The show has definitely returned to the fights, unquestionably. With a few shows having more than one fight, and a greater focus on training sessions, "The Ultimate Fighter" is no longer a sophomoric reality show that happens to involve MMA. At the same time, with a lack of characters to cause problems, the show was a little bit boring. The ratings hit a peak about midseason, but then dropped off.
The key to basing the show around fights is having interesting bouts, and that hasn't happened this season. There were a few good matchups, like the semifinal fight between Damarques Johnson and Nick Osipczak (pictured), but they have been few and far between.
After the last season, Cagewriter offered some suggestions on how to improve the show. With an overarching theme of focusing on fights, the UFC did implement one or two of Cagewriter's ideas.
1. Cut it to a half an hour. This was not done, but quite frankly, I never thought it would happen. "The Ultimate Fighter" is too much of a ratings juggernaut for Spike to have it cut in half.
2. Focus on the relationship between the coach and fighters. This has happened this season, as we watched a deep bond grow between coach Michael Bisping and his team. We also saw the damage a coach can inflict on a fighter when he isn't there for his fighters, as when Bisping slept through Dean Amasinger's defeat.
3. Show us more of the training sessions. One of this season's funnier moments was watching Team U.K. try to figure out how to hit a sledgehammer onto a tire, a common core workout for fighters. It ended up being disastrous, as one fighter wrecked a mat and another wrecked his leg.
4. Add an analyst to break down the fights. Considering the lower level of talent this season, this would have been fantastic. Alas, it did not happen. Right now, we get the coaches telling us, "He's a good striker, he's good on the ground, blah blah blah." If the UFC can pay for Arianny Celeste to show up and hold up a card that says what round it is, they can pay for a talking head to speak about the fights.
5. Don't do anything to the coach's challenge. Check. Henderson and Bisping playing tennis was hilarious. I can't wait to see what Rampage and Rashad engage in.
6. Add footage that shows other parts of a fighter's life. The trip to the hypnotherapist with David Faulkner was interesting, but I still think that there is more we could see.
7. Cut the alcohol. Apparently, the alcohol doesn't need to be removed if you just bring in fighters who can handle their liquor. The guys still got silly and drank, but as soon as Rob Browning left the house, the aggressive, over-the-top antics ceased.
8. Show more of the game play between coaches. When in the crucible of a reailty show, even something like practice times can seem like a big deal. Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping sparring over who gets to sleep in adds some dimension to their fight at UFC 100, and added some much-needed tension to the show.
9. Add an episode between the semis and the finals that shows us the finalists training in their own camps. No, this one is not happening any time soon, either, which is a shame. I'd still love to see if the fighters actually learn something from their experience on TUF, or if they return to their old habits.
- Michael Bisping