(Looking back now, it’s not hard to see why Roy Nelson ultimately decided not to go with "Big Graceful Swan" as a nickname.)
It’s that time again. With the "Ultimate Fighter" Finale just a day away, we take a look back at season ten and a look forward into the futures of tomorrow night’s marquee fighters. Enjoy.
Real talk: Was this the worst TUF season of all time?
BF: I’m tempted to say no. That is, until I start thinking about it and trying to name a season that’s been less enjoyable to watch and I draw a total blank. This was a perfect storm of crap. The fights were mostly one-sided, sloppy, uninteresting affairs. The Kimbo Bomb that resulted in huge ratings off the bat ended up being a dud. The bickering between Rashad Evans and “Rampage” Jackson went from enticing to annoying as soon as we learned that they wouldn’t be fighting any time soon.
Basically, everything that could have gone wrong, did. It’s no one’s fault. Well, except “Rampage.” He solidified his place as worst/least interested coach in TUF history, and his reluctance to fight the opposing coach at the end of the season has forever lowered the bar for all future coaches on the show. Congratulations, ‘Page. Ken Shamrock thanks you.
BG: Unquestionably, it’s the worst season of all time. I think when people look back on TUF 10, they’ll remember it for 1) terrible fights, and 2) the end of Kimbo Slice as a compelling product. But one thing you left out of your crap-list was the fact that there were virtually no likable characters in the cast. Instead, we got a bunch of assholes (Quinton Jackson, James McSweeney), dipshits (Matt Mitrione, Tiki Ghosn), weirdos (Wes Sims, Zak Jensen), and guys who started off cool but became aggravating by the season’s end (Rashad Evans, Roy Nelson). Good Lord, living in that house must have been awful; I don’t know how the 15 members of Kimbo’s entourage managed to do it. The saving grace is that Nelson vs. Schaub could actually turn out to be a really good scrap. And nobody got drunk and destroyed the house, except for Rampage beating up the door at the gym. But to be fair, that door had been talking shit all day. If you watch this animated gif and turn your speakers all the way up, you can clearly hear the door saying "y’momma ain’t shit."
If Kimbo takes out Houston Alexander on Saturday, would it be enough to prove that he belongs in the UFC? Is it too late for him to become a complete fighter at this point?
BG: Beating Houston will prove that Kimbo can knock out a smaller guy who poses no threat on the ground, and whose chin was already called into question by James Irvin. Winning a hand-picked matchup doesn’t mean shit. When Kimbo beats somebody in his own weight class who’s not solely known as a brawler, we can give him his props again. But there’s very little chance of that ever happening, and it has nothing to do with how late he got into the sport. Transitioning from a one-dimensional fighter to a complete mixed martial artist requires not just effort, but desire — and from all accounts, Slice doesn’t have it.
Bas Rutten tried to school Kimbo on the ground game, and he got shut down. Kimbo spent time training with the masters at American Top Team, and was less than enthusiastic about the experience. Make of that what you will; I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that they tried to teach him some stuff he wasn’t interested in learning, or were teaching him in a way that didn’t appeal to him, so he resisted and no progress was made. On Saturday, we’re going to see the same Kimbo Slice that we saw against Roy Nelson on TUF. And that would probably be the case even if Slice was ten years younger. You’re never too old or too young to be a stubborn jackass.
BF: As far as Kimbo Slice the person, this season of TUF really turned me around on him. He came off as a humble, likeable guy, mostly because he let his guard down long enough to stop acting hard and demanding his bread all the time. But Kimbo the fighter, yeah, he’s pretty much the same as ever, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s already made more money in this sport than 90% of these jokers with jiu-jitsu black belts will ever see, so why does he need to bust his ass learning the ground game? He just came to throw them bombs, playa.
Obviously, that won’t get you far in the UFC. Houston Alexander is going to beat him tomorrow night. If he doesn’t, it will be because Kimbo lands one big punch – not because he’s the more complete fighter. But even after that, where can Kimbo go? He can’t (or just really doesn’t want to) cut to 205, and he’d get killed by almost any UFC heavyweight currently on the roster. If you’re enough of a sadist, just imagine for a moment what Pat Barry would do to his arthritic knee. He’s enough of a draw that the UFC will probably give him one more shot even if he gets beaten badly by Alexander, but he’s just too one-dimensional to last long at this level.
If Jon Jones doesn’t beat Matt Hamill in impressive fashion on Saturday, is his hype train officially derailed?
BF: For starters, I don’t think there’s any way “Bones” doesn’t beat Hamill. He’s not going to be outwrestled by him, and he sure as hell isn’t going to lose the stand-up battle. Jones is too fast and Hamill too plodding and predictable. That just leaves me with one question of my own: how impressive would be impressive enough?
Jones has made a reputation as the guy who does stuff in pro fights that only video game characters should be able to pull off. In that sense, if he doesn’t land at least one spinning strike that makes Joe Silva jump up and speak in tongues, there’s going to be someone out there who views it as proof that he’s overrated.
All I know is this is a 22-year-old undefeated fighter who’s only been messing around with MMA for less than two years. He’s got a lot of time to learn and grow and do whatever it is he’s going to do in this sport, and I’m inclined to believe that it’s going to be something worth seeing.
BG: Of course we’ll be disappointed if Jones doesn’t land that flying torpedo punch that he recently picked up from YouTube. But don’t forget that Matt Hamill is a well-known fighter who’s coming off the best knockout of his career. (Ask Mark Munoz how "plodding and predictable" the Hammer is. You know, when he wakes up from his coma.)
The way I see it, even a close victory for Bones on Saturday will raise his stock. It’ll also launch him into the top half of the 205-pound pecking order, where he could soon be fighting some of the division’s stars. Like you said, the guy’s just 22, he’s been fighting for less than two years, and he has yet to taste his first loss. As long as Jon Jones keeps beating solid competition in the UFC, I’ll continue to be impressed. They don’t all have to be dominations.
BG: I’d say it’s a solid 7, no matter who wins. I look at Brendan Schaub as a great prospect with legitimate down-the-road potential. For a guy who’s only had four professional fights to his credit, he looked tremendously composed on the show. The UFC would want to give him the standard TUF-winner treatment — a relatively easy first opponent, and a couple of middling opponents after that. Build him up slowly, in other words, so he has time to learn and develop. Schaub may be green, but he has natural ability. We could be watching this guy for a long time.
If Roy Nelson wins, he’ll enter the UFC in the middle of the pecking order, where he’d quickly be matched up with veterans like Paul Buentello or his old nemesis Ben Rothwell. I’m not saying Big Country will ever hold the belt, but if he does well in those first fights, he could become a regular fixture on pay-per-view main cards. (Think Joe Stevenson and Michael Bisping, who have also scored 7′s in the post-TUF impact scale.) No matter what happens, I think we’ll have a winner we can be proud of, though I’m giving the edge to Nelson simply based on experience. Going from opponents with a combined record of 5-15-1 to a true professional like Big Country could be a very rude awakening for Schaub.
BF: Seeing as how Dana White seems to hate Roy Nelson with a fiery passion, I can’t rule out the possibility that a victory for Nelson in the finale will mean he gets fed a steady diet of terrible match-ups until the UFC can justify cutting him. Something about that guy just makes Dana crazy, so don’t be surprised if he doesn’t get a gimme fight for his first post-TUF outing. But either way, I see “Big Country” more as a 5 in the UFC. His jiu-jitsu is good, but can he get these big wrestlers to the mat? Can he outbox the better kickboxers in the division? I have my doubts.
As for Schaub, I’d put him slightly higher, maybe a 6, but that’s only if the UFC realizes that he’s a work in progesss. They’re much more likely to bring him along slowly, and if they do he could really turn out to be something down the road. Sadly though, neither of them seems like a Forrest Griffin or Rashad Evans to me. More like a Matt Serra, though without the fluke title win and the charisma.