Ready to rumble!

Mixing it up with Ultimate Fighter 4 , the Cowboys cheerleaders, and the ’kats
By JAMES PARKER  |  October 25, 2006

TOTALITARIAN: “If someone gives you a tuna-fish sandwich with anchovies on it, you say thank you and pretend that you like it!”
Rather depressing, one imagines, to catch a spinning backfist to the head, particularly when it’s the very thing you’ve been determined to avoid since the last time you caught a spinning backfist to the head. Along with the usual effects — the skull popping its interior flashbulbs, freeze-framing your thoughts as they rush for the exit — must come a conclusive gut punch of doom: it happened again, sucker. It’s gonna keep happening! Still, in last week’s Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback, Matt Serra, backfisted by Shonie Carter just as he’d been backfisted by him in 2001, managed to stay on his feet. More than that, he managed a bit of wobbly smack talk, through gumshield-fattened lips: “All day long, man . . . ,” he mumbled. “All day long.” (The fight, a welterweight semifinal contest, turned on this first-round moment of self-overcoming, and Serra went on to claim a points victory.)

With the built-in advantage of a bout of unrestricted mixed martial arts at the end of each episode, Spike’s The Comeback — in which 16 fighters are housed together, train together, and gradually eliminate one another — should really be the cream of reality TV. Guaranteed carnage is a tremendous asset, and a nifty way to consummate all the cultivated animosities of your standard reality household/prison: the squabbles, the scapegoating, the your-turn-to-do-the-dishes, etc. But even reality TV is occasionally hostage to reality, to its deflationary laws, and not everything is as exciting as it might be. Carter and Serra, despite having this five-year-old spinning-backfist thing between them, couldn’t seem to get any proper pre-fight needle going. Shonie Carter is a creature of Rodman-esque flamboyance and self-absorption, Matt Serra a white ethnic pitbull — plenty of rivalrous possibilities there, one might think. But no. On the eve of battle, the two warriors found themselves alone together, by some potted plants outside the fighters’ dormitory. “I hear that ice cream calling my name,” said Shonie thoughtfully, looking through the window at the shared fridge. “Man,’ said Matt, “I scream, you scream . . . ’ And then they both said: “We all scream for ice cream.”

Over at the Meerkat Manor, meanwhile, it was all action, as Animal Planet delivered its Friday-night payload of gang war, tooth-and-claw, and Kalahari hardcore. Last week, as you may remember, we left the dominant Whiskers female Flower and some of her brood pinned down in a bolt hole by the marauding goons of one-eyed kingpin Hannibal. Sticky situation — until a party of Whiskers skirmishers appears on top of a nearby tussock, silent, on their hind legs, peering down the slope with the fixed, even curiosity of foot soldiers about to get in a major rumble. It seems to intensify, this humming unanimity of focus, until at a word from someone the whole crew drop to all fours and charge headlong through the scrub: let slip the meerkats of war!

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