This season of The Ultimate Fighter has been one of my favorite seasons since the show started way back in 2005. It has been a very long time since we’ve seen the collective talent level this high and the attitude of all the fighters this focused. There haven’t been too many scuffles or drunken moments inside the house yet, which takes away from much of the drama that used to make TUF seem more like an MTV reality show than an attempt to find the next hidden gem in the MMA world. And I have to say, the maturity and focus displayed by this season’s fighters is a much needed breath of fresh air.
On top of all of this the coaches, Jones and Sonnen, are also great this season. They are both big viewing draws for television ratings, sure, but what makes them great is their ability to connect with the fighters and make them better fighters AND better men in the short time they get to work with them.
With one week left in the opening round of the tournament we have seen many great fights that saw good fighters lose and, in turn, be put out of the competition. However, there is still a wild card spot open at the close of the first round of competition. That means that one fighter that lost his first fight will have a chance at redemption and be allowed to come back into the tournament. This seems like a great opportunity to let a skilled fighter get a second chance at the coveted six-digit contract and a place on the UFC roster. The only problem with this, especially this season, is that there are AT LEAST two fighters that immediately come to my mind that I feel have to skills and ability to come back and still win the tournament.
We saw Clint Hester lose in yesterday’s episode in a fight that I felt he was winning after the first round. However, he was outworked and out-grappled in the second round and was caught in a submission by Jimmy Quinlan. All of a sudden his hopes of becoming the next Ultimate Fighter vanished…or did they?
Quinlan is a 2X Pan American Wrestling Champion and Hester fought off the effectiveness of Quinlan’s takedowns by landing damaging shots from his back and from his sprawl. Hester absolutely did more physical damage in the first round but could only hold off Quinlan’s grappling for so long. Still, I feel that Hester did a marvelous job with what he had. He was able to generate tremendous power from awkward positions and dropped Quinlan late in the first round with a shot that I thought could’ve ended the fight if it was followed up with one or two more clean-landing strikes. But, these are all “if, ands, & buts” and usually don’t mean anything in the fight business. However, with a wild card spot open these factors definitely play into Hester’s chances of coming back into the tournament.
The other fighter that I think could be nominated to nab the wild card spot is Bubba McDaniel. Bubba is a seasoned striker but met the same fate as Hester…Striker, meet Wrestler. This is a tough part of the MMA game. Good strikers in this business are often times considered the better fighter because they are exciting and like to stand & throw hands. In other words, they do what the fans like to see in a fight and that is try to inflict as much damage to their opponent as possible. However, if a striker doesn’t have a grappling base or can’t defend a takedown then they are more than likely going to lose because of the mere fact that they don’t get to dictate where the fight takes place. This is why Chuck Liddell was so good. He was a striker that had a solid wrestling background but only used it to effectively eliminate his opponents shots and takedowns, ultimately keeping the fight right where he wanted it; standing. But when a wrestler is able to take a striker down then the entire complexion of the fight changes. So Bubba had his hands full as he fought a very tough grappler in Kelvin Gastelum.
Again, I feel that even though Bubba was fighting off takedowns the entire first round he still might have done enough damage to eke out a nod from the judges in the first round. But fights are usually longer than one round and wrestlers tend to pour on their game even more as the fight goes on. Kelvin came right out and again relied on his wrestling background. Again, it worked and he out-positioned Bubba and secured a rear-naked choke to put Bubba out of the tournament and advance into the quarter finals of the show. Bubba, though, felt that he put on a good enough performance to become the frontrunner for the wild card spot.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Someone has to make a decision as to who gets to come back into the completion and continue fighting. At the close of the last episode they said that Dana White had a surprise for everyone before announcing who gets the wildcard spot. This hit me as very interesting considering there is more than one standout fighter worthy of returning to competition. So what does Dana have up his sleeve? Are they going to bring back more than one fighter? Or better yet, are we going to get to see a fight-off between Hester and McDaniel? And let us not forget that Josh Samman went to the emergency room to have his leg looked at in fear that he might have a blood clot. Taking that into consideration maybe they will bring back more than one fighter already with a loss in the competition.
When it comes to Dana White and his surprises we can never be certain as to what comes next but what we do know is that each fighter that has lost is still hungry and all of them are worthy fighters…and when it comes to Dana White we know that he likes to reward those fighters that want to fight and have the passion to entertain and scrap.
So what do you all think about the wild card position still left up for grabs? Who do you think deserves the spot and what do you think Dana White is going to surprise us with this season?
For more on The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 click here
Tags: Bubba McDaniel, Chael Sonnen, Chuck Liddell, Clint Hester, Dana White, featured, Jimmy Quinlin, jon jones, Kelvin Gastelum, mma, MMA NEWS, The Ultimate Fighter, TUF 17, ufc