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TUFL speed-dates 16 into Fighter House

The big reveal during Friday’s relaunch of The Ultimate Fighter Live on FX was single-round fights, which allowed the network and UFC owners, Zuffa LLC, to squeeze 16 qualifier fights into two-and-a-half hours. But did this abbreviated system yield the best competitors?

Here’s what we know. UFC President Dana White debriefed the 32 fighters regarding their condensed bouts on Wednesday when they congregated in Las Vegas, giving them all two days to adjust and strategize accordingly. In the past, TUF competitors fought two to three rounds (like in standard MMA bouts), which allowed the fighters time to feel out their opponents, switch up game plans, come from behind in the later round(s), and (possibly) use their hard-earned stamina to their advantage – all nuances that help define a fighter beyond his skillset alone and add depth to a fight in general.

Though it successfully weeded out the slow-starters, the single-round fights did deprive viewers (and scouting coaches Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber) of all these detailed “tells” that could have really helped them in their evaluations.

Cruz put it best when asked by UFC President Dana White which winners were standing out for him after a few bouts. The UFC bantamweight champion said it was difficult to evaluate fighters within one round, and he was right.  Cruz and Faber were being asked to speed-date their auditionees and are going to have to use their gut reactions a lot more than usual during their team selections on Saturday. It all felt a bit rushed.

The single rounds also posed the potential quandary that a fight between two closely talented fighters could deprive us of a decisive and fair outcome. Surprisingly, this issue never really came into play. Half the fights ended with a submission or knockout (Zuffa giving out $5,000 bonuses for finishes was a stellar call), and of the eight decisions, only one was difficult to decide and not because both performed so well.

James Vick and Dakota Cochrane stalemated in a wrestling match in the ninth bout. Neither did anything definitive to win the round, so the split decision in Vick’s favor was a true toss-up moment.

Had there been a close fight between two talented opponents, it would have been much harder to let go of the defeated fighter, especially under these circumstances. It wouldn’t have seemed fair. The decision to use single rounds would have come under a lot more scrutiny had this happened, but that bullet was dodged here.

On two day’s notice, most of the fighters seemed to adjust well and there were a few fighters who understood how to use condensed bouts  to their benefit. British import Andy Ogle secured his win in the final seconds by jumping to his back and latching a guillotine choke onto Brendan Weafer, who’d kept Ogle tied up for much of the round in a triangle choke and could have swayed the judges.

You can’t argue with the eight finishes (they’re almost always dramatic), though should it be assumed the fights would have ended this way no matter how many rounds they were assigned? It’s hard to say. Would some of these matchups have gone past the first round had the fighters been given the option? We’ll never know. Not all fighters hunt for the finish from the opening bell. Some are strategists who pace themselves, while others excel in adapting to unexpected turns in the fight. Were a few of these fighters lost in this process?

And should these fights be counted toward the fighters’ pro records? Is it fair to weigh these fights alongside two, three, and five-round fights? (I’m leaning toward no.)

Thankfully, these won’t be issues next week, when the show shifts to its more traditional format, with one live, multi-round fight to culminate each episode. The 16 lightweights who advanced into the fighter house and are now in the hunt for a UFC contract will have the chance to show what they’re made of in lengthier bouts, which is a good thing. It’s far more intriguing for fighters to work within multiple rounds with all of its nuances, as that’s an integral part of this sport.

TUFL 1 Qualifying Bout Results

Joe Proctor def. Jordan Rinaldi -- Submission (Guillotine Choke) 2:08

Cristiano Marcello def. Jared Caristen -- Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 2:43

Sam Sicilia def. Erin Beach -- KO 0:08

Chris Tickle def. Austin Lyons – KO 0:24

Andy Ogle def. Brendan Weaver -- Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

Vinc Pichel def. Cody Pfister -- Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 3:39

John Cofer def. Mark Glove -- Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

Chris Saunders def. Chase Hackett – Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

James Vick def. Dakota Cochrane -- Split Decision (9-10, 10-9, 10-9)

Michael Chiesa def. Johnavan Vistante -- Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 2:05

Mike Rio def. Ali Maclean -- Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 3:32

Justin Lawrence def. James Krause -- TKO (Punches) 1:25

Daron Cruickshank def. Drew Dober -- Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

Jeremy Larsen def. Jeff Smith -- Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

Al Iaquinta def. Jon Tuck -- Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

Myles Jury def. Akbarh Arreola -- Unanimous Decision (10-9 all)

-Loretta Hunt

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