As another Season of “The Ultimate Fighter” comes to a close one has to wonder if the hardest working man in show business, James Brown (RIP) would’ve written a different song had he been around to see TUF 18. With just one episode remaining before the season Finale and with the men’s portion of the show all sorted out, the answer to that age old question may have finally been answered, our ladies do in fact run this mother f****r!!! Not to throw my fellow men under the bus, but there are not many redeeming qualities on the guy’s side of things. Notch one in the win column for the fairer sex in the eternal battle of the sexes, here is why:
Meisha Tate and Ronda Rousey are stars
The first and most obvious reason for the women shining this season is the coaches. Not that anyone should’ve doubted this seeing as how they were picked for the gig in the first place. I know Cat Zingano beat Meisha to earn her title fight and her spot on the show, but let us not pretend that Dana White and company had a hard time finding a silver lining when Zingano went down with a serious knee injury. Tate and Rousey have it all and are fully capable of leading women and “TUF” women in particular, into UFC stardom just as Stephen and Forrest did years ago. They have been placed in a high stakes situation and both have risen to the occasion nicely. Not only are they both very easy on the eyes, DAMN!, but they also have charisma and showmanship to spare. Oh yeah by the way, they can both also fight their rear ends off and are as legit as woman mixed martial artists come. It takes a certain resume to garner the respect of the masses when trying to add credibility to a product (WMMA in this case) and both Tate and Rousey have that as well. Most people know by now that Rousey is a world class judoka with no less than 5 world level medals in judo to her credit, with the most impressive being an Olympic bronze. But some may not know that Tate also brings a silver medal from the Fila grappling world championships in 2008. These two women did the entire WMMA world justice by landing this TUF coaching gig and their spots on the UFC roster.
Best kept in a cool, dry, place
Let’s face it; before women were added to the mix for the first time this season, the TUF product had become stale. With it becoming harder and harder to attract name talent to the show, and with UFC content becoming more accessible than ever, the men on TUF have, for the most part, failed to make an impact lately. While earlier seasons produced a nice percentage of UFC caliber talent and even a few UFC champions, that ship has all but sailed until someone calls it back in. The men on this season didn’t help that cause any by producing only a fraction of the awesomeness that the women on the show did. While some of the guys were game planning hook ups and plotting on the pretty ladies in the house, the women were taking a moment to reflect on how far they have come AND how far they have to go, putting on their game faces to ensure that they get there. The women made it clear, they meant business. Add to that a season of largely unforgettable male talent and not one but two guys who chose to follow in the footsteps of Noah Inhofer and Gabe Ruediger, and we have a bar not set very high. When a number one pick (Cody Bollinger) and a guy who only needed to win once to make the finals (Anthony Gutierrez) quits, it just does NOT look good.
A passing of the torch
One thing that had to make hardcore WMMA fans happy was to see quite a few of their favorite veteran fighters finally get a chance to shine. Having names like Shayna Baszler, Tonya Evinger, Tara LaRosa, Roxanne Modafferi, and Colleen Schneider on the cast list certainly adds a bit of credibility to the show and draws in a nice niche demographic of viewers. While it could’ve been equally upsetting to those fans when these veterans did not do as well as we all wish they would have, we can find some comfort in the fact that the losses of Evinger, Modafferi, LaRosa, Baszler, and Schneider became the gain of young, exciting, women such Raquel Pennington, Jessica Rakoczy, Sarah Moras, and Julianna Peña. It’s a damn shame that WMMA had to blow up possibly a little too late for women like Modafferi and LaRosa to cash in on years of work but we needed these younger women to take the torch and run with it so they can become the respected fighters of the present and future. And, who’s to say these older women won’t make a run in the UFC after all? Matt Brown, Chris Leben, Cole Miller, and many others exited TUF prematurely only to go onto bigger things in the Octagon.
The almighty Rating
We all know that the ratings for TUF have been trending downward for a while now and this season unfortunately is no different. And for reasons I addressed above it makes sense that this has happened. But if you dig a little bit deeper you can uncover yet another victory for the women of TUF 18 – TUF 18’s ratings. The women beating the men in this area pretty much guarantees that they will continue onto bigger and better things in the UFC. Almost across the board the shows that featured women fights drew approximately 20% better ratings then shows that featured the guys, this is something I am sure none of us saw coming. Tate and Rousey drawing eyeballs should surprise nobody, but that the female cast members all pulled their share of weight as well is a huge victory.
Awesome women fights/fighters
Last but certainly not least we look at the actual fights. The girls kicked butt here as well, literally and figuratively. Amongst the men there were some good fighters, some decent athletes, and a mildly entertaining fight or two, but there was nothing like a Raquel Pennington vs. Jessamyn Duke from the men’s fights. These 2 women presented top notch skill, conditioning, desire, and heart that was both brutal and also a joy to watch. It is a shame that there had to be a loser in that fight and really it was just one of several impressive women fights on the show. Jessica Rakoczy and Julianna Peña both looked incredible as well.
Season 18 of the Ultimate Fighter may have been just what the show needed to gain some momentum and start performing as well as it can again. As someone who was not nearly as much into WMMA as I was men’s, it was a definite eye opener and I have nothing but respect for these talented ladies. The future for women in the Octagon is brighter now than ever before.