters that look like escaped convicts and CBGBs denizens? Negative. Absolutely no one sticks out, and aside from one TUFer sporting a pink tie in the opening shot, it looks like no one is even trying to be memorable. Will we see wholesale TUF House destruction and bodily fluids in food? Controversial fights and stars born? That’s all too soon to tell. But if good TV involves drama, what we’ve been presented thus far could lead to a ratings-hungry Spike TV representative, in a misguided attempt to compensate, hiding steaks under the furniture and releasing lions into the house.
Episode one begins with the entrance of a fresh crop of welterweights, lining up in the TUF Training Center like wide-eyed Parris Island recruits. Maestro Dana White gives them his standard pep talk, albeit one remarkably short on profanity. Then come the coaches. Right off the bat dos Santos confesses to a less-than-stellar command of the English language (in reality, he’s about as comprehensible as Brit Michael Bisping). Lesnar, meanwhile, begins the fighter evaluation process, and with clipboard in hand he has the young wards show off their cardio.
Once the thoroughbreds have sufficiently been put through their paces, it’s time to pick teams. White leads the heavyweight pair into his office, and under an atmosphere of tense stares and Machiavellian maneuvers, dos Santos and Lesnar practically come to blows over the slightest perceived infraction. Ha! Just kidding. These guys are so laid back during the coin flip and team-choosing phase, it would be no stretch of the imagination to see them head to the mall after the day’s shooting to drink lattes and shop for Affliction garb. Afterwards, White delivers the team assignments to the fighters himself, sans coaches. Why? To further maintain the peace and keep the show tension-free?
Somewhere, a Spike TV producer is watching the dailies and starting to sob.
The obligatory training montages follow, and as usual, we get to see some interesting routines – namely, Lesnar and his boys working some sort of manual egg-beater contraption. But then tragedy strikes: Myles Jury, who tweaked his knee during evaluations, is informed by the doctor that his ACL is completely torn (as well as another ligament). Jury makes like he can still fight – like, he just won’t go for takedowns or something – but White is stone-faced when he gives him the boot. Jury’s spot is taken by Anonymous Alternate #1.
As Lesnar wound up winning the coin toss and chose the first fighter, dos Santos gets to pick the first fight. His choice: his best guy, wrestler Shamar Bailey, versus the ex-champ’s last pick (i.e., presumably weakest fighter), Nordin Asrih.
And now it’s time to get to know the two competitors. Asrih, we learn, is German, and as a devout Muslim, we get to watch him pray towards Mecca in preparation for his bout. Conversely, Bailey reads the Bible, and like the true yin to Asrih’s striking-centric yang, Bailey eats and breathes wresting and craps singlets. Can you guess how their fight goes?
If you said “methodical and, uh, boring”, you hit the nail on the head. For all two rounds Asrih displays the kind of sprawl that would make Dan Hardy proud. Bailey, unfortunately, barely does more than lay on him. When time runs out there’s no doubt who’s earned the decision (it’s Bailey). Ever the straight-shooter, White admits to the camera that it wasn’t the best fight to ever grace the Octagon.
And though we don’t see it, it’s safe to assume that a Spike TV producer is dialing the number of the Las Vegas Zoo and inquiring about their selection of big cats.