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Length: 14hrs 21mins
“The winner of this fight will get $5000.00, courtesy of Burger King.” Corporate sponsorship has hijacked the TUF juggernaut, and thrown the audience a curveball when it comes to Uncle Dana’s pre-fight, crow-along intros. Seven seasons in, and I can’t believe no-one’s brought this up yet….. who in the hell uses the term “sudden victory” to describe a tie-break, anyway?
- Episode 1
- Episode 2
- Episode 3
- Daniel Cramer vs Jeremiah Riggs
- Mike Marrello vs Gerald Harris
- Brandon Sene vs Aaron Meisner
- Paul Bradley vs Reggie Orr
- Nick Klein vs David Mewborn
- David Baggett vs CB Dollaway
- Dante Rivera vs John Wood
- Episode 4
- Episode 5
- Episode 6
- Episode 7
- Episode 8
- Episode 9
- Episode 10
- Episode 11
- Episode 12
- Episode 13: The Ultimate Finale
- Rob Yundt vs Rob Kimmons
- Jeremy Horn vs Dean Lister
- Matt Arroyo vs Matt Brown
- Marvin Eastman vs Drew McFedries
- Josh Burkman vs Dustin Hazelett
- Matt Riddle vs Dante Rivera
- Spencer Fisher vs Jeremy Stephens
- Diego Sanchez vs Luigi Fioravanti
- Amir Sadollah vs CB Dolloway
- Evan Tanner vs Kendall Grove
- Rampage Jackson Profile
- Forrest Griffin Profile
- Amir Sadollah Profile
- CB Dollaway Profile
- Deleted Scenes
- Fighter Auditions
- TUF 7 Finale Behind The Scenes
The casting crew this time out may or may not have overdosed on Heat magazine in the hours before selection, as this series’ ensemble constitutes celebrity lookalike-a-rama: reference is made in the early going to Jesse Taylor’s uncanny resemblance to Nicholas Cage and Big John McCarthy, yet these eagle-eyes were also able to pick out Newcastle United and England forward Michael Owen masquerading as Daniel Cramer, and consistently unamusing funnyman Owen Wilson under the pseudonym Luke Zackrich. Oh, and transparent golden boy CB Dollaway looks, at a stretch, a bit like John Cena.
With TUF 1 205lb champion Forrest Griffin and at-the-time divisional incumbent Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at the respective team helms for this seventh cornucopia of Ultimate Fighter delight, the season kicks off in sui generis fashion, as double the number of the usual sixteen hopefuls show up at the UFC’s Las Vegas training centre at the start of the first episode. With the likes of Eli from Season Two, Team Ortiz’s Noah Inhofer and the riotous Gabe Ruediger amongst the most memorable TUF-alumni, Dana White drops an immediate bombshell: he’s sick of all the pussies, crybabies and life-crisisers (is that a word?)…. this season, he only want serious fighters in the house. The UFC president informs the gathering that they’ll all have to make weight in twenty-four hours, they’ll all be fighting in forty-eight, only the winners will move into the house, and the sixteen fights will serve as the coaches’ evaluation time. In the past, I’ve championed the continued evolution of the TUF format in order to keep the entire concept from prematurely outstaying its welcome, and the reasoning behind this unexpected early move is difficult to argue against. Alas, a solid idea on paper is not handled well in practice, and the knock-on effects are felt for the remainder of the series. The sixteen preliminary fights take the entire first two episodes to get through, with most being shown in their entirety (those aired in clip form on Spike TV are included in full as part of this DVD set’s bonus features). What’s the problem, I hear you ask. After all, this is a programme about fighting, is it not?
The very presence of Forrest Griffin here embodies what made TUF a success in the first instance: a nobody to the viewer at the onset, propelled to stardom over more established names by virtue of a platform on which his personality and everyman magnetism shone through in his interaction with coaches and fellow cast members in both living and training environments, to the point that he (and everyone else) was defined by the time they first stepped into the Octagon, ergo the viewer was armed with a base of reference and a point of interest. The initial two hours of “Team Forrest vs Team Rampage” antitheses this scenario as, for all intents and purposes, all you’re watching is a bunch of no-names fight each other. Indeed, these episodes are only saved in part by the offbeat interspersing musings of the two charismatic coaches, although the early narrative does throw us the odd bone: Matthew Riddle’s KO of a bearded Jorge Gurgel trainee whose name I don’t recall (point in focus, friends) is quite possibly the most brutal in the show’s now-lengthy history; said bearded-fella’s post-KO moans as he unknowingly nurses a jaw broken in two places are hauntingly impactful. Elsewhere, swaggering youth Jeremy May disposes of an imposing-looking dude named Dave Roberts, much to the chagrin of Roberts’ best buddy “Rampage”. Roberts is touted as 5-6 beforehand…. another indication that the TUF model may be heading for murkier waters, as many of those on display come in with 0.5 records (and weaker, in some case), which doesn’t hypothetically equate to UFC-level longevity.
With episode three of the traditional twelve underway before the inside of the house is seen and squadrons are picked, this means that the last sixteen, quarter and semi-final bouts (plus one extra- keep reading) are crammed into the series, with two-fight episodes a regular occurrence. Whilst that shouldn’t, in theory, prove a bugbear, allow me to put it into context: if two fights in one episode go to the third round (as does occur), including entrances and intros, that constitutes thirty minutes- give or take- of a sub-one hour programme comprised of commentary- less fights, backdopped by a room full of testosteroned-to-the-gills blokes shouting over each other…. in short, it gets a bit much. This wouldn’t be so much of a gripe if the sandwiching of tournament matches didn’t come at the expense of all the other footage and insight we’ve come to expect from The Ultimate Fighter (for example, hardly any meaningful footage of the respective training sessions is afforded in comparison to previous seasons), and this is to the detriment of the personalities involved. To clarify: one of the first to fight and the first to be eliminated in season one, I’m sure all and sundry would agree that we could still pen a paragraph-bio on Lodune Sincaid. One of the last housemates to fight in the last sixteen in season seven (and he made the quarters, to boot), I’d still struggle to pick Cale Yarbrough out of a lineup.
With all that said, the fights themselves do have the good grace to be the most accomplished collective in the series’ duration, with the aforementioned Cramer and Zackrich swinging for the fences, the intense Matt Brown notching up the series’ second devastating knock-out, and Amir Sadollah pulling one out of the proverbial fire, squeezing a late, late submission out of Gerald Harris in a fight he was otherwise getting pummelled in. Indeed, the sojourn of Sadollah is an epic one as his subsequent fights follow a similar blueprint; this, coupled with his humble and self-depreciating persona, means that Amir transcends his restrictive surroundings and encapsulates the aforementioned aura that made his team coach the prize product of TUF off the back of season one. This guy is a potential star…
…. the star of the series, however, is none other than Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The now-former champion’s natural charisma dwarves everyone and everything around him, to the point where the amiable Griffin comes off a bit forced by contrast. Much like with Shonie Carter’s immortal “Charles McCarthy, it is not yooooooou” from season four, a quick jaunt through disc two of this collective may just see one busting a move in the privacy of their own home, whilst giving it the mantra of “I got con-tro-l! I got con-tro-l!” As an epilogue, “Rampage” has the absolute finest “evil plan” laugh in existence.
“Rampage’s” number one pick CB Dollaway appears to be a shoe-in for the crown from the word go…. and by God, doesn’t he seem to know it? Regardless, season seven’s crown for the title of infuriating little tosspot (yes, there’s always one) goes hands-down to Jeremy May, who gloats at “Rampage” after eliminating his pal Roberts, irks Matt Brown to the point where the Ohio fighter calls him out and subsequently knocks him out in the cage, and deliberately attempts to provoke Jesse Taylor into a fistfight in the house (almost succeeding, too) in order to get then-semi-finalist Taylor booted off the show. The physically imposing Taylor teases, then eventually makes his own bed on that score- a drunken, uber-destructive, literally-pant wetting night at the house is a precursor of things to come, as following Taylor’s semi-final victory, CCTV footage of the now-finalist is shown on the town in Vegas, post-season. A yarn of havoc wreaked is afforded by Dana White, and the unbeaten Taylor is quickly given the boot, meaning that the beaten semi-finalists Dollaway and Tim Creduer are given a second chance to strut their stuff (against each other) for the chance to meet Sadollah in the finale. CB and Tim end the series-proper in style, with a three round war to match the occasion.
As always, the season finale, emanating from the Palms in Las Vegas, is included in its entirety, and there’s ne’er a dud to be found. Rob Kimmons and Dean Lister ensure a fine night for the guillotine choke on the prelims, seeing off Rob Yundt and Jeremy Horn respectively. Series veteran Matts Brown and Riddle topple TUF 6 fighter Matt Arroyo and TUF 7 man Dante Rivera (the latter fight stemming from a slathering of offhand remarks early in the run) in contests that sandwich a brief but bombastic exchange of leather between perennial big hitters Drew McFedries and Marvin Eastman.
In much the same mould as the newly heralded Sadollah, how can you not love Dustin Hazelett? The lanky, gawky welterweight who looks like anything but a fighter utilised his trademark unorthodox Jui-Jitsu, cranking the arm of Josh Burkman to an unspeakable angle in the third round of an engaging fight, prior to proving himself as one of those rare sportsmen who can give an intelligible and articulate post-match interview. The pre-main event offerings see Spencer Fisher’s superior experience tell against decent lighweight prospect Jeremy Stephens, and Diego Sanchez display much improved stand-up skills on the back of his losses to Koscheck and Fitch, en route to dispatching an awkward foe in the shape of Luigi Fioravanti.
The Amir Sadollah fairytale was completed in the Middleweight Finale, as for the second time in two fights, the likeable Virginia native caught CB Dollaway in an armbar from his back- Dollaway made a single deliberate tapping motion, which replays emphasised when the early favourite appeared to immediately protest Herb Dean’s stoppage. One of several pro-wrestling references to sneak into this set, Kendall Grove described his main event tussle with the late, dearly missed Evan Tanner as a “Loser Leaves Town Match”. Here on record, we have Evan’s last ever Octagon foray… unfortunately, the former Middleweight Champion was in very lacklustre form on this evening, with the only questionable aspect of “Da Spyder’s” decision victory being how one judge managed to score the fight 29-28 to Tanner, when the other two concurred on 30-26 in favour of the Hawaiian.
As far as the extras go, it’s the usual throwaway fare. Come on, I’ve done enough of these by now…..
To re-emphasise, the in-ring aspect of the body of “Team Rampage vs Team Forrest” is absolutely unparalleled by the previous six outings. Yet, despite the underlying subject matter, that’s not what TUF is primarily all about. Funny as it may sound about a programme the central theme of which is fighting, the increased emphasis on that very aspect causes the show to suffer in all the places that previously made it tick. Hence, season seven has to register on the lower end of the totem pole in terms of TUF-viewing priority. With that in mind, though, it’s still The Ultimate Fighter, which means it beats the socks off just about anything else on TV.
Points: 6.5 / 10