Ben Fowlkes
Thursday October 1st, 2009

Wednesday night's Ultimate Fighter elimination bout between Kimbo Slice and Roy Nelson might have been the most watched fight in the show's 10-season history on Spike TV. It also may have been among the most predictable.

Nelson, a.k.a. "Big Country," did exactly what he said he would do to the famed Internet brawler. He took him down, controlled him on the mat and eventually tied Slice up in a crucifix position and rained steady but soft punches down on his head until the referee simply couldn't take anymore. As Herb Dean moved in to stop the fight, he seemed more annoyed with Slice's inability to escape than he was concerned for his health.

A thrilling fight it wasn't, but what did you expect? Nelson wasn't about to trade power punches with Slice -- not when his almost non-existent ground game is just begging to be exploited -- and in a tournament where your next fight might be only a couple of weeks away, playing it safe and avoiding injury is the smart move. After all, the fights on the show are the MMA equivalent of a job interview: You just have to get through them successfully in order to get to the paying gig.

That's exactly what Nelson did, and not much more. He immobilized Slice's arms with little effort and then hit his unguarded face just enough to force the referee's hand. It wasn't a brutal domination, even though it was one-sided. But for viewers tuning in with hopes of seeing a high-octane Kimbo scrap, it probably felt like a disappointment, as if Slice lost on a technicality known as "intelligent defense."

As Nelson said when he laid out his plan earlier in the episode, "That's the rule." He's right, even if winning by being a stickler for the rules isn't the kind of performance that impresses UFC president Dana White, who compared Nelson's fight-ending punches to blows his young daughter might deliver. It begs the question: Why White didn't feel the same way about the technique when Matt Hughes used it to defeat B.J. Penn at UFC 63?

So what did we learn with last night's episode? Nothing we didn't already know. Slice may have good fighting instincts and dynamite in his hands, but his ground game is still a tadpole in a world of full-grown frogs. Nelson took him down with relative ease and transitioned between positions as if he were demonstrating techniques to a Wednesday night beginner's grappling class.

Slice may have gotten a crash course in defensive grappling from his Team Rampage coaches, but that's like watching tennis tutorials on YouTube and then going up against Andy Roddick. This stuff takes years to learn, and Slice is getting a very late start.

Those who are concerned that this defeat marks the end of the bearded one on this season of TUF may have reason for hope, however, as the conversation at the conclusion of last night's show shifted to the possibility that Slice might have to re-enter the tournament as a replacement fighter later on. I think we can all see where this is going. Any excuse to get Slice back into the competition would be a welcome one, at least from a ratings standpoint, and anyone who has seen a few installments of TUF knows how common injuries are when you force pro fighters to go at it in three separate bouts in a matter of weeks.

Chances are we haven't seen the last of Kimbo Slice, either on this season or in the UFC. He'll be back, and his performances can only get better. He has to hope improvement comes quickly -- sooner or later Internet fame is not going to be enough to justify all the second and third chances. Let's hope he's learning as much as he can, while he can, because the competition isn't going to get easier once the show ends, especially after having your weaknesses exposed for all to see. And after last night's show, the former college wrestlers in the UFC's heavyweight division are probably salivating over the thought of facing Slice.

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