Last week on “The Ultimate Fighter” we got to see a lot of things. The most important was Shane Carwin’s team winning the first in-house fight of the season as Neil Magny outlasted former TUF coach and BJJ wiz Cameron Diffley. Anytime you can win the first fight of the season and it’s not a top tier pick of yours against a bottom tier fighter of your opponent’s it becomes a good thing, especially with Carwin not having the ability to make the first fight via obtaining the first pick among the 16 finalists.
Anytime you get the ability to have the advantage of getting more of the guys you want and setting the fights up is absolutely a win-win for Carwin.
With it, though, comes the first wave of adjustments from both sides. Magny/Diffley was a hard fought win and the next fight comes with it a possible wave of momentum. GSP famously rode a couple of wins in his season against Josh Koscheck to essentially nearly embarrassing him as a coach. He would follow it up by promptly embarrassing him in their fight shortly thereafter with a masterful performance, of course, and this is where we’ll see the coaching mettle of Roy Nelson and his team. And so does Shane Carwin, too.
They need to do three things, really, to help rectify their mistakes from a week ago.
1. Better coaching in the corner
Nelson’s voice may have been louder in the fight but Carwin’s fighter had the better second round adjustments. The one thing in MMA we never give full credit to is a fighter’s corner giving them things they need to do between rounds. A good fighter is like a good sports team: once you have time to relax for a moment and not compete you need someone to tell you how to adjust your style to compensate for your opponent’s. MMA is a physical chess game and adjusting your strategy mid-fight is like an NFL franchise compensating for something an opponent is doing well: the best fighters make it a habit.
Carwin needs to be more active on the sidelines. This is his team, even if he’s not in the corner, and he needs to be the guy rallying his troops in the stands if he’s not in the corner. Being silent and watching doesn’t help.
2. Less in-house shenanigans
This will never happen, of course, because part of how TUF thrives is by interpersonal conflict. But watching fighters in the house get riled up and into name-calling matchups, et al, is not something professional athletes do in training. It would make for lousy television, of course, but showcasing your sport as populated by frat boys with BJJ belts doesn’t do much for a lot of people.
Carwin and Nelson would be advised to try and get their fighters to focus on the task in hand, which are becoming a better fighter and winning the show. Not having your team focus like athletes when they’re not training is inviting them to do a lot of things that could hurt their chances of winning the show.
To go back to GSP/Koscheck it was the reason why GSP’s team kept winning even when it was unfavorable matchups. GSP preached to his team about being professionals and acting like such; GSP is renowned for his ability to be the highest level of professionalism. Koscheck’s team, which wasn’t nearly as preached to, acted like buffoons and tended to lose regularly almost because of it.
3. Take advantage of coaching resources better
The one thing I noticed going into the Diffley fight was that Nelson hadn’t prepped his fighter nearly as well as he should have. Magny’s stance, et al, was something Diffley could’ve exploited better. Nelson needed to prep him better, especially considering he had seen him fight up close and personal before. Considering he has worked on his own boxing to a remarkable degree Nelson should be trying to use this advantage. Diffley didn’t look nearly as prepared for the fight as he should’ve and that reflects on his coach directly.
For Carwin he needs to continue doing what he’s doing. He’s an engineer and methodical about how he trains, et al. Having a tremendous coaching staff, including Pat Barry to teach striking, is going to win him more fights than not this season. Carwin doesn’t do have world class kills in anything that he could teach outside of freestyle wrestling; you either have power in your hands or you don’t. However by using his coaches and letting them instruct on things they know better than Carwin he’s doing his job.