The Ultimate Fighter returned with a bang last Tuesday with its first episode airing on ESPN+. The 29th season has been titled “The Ultimate Fighter Returns” and features contestants from the Men’s Bantamweight (135 lbs) and Middleweight (185 lbs) divisions. Eight fighters from each division compete in a tournament, with the season’s two winners earning a contract and slot in the UFC roster. The season features coaches from the Featherweight division as champion Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega battling it out on the hit reality show before their fight in the cage.
Note: Spoilers Ahead!
The first episode saw the two teams picked, as shown below. From there, the teams settled into the house and began training before the first fight of the season. Per Ortega’s choice, this ended up being a Middleweight contest featuring Aaron Phillips (5-2) and Andre Petroski (5-1). Petroski finished the fight with a mounted guillotine choke in the first round, advancing to the semifinals.
The first episode ended by teasing the next fight to go down, this being a Bantamweight clash between Mitch Raposo (5-0) and Liudvik Sholinian (9-1-1), from team Volkanovski and Ortega, respectively. The second episode, titled “Stake Your Claim”, picked up right from there.
Following brief fighter introductions, the fighters weighed in and faced off. Both Liudvik and Mitch made weight successfully and their face-off held tension with their compatible wrestling styles. From there, the fight was on.
The first round took place entirely on the feet. Though the three inch height and reach advantages of Liudvik were apparent, the footwork and quick movement of Raposo kept him out of range. Liudvik kept forward with relentless pressure, though all his takedowns were thwarted by Raposo’s counter wrestling. This was a clear round for Raposo, who found success unloading combinations with well-timed pocket entries.
The second round began like the first, with Liudvik pressuring and Raposo winning out in striking and denying takedowns. That is, until Sholinian took a double leg entry and turned it into a body lock to secure the takedown. Though Raposo scrambled well, Liudvik kept him locked in a backpack position with one hook in, riding out top position to secure the round.
With Raposo scoring the first round and Liudvik the second, there was a draw with the typical two-round format, necessitating a third round. Liudvik took little time to secure a takedown and return to top position. He rode this out for most of the round, laying in some ground and pound while Raposo attempting to reverse. Though referee Jason Herzog returned the two to their feet with thirty seconds left in the fight, Raposo leapt on an ill-fated guillotine to find himself once again on his back. This round was scored for Liudvik for his sheer dominance in top control.
This resulted in Liudvik Sholinian winning the fight by decision and advancing to the semifinals. Liudvik displayed oppressive wrestling and grinding top control against a skilled wrestler such as Raposo. Mitch has been eliminated from the competition, but will still live in the TUF house and train under Volkanovski’s tutelage.
Volkanovski got the opportunity to pick the next fight to take place. He put his top Middleweight pick Ryder Newman (3-1) against skilled striker Tresean Gore (3-0).
Categories: The Ultimate Fighter