This season of the Ultimate Fighter has breathed life into was was becoming a tired show, as the attention shifted more and more firmly on the drunken antics of the fighters rather than fights themselves. This season the focus has shifted to the fights, training, and the majority of camera time is in the gym.
On Wedensday, welterweight Frank Lester will enter the Octagon for the fourth time, most of any TUF contestant on the show. The Washington DC native is a combat veteran of the Iraq War and came to MMA after his service was over.
When Frank came on to the show he seemed to have a screw loose and in a very competitive matched scored a dumb-luck KO when Kiel Reid knocked himself out slamming Frank down. Frank did lock in a wicked Kamura and nearly tore Reid's arm right off, but the win was very questionable.
Frank was then mauled by the imposing Mauy Thai specialist James Wilks, getting his four fake teeth knocked out by a knee. Frank pulled the teeth out of his mouth guard and went right back into the fight for the third round.
Frank then returned to replace an injured teammate and defeated David Faulkner, become the first ever TUF contestant to win after being brought back from elimination. Frank is now faced with Wilks, the man who rearranged his face.
Frank showed amazing heart in all of his fights, a love for the sport, and an indifference to damage to his own body. I had thought Frank a nutjob and had been glad to see him leave, but now I find it impossible not to root for him.
Frank has only been training in MMA for about five years and there are considerable holes in his game, his ground game is questionable, his hands are heavy but his boxing is anything but tight, he flails wildly at points in fights and has taken serious damage as a result.
What Frank lacks in technique he makes up in pure heart and grit. Forrest Griffin comparisons are about as frequent as Joe Rogan screaming "oooooohhh! ooooohhh!" but in this case it may actually be appropriate.
Frank now and Forrest when he was on the show were able to take damage, fight with cuts, have excellent cardio, and both have an unrefined, brawler style of stand up with little ground skills.
Forrest has grown as a fighter into a refined grinder who looks to test a fighter's resolve. It's impossible to predict how Frank's career will track, the odds are against him as brawlers with no ground skills tend to fizzle in the UFC, what set Forrest apart was his ability to gameplan and evolve. Frank has more power in his hands than Forrest and if he can adapt his game, he may have a future in the UFC.