A look at ‘The Ultimate Fighter 17’ — will new Night, new Fighters & Sonnen bring TUF back from the Dead?

Posted: December 28, 2012 in Commentary/Opinion, The Ultimate Fighter

TUF-17-Sonnen-JonesThe 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter airs on January 22 on FX. After some disappointing ratings in season 16, we’ll see some changes this time around. There were many factors pointed out on why season 16 was such a flop in the ratings, and I have my own opinions. Let’s take a look at some of the issues they had, and what the UFC and FX have done to fix them.

Friday nights are garbage. Yes, I always knew Friday night was a terrible night for a TV series. I can’t name one TV show that I’ve ever watched regularly on a Friday night. This season, we switch it up to Tuesday nights—a much better option. MMA fans will be more likely to be home to watch their new favorite athletes and less likely to be out getting hammered at the local Applebee’s. This is a no-brainer and should be the biggest factor in increasing viewers.

Ho-hum coaches. Last season they started things off doing a pretty good job of painting the two coaches in a very specific way—Roy Nelson was predictably dumb; Shane Carwin was predictably fighter-friendly. Nelson’s stupid moves made for somewhat entertaining moments, but nothing too outrageous. As the season wore on, Nelson and Carwin became less and less prominent, making way for more un-funny gags and confrontations in the house. “Let me bang, bro” became the most significant thing about TUF 16 unfortunately.

Next season, Chael Sonnen steps in. The fact that Jon Jones is the reigning world champ is almost irrelevant. I would expect Sonnen to understand the importance of lively banter and he will no doubt take the spotlight from everyone on the show if he’s smart…and he is. The Sonnen factor will be a major player in making season 17 a hit with fans.

Lackluster fights. Perhaps the saving grace of a poor time slot and a couple uninteresting coaches would be great fights and fighters. Not so with season 16. My own opinion is that Mike Ricci and Neil Magny will prove to be the only real contributors in the UFC over the next 12-18 months.

Everyone also (rightfully) made a big stink about the lack of finishes during TUF 16. I’m sure that will be addressed over and over with the fighters for season 17. In fact, we already have a major hype alert. Supposedly, there’s a cast-member who not only is a beast in the cage, but he’s apparently maiming everyone who even looks him in the eye. That angle will surely be played up throughout the season and will be right in our faces—as it should be. I know it’s hype, but I’m still excited to see this guy in action.

Will it work? Let me put it this way. If season 17 of TUF is a failure, we might never see it again in this format. All the pieces have been put in place to make a comeback from the declining ratings we saw over the last couple editions. The new time slot is a big head start. Chael Sonnen is probably the ONLY fighter who I guarantee will take this ball and run with it. The last ingredient—and probably the most important—are good fights.

That one is impossible to predict. However, due to the past season, fighter selections were probably based around finishers more than ever before. It seems like there’s at least one guy with a knack for stopping guys and I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see quite a few more finishes this season. Although I’m cautiously optimistic, I’m going to be one of the fans watching on Tuesday nights to see how it unfolds. Ultimate Fighter has become a major factor in the UFC’s success, and I have a feeling it will bounce back at least to a degree that it becomes relevant yet again.

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