Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was back on cable television last night (Fri., March 23, 2012) with episode three of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 "Live" on FX.
And now that we've settled in to a groove just a few episodes in, suddenly the reality television show looks like, well, a reality television show.
That's because the initial allure of the live fight format has somewhat worn off, mostly because that's only for the final 15 minutes of each respective episode. The first 45 minutes are still filled with all the usual nonsense we've come to know and hate.
Manufactured drama? Check. Petty bickering over ridiculous issues? Check. Stupid pranks that even the most unintelligent of human beings find unfunny? Check. Training montages with voice overs interspersed with interviews? Mate.
Essentially, for 45 minutes it's the same old, same old, which makes it so very tough to get to the excitement of the final 15.
But that doesn't mean there aren't reasons to really like the show, some of which were on full display last night.
Watching a fight live is very much like catching a live musical act. Sure, it's enjoyable no matter what way you slice it but there's just a different connection to it when taking it in live, as it happens.
In the case of this season of TUF, it adds a level of enjoyment to the training and game planning process that would otherwise not exist.
It's endlessly fascinating to see Dominick Cruz coach up his fighter, Justin Lawrence, on the exact takedowns his opponent, Cristiano Marcello, would be working for once the bout got underway. "The Dominator" more or less told his pupil to expect the Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert to exchange briefly before shooting in for a takedown. So they planned for such a thing and brought in a special training partner to get Lawrence ready.
This made it all the more incredible to watch Lawrence put what he learned into practice in the actual fight. That kind of access isn't something UFC fans are used to. The depth of consumption typically consists of press conferences, weigh-ins and then the fight itself.
TUF gives us the added benefit of seeing the game plan and watching for certain subtle nuances. Or sometimes, in the case of Marcello, not so subtle.
Urijah Faber, Marcello's coach, warned him of the dangers of the high looping left hand Lawrence loves to throw with such dangerous intentions. So when we watched it happen in the fight, and it landed hard enough to end the fight, it gave the viewer a certain appreciation we may not have felt otherwise.
That's without mentioning Faber's palpable frustration at the fact that Marcello just refused to tuck his chin, which helped lead to the knockout loss.
Watching coaching in action, as well as seeing a fighter ignore it, is really a thing of beauty and an aspect of the show that we should all appreciate.
But can you make it through those 45 minutes of ridiculously stupid "pranks" and silly manufactured drama? Let's be real: Seeing Faber "kick Cruz's team out of the gym" by simply holding the door open and saying, "Please leave, guys," had to be a lowlight of the entire series.
Legitimate beef is fine, laid back surfers attempting to get lippy is just silly.
But hey, we're two elimination fights in and we've seen two knockouts. Can't beat that, right?
For complete results and the running live blog of last night's TUF 15, episode three click here.