When all is said and done, Friday's Ultimate Fighter Live Finale will have a lot more impact than you'd think.
Sure, the card looks harmless enough. Plus, we've seen plenty of these Finale events over the years, and how long has it been since a TUF graduate made an impact at the championship levels, anyway?
But once you dig beneath the surface, you'll discover some very intriguing questions lurking around. I'll provide you with those questions in the following slides, as well as make my own attempt to answer them.
Join me, won't you?
One of the criticisms of the new live format of The Ultimate Fighter was that the live nature made it extremely difficult for producers to tell interesting stories. It's hard to put the weight of television behind a guy when you don't know for sure that he's going to win his next fight.
But Michael Chiesa's dramatic story was told perfectly well.
Chiesa's father died early in the season, and the emotional week was captured on camera as he left to go home for the funeral. It was a sad moment, but Chiesa's resolve to go back in the house and continue fighting for his father was incredibly admirable and something fans could get behind.
And low and behold, here stands Chiesa, one fight away from winning the whole show.
Much has been made about the poor ratings for the show this season, but Michael Chiesa's story was one worth watching.
For his first two bouts in the UFC, Charles Oliveira was a revelation. He jumped directly into the fray and submitted two credible opponents, earning him a bout against much tougher opposition.
Unfortunately for Oliveira, that opposition came in the form of Jim Miller, who crushed him in the first round. A no-contest and a loss to Donald Cerrone would follow in short order, and Oliveira found himself back on the outside looking in.
But Oliveira did what all smart lightweights do: When in the midst of a losing streak, drop a weight class. Or two.
Oliveira had a successful featherweight debut back in January, and he'll look to make it two in a row against the ultra-tough Jonathan Brookins.
Could a win over Brookins vault Oliveira into the superstar-thin top of the division? Sure. Especially if Oliveira can finish the former Ultimate Fighter winner.
Jake Ellenberger is undefeated in the UFC since a close split-decision loss to Carlos Condit back in September 2009. Martin Kampmann's record isn't quite so faultless, but he's on a two-fight winning streak over two of the toughest names in the division: Thiago Alves and Rick Story.
So yeah, both of these guys should be considered imminent title challengers. Never mind the fact that the winner wouldn't actually get a title shot until roughly 16 months from now...unless Condit decides to defend the interim belt before Georges St-Pierre returns.
There's always a chance of that happening. But for now, we'll assume that the actual chances of the winner of this bout getting a title shot are slim and none in the next 24 months. And let's not forget that outside of Condit, St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks, there is a fellow named Nick Diaz who will likely be thrust right back into title contention with one win upon his return from suspension next year.