It’s here! The first season dedicated to all women and the first season that is going to crown a champion. The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 debuted tonight on FOX Sports 1. The Twitter world was abuzz and it really felt like we were getting something new and fresh.
The show started as we were introduced to some of the gals. Former Invicta FC champ Carla Esparaza talked about her family and her desire to stay a champion. Felice Herrig spoke about maybe not wanting to do the show at all after losing in her Invicta debut. Alex Chambers seemed as cool as the other side of the pillow. These gals were already part of the show after Dana scooped up their contracts. Things shifted as we caught a glimpse of the tryout process in Las Vegas.
It was time to show up to the house and get the formal introduction from Dana White. He gave his normal pep talk and threw out the first twist. The 16 contestants had been seeded by UFC officials. The brackets would be like the “Sweet 16” of the NCAA basketball tournament. The coaches would get some time to evaluate the talent. Anthony Pettis and his crew were putting the girls on the spot asking them what team they wanted to be on while Gilbert Melendez was much more laid back .
The teams were picked next. The picks were kinda odd as due to the seeding. Carla Esparza got picked first by Anthony Pettis. Gilbert automatically was assigned Angela Hill as she was the 16th seed and Carla was numero uno. Melendez picked Tecia Torres first, she was seeded third and was paired against Randa Markos. Pettis went with number two seed Joanne Calderwood who drew Emily Kagan. Gilbert’s second pick as Rose Namajunas who will meetAlex Chambers. Pettis selected Jessica Penne who will meet Lisa Ellis, in a rematch of all things. Gilbert Melendez picked Heather Jo Clark who, SURPRISE, is paired with Felice Herrig. Justine Kish went to Team Pettis and will meet Bec Rawlings. Team Melendez drafted Angela Magana who will get Aisling Daly.
Dana announced two $25,000 performance bonuses and a fight of the season bonus. The coaches got to spend some time with their team. It was off to the house for the gals. They picked rooms and played in the pool. The first fight was announced. Team Melendez was up first to choose and Gilbert put his number one pick Tecia Torres up. She will meet RFA veteran Randa Markos.
The conversation in the house delves into why Rose and Tecia are where they are now. Mixed martial arts was an escape for them. The spotlight turned to Torres who was the product of a single mother who sacrificed a ton for her to get to where she is. Tecia broke down and cried while talking about her mother but promised us that it would be the last time until she won the belt.
Randa Markos chatted about moving from Iraq to Canada. She was a youngster during the war torn nation’s days in the 80’s. As a freshman Randa wanted to be on the wrestling team but her parents wouldn’t allow her. She lied and said she was playing volleyball her sophomore year. Markos works as a pharmacy assistant at home and enjoys fishing with her husband.
Fight day arrives! The ladies make their way to the cage. The one thing that is always so weird to me is how quiet it is during the fights. The first round was back and forth. Markos was able to control Torres with takedowns but paid for it by taking damage. Torres seemed a little stiff but stayed active. The end of the round found the ladies in stalemate as the round ended. Close round but my judging instincts would say it went to Torres. Markos dominated the second round with her strong wrestling. She smothered Torres and left her with no offense or options. The third round was close but Markos was a beast with her takedowns. She was so good at not letting Torres have any room to move or try to mount any type of comeback. I would have to say Markos won the fight but who knows when it comes to TUF judging.
The judges rendered the verdict and we have our first upset of the tournament! The number three seeded Torres lost a decision to #14 Markos. Next up should be a good one between Joanne Calderwood and Emily Kagan.
The drama is already brewing, we are learning about these women and the belt is on the line. There is no way this season doesn’t deliver! I’m excited, are you?
Stay close to ProMMANow for all things TUF 20 this season.