by William Hammon
Is it weird that one of the most compelling thing about this week’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter was the rap battle between Kevin Casey and Gilbert Smith? It was a funny scene, and yet another example of how the show is doing what it needs to do to portray these fighters as human beings, rather than the meathead thugs the sport’s detractors would have you believe they are.
But that brief moment of frivolity is not what we’re here to discuss. The fight between “King” and Collin Hart (I’d laugh to an immense degree if he decided to adopt “Usurper” as his nickname) was a complete mismatch, and as Chael Sonnen noted, it looked like Kevin didn’t even show up. He took Collin’s skill for granted and looked past this matchup to a potential quarterfinals bout against Bubba McDaniel. It’s the price you pay for looking too far ahead as opposed to operating within the present moment.
Now there’s an idea worth exploring, not just for the tournament, but for the production of the show itself. Most reality shows have a story arc edited into the individual episodes as a way to set the audience up for the finale. Since the show was pre-recorded, the finale matchup has already been set, and the producers and editors already know the path that each of the fighters took to reach that point. Their job is to present a compelling story to frame this denouement (big word, sorry).
Given that we’ve spent the last three episodes talking about a matchup of Kevin Casey and Bubba McDaniel, I was a bit confused when I saw this week’s fight, and saw how easily Collin handled Kevin. It made me wonder if the editors were tossing us a red herring or if they were preparing us for something even bigger.
Bubba’s early arc has been his trash talk and his desire to fight Kevin. Next week, he’ll be going up against Kelvin Gastelum, the youngest fighter in the show’s history, and arguably Sonnen’s weakest competitor (as evidenced by the fact that he was Sonnen’s last pick).
In order for Bubba to fight Kevin, as has been the setup for the bulk of the season so far, it would have to involve the Wild Card. Either Kevin has to win it and face Bubba in the next round, or – and this would be the shocker of the season – if Kelvin actually beats Bubba, he could face Kevin in the Wild Card bout.
How exciting would that be? We began the season anticipating this fight, but due to Kevin looking too far ahead, it would seem the rug’s been pulled out from underneath us as an audience. It feels like we got our hopes up only to be majorly disappointed (like the way Sonnen was disappointed in Kevin’s performance during the fight). But what if this was only a bump in the road, a detour to the promised bout that would settle the only real “grudge match” we have in the house this season?
It’s enough to make one quiver with antici— (“Say it!”) –pation. Not only would we get the resolution to this rather compelling storyline, but it could come on the heels of the biggest upset of the season! Of course, I could just be setting myself up for disappointment. We shall see, but if nothing else, I’m already stoked for next week.
There were a couple other moments that triggered a foreshadowing red flag this week. First, there was a brief scene where Collin and Bubba worried about making weight for their respective fights. Collin quickly dropped eight pounds to qualify, and Bubba has a few to go.
This could end up being disastrous. Back in Season 5, Gabe Ruediger failed to make weight in time for his fight, and he was kicked off the show. This is part of the reason Dana White instituted the Elimination Round so that guys had to fight their way into the house. He considered Gabe’s inability to drop weight to be the height of disrespect and a lack of commitment, so now contestants have to prove their mettle right off the bat.
I don’t think Bubba will have this issue before his fight with Kelvin, but what if another fighter faces this issue down the road? It just seems odd to bring this topic up and not have it become relevant later on.
Finally, I can’t be the only one who’s noticed that Josh Samman seems to be the narrator for the season, at least for Team Jones. Whenever something’s going on with that squad, we usually hear from that week’s fighter, as well as a snarky comment or two from Bubba, but all the “nuts and bolts” exposition comes from Josh.
In other shows, this would be an indicator that he’s going
to be around for a good long while, maybe even up to the finale.
I’m not yet ready to amend my prediction of a Uriah Hall/Luke
Barnatt championship bout, but it’s something worth paying
attention to, especially because there’s been no mention of
when and who he’ll fight apart from the “list”
scene in the premiere, when he said he wanted to fight Jimmy
Quinlan. Keep an eye on this. It may come into play later.