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Since: 17.2.03
From: San Jose, CA

Since last post: 2900 days
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#1 Posted on | Instant Rating: 4.69
This week's episode of "The Ultimate Fighter"
featured the semi-final matches of the light
heavyweight division. Forrest Griffin and
Stephan Bonnar advanced to the finals, but
their bouts were tougher than many expected.

Last week Diego Sanchez defeated Josh Koscheck
by split decision. Two judges scored the fight
29-28 for Sanchez, likely based on Diego having
Koscheck almost out at the end of both the first
and third rounds. The third judge scored the
fight 30-27, apparently rewarding Koscheck for
pushing the action with takedowns even though
Sanchez dominated the action on the ground.

Kenny Florian said that he felt Josh had won
the first two rounds, but pointed out that he
looked defeated after the fight was over and
that may have influenced the judges. Forrest
Griffin thought Josh ending two rounds in bad
position was the difference between winning
and losing. These breakdowns by the fighters
are one of the strengths of TUF.

Josh Koscheck was in bad shape after the match
with bruising all over his face and a cut under
his eye. The doctor sent him to the hospital
to check for a concussion. Later Koscheck said
that he laid it on the line and came up short
as he choked back a lump in his throat. This
was a rare display of emotion from Koscheck.

Clips with Diego and Kenny discussing their
upcoming fight segued into Dana White talking
about what a thrill it would be for them to
appear at a UFC show along with Ken Shamrock.
This segment was short and obviously scripted,
but it was a big improvement over the often
aimless, dragging segments in earlier episodes.
It seems like the finale has given Dana and
the producers a much needed point of focus.

Several weeks earlier, Forrest Griffin beat
Alex Schoenauer but suffered a deep cut over
his left eye that threatened to force him
out of the competition. This week Forrest
finally got the verdict. Margaret Goodman,
a doctor for the Nevada Athletic Commission,
talked to Forrest. She put her hand on his
wrist and said "I am your advocate" which
suggested that she was trying to break the
bad news to Forrest gently, but instead she
told him that the cut had healed well and
he was cleared to fight. Forrest appeared
happy, but he remained very calm and sober.

Dana White broke the news to Bobby Southworth.
Dana asked "What do you want to do about the
fight?" I half expected Bobby to ask if he
could go into the octagon and beat up whatever
was left of Sam after Forrest beat him, but
instead Bobby agreed to work Forrest's corner.
In an interview, Dana noted that Forrest's
attitude had changed since the cut. He also
credited Sam Hoger for playing the game well
enough to make it to the semi-finals, though
Sam getting there without fighting suggests
that White and the producers didn't do a good
job designing the challenge structure of TUF.

Sam bragged "every single one of the cards
that I decided to play has been played right"
in a prematch interview. Forrest compared
the fight to doing a job and said that he
couldn't promise victory. The situation
with the cut over his eye has dramatically
muted his confidence and carefree attitude.

Sam staked out the center of the octagon
as Forrest circled, looking for an opening.
Sam's mouthpiece and fighting scowl made
him look like Warren Beatty. The entire
round was fought standing with punches
and kicks. With about 35 seconds left in
the first round, Forrest turned his ankle.
Hoger appeared to win the round based on
his surprisingly effective kicks.

During the round, Southworth had yelled
"nothing wrong with putting him on his
back." Southworth repeated that advice
to Forrest in the corner between rounds,
though it wasn't clear whether Forrest
could muster the confidence needed to
launch an aggressive comeback.

The second round started like the first
with Sam staking out the center of the
octagon, but Forrest challenged him more
aggressively than he had in round one.
Both fighters landed heavy punches and
Sam got in some good kicks. Forrest
showed no sign of favoring his ankle,
which had been iced between rounds.

About a minute into the round, Forrest
clinched with Sam and started throwing
high knee lifts. Forrest caught Sam
with a knee to the jaw and Sam crumpled
into the cage. Forrest dove on top of
him and pounded away as Sam tried to
shield his head with his hands. UFC's
top referee, Big John McCarthy, stepped
in to end the fight.

After reactions from both fighters,
Dana White rolled into virtually the
same promo he had done earlier for
Sanchez and Florian, saying that the
final would be the biggest fight of
Forrest's career. Again the segment
was almost too scripted, but still
much better than the days of fighters
laying around on couches complaining
about household chores and t-shirts.

Another tight, scripted intro set up
Stephan Bonnar versus Mike Swick in
the other light heavyweight semi-final.
Swick came to the weigh-in with a
ten pound weight in the back of his
trunks. Dana observed that the size
difference was "phenomenal" which
begged the question of why Swick,
who weighed 192 without cutting,
was cast as a light heavyweight.

Swick didn't complain, outlining his
strategy for beating Stephan on the
mat. Both fighters explained that
friendship would be set aside once
they stepped inside the octagon.
The alternating interviews, voice
overs, and training segments did
a great job of laying out strategy
and building up to the fight.

Bonnar came out very aggressively and
cut off the center of the octagon,
using his reach advantage to force
Swick to fight with his back almost
against the cage. Swick rushed in
and tried for a takedown, but he
couldn't budge his larger opponent.
Stephan hung on and pushed Swick
against the cage, but Stephan bent
down to grab Swick's leg and left
his head and neck wide open.

Swick seized the opening and caught
Bonnar in a facelock guillotine.
As they tumbled to the mat, Swick
grapevined one of Bonnar's legs and
cinched in the chokehold. Bonnar's
face began to turn purple and he
let out a nasty gurgling sound, but
Bonnar kept fighting and was able to
push Swick off and turn away to free
himself from the choke. Swick tried
to follow up, but Bonnar caught him
in the guard and tied him up, giving
himself much needed time to recover.

Stephan used the cage to struggle to
his feet and then took Swick down
into a keylock. Stephan ended up in
a mounted position. He dropped some
short forearms into Swick's face, but
Swick impressed again with a quick
turn that forced Stephan back into
a guard with 1:30 left in the round.

At that point Swick had the round
won handily and perhaps he allowed
his guard to drop a bit. Bonnar
began to work his legs back toward
Swick's arms. "Watch that triangle"
yelled one of the coaches just as
Stephan got his foot up to Swick's
armpit. Swick didn't react in time
and Stephan wrapped his legs around
Swick's head and right arm.

Swick tried to lift Stephan, but
Stephan grabbed his arm and hung on.
Swick tried to throw some punches,
but Stephan grabbed his other arm in
an arm bar and forced him to tap out
with two seconds left in round one.

After the match Swick got deserved
praise from everyone. Dana said he
thought Swick had the fight won with
the choke, but said "the problem is
that Stephan is just too big." Later
he added "he'll be a monster at 185."

Swick was upbeat, saying TUF was the
best thing to happen to his career.
It's a shame that the only chance
viewers got to see him fight on TUF
was against someone 20 pounds heavier.

In an interview with Jason Milloff
on WO.page, White predicted that the
second season of TUF would be more
successful because it would include
the heavyweight division. One can
only hope that White doesn't force
light heavyweights to fight against
larger fighters to fill out the field.

White also rejected the notion that
pro wrestling fans were a significant
crossover audience for UFC. Meltzer
and his writers have claimed that
there was some correlation between
RAW and TUF ratings. This week RAW
drew a 4.3 rating, well above its
recent range of 3.7 to 4.1, but TUF
drew only a 1.7 rating, down from a
its high of 2.0 the previous week.

Perhaps TUF lost viewers to the NCAA
Finals and perhaps those viewers will
catch repeat airings of TUF later in
the week, but for now theories about
RAW and TUF feeding off each other's
ratings look pretty questionable.

The end of the show was a long promo
for the Finals which will be shown
live on Spike TV on Friday night.
A few weeks ago, Dana White said in
a magazine interview that he hoped
the Finals would draw a 6.0 rating.
Based on TUF's inability to grow
beyond 2.0, that seems unlikely.

Over the last few weeks, TUF has
become tighter and more focused.
At times this week's episode even
felt a little rushed, but that beats
the meandering, inconsistent pace
earlier in the season. If TUF
returns, I'd like to see more
footage of trainers explaining
techniques and fighters outlining
their strategy before their fights.
The strength of these last few
episodes has demonstrated the
potential of a UFC "reality" show.

Frank

(Thanks to Dave Scherer, the hardest
working fan on the internet, for this
week's TUF rating at pwinsider.com.)
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Might as well bookend it. The series was built around the idea of playing one reality off another, illustrating the differences and using case A to progress in case B, where both cases are standard police procedural.
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