Before I get into the fight between Lisa Ellis and Jessica Penne, I have to admit that watching this season of The Ultimate Fighter has been a total chore. The only compelling part of each episode has been the fight at the end – and the fights haven’t been all that great either. It’s not the fault of the fighters. It’s the fault of the show producers for putting together episodes that are simply devoid of compelling television.
Check out this trailer of UFC 71. It does a far better job of storytelling in 60 seconds than a TUF episode does in an hour:
Just like that, the UFC has created a compelling narrative. There’s only one man who Chuck Liddell has lost to without avenging that loss – Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. They’re going to fight again at UFC 71 for the light-heavyweight title. That’s compelling stuff! It establishes Liddell as the champion and immediately makes Jackson a credible challenger. It’s simple and effective.
Here’s what we have on this season of The Ultimate Fighter. Felice Herrig is making friendship bracelets for her team. The women are hanging panties on the wall in a show of solidarity. Heather Clark is annoying. The women think Team Pettis is over-coaching them. Oh, and then there’s a fight.
This is the question I want to ask the producers of TUF…
WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE FIGHTING????
No, it’s not enough to say “well, they’re competing for the strawweight title.” Give me some character development. Give me a story arc. Tell me why Carla Esparza is the #1 seed – and don’t just tell me, but SHOW me. You have a reality show built around a tournament… so focus on the tournament!
Better yet, let the coaches be candid about what’s going on with the fighters. Tell me what’s going on with each fighter AS A FIGHTER. All we get is both coaches saying “yeah, she looks good in training, I think she can win if she does X.” Oh, well that sure gets me hyped up for the fight.
Show me the struggles of the fighters and how the coaches are helping them to get past those struggles. Show me the mental, physical, and emotional toll fighting takes on people. That’s the real drama on The Ultimate Fighter – not whether or not Heather Clark gets on anybody’s nerves.
Storytelling is a lost art in the UFC. They don’t know how to do it anymore. They’re too busy promoting the next fight card, and the one the next week, and the one the week after that. Every pay per view trailer looks and sounds identical.
There’s a reason fans still care about guys like Andrei Arlovski and Mark Hunt. There’s also a reason they don’t care about Stipe Miocic or Travis Browne, or even Cain Velasquez for that matter. Arlovski was the champion when the UFC knew how to promote fighters, and Velasquez is the champion in an era where the UFC has no idea how to promote them. It’s sad to see.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the fight…
Result: Jessica Penne def. Lisa Ellis by submission (rear naked choke), round 1
The only thing I can take away from this fight is that Jessica Penne has a good submission game and Lisa Ellis does not. Penne was taken down relatively easily, but when she was on her back, it wasn’t long before she swept Ellis and took back control, with the submission coming soon afterwards. It’s no surprise that Ellis has five career losses by submission.
I’ll do my best to keep writing notes on TUF this season, but I can’t guarantee I’ll make it the rest of the way. It’s awful television. The one thing I can guarantee is that I’m never watching TUF again after this. It’s not worth it. There are better things to do with my life.