The new, revamped, FX version of The Ultimate Fighter on Friday night mixed some of the old -- reality show fodder from 16 mixed martial artists living together -- and a lot of the new -- the show had a fresh feel aided by its quick turnaround time, and the fight at the end of the episode was live, as every fight will be in this, the show's 15th season.
The fight, James Vick vs Daron Cruickshank, was a good one. Cruickshank was the aggressor from the outset, hitting Vick with a wide array of strikes. But when Cruickshank ducked down to go for a takedown, Vick landed a perfectly timed knee to Cruickshank's chin, knocking Cruickshank cold and ending the fight by first-round knockout.
"I went for the kick, I saw him shoot and I hit him with the knee," Vick said of his lucky knockout after the fight. "I went for the kick but the knee landed so it was all good."
UFC President Dana White gushed about Vick's "great fight" and was clearly pleased with how the new, live show played out.
There's no doubt that the live format was a success: It was an exciting fight made more exciting by the fact that it was live. The live fights are this year's major innovation on The Ultimate Fighter, but the show also felt fresher because everything on it was new -- all of the action in the house and the gym came from the last week.
The episode's most compelling moment came inside the house, when Mike Chiesa found out that his father died. The UFC and FX did a great job of taking the viewers inside every moment as Chiesa sobbed when he got the news, then made the decision to leave the house briefly to attend to his family but come back after a couple of days. UFC President Dana White, who usually strictly forbids fighters from leaving during the taping of The Ultimate Fighter, made an exception to give Chiesa a few days off for the funeral. Chiesa said his dad would want him to come back and win the show, and that's what he hopes to do.
We might not see something that emotional every week, but the FX makeover of The Ultimate Fighter promises to give us a new and improved version of the UFC's longtime reality show.