The Ultimate Fighting Championship and Spike TV didn't get the dream scenario of ratings juggernaut Kimbo Slice reaching the finals of Season 10 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” But they got something close to it.
Against fellow brawler Houston Alexander on Dec. 5 in Las Vegas, Slice displayed more than a one-dimensional game, which seemed, for the first time, to galvanize support for him beyond the casual viewer. Slice hardly looked polished, but did drop Alexander on his head in the second round with a highlight-reel slam and worked some sound fundamental ground control on the Nebraskan, taking his back and mount.
Alexander started very slow by circling the cage ad nauseum and trying to catch Slice’s bad knee with leg kicks in a round that, because of lack of contact, was very difficult to give to either fighters. Both fighters put their hands on their knees in exhaustion when the final bell sounded. Slice, 35, who weighed in at 212 pounds for the catch-weight fight, won a unanimous decision. UFC President Dana White was publicly critical of the game plan of Alexander, who was cut from the UFC after the loss.
All told, the TUF 10 Finale drew a 2.4 rating on Spike TV, which translates into 3.7 million average viewers over two hours. The number is the third highest for a UFC card on Spike, and highest for a TUF finale show. Slice's fight against Alexander drew a peak audience of 5.2 million viewers, a top-five number for UFC fights but still somewhat below expectations. The live fight did not hit the heights of the tape-delayed Slice-Nelson fight on during the regular season, which put up 6.1 million in its first airing and reached 7.25 million with DVR viewers included. The live event drew about 1,500 spectators to The Pearl at the Palms Resort Casino for a $504,350 gate.
The man who conquered Slice on “The Ultimate Fighter,” potbellied veteran Roy Nelson, knocked out Brendan Schaub with a first-round overhand right to become the TUF 10 champion. The fight was positioned as the main event on Spike TV, the first time the UFC has put a TUF finale bout in the show-closing slot. Nelson, who weighed in at 263 pounds for the fight, entered the arena to Weird Al Yankovic’s “I’m Fat” and asked UFC matchmaker Joe Silva in the cage, “Was that exciting enough?” Nelson pocketed a $25,000 “Knockout of the Night” bonus for the performance on top of the standard $16,000 win purse under a TUF contract.
While Slice and Nelson took definitive steps forward in their UFC careers on Dec. 5, blue chip prospect Jon Jones took something of a pause against Matt Hamill in a light heavyweight contest. Jones took down Hamill, a Division III national wrestling champion, right off the bat with a trip, the impact of which separated Hamill’s shoulder. Jones, who trained with Greg Jackson’s camp for the fight for the first time, took a swift mount and rained down rapid shots as Hamill struggled to defend with a bad arm. Jones eventually switched to illegal “12-to-6” downward elbow strikes.
Referee Steve Mazzagatti stopped the action to deduct a point, but noted Hamill could not continue and went to instant replay for the first time since Nevada’s athletic commission passed a regulation allowing it. Mazzagatti ruled the illegal blows contributed to Hamill’s condition of being unable to continue, thus resulting in a disqualification loss for Jones. Jones was gracious in commenting post-fight on the decision, though his camp was reportedly looking to somehow appeal the decision.
Also on the card, lightweight force Frankie Edgar put forward a technical clinic in dispatching Matt Veach. Edgar dropped the H.I.T. Squad fighter with a short right hook in the second round and rained down ground-and-pound until Veach gave up his back and the rear-naked choke. Edgar made a textbook mental adjustment to seal the win after Veach came out aggressive in the first round, landing a spectacular running slam. The back-and-forth scrap earned both fighters “Fight of the Night” bonuses. Edgar, who tied Hamill with an event-high $46,000 disclosed payday, broadcasted a desire to fight next for the 155-pound title.
Matt Mitirone made a successful pro MMA debut by stopping one of the TUF season’s ten biggest fighters and personalities, Marcus Jones, in the television opener. Jones lunged in for and scored with a few takedowns but showed a porous striking guard. Mitrione, who trains with Chris Lytle and Jake O'Brien, made Jones pay 10 seconds into the second, landing two right crosses to notch the TKO.
Also picking up wins on the card were James McSweeney (third-round TKO over Darrill Schoonover); Jon Madsen (split decision over Justin Wren); Brian Stann (unanimous decision over Rodney Wallace); John Howard (third-round knockout over Dennis Hallman); and Mark Bocek (first round submission over Joe Brammer). Both Bocek’s win -- a rear-naked choke on a standing opponent that won the night’s submission bonus -- and McSweeney’s victory made the Spike TV broadcast. Schoonover now ships to Afghanistan to serve military duty. Wren was released after his loss, according to MMA Fanhouse.
The UFC used the platform to announce coaches for Season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, who set the longstanding UFC pay-per-view buy record three years ago, will serve as rival coaches for two teams of middleweight cast members. TUF 11 will begin airing March 31 on Spike TV.