Aficionados of The Ultimate Fighter have a dirty little secret. Much as we might hate to admit it, the actual fighting is only part of what has made the show successful. Let's be honest here—most of the preliminary contests barely qualify as such because of mismatches in experience and/or skill.
Every season sees a couple guys disappear from the mixed martial arts' landscape for good. Needless to say, their exit usually isn't a memorable one.
Consequently, the other driving force behind the phenomenon is the same wretched, obnoxious sideshow that befouls the rest of reality programming.
Season One gave us the buffoonery of Josh Koscheck, the emotional absurdity of Chris Leben, and the straight up lunacy of Diego Sanchez. Season Three introduced us to the coaches getting in on the act as Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock went pro wrestling. Season Four featured Mikey Burnett running headlong into walls and Shone Carter mixing a little sparring into his sequined-hat obsession.
Gabe Reudiger was too fat and mentally weak to even make weight in Season Five while nobody will forget Season Eight. Junie Allen Browning's constantly lit fuse, Team Nogueira's consumption of a fruit platter soaked in urine, and Dave Kaplan's sparkling performance while both drunk (at the 30 second mark) as well as sober made it a reality-television classic.
That is not a compliment.
The 10th season, dubbed The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights , didn't quite match that eighth season for Jackass -type stupidity. But it might just have set a new record on the Crazy Scale—a considerable feat since, by definition, you're not the poster child for mental health if you fight for a living.
That's not to say every single professional MMA practitioner is bat s*** loco; it's to say the squares like Randy Couture, Joe Lauzon, and others are the clear minority. Even an apparently normal dude like Lyoto Machida drinks his own URINE!
So Season 10 needed a whole lotta nuts to break new grounds of insanity. Turns out, it had the perfect cast for the job.
Kevin Ferguson aka Kimbo Slice seems like a likable guy and intent on being the real deal. He also is more than a little touched, judging from his propensity to find "Enemy/Inner Me" moments. I don't believe Roy "Big Country" Nelson is really wacko, but he certainly plays up the angle.
Ditto Matt Mitrione, who disappointed more than a few people by showing the inconvenient ability to throw some leather. Wes Sims might actually be bonkers.
For these matters, I consider any instability bordering on psychosis a qualifier. That means James McSweeney and his pseudo-sociopathic ego get to join the party. As do Zak Jensen and his almost infinite ability to turn the other cheek despite being on a show for fighters.
What was that guy thinking?
Not to mention the coaches—Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans routinely engaged in verbal sparring sessions that seemed to last an eternity despite never progressing beyond the "you're a b****/no, you're a b****" stage.
Yet nobody can quite compare to Marcus "The Darkness" Jones.
Call him Big Baby if you will, but this is going on the permanent record and I don't want to give Mr. Jones ANY reason to be upset with me. To call him a monster is understating the fact—when coach Quinton Jackson described the big fella as Frankenstein, lumbering after his prey, Rampage was using the best approximation available (except that Frankenstein was actually the doctor who created the monster, but I digress).
It's true the Darkness looked like a robotic bad dream, but nobody who played six years in the National Football League and recorded 13 sacks in one year is lacking for speed or athleticism. I'm guessing he simply needs some (read: a ton) of work on his stand-up and we'll see a different fighter when the finished product is ready.
Consider this is a man who played in the League for six years simply because he could, not because he really loved the game. That right there speaks volumes about his God-given ability and we've already seen it translate very well into Jones' ground game.
Of course, there's one caveat to all this.
Marcus Jones might eventually be the brightest alumnus of Season 10 IF he sticks in the fight game (Brendan Schaub also looks like the Real McCoy). Given the instability he demonstrated on camera, that's a 6'6", 265 pound "if."
First, there were the conditioning issues. Then came the profuse sweating. Then the revelations about the gentle giant's love of gardening. Then the mini-meltdown following the posting of his caricature and unsavory caption.
Finally, the kicker arrived when he almost literally got in Mitrione's grill after the latter's accidental eye-poke threatened Scott Junk's career. Mitrione—also an ex-NFL guy—didn't quite distinguish himself as a stellar individual, but give him credit for that moment. A lesser man would've soiled his pants and lost feeling in his legs with the Darkness at his craziest peak—I think I remember Marcus saying something about "choking Mitrione to within a second of his life and then taking a piece of him home with me" (I'm paraphrasing).
Meathead obviously wasn't thrilled with the development, but he definitely didn't blink...much.
As Jones went on to say, "I lost it, man." Yes. Yes you did, sir. And if you can advise me as to how to avoid repeating the scenario in the future, I'd be much obliged.
I'll give that a second, a much more terrified "yikes."
While the Darkness eventually got stopped by Schaub, the race for the Crazy Crown was a foregone conclusion. Marcus Jones blew a loaded field away and gave future TUF cast members a new bar to challenge.
If either possibility materializes, that bar won't be gathering much dust.