By TED SILLANPAA
@tedsillanpa on Twitter
(Spoiler alert: Results from Collin Hart’s Tuesday fight appear on SB Nation here. )
If you’re interested in figuring out what all the fuss over mixed martial arts fighting is about, check out the UFC’s “The Ultimate Fighter” on FX Tuesday nights (or when the new episode is rebroadcast at various times throughout the week.)
Santa Rosa’s Collin Hart, 23, fights 31-year-old Kevin Casey this week. Based on reactions from the series fighters when this matchup was set at the end of last week’s episode, the Empire fighter enters the underdog. Casey fits the mold of the stereotypical MMA tough guy. Hay hasn’t really appeared in the first two episodes, while Casey’s received air time that show creators typically give to fighters they believe will advance.
It’s the reality series portion of the show that makes it easier for newcomers to MMA and the UFC to sit through the three-round fight at the end of each episode. Honestly.
A fighter is eliminated each week, until the one left standing wins a UFC contract to begin what could become a lucrative career. There’s no mixed martial arts company that rivals the UFC. If a guy hits big in the UFC, he’ll become an international star.
If you don’t know the rules and, maybe, think that it’s a little tough to watch guys kick and punch and wrestle — “The Ultimate Fighter” at least introduces viewers to the fighters. They’ll let us get to know enough about Hart and Casey so that by the time they enter the ring we have a rooting interest. Once we have a rooting interest, we’re a little more likely to sit there and see what the kicking and punching and wrestling is actually all about.
The biggest UFC stars, like light-heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones, pass through “The Ultimate Fighter.” The show helps give them a more mainstream profile. Jones coaches one of the teams in this season’s competition. He’s unbeaten and one of the top three pound-for-pound fighters in the UFC. (Figure Anderson Silva’s No. 1 and George St. Pierre, a middleweight, is in the mix, too.) The other team is coached by controversial Chael Sonnen who brings an almost erudite, pro wrestling-style bravado to the ring and to his role of coach opposing Jones.
Think the UFC misses a bet? Not only are they developing a future star, maybe a couple, in “The Ultimate Fighter,” but they’ll spend the season promoting a fight between … yep … Jones and Sonnen. Sonnen’s a piece of work any sports fan can enjoy and he backs up the talk. When Jones’ last opponent was injured, the only UFC fighter willing to enter the cage against Jones on short notice was … Sonnen.
UFC president Dana White explained that Sonnen not only accepted the fight, that Jones then declined, but said, “I’ll take the fight and I’ll fly to Las Vegas right now and fight him in the hotel lobby if that’s what you want.”
The payoff for sitting through the first half hour of the show where we get to know the fighters can pay off.
Last week featured what appeared to be a lopsided matchup between monstrous Uriah Hall, a big kicker and puncher, and far more understated and unherald Adam Cella. Cella wasn’t afraid, clearly. Hall had some issues with temper and his view of the world that led us to see that he might be capable of letting his guard down and losing or delivering an unholy beating on Cella. We knew when the fight started that Hall used MMA fighting to channel rage against how life had, at times, mistreated him. Cella, conversely, admitted he wasn’t like the other fighters on the show. He said he didn’t see “The Ultimate Fighter” as a win-or-die competition. He said he had a good job in the real world and friends, a family. He wanted to win the UFC contract, but didn’t have to have it in order to survive.
Cella stood in with Hall until the bigger, favored fighter unleashed a spinning leg kick that resulted in as stunning and brutal a knockout as one can imagine. See it … here … it only last a few seconds. It’s mind-blowing and it offers great insight into the difference between boxing and mixed martial arts.
Cella slowly began to drop his hands and stand right in front of Hall. In a boxing match, that’s trouble a guy can survive. A boxer can slip in close and deliver a punch to the stationary that ends the fight. The other guy also has time to raise his hands and start moving when he sees the guy moving in, obviously. In MMA fights, where kicks are legal, well … click above and you’ll see that a spinning kick didn’t make it necessary for Hall to move closer and, thus, warn Cella to get moving.
White reported late last week that, while it wasn’t shown on the episode, Cella was out cold for four minutes on the mat and sat wobbly on a stool for another six minutes before being taken to an ambulance where he rested another nine minutes before being taken to the hospital.
Cella was released from the hospital that day, but had no immediate memory of the leg kick, where the heel of Hall’s foot hit him flush on the jaw. None. His first words upon seeing Hall were, “What happened?”
The series offers fans reason to sit through the wrestling that, admittedly, is very difficult for the uninitiated to follow. But, if you’re rooting for Hart tonight, you’ll watch what goes on when the fighters are on the ground. It’s fascinating because being on the ground with a foe on top doesn’t necessarily mean the guy on the bottom isn’t in control of the fight.
It’s worth watching if you’re at all intrigued by fight sports.