Time for some rambling. For all the talk about how exciting it was that The Ultimate Fighter was "finally" showcasing the heavyweight division again, I think we saw in the fights this season why they shouldn't do it again soon. The irony, for me, is that I actually enjoyed this season. It was good television, with some intriguing storylines throughout. But it was the fights that were lacking. And it reinforced my opinion that the heavyweight division is possibly the sport's weakest. Now, don't misunderstand me. The division has some really talented guys. Brock Lesnar is as good an athlete and as quick a learner as you'll find in almost any weight class. Fedor Emelianenko is the picture of professionalism, remaining calm under fire and showing a near superhuman ability to remain calm and execute no matter what the scenario. What is clear, however, is that there is VERY little real depth.
There are some prospects, to be sure. But there seem to be less than amongst the lighter weight classes. In fact, since I've mentioned Lesnar and Emelianenko already, let me make a couple of observations. One should note that the fighters that have given Emelianenko some of his best challenges have been naturally lighter fighters (or at least guys that were hardly large heavyweights); guys like Renato Sobral and Ricardo Arona and Mirko Filipovic. Fedor has had an easier time with the likes of the Tim Sylvia's and Semmy Schilts of the world. As far as Lesnar goes, we don't have as extensive a body of work to consider. However, we know that he has gotten off to a very good start indeed. He disposed of a much smaller heavyweight in Couture (although it was the near half century old version of "The Natural"). He won an easy decision over Heath Herring and split in two fights with former UFC champion Frank Mir. These two champions (Brock and Fedor) are clearly talented, world class guys. But they stand out glaringly in an extremely weak talent pool.
More after the jump:
It's not that the big man's division has no talent. It's just that you have to weed through so much garbage to get to it. Which brings us back full circle to this season. I like Roy Nelson, in that I find him an endearing character in the heavyweight landscape. Yeah, it's somewhat funny that he comes out to Weird Al's "I'm Fat" entrance music. One could try to argue for him being a fighter that a working-class everyman could get behind. But is that what we're really looking for in the winner of a reality show to find a viable heavyweight contender? Not in my opinion. Well, one could argue, "isn't this just about you expecting heavyweight contenders to look like He-Man characters similar to Cheick Kongo and Brock Lesnar? Don't you just have ridiculous expectations about that kind of thing? After all this is not bodybuilding, it's fighting." That would be a false dichotomy. I would argue no such thing. I would just say that if we, as fans, don't think it reflects poorly on our sport when a guy that looks like he's in his third trimester handily wins a competition in front of a naional audience to establish himself as a legit contender, then we're fooling ourselves. Am I saying a guy has to have a certain look? Not really. I'm a huge fan of guys like Fedor and and his brother, neither of whom have impressive physiques. But is it too much to ask that real heavyweight contenders not have a pair of double D's??? Just a quick example to help bring home my take on this: Many years ago I was talking briefly with my grandfather on a November afternoon. The candidate for President representing the political party that my grandfather was affiliated with had won the highest office in the land and I would have figured that my grandfather would have been ecstatic. Instead, he was shaking his head and looking down when he saw the newly elected man smiling on the news. I asked him why he wasn't happy and he replied "Because I can't believe that THIS is the best that we could come up with." Well, that pretty much sums up my thoughts on this year's TUF. It's really not an attempted slam on "Big Country." He's a cool guy that has great positioning on the ground and some measure of real talent. But I'm left to admit that it really does reflect on the division as a whole. I suppose the bright side is this: If you're a heavyweight that can really fight, you're in luck. There is a world of opportunity out there for you, my friend.