Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) brought back its reality show baby, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), for season number 15 last night (Fri., March 9, 2012) for a 2.5 hour season premiere on its brand spankin' new channel FX.
But this wasn't like any old regular premiere. This was the first time the series had ever featured live fights.
Indeed, 32 competitors got together in Las Vegas for 16 elimination bouts to determine who would be moving into the infamous TUF house. Of the many changes we'll see this season, that's not one of them. Those who managed to fight their way into the house will find the same restrictions of years past. No television or texting or e-mail or any of that jazz.
Speaking of which, that's all the season premiere featured last night, as the promotion packed as much action as possible into its 2.5 hour time frame.
But it came with a twist.
Instead of the traditional format of two five minute rounds, UFC President Dana White opened the episode by explaining to the budding TUF guys they would get just one round to put their best foot forward.
Two men with five minutes alone inside a cage with the stakes so high? What could be better?
Well, for starters, the performances of those who typically start slow. In theory, the new gimmick sounds good but in practice it made for some seriously uneven performances from fighters with far more potential than what showed in the short time they were given.
Dakota Cochrane, for example, showed promise both as a competitor and a reality show style contestant but fell prey to a split decision defeat. Would we have seen a different outcome had he been given another round to work with?
Who's to say?
And that's the problem, really. Some of the bouts went quick, with guys like Justin Lawrence and Chris Tickle letting it all go and having it pay off while others fell victim to insecurity and chose to work a safer wrestling style approach. It's difficult to blame them but one can't help but wonder how different the house would look had they not tinkered with the formula.
As for the new live format, it most certainly added a level of excitement not seen in seasons past. There's something to be said about knowing you're watching a fight go down in real time. However, the broadcast felt low rent at times, as though they were operating on a smaller budget. Some fans, like myself, may have enjoyed the presentation, but others may not feel the same.
This is the UFC we're talking about, after all.
An aspect of the fights I truly enjoyed more than anything, though, was the fact that while Jon Anik was on the scene live and giving interviews, they didn't let him do commentary. Instead, we at home were treated to UFC President Dana White, Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber casually chatting cageside while the fights were going on. It felt very visceral, as though we were being given a peek behind the curtain and hearing something we weren't necessarily supposed to.
It also gave us certain insights we wouldn't have gotten from Anik, a skilled broadcaster but lacking knowledge on the level of either Cruz or Faber, the two coaches this season.
Overall, there wasn't much to glean from the season premiere. Simply put, it was 16 fights -- some good, some bad -- and a whole lot of conversation between White, Cruz and Faber.
A solid introduction to FX but the best, hopefully, is yet to come.
But that's it from me, Maniacs. Now it's your turn to sound off with all your thoughts on the season premiere of TUF 15. What did you think of the new live format? And what of the fights themselves?
For complete results and individual recaps of all 16 fights from last night's premiere episode click here.