There’s a delicate balance when it comes to how fighters perceive MMA and their need and dedication for winning versus being entertaining. Some would argue that MMA is pure sport and winning is the only thing that matters. Others would say MMA is also part entertainment, and keeping people interested in watching is just as important as going into the Octagon and getting a victory.
Those two schools of thought clashed head on during the latest episode of The Ultimate Fighter when Dan Spohn bested Todd Monaghan in a one-sided performance, while also lulling the audience to sleep with a less than exciting affair. Spohn was the same fighter who kicked off this season of the Ultimate Fighter by knocking Tyler King into the middle of next week. The game plan (as explained by Spohn on this week’s TUF Talk) was to take Monaghan down and punish him on the mat. A strategy agreed upon by his coaches, and in reality, the ground game is one of Spohn’s biggest assets.
What damned Spohn here is the same thing that damned him earlier in his career when he landed an insane knee strike just nine seconds into a fight that earned him a knockout victory. Win in exciting fashion and people expect you to do it every, single time you enter the cage. Spohn decided this time to go for the win instead of taking chances being flashy, and it got him the victory but earned him no praise from UFC president Dana White.
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There’s no perfect right or wrong answer to these types of scenarios. The only way to guarantee a spot in the UFC is to make it to the finals and then win the championship for the entire show. Then again there have been past seasons where the talent pool was so deep that almost the whole cast has been invited to join the UFC. Then there are years like season 16 where only the finalists and one injured competitor were offered deals with the UFC because the fights were so abysmal, no one showed the kind of vigor or spunk needed to catch the matchmakers attention.
It’s impossible to suck as bad as the last fight did
— Dana White
Spohn soundly beat Monaghan in a dominant performance that won’t end up as one of the best fights, but may one of the most important considering where it puts him in this tournament. The good thing for Spohn is he has a body of work that shows he’s very capable of pulling off highlight reel finishes. He also has another fight this season to wash away the memory of this less than stellar win, and remind White of his first trip to the Octagon where he knocked a guy out so bad, the coaches and staff sitting cage side couldn’t bear to applaud out of fear for how injured his opponent might have been.
Back in the house this week and prior to the fight, the competitors were treated to a Sunday morning sermon courtesy of resident preacher turned fighter Todd Monaghan. As a devout pastor, Monaghan took it upon himself to offer a sermon each week for the fighters who wanted to attend because this is what he does every Sunday in his regular life as well.
Now, religion and fighting seemingly go hand in hand if you hear the number of UFC regulars that thank a higher deity after a win, but then again you’ll hear many pundits say that religion has no place in athletics or sports at all. There’s no right or wrong answer — but when you’re talking about being locked in a house with 15 other fighters for six weeks with no other outlet, religion could either bring everyone together or turn them all against each other like a pack of wolves.
Matt Hughes took a walloping following season six of The Ultimate Fighter when he literally handed out bibles to every member of his team, while asking them to read a particular story from the book. From there he quizzed them on which character from the story most reminded them of him. Hughes explained as best he could his reasoning behind doing that particular exercise, but the difference between that situation and this one was that Monaghan wasn’t in a position of power and he certainly wasn’t forcing anyone to participate. From my understanding of the fighters in the house, Monaghan offered this service to everyone, and if they chose to attend that was their right and if they didn’t, that was fine, too. Again, this is one of those touchy subjects that I think falls into the category of ‘believe what you want, so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody and you donât try to force your beliefs on me, and we’ll get along just fine’.
Monaghan’s sermon seemed to hit the right crowd he was trying to reach, except for one Irishman named Cathal Pendred, who didn’t take too kindly to the preacher’s words while showing off his gold watch and talking about his expensive cars. Monaghan was pretty upset at Pendred’s jabs when I spoke to him, mostly because the Team Penn fighter didn’t come to him directly and express his concerns. Even discussing this subject here, I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck start to stand up because it’s next to impossible to discuss something like this without showing personal bias on the subject. I’ll just say when you introduce personal belief into a situation like this, don’t be surprised if at least one or two people don’t agree and a venomous reaction is bound to happen from time to time.
With the fight over and the sermon finished, BJ Penn remained in control of the competition and he selected his own middleweight Joe Lauzon impersonator Tim Williams to step into the Octagon against Team Edgar’s Dhiego Lima. Before the show closed, White couldn’t help but get in one more barb aimed at Spohn and Monaghan for their fight when he said, "it’s impossible to suck as bad as the last fight did".
The bar is set remarkably low for Lima and Williams, but all jokes aside, it should be a great middleweight fight next week when The Ultimate Fighter returns on Wednesday night at 10p ET on FOX Sports 1.