This season of The Ultimate Fighter, the 24th in the show’s history, has given the reality series new life. It’s all thanks to the UFC’s decision to bring in current flyweight champions from all around the world. In addition, the winner gets a UFC title shot against seemingly unstoppable flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. What really makes all of this even more interesting is the fact that the coaches, Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo, are active top-five flyweight contenders who will be meeting each other inside the Octagon at the TUF 24 finale.
The casting of Benavidez and Cejudo was initially viewed as a slap in the face to the rest of the division. After all, there are many deserving contenders still waiting for their respective shots, right? Well, take a step back and look at the current list of top-10 flyweights. Mighty Mouse has defeated at least five of the current top 10, including multiple victories over Benavidez and Ian McCall. The division needed a boost. TUF 24 has delivered that boost so far.
So, should Benavidez and Cejudo be upset that they are currently helping coach a fighter to obtain a shot at the man holding the title?
Instead, they should be thankful for this opportunity. Benavidez and Cejudo may have been given the best-case scenario. In the event that their respective fighter is victorious in dethroning Mighty Mouse, they have the upper hand. If a member of Team Cejudo wins and Cejudo is able to get past Benavidez, then Cejudo will have an almost unfair advantage when it comes down to fight night. The same could be said for Benavidez. This unique situation sets the division up for some potentially exciting fights and the chance for history to be made.
The odds of a fighter getting a third fight with an opponent who has already defeated them twice is quite slim. A few examples do exist — Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn, Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock, and Daniel Straus vs. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire are among the most notable cases. The first two examples ended with fighters going 0-3 in their attempts. Straus was the lone exception. He went 0-2 against Pitbull before defeating the Brazilian to capture the Bellator featherweight title. Benavidez has already dropped two title bouts to Mighty Mouse, and the odds are definitely not in the Team Alpha Male export’s favor in another meeting with the dominant champ.
If one of the TUF 24 cast is able to defeat Mighty Mouse, then it gives Benavidez another shot at the title that has eluded him. Cejudo, on the other hand, has the chance to take away Benavidez’s chance at championship gold.
Cejudo, a former Olympic wrestler, was the most recent victim of the champion. He would love nothing more than to be able to get redemption. At the end of the day, every fighter strives to have the title. If Cejudo is able to pull out the victory against Benavidez, it would be the biggest victory of his career and would put him right back into a title bout with the winner of Mighty Mouse and his to-be-determined opponent, as determined by the TUF tournament.
The whole idea behind this season of TUF has been innovative and exciting. It has produced some exciting fights and real storylines that previous seasons of TUF have failed to capture. It’s a concept that would be well used in future seasons, especially for scenarios where a weight class needs new life — the UFC heavyweight division is an excellent example. The winner of this season of TUF lays claim to a contract and a shot at the UFC flyweight champion, but the real winners could end up being the fans and this season’s coaches.