(Photo via Sherdog)
Ultimate Fighter Finale cards weren’t always so garbage-ass. On December 5th, 2009 — four years ago today — the TUF 10 Finale went down in Las Vegas, with a lineup featuring Jon Jones (before he became light-heavyweight champion), Frankie Edgar (before he became lightweight champion), Kimbo Slice (who was one of the most popular figures in the sport at the time), as well as Roy Nelson, Brendan Schaub, and Matt Mitrione. Today, a UFC card with those names would be sold as a pay-per-view, and it would probably do pretty damn well*. In 2009, this was just another free show on Spike TV, a cable channel that everybody knew how to find. Damn…we just didn’t know how good we had it back then.
Maybe you remember Nelson’s nasty one-shot KO of Schaub at the event, and maybe you remember the 15-minute wheezefest that was Kimbo vs. Houston Alexander. But the reason that the TUF 10 Finale remains infamous four years later is because of a bullshit little rule known as “no 12-to-6 elbows,” which may very well be the most arbitrary and baseless rule in MMA history. Essentially, MMA fighters are allowed to crack each other’s skulls wide open with their ‘bows, either standing or on the ground, but if your elbow is moving vertically downward, you might as well be a villain in a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie. My goodness, somebody could actually get injured with those things.
Jon Jones, who was 22 years old at the time, had earned a prime spot on the TUF 10 Finale main card thanks to his 3-0 run in the UFC light-heavyweight division, which included a hilariously madcap decision win against Stephan Bonnar, and a second-round submission of fan-unfavorite Jake O’Brien. This was the pre-backlash Jon Jones, a guy who was universally beloved for his dynamic wrestling ability and his improvisational striking, which he picked up (as the legend goes) from watching YouTube videos. Matt Hamill was supposed to be just another stepping-stone in Jones’s quick rise to the top — a recognizable TUF-guy for him to squash. And that’s exactly what happened, even though Hamill wound up winning the fight on a technicality.