UFC: Why TUF 20 Can Save Us from the Horrible Season That Was TUF 19
Those of us who have been unfortunate enough to tune in every Wednesday for the past few weeks can all agree that The Ultimate Fighter 19 has been one of the most unwatchable shows in the history of cable TV.
When the president of the company says it's the worst ever, you know things have been bad. Although Frankie Edgar and BJ Penn have a history, they haven't made an attempt to take verbal jabs at each other, which has led to some bland coaching interactions.
People look forward to the fights during the season, but they've been mildly entertaining or downright awful. A number of fights were won thanks to a single takedown or punch because nothing else happened.
But as bad as TUF 19 has been, there's hope for fans who are looking forward to the next season of The Ultimate Fighter.
5. Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez and Their Coaching Staffs
These two coaches should give us at least some interaction. Anthony Pettis is no stranger to trash talk, and Gilbert Melendez is very articulate and outspoken.
With Pettis' name coming out of the mouth of seemingly every lightweight contender, odds are Melendez and Pettis are going to send verbal shots at each another throughout the whole season.
Another added benefit is the coaching staff that both men will likely bring along.
I'm sure Pettis will enlist the services of his head coach Duke Roufus. Anyone who has heard Roufus do commentary knows that he can provide colorful insight into the sport. Melendez, meanwhile, has the "Skrap Pack" and Cesar Gracie to bring in.
Fans should be well-aware of how outspoken Melendez's teammates are.
This could lead to some interesting interactions between opposing teams if a decision goes the wrong way, or an incident happens in the training center.
4. The Season Is Full of Women's MMA
Fans who haven't tuned into women's MMA are really missing out.
Although women's MMA bouts aren't always the most technical, they tend to be the most exciting fights on any particular card. In a sport where a lot of fans have become jaded to guys "playing it safe," it's a nice change of pace to see two competitors going full speed in a battle of wills.
During TUF 18, the women routinely put on entertaining fights and left it all in the cage, which can't be said of their male counterparts during the season.
With TUF 20 featuring strawweights, fans can expect faster fights, which should lead to more action as well.
3. Stars Galore
A number of ladies on the show will likely become focal points for the audience at home.
Let's start with Felice Herrig. Despite a meager 9-5 record, she has quickly become one of the division's biggest stars—especially for the male demographic. It's not that she's a bad fighter, but more people know her for things outside the cage compared to inside it.
Tecia Torres and Joanne Calderwood are entirely different, however. They have become two of the most exciting fighters to watch during their time in Invicta. Calderwood's muay thai has been both devastating and effective, as indicated by her 8-0 record.
Torres also has an undefeated record (4-0) thanks to her striking skills. Her biggest highlight win was in her last fight against Herrig, where "The Tiny Tornado" oustruck the woman whom many believed would hold the stand-up advantage in the bout.
Carla Esparza, Rose Namajunas and Bec Rawlings are all stars of the hardcore WMMA crowd as well. Esparza was the Invicta strawweight champ, Namajunas is capable of pulling off flying submissions at any moment, and Rawlings is as unique as they come.
2. The Rivalries and Drama Won't Feel Staged
Put your hand up if you're tired of seeing all the Real World-esque type drama on TUF. I imagine that's the majority of MMA fans out there.
Here's some good news: You won't see this manufactured type of drama in the new season. Why?
Because these women have been competing against one another for quite some time. Whether they're friends or have a mutual contempt for one another, these emotions will be real because they have history prior to living in the house.
Even the women who are friends are likely to see their bonds of friendship tested as they live with one another. What will happen when UFC gold is on the line?
That question brings me to the most important reason TUF 20 will be better than TUF 19.
1. New Division, New Champion
Unlike most seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, TUF 20 has a lot on the line. Instead of "a six-figure contract" and a fancy plaque, these competitors will be battling to be the first ever UFC women's strawweight champion.
On top of that, fans will also be introduced to a new division. Although the lighter weight classes haven't taken off in terms of popularity among the male fighters, they didn't have the benefit of being part of a greater niche like these ladies do. Women's MMA has exploded in popularity over the past few years, and I expect fans to embrace the women's strawweight division.
Every week the fights will take on more and more meaning as the women get closer to winning the title, which should create the intensity and excitement that have been lacking on the show in recent memory.