Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was back on cable television last night (Fri., May 11, 2012) with episode 10 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 "Live" on FX.
And after suffering through what's been a mostly trying season filled with a lot of empty storylines and what might as well have been dead air, it feels like we're finally making some real progress.
That's because last night's episode featured two quarterfinal fights leading to one half of the final four being decided.
Indeed, it was refreshing to get rid of the fluff and get down to the business at hand, which was always supposed to be fighting first and foremost. The reality television dynamic may have been what the show was built on for so many years, as it always garnered better ratings than actual sanctioned combat, but eventually, it's time to grow up.
There are only so many pranks a man can watch and still be entertained.
That's not even the entire reason last night was such a -- dare I say it -- great episode. No, not only did we get two fights and no fluff, we got one good fight and one amazing fight.
The night kicked off with the usual training montages to introduce the fighters competing later on. Really, that's a necessary evil. Watch them train, get a sneak behind the curtain, hear the game plan, watch them go out and execute it (or not).
Before all that, though, Dominick Cruz's knee injury was revealed to the teams and we got to see Urijah Faber's reaction to the news. In short, "The California Kid" was bummed but he's from California, so that didn't last long.
Then it was on to the evening's two contests.
First up was James Vick, who no one gave a chance to in his first fight in the house and who was basically being counted out here as well, took on Joe Proctor, a training partner of UFC lightweight Joe Lauzon.
Vick effectively used his size advantage and superior reach to shut down most of Proctor's offensive offerings. It seems elementary that Vick would do so but there's no substitute for a winning strategy.
His coach, Cruz, had managed beforehand that he felt Vick was a surefire finalist. "The guy is an animal," he said.
That may be true but he could find a great deal of trouble if he runs into the second guy who advanced to the final four with a victory last night, Michael Chiesa.
Surely you know him by now. He's the guy who lost his father immediately after making it on the show. He's since taken that painful experience and harnessed it into two victories to get himself to the semifinals of the competition.
Last night he took out Justin Lawrence, the number one overall pick, by using a well-rounded game and the one thing that kept him going through his father's passing -- heart.
His shout out to his mother and the rest of his family was a legitimately touching moment that you won't often find on a show like this. The potential for more is reason enough to continue tuning in.
If only for another week or two.
For complete results and the running live blog of TUF 15, episode 10 click here.