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 second episode featured a Bantamweight clash between Mitch Raposo (5-0) and Liudvik Sholinian (9-1-1), from team Volkanovski and Ortega, respectively. Raposo started strong, taking home the first round with his quick pocket boxing and defensive wrestling. The second round saw him struggle with Sholinian’s top control, sending them to the third round to even the draw. Sholinian won out, utilizing his wrestling and top control time for the decision win. This put Team Ortega up 2-0 over the champion’s team.
The next Middleweight bout was teased in the final moments of the second episode, as Alexander Volkanovski matched up Ryder Newman (3-1) against his own Tresean Gore (3-0). The third episode, title “Bring in the Rhino” picked up right from there, and after a quick recap of the precious fight, we were shown the athletes training.
After personal introductions to the two fighters, each of their advantages were clearly established within the training footage. Newman brings in a high-level collegiate wrestling background with a high pace behind him, training out of Xtreme Couture. “Rhino” held the wrestling advantage, with his aggression and durability being his key traits.
On the other hand, Tre is a skilled grappler of his own, with a jiu-jitsu background, but definitely held the more well-rounded style. He trains out of American Top Team with the Lima brothers, giving him skilled training partners. He is a finisher on the feet and the mat, with furious output and explosiveness. The gameplay for Gore was to keep the fight on the feet and utilize his superior kickboxing technique.
Both fighters have fantastic work rates, with great wrestling and explosiveness behind them, making this a perfect match up. Through the fighters’ face-offs and meetings in the house, there was no animosity displayed as both competitors were eager to show off their full arsenal of skills. Both Ryder and Tresean made weight, with the only thing left to do being the fight itself.
The first round saw the fighters exchange primarily on the feet. Gore was marching Ryder down, attacking with powerful kicks to the calf and head. He kept moving forward with little lateral movement, keeping range with his long jab. Though his striking defense posed some concerns, Tresean was on the right side of volume and held his own when Newman attacked with a takedown at the end of the round.
Both fighters picked up their volume in the second round, but Tresean’s striking advantage was clear. His aggression kept Ryder on his heels the entire time, with his key weapons being his jab and snapping leg kicks. Though Newman consistently attempted takedowns, Gore defended every single one to keep the bout on the feet in his preferred wheelhouse. His volume and accuracy picked up as the bout went on, and the winner of the fight was clear just by looking at the faces of each fighter.
Tresean Gore got his hand raised in a unanimous decision, moving him into the semi-finals. This eliminated Ryder from the competition, though he will remain in the TUF house to train under the tutelage of Volkanovski. This fight moved Team Ortega to 3-0, completely shutting out the champion to this point.
The second Bantamweight fight was announced at the end of the episode, with Dustin Lampros (5-0) of Team Volkanovski and Vincent Murdock (12-4) of Team Ortega. Both fighters love a scrap, so next week should prove fun!
Categories: The Ultimate Fighter