Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was back on cable television last night (Fri., May 11, 2012) with episode 11 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 "Live" on FX.
And this time they had one hell of a hook to get viewers to tune in.
Indeed, with the series moving to a live format this season, that provided the promotion an opportunity for something unprecedented. When Dominick Cruz blew his knee out, it left a gaping hole in the UFC 148 fight card set for July 7, 2012, in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was decided he would continue coaching throughout the remainder of the season but his previously scheduled opponent and rival coach, Urijah Faber, would need a new foe for the Independence Day weekend extravaganza.
So the UFC used the situation to tease fans into watching last night's episode in wait for the big reveal of who Faber's opponent would be, though word had been circulating through mixed martial arts (MMA) circles throughout the past week.
As it turned out, the rumors were true and Renan Barao revealed himself to be the lucky man to fill the void left by Cruz. He and Faber will battle for the interim bantamweight championship in less than two months. Yippie!
As for the rest of episode 11, it was fairly uneventful, despite another show featuring two fights and very little fluff. In fact, we were treated to maybe 15 minutes worth of training montages and back story.
By now, that's a welcome change.
Unfortunately, last week's stellar episode cast a long shadow over this week's proceedings. Vinc Pichel and Chris Saunders engaged in a plodding two round affair that saw the former take his coach's advice to heart en route to grinding out a majority decision.
The second bout saw a far more thrilling conclusion, as the cold and calculated Al Iaquinta blasted Andy Ogle into next week with one of the prettiest standing elbow strike knockouts in recent memory.
It was somewhat bittersweet, considering Ogle was one of the few fighters in the TUF house who showed real emotion that allowed fans to feel somewhat invested in his progress. He overcame his demons to win his elimination fight but was felled here.
At least he'll likely end up fighting on the Finale card.
Speaking of which, we're down to the final four and the semifinals will play out next week in the form of Michael Chiesa vs. James Vick and Vinc Pichel vs. Al Iaquinta. The winners will meet on June 1 in Las Vegas for the coveted glass trophy and six-figure contract with the UFC.
It's almost over, Maniacs. Hang in there. You know I am.
For complete results and the running live blog of TUF 15, episode 11 click here.