The first season of Ultimate Fighter Live continues to roll along. It hasn't been a hit with TV viewers, and I haven't quite been able to pinpoint why.
But I do have a theory. Past seasons were taped and then aired months later, which meant that the producers had a chance to figure out interesting storylines and present them during the broadcasts. The live aspect of this season means that you can't really build up intriguing stories, because you have no idea what's going to happen in the live fights.
That hurts the show and makes it feel like an hour of build for a fight between two guys who the audience isn't all that familiar with.
It's one thing if you're watching a UFC Primetime that builds a fight between Jon Jones and Rashad Evans. It's an entirely different thing to watch a one-hour preview show for a fight between Michael Chiesa and Jeremy Larsen.
That said, I still enjoy the show, and I think it has plenty to offer. Let's take a look at the report card for the fifth episode.
Jon Anik: A+
Anik isn't all over the show, but he's fantastic when he does appear. He's smooth, polished and adept at relaying important information in an easy-to-digest manner.
I find myself wishing Anik had a bigger role or did play-by-play—having more of the former ESPN broadcaster would be a big positive. He's adapted very well to the "UFC style" while still maintaining the professionalism that caused Zuffa to hire him away from ESPN in the first place.
Dominick Cruz: B+
Cruz continues to be a positive revelation as a coach on this show, much like Mayhem Miller and Rashad Evans on previous seasons. He has a vested interest in teaching his team and preparing them for fights.
He's coming off as a likable guy, which is a big change from the "arrogant" Cruz we've seen in the past.
Michael Chiesa: B
The live nature of the new format means that there's less emphasis on the kind of storylines the producers were able to build in past seasons. But Chiesa is one of the more visible characters on the show due to the tragic death of his father in the second week of the season.
He has a great takedown and was able to execute it effectively against Larsen. I don't believe he's well-rounded enough to go to the finals or far in the UFC, but it was enough to secure him the win in this episode.
Jeremy Larsen: D
Larsen had no defense for Chiesa's takedowns, and that was his undoing in the fight. Strangely enough, Larsen believed the fight should have gone to a third round after Chiesa was docked a point for a foul in the first round.
But that's not how MMA scoring works. Chiesa won the first round, so the point deduction meant that the first round was a draw. Chiesa won the second round, which means he won the fight. It's not that hard to understand, but Larsen didn't get it.
Chris Tickle: F
Tickle constantly complains. That may be a result of editing, but where there's smoke, there's fire. There's always something preventing him from properly training.
This week, it was an alleged case of gout, of all things. He continues to complain about being tired, being punched and a bunch of other things. Coach Dominick Cruz is getting tired of Tickle, and I'd wager that's the case for his teammates as well.
He'll fight Joe Proctor next week (despite suffering from gout), and UFC fans—and perhaps even his teammates and coaches—will rejoice if he loses.