If last week’s awesome free show left you wanting more (like I left your mom), this weekend serves up a double-dose of gratis fights, though you may want to lower your expectations a bit. TUF finales have a history of being the least viewed and attended UFC events, and usually for good reason. Many fans have a hard time caring about yet another TUF winner (let alone the also-rans), and even when it’s on the same card, the coaches’ grudge-match seems to fall prey to the Gypsy Curse as often as not.
Saturday’s TUF 16 finale is same-same but different. Coach Big Country will now face his TUF 10 cast-mate “Meathead” Mitrione in the main event, as Shane Carwin sits out with yet another injury. The difference is that, for the very first time in TUF’s history, only the finalists Mike Ricci and Colton Smith will appear on the finale card. That’s what happens when Dana White twice urges the cast to go for the finish and be exciting, but almost no one listens. It’s a big and very welcome change from last season’s finale that featured almost the entire cast, including dudes who didn’t even make the quarter-finals. There’s still a few previous TUF’ers on the prelims, but at least the rest of the main card looks fairly solid, with Barry vs Del Rosario, Guillard vs Varner, and Poirier vs TUF 12 winner Jonathan Brookins.
But first, Friday night brings us the finale of “TUF: The Smashes” (aka Roo vs Pom), which few people on this continent saw, since piracy and YouTube were our only options, and the UFC advertised neither. Those who did were treated to a decent finishing rate (6/12 compared to only 2/14 on TUF 16), and minimal “drama” from a generally affable and non-douchey cast, though the latter kinda demonstrated how train-wrecks like Julian Lane serve to make things more perversely interesting. There were no drunken shit-shows, no face-offs at the house, no bodily fluids in anyone’s food, and no damage besides food-fights. Even the requisite “look at me” character can actually fight, as “Freakshow” Fletcher made the finals fairly handily. But at least we learned that Dana thinks “the worst thing that could possibly happen” on TUF is for cast members to break the first two rules of Fight Club by not-so-secretly using a cellphone.
The coach-fight main event of G-Sot vs Ross Pearson has actually survived (thus far, knock on wood), and the main card kicks off with Hector Lombard looking to cleanse the stink of his UFC debut against Paul Harris. Robert Whittaker did Oz proud by KO’ing his way to the welterweight finals against England’s Brad Scott, while the lightweight finals pits Freakshow against his fellow Brit Norman Parke. Four other alumni get another shot on the undercard, but two were semi-finalists and two were forced out with injuries, so at least it’s defensible. The prelims also feature the likes of Chad Mendes, Joey Beltran, and Mike Pierce.