This week’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter was undoubtedly the best so far of season six, primarily because for the first time it spent a significant portion of the show on the actual fight. Team Serra’s Ben Saunders and Team Hughes’ Dan Barrera put on quite a show, even if the ending was a tad unsatisfying. Still, there are lessons to be learned from this episode about how to cast the show in the future, and I really hope the good people at the UFC and Spike TV realize that having good fighters means they will be forced to come up with less time-wasting, drama-hyping crap to get through an episode.
The UFC I have hope for. But Spike TV — the home of Manswers and Blade: The Series — I have my doubts about.
The episode got off to a quick start with the fight announcement, which followed an odd Vegas construction work montage to begin the show. Both teams seemed happy with the match-up, and it gives one hope that the ranks have now been thinned out enough to see some worthwhile fights. If nothing else, we could see right away that the competitors at least had interesting personalities.
Barrera seems to have a number of quirks, each more confusing and hilarious than the last. For starters, he wakes up every morning at 4:15 without really meaning to. He attributes this, as he does most things, to God. He makes good use of this time by going running, shadowboxing dumpsters, and swimming in a pair of Speedos. Apparently it’s all part of his energetic personality. As Barrera points out, “These guys will have to stab me in my sleep or throw me in front of a train wreck to keep me from getting up.”
(Note to Barrera: being thrown in front of a train wreck probably wouldn’t be that bad, because trains usually stop moving after a wreck. For the future you could just say they’d have to throw you in front of a moving train, and we’d all get the point just fine.)
Barrera is also known to his teammates for his full-bore mentality in practice. He seems to be the type who can’t go half-speed at anything, and understandably it grates on the nerves of every member of Team Hughes. They’re also perplexed at his frequent trips to the bathroom during practice. Is he anorexic? Is he shooting up? Does he have some kind of prostate trouble?
Turns out — thanks to the creepy Spike TV bathroom cam — we learn that he just likes to shadowbox and flex his muscles in the mirror, sometimes with his pants down. No big deal there. I mean, we all do that several times a day, right? Right?
His opponent, Ben Saunders, is a little bit goofy, but likable. He describes his fighting style as Jeet Kune Do, the martial art created by Bruce Lee. I can’t tell if he’s joking or if it’s a thing he tells himself for inspiration, but he seems to be another guy who learned King Fu as a kid and has since become a mixed martial artist with good stand-up. He’s much taller and lankier than Barrera, which he plans to use to his advantage in the stand-up game.
But before we can get to the fight, Barrera becomes the newest member of the “tragic news from home” club. His wife, who he was showing pictures of earlier in the episode, is having some sort of “medical problem”. We’ve already learned that Barrera married his wife, who was eighteen at the time, after knowing each other for a very short time. They’re both fervent Christians, from the sound of things, which is why when she calls up to describe to him what sounds like a panic attack, she attributes it to “the devil” and says she’s been praying her last prayers.
And we thought Barrera seemed a little crazy.
After talking to her for a few minutes, it sounds like his wife is having some mental problems and not physical ones. Barrera keeps describing it as a seizure, which is generous, but really she’s just freaking out and blaming it on the devil. For some reason, I think if the Prince of Darkness really wanted to mess with you he’d probably do more than just make you worried about stuff. But that’s just a guess based on what I’ve learned from horror movies and heavy metal music.
When the fight rolls around it’s clear we’re going to see a good one. Saunders is very good at using his kicks to keep Barrera at a distance, and he throws them often enough that Barrera has to stay on the defensive for a good portion of the early going. When Barrera does get inside he lands a nice right hand that drops Saunders, only instead of following him to the mat or forcing him to get up while he’s still shaken, Barrera stands over Saunders doing nothing and allowing him to get his bearings.
This is a mistake, as Matt Hughes and the rest of the team seem to realize. They shout repeatedly for Barrera to let him up, but he only does so when Herb Dean steps in. He would later repeat this mistake in the same round.
The second round is all Saunders. He opened a cut on Barrera’s forehead near the end of the first and it only gets worse as Saunders pummels Barrera with kicks and knees in close, and even the occasional straight left. Barrera starts to show signs of wear, jogging listlessly around the cage to avoid Saunders’ attack at times. At the bell it looks like the two rounds are evenly split, and both fighters prepare for a third and final frame.
But, unfortunately for Barrera, two of the three judges gave the first round to Saunders and he takes the split decision victory. Barrera is upset and tells Saunders that the first round was a 10-8. Not only is this clearly not true, it’s not the kind of thing you should say to your opponent, because he’s obviously not going to agree with you. While Barrera probably did deserve the first round (10-9), he left it too much in doubt by wasting time standing over Saunders and refusing to let him up or follow him to the mat. Bad call by the judges? Definitely. But who should Dan Barrera really be upset with? Dan Barrera.
Matt Hughes is upset with both Barrera and the judges, and decides to sarcastically question the representative from the Nevada Athletic Commission, who tries to nervously laugh it off. Hughes isn’t laughing. Hughes is pissed, again, and scenes from next week show him threatening to leave the show altogether if his team doesn’t listen to him. I can’t wait.