TUF 18 episode 1 recap: The elimination fights

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It’s a historic season for The Ultimate Fighter franchise, as UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and archrival Miesha Tate take center stage as coaches for a mixed cast featuring both women and men bantamweight fighters.

The champion shows up first at the training center, and it’s clear that she is all business. Rousey shows her surprise, expecting Cat Zingano to walk into the training center but instead looking on as Miesha Tate walks through the doors. The champion heads out to consult with one of her coaches and comes back out to UFC president Dana White who goes on to explain Cat Zingano’s surgery for a knee injury, causing the switch to Miesha Tate as the opposing coach.

With that business put to the side, the fighters enter the training center for the first time. A mixed cast of women and men bantamweight professional MMA fighters all fighting for a spot in the TUF fighter house.

White explains that he was wrong about women being in the UFC, then goes on to tell the guys that they have to step up to compete with the way that the women perform when they step into the octagon. White then goes on to give his obligatory motivational speech to the fighters.

Little time is wasted as the elimination fights kick off.

Jessamyn Duke vs. Laura Howarth

Round 1 – Duke comes forward to start, using her length to sting Howarth with her jab beofore going high with her kicks. Duke then lands a straight right hand that forces Howarth to clinch. Howarth presses Duke into the cage but gets turned, finding hereself fighting off a takedown. Duke takes it to the mat, but gets reversed. Duke goes straight to her rubber guard and sets Howarth up for a triangle showing tremendous flexibility with her length. Howarth postures out but leaves her arm in danger. Duke transitions back to the armbar but Howarth fights off the submission nicely. Duke goes right back to the rubber guard, controlling the posture of Howarth. Howarth working the body now. Duke scrambles and nearly takes the back of Howarth, but slips off, then sets up a nasty triangle attempt. The tap comes and Duke is in the house.

Danny Martinez vs. David Grant

Round 1 – Martinez goes on the attack out of the gate, throwing a series of right hands to set up a takedown. He presses Grant on the cage. Grant works free and takes the center of the cage. He lands a stiff knee as Martinez closes. Grant throws a blatant 12-to-6 illegal elbow and referee Herb Dean stops the action to give Martinez a chance to recover. Grant goes to work with his kicks after the restart as Martinez attacks the body with punches. Grant lands a flush knee in the clinch forcing Martinez to retreat for the moment. Martinez shakes it off and attacks, putting Grant right back on the cage and then working the fight to the mat. Grant locks up a triangle but runs out of time.

Round 2 – Grant lands a kick to start, then starts to land with combinations as Martinez marches forward throwing heat. Grant lands a big right hand and drops Martinez, then shrugs off a takedown attempt. With Martinez still grounded, Grant appears to land another illegal blow, with a knee to the head. Referee Herb Dean gives Martinez a chance to recover, then deducts a point from Grant. Martinez restarts with winging left hands as he looks to track down Grant. Grant fires back with laser-straight counter punching forcing Martinez to dive for a takedown. Grant stuffs the initial attempt, then locks up an armbar on the scramble getting the tap. Nice finish for Grant.

The highlights of the Jessica Rakoczy and Revelina Berto showed Berto taking the early lead with multiple submission attempts. Rakoczy turned the tables and submitted Berto after transitioning from an armbar to an omoplata to advance into the house.

Michael Wootten and Emil Hartsner are next and engage in what Dana White can only describe as a snoozefest. In the end Wooteen did enough to win a spot in the TUF house.

Peggy Morgan managed to wake the UFC president up, with a lopsided full mount beatdown of Bethany Marshall. A referee stoppage and TKO victory punches her ticket into the fighter house.

Roxanne Modafferi vs. Valerie Letourneau

Round 1 – Modaferri flashes her jab to start while Letourneau fires off leg kicks. Modaferri closes and puts Letourneau on the cage looking to take the fight to the mat and does just that. Modafferi quickly passes the guard of Letourneau then takes her back, sinking in both hooks. She then goes to a tight body triangle and applies the rear naked choke. The tap comes quick and Modaferri makes the house.

Tim Gorman vs. Lee Sandmeier

Round 1 – Gorman flies across the cage and gets a quick takedown of Sandmeier. Gorman passes to side control, and then takes the back of hos opponent after Sandmeier rolls to avoid damage. Gorman then advances to full mount and starts dropping leather. Sandmeier looks to be in deep trouble as Gorman continues to rain down punishment. Sandmeier again rolls out of trouble, giving up his back but Gorman isn’t finished. He lands a furious flurry and the referee intervenes. Tim Gorman advances to the fighter house.

Raquel Pennington and Tonya Evinger’s fight highlights showed a back-and-forth battle, but in the end, it was Pennington earning her way into the house via a guillotine choke stoppage.

Chris Beal and Sirwan Kakai are next, and it’s Beal that makes in immediate impact on Dana White and both coaches. Beal hurt Kakai early, and then fought off submission attempts from Kakai to earn a decision victory, punishing his opponent in the process.

Josh Hill outworked Patrick Holohan with his wrestling, catching Dana White’s attention in the wrong way with his safe, lay-and-pray style.

Colleen Schneider vs. Shayna Baszler

Round 1 – Baszler takes the center of the cage and lands a series of kicks as Schneider fires off counter punches down the middle. The fight hits the cage as the fighters battle for dominant position. Baszler digs and gets an early takedown then transitions to the back. Both hooks are in and Schneider is in trouble. Schneider somehow shakes Baszler off the top and works back to her feet. Baszler goes for a throw but is stopped initially, but she sticks with it, taking the fight to the mat. Baszler softens Schneider up with punches then isolates an arm and is looking to finish with the armbar as Schneider desperately defends. Too late. It’s all over and Shayna Baszler advances.

Louis Fisette vs. Chris Holdsworth

Round 1- Fisette closes quickly and gets a nice bodylock takedown early. Holdsworth is staying active on his back but Fisette is landing from the top. Holdsworth goes to his rubberguard, then throws his legs up looking for an armbar. Fisette pulls free but ends up in a triangle attempt. Holdsworth fires off elbows from his back, then readjusts the choke as Fisette fights to survive. Holdsworth threatens the arm while still cinching up the triangle but so far Fisette has done a good job defending. Fisette finally frees his arm and head and starts dropping bombs. Holdsworth kicks him off and turns in looking to reverse positions. He does just that, ending up on top. He quickly advances to full mount with just over a minute to go. Holdsworth goes to work, locking up an arm triangle, and the tap comes quickly. Nice comeback win for Chris Holdsworth to make it into the TUF house.

The highlights from the Gina Mazany and Julianna Pena showed Pena imposing her will, landing a constant stream of ground-and-pound en route to a lopsided unanimous decision victory.

Anthony Gutierrez and Matt Munsey battled in a lackluster showing, resulting in Munsey advancing via unanimous decision.

WMMA legend Tara LaRosa found success early with her jab, but Sarah Moras turned the tides threatening with submissions, earning the nod on the scorecards to advance.

Rafael De Freitas vs. Cody Bollinger

Round 1 – Bollinger flashes his jab to start, then fires down the middle. Freitas comes back with stinging leg kicks. Bollinger easily gets a takedown, but Freitas is ready, threatening with submission attempts early. Bollinger then picks Freitas up and slams him to the mat. Freitas gets to his feet and goes back to his kicks. Bollinger dips in and elevates Freitas again for a slam, but gets caught in a standing guillotine. Bollinger moves to the cage and shakes free, then starts landing hammerfists from the top. Freitas looks for a triangle and may have it. Bollinger gives the thumbs up to the referee, then finally works free. He’s caught in a triangle again but survives to the bell.

Round 2 – Touch of gloves. Big body kick from Bollinger. He’s advancing and landing with combinations. Freitas looks tired. Bollinger peppers him with punches, then goes to the plum clinch and works his knees. Elbows. Punches. He’s picking Freitas to pieces. Frietas is totally gassed. Bollinger lands a flurry and Freitas goes down. It’s all over. Cody Bollinger makes a definitive statement to advance in the competition.

With the elimination fights now complete, it’s time for the coaches to select their teams. Coach Rousey wins the coin flip, choosing first fight pick over first fighter selection.

After all the picks are done, this is what the teams look like:

Team Tate

1. Julianna Pena
2. Sarah Moras
3. Raquel Pennington
4. Roxanne Modafferi

1. Cody Bollinger
2. Chris Holdsworth
3. Josh Hill
4. Tim Gorman

Team Rousey

1. Shayna Baszler
2. Jessamyn Duke
3. Peggy Morgan
4. Jessica Rakoczy

1. Chris Beal
2. David Grant
3. Anthony Gutierrez
4. Michael Wootten

Dana White immediately informs Ronda Rousey that it’s time to pick the first fight, with her choice of men or women. Coach Rousey quickly consults with her coaching staff and names Team Rousey’s Shayna Baszler vs. Team Tate’s Julianna Pena.

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