Opening Round: Farewell Old Friend

This evening marks the final episode of the Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV with Saturday’s TUF 14 Finale being the last live UFC event on the cable channel that for so long has been synonymous with the world’s foremost MMA organization. Nearly seven years ago Spike TV had the foresight to provide the UFC with an outlet to air their product and hasn’t looked back since.

However, I have, and during my trip down memory lane a few items stuck out that I want to highlight as we wind down to the end of an era. Here are my five of my favorite recollections of the UFC’s run on Spike TV…

The Ultimate Fighter 1

TUF 1 was not only a game-changer for MMA but for me as well. I’d always been a fan of the UFC/PRIDE but was far from educated on the finer points where technique and terminology are concerned. Having the intimate level of access the show provided was incredibly eye-opening in that regard, as it also was in terms of revealing the depth and diversity of the fighters themselves.

And, of course, the first Ultimate Fighter introduced the world to current stars like Josh Koscheck, Chris Leben, Stephan Bonnar, Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian, and Forrest Griffin, not to mention revolutionized the sport by pulling back the curtain for the mainstream and was a major component in the UFC’s continued success. Honestly, without TUF 1 you probably wouldn’t be reading these lines today nor would I be writing them.

Anderson Silva vs. Chris Leben

Leben was easily Fight Night MVP in the early days, competing on the first six over a yearlong period from 2005-2006. However, at UFN 5 the initials used were “KO” after Leben ran into a debuting Brazilian by the name of Anderson Silva. Leben famously questioned how Silva would be able to handle his stand-up during pre-fight promos, saying he would send “The Spider” back to Japan to find easier opponents. 49 seconds into the fight it was over and the legend of Silva was born.

The Ultimate Fighter 3

Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock as coaches, need I say more? TUF 3 was the first time a coaching rivalry was introduced into the show and it definitely paid dividends with a handful of heated exchanges between both. Additionally, the promotional steam from the pairing also lead to one of the “Top 10” buyrates in UFC history, showing the importance of injecting additional entertainment value into the show.

You also had “Team Dagger”, a name still drawing a chuckle out of more than a few fans to this day, as well as the introduction of Michael Bisping who has gone on to great success including a headlining slot this weekend at the Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale.

UFC 75

This event was special in that it was a PPV-quality endeavor shown for free via tape delay on Spike TV, a definite treat for people used to paying $45 for every show. Though the undercard left much to be desired, even featuring an infamous decision win for Bisping over Matt Hamill, it was headlined by Quinton Jackson vs. Dan Henderson who turned in a solid showing befitting their champion vs. champion status (“Rampage” holding the UFC’s title and Henderson PRIDE’s).

Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale

All five of the televised fights were entertaining with Matt Mitrione knocking Marcus Jones out in devastating fashion, Frankie Edgar outpointing Matt Veach in his last fight before winning the lightweight title, Kimbo Slice suplexing Houston Alexander, Jon Jones beating Matt Hamill up so badly the 205-pound champion received his only career loss (a DQ), and Roy Nelson flattening Brendan Schaub to win the season’s title. Easily one of my favorite Spike shows in history.

Tonight, when you tune in to watch the final TUF 14 episode, as well as Saturday, make sure to enjoy the fights but don’t be afraid to do so with a mildly heavy heart like you’re saying goodbye to an old friend. There’s no question the UFC’s partnership with FOX is a great thing for MMA and fans alike but it would have never happened without Spike TV’s initial investment.

Truly, thank you Spike TV.

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

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