Too big to fight? - Joel Hall

In its tenth season, the Spike network's reality series, "The Ultimate Fighter," has enlisted the talents of 16, up-and-coming, heavyweight fighters, who will be tasked with boosting Spike's ratings to new heights and bolstering the ranks of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) heavyweight division.

I am starting to wonder if "The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights" will be able to deliver on that promise.

I've always been a big fan of boxing, but lately, I've become an even bigger fan of the UFC. Still impressed with season nine of the "The Ultimate Fighter," when UFC veterans Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson coached two opposing teams of British and American fighters, I recently watched the premiere of the latest season of "The Ultimate Fighter" with much anticipation.

By first appearances, the show has all of the ingredients to be a runaway hit in the macho market. You have 16 guys, all built like Mack trucks, all battling for a six-figure contract in the UFC. Most of them are over six-feet tall and have backgrounds in fighting, football, or wrestling.

On top of that, Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson - the Miami bouncer, who became an Internet legend by beating the tar out of people in unsanctioned fights, and broadcasting it on YouTube - is one of the contestants.

It seems like a recipe for success, but the first two fights of "The Ultimate Fighters: Heavyweights" have been pretty unimpressive. For all of the tough talk, the fighters who have fought so far have run out of gas pretty quickly.

The first fight between Jon Madsen and Abe Wagner will probably go down in history as one of the worst, one-sided beat-downs in history. It was uncomfortable to watch, but not for the reasons one would think. Wagner, who is 25 pounds heavier than Madsen, four inches taller than Madsen, and was the likely favorite to win the match, was literally turned into a bloody pinata by Madsen.

Wagner spent almost the entirety of two, five-minute rounds on his back, looking as helpless as a baby otter. While somewhat diminutive in comparison to Wagner, Madsen used his college wrestling skills to make short work of Wagner, and in the process, opened a gash on Wagner's forehead the size of the Mariana Trench.

In the second fight, an even bigger guy, Wes Shivers -- a six-feet, seven-inch, 285-pound juggernaut -- was pitted against James McSweeney -- a slightly-less-assuming, six-feet, four-inch kickboxer, with a 55-pound weight disadvantage.

Championship fights in the UFC are for five, five-minute rounds, but both Shivers and McSweeney looked like their hearts were going to give out by the end of the second round. McSweeney literally turned his back and walked away from his opponent at one point. At the end of the second round, Shivers all but collapsed in the center of the ring and had to be coaxed back into his corner long after the bell was rung.

In the training scenes, the fighters look absolutely exhausted. Sometimes, I wonder if that will change with conditioning, or if that is just the symptom of having a human-sized heart and a yeti-sized body.

I'm beginning to debate whether "The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights" was really a good idea in the first place. However, I am reserving my judgment, as this week, the six-feet, one-inch, 235-pound Kimbo Slice is set to fight six-feet, one-inch, 265-pound Roy "Big Country" Nelson.

The match up between Kimbo Slice and Nelson, both veterans of now-defunct mixed martial arts leagues, may prove to be the most interesting fight of the season.

I just hope that the rest of the fights this season won't be as big a letdown as the previous ones have been.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.