One of the things about “The Ultimate Fighter” is that the power of a team can oftentimes be overwhelming in a season. In TUF seasons past inferior talent has overcome its superior counterparts on the show because of a variety of factors but a key has always been momentum. It may be an individual sport, and there can be only one winner, but a team’s success means a lot on the show for a variety of reasons.
Usually it’s a sign of good coaching; the guys on TUF are fairly raw and borderline UFC level talents for the most part when they get on the show. The UFC streamlines high level prospects directly into the Octagon but those who need a lot of work, but are good enough to be in the big show of MMA, generally transition in from TUF. Seeing guys improve as a unit, and then consistently win, is a sign that the famous fighter brought in has a knack for bringing out the best in the team he’s been given. But that’s not nearly as big a reason as the confidence of winning.
A team’s confidence coming from victory is something that isn’t quantifiable but translates significantly into wins and losses in the Octagon. In a sport where inches count a fighter’s self confidence can directly affect his ability to win. Historically coaches that have clearly dominated their competition have done so with big win streaks as well. So far Shane Carwin is up 3-1 at the midway point of TUF season 16 and looks to be in command; Team Nelson seems to be falling apart and it starts on top.
The key for Team Nelson to turn it around right now is to avoid three of the biggest pratfalls of a losing streak.
1. End Negative Thoughts
Every team on a losing streak and nearly every bad team has an aura about them of negativity. Team Nelson can’t begin to think that they’re not as good because it’ll reflect in how they fight.
2. Get Adequate Changes in Training and Coaching
Whatever Team Nelson has been doing so far in training hasn’t been working. Team Carwin has looked universally better in the cage and by proxy winning fights. Team Nelson needs to take a good, hard look at what they’ve been doing so far and change what isn’t working.
3. Better in Cage Management
The one place where Team Carwin has been better than Team Nelson is adjusting on the fly, in the cage. One of the things that rarely mentioned when it comes to breaking down fights is that adjusting during the fight is critical. Fights can be won and lost by the things a corner says; so far Team Nelson hasn’t been able to adjust on the fly.
Right now Team Carwin was in an eerily similar spot as Rampage Jackson’s heavyweights were on Season 10 of TUF. Down 4-0, and not 3-1, Jackson’s team promptly lost the fifth fight of the season and “Rampage” walked out of the cage as Wes Sims recovered from the technical submission loss to Justin Wren. It affected his team for the rest of the season as they seemingly were broken by that fifth straight loss.
It’s interesting to see Roy Nelson, who was a part of that win streak, on the other end of one that’s about to develop. Can his team stop the flow and potentially win four straight? Maybe. It’s just a matter of being able to harness some momentum of his own.