(Coaching gaffes aside, the green jersey really brings out his eyes. Pic: TheMMANews)
At least one thing was abundantly clear Wednesday night about the debut episode of “The Ultimate Fighter,” season 13: Brock Lesnar has obviously never seen this show before. Forget for a minute all the silly squabbling over the former heavyweight champ’s credentials as a coach and whether or not his inclusion on the UFC’s popular reality show will be good for ratings and/or the sport. The real question this morning is whether or not Lesnar even owns a television, because the dude played the “TUF 13” season premiere like a straight-up rookie. Things snowballed so quickly and decisively in the favor of Team Dos Santos, that by the end of the first 60 minutes we had to wonder if this season will be another one-sided ass-kicking on the order of those handed out by Team GSP on “TUF 12” and Team Rashad on “TUF 10.”
We don’t want to totally bury Team Lesnar this early on because – let’s face it – a lot can happen between now and the end of the season, especially since producers appear to have done an uncharacteristically good job making the actual cast of “TUF 13” look evenly matched. There are only two dudes on board we’ve ever heard of before – Shamar Bailey and Ryan McGillivray, both snapped up quick-fast by Team JDS – so maybe Brock’s picks will surprise us. Still, we couldn’t help but notice that Lesnar didn’t exactly pin episode one to the mat and give it a Heath Herring-style beatdown. Here are the multiple ways Coach Brock screwed things up …
1. Fumbling the coin toss.
Dude. Everybody knows if you win Dana White’s opening flip-off, you choose to pick the first fight. You do this because if you do even a halfway competent job picking your team, you should be able to win at least the first 2-3 fights on matchups alone. Giving the opposition “the hammer” (as Ken Shamrock dubbed it during season 2) really only invites them to pick your team apart piece by piece, getting their best fighters into the second round ASAP while formulating the best matchup against your top guys. The most telling part that Lesnar bungled this was that after he quickly opted to have first pick of the fighters, he looked over at dos Santos like, “Right?” Wrong.
2. Offering half-assed “personality evaluations” of the fighters.
If the UFC wanted to underscore for us exactly how awkward Lesnar’s one-on-one interactions with other human beings are, it couldn’t possibly have done a more effective job than to show those short clips of the impromptu “interviews” he tried to conduct with his prospective team members. During these exchanges, Lesnar asked such probing questions as, “So buddy, what are you here for, buddy?” and “Are you here to win the show, buddy?” and “Are you here to win the show, buddy, or are you here to be a TV star?” What did he learn from this? Nothing, except that after 12 seasons of “TUF” the dudes on the cast know how to regurgitate answers the UFC wants to hear. What did viewers learn? Well, if Brock Lesnar can’t remember your name, he’s just gonna call you “buddy.” The Wonderlic this shit was not.
3. Not just ignoring the “evaluation period.”
As Dana White pointed out early on in episode one, coaches and their staffs had just two hours to evaluate the cast of “TUF 13” before making their picks. This is problematic for a couple reasons: One, because it’s probably hard to accurately scout a whole room full of talent in just 120 minutes. Two, due to a lot of unrelated issues (stress, nerves, jet lag) guys may not be giving you an accurate picture of their abilities during this time. In the past, maybe this hasn’t been an issue because most of the coaching staffs at least knew of the top contestants before the process even started. You think the coaches of previous season didn’t know who Joe Stevenson was before they even walked in that room? Or Mac Danzig? Or Michael Bisping? Or Nate Diaz? C’mon, son. Of course, Lesnar probably had no idea who any of these dudes were and in the end may well have given the two best prospects (Bailey and McGillivray) to Team JDS right out the shoot.
4. Staying too close to home.
In the past, when guys with somewhat dubious coaching credentials have landed starring roles on “TUF” they’ve at least tried to compensate by bringing along all-star coaching staffs. Koscheck brought the guys from AKA. Evans brought Team Greg Jackson. Forrest Griffin had the whole crew at Xtreme Couture to fall back on. Lesnar? It looks like he just brought Erik Paulsen and Marty Morgan over from DeathClutch. That’s not to say those guys aren’t high-level coaches (they are), but doesn’t it kind of also give you the impression that it’s going to be all catch wrestling, all the time over on Team Lesnar? And isn’t one of the biggest knocks on Lesnar as a fighter that he hasn’t really gone out of his comfort zone, spread his wings and improved his skill set by training with the best in the world? If you needed a clue where Lesnar’s focus is going to be during this season, you had to look no further than his speech to his charges immediately following their first loss of the season: “Wrestling is powerful in this sport, fellas.” Oh, boy.
5. Acting like he expected to lose.
Not only has Lesnar never seen “TUF” before but he’s also apparently unfamiliar with any show or movie where an inspirational coach lifts up his team and motivates them through undying confidence and hard work. And really, isn’t that like every movie ever made? Granted, fight No. 1 featured JDS’ top pick (Bailey) against Lesnar’s last pick (Nordin Asrih), but watching at home you got the impression the boys on Team Green had thrown in the towel on this one before it even started. During the bout itself, it sounded like there was a whole lot of silence coming out of Lesnar’s corner, except for the occasional “Up, up, up!” and “Underhook, left side!” Then, after Bailey had thoroughly outwrestled his German Muslim opponent (certainly Lesnar didn’t secretly enjoy that, right?), Lesnar quipped: “They put their best guy against our last pick, so it (the loss) was to be expected.” Damn, Nodrin Asrih, how does that feel? Sorry about your life’s dream, bro.