Heading into the twenty-fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter, I wasn’t all that excited about the premise. A sixteen man tournament to determine who would challenge the nigh unbeatable human tornado also referred to as Demetrious Johnson? Suffice it to say, I wasn’t particularly convinced the season would be worthwhile. Johnson as flyweight champion has looked nearly perfect in almost all of his outings. The thought process was that none of these flyweights had what it takes to actually challenge Johnson and ultimate it’s a notion that proved to be true.
But then these sixteen men had to prove me dead wrong.
Every match during the season was filled with some sort of drama, each one of them exciting in their own way. By the end, although not every fighter seemed to have the skill set to beat Johnson, the fans of the long running show were likely thoroughly entertained. Tim Elliott was the man that everyone was talking about by the TUF Finale, which was bound to happen seeing as he was the man who fought Johnson for the flyweight strap. That said, the show also offered us a glimpse at the future of the division.
Though Tim Elliott received the title shot there were a large contingent of people who believed that Eric Shelton deserved to be the man who fought Hiromasa Ogikubo in the final round of the tournament. Hell, even Elliott himself said that Shelton probably deserved the nod when the two fought to a close decision in the semifinals. In that match we saw a glimpse of what Shelton brings to the table. It was enough to lead me to believe that the young flyweight could be a major threat to Demetrious Johnson.
Intelligence Far Beyond His Years
The three fights had during the tournament showcased Eric Shelton’s ability to do a number of things. His striking is controlled and calculated though he could use a few more tools in his kit. Nevertheless, he understands the basics and when and how to use them. Shelton understands distance very well, fighting on the outside when he’s facing wrestlers and grapplers, while keeping a balanced approached when facing opponents with a more complete game. He also knows when to play counter fighter and when to be the aggressor. It’s the kind of savvy you’d expect from a well seasoned fighter.
He’s Stubborn As Hell
What we also saw during the show is just how stubborn Shelton can be. That doesn’t mean he won’t pass the ketchup when sitting down for dinner, but what he certainly won’t do is concede a position without giving up a hell of a fight. The Tim Elliott fight in the semifinals of the tournament demonstrated Shelton’s ability to create scrambles and never lay down flat once he’s on his back. He’s always looking to get to his feet or improve his defensive position or get a dominant position. Shelton is stubborn once he’s put in a disadvantageous position. He’s constantly moving his hips and looking to get himself back into the fight. That kind of stubborness will serve him well as he climbs the latter of the flyweight division.
One To Watch
With Eric Shelton’s next bout against Alexandre Pantoja at UFC on Fox 23, we’ll have the opportunity to see what the young flyweight has been working on. I for one will be looking forward to his bout as it could mark the beginnings of a truly interesting journey for a man who could one day challenge one of the sport’s pound for pound greats.
Do you think Eric Shelton can defeat Demetrious Johnson?