The Ultimate Fighter returned with a bang with its new season 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 to headline the third episode, as Alexander Volkanovski matched up Ryder Newman (3-1) against Tresean Gore (3-0). Team Ortega’s Gore won a decision, dominating Ryder with his aggressive kickboxing.
The second Bantamweight fight was announced at the end of that episode, with Dustin Lampros (5-0) of Team Volkanovski and Vincent Murdock (12-4) of Team Ortega. The fourth episode saw those two get after it, with Vince Murdock finding a knockout victory just over halfway into the first round.
The last episode ended with a verbal back and forth between the coaches, with Volkanovski upset over Ortega’s late appearance. Ortega boiled it down to Volk just being pissed over his team’s four straight defeats, and the action is certainly picking up.
The next Middleweight bout was announced following that, as Ortega chose his own Kemran Lachinov (10-3) to face off with Bryan Battle (5-1).
Following a quick recap of the last bout, the fifth episode, entitled “Hard Headed”, picked up right from where the last left off. We were shown training footage and a personal breakdown of each of the fighters competing, getting into interviews and videos from back home, learning more about the personalities of both athletes.
Bryan Battle, featured in this episode’s fight, hails from my hometown and is a personal friend of FF’s very own Chris Carpenter, so please excuse any biased commentary on my part!
Battle, (5-1), is a well-rounded threat with a slick submission offense and developed top control. His striking is aggressive, with powerful hooks and nice utilization of range. His work ethic and range are his key advantages in this bout, with an advantage on paper on the mat.
Kemran Lachinov (10-3) cannot be described as anything other than brawler. He constantly moves forward with a relentless gas tank and an inhuman pace, able to succeed in a pocket brawl for a full three rounds. He has three submissions to his name, though he often isn’t the one to drive the fight to the mat. Kemran’s gameplay for this fight is to bring the bout into the pocket and trade.
Both fighters made weight successfully, so there was nothing left to do but fight.
The first round saw Kemran moving forward with his usual constant aggression, while Battle sought to do damage from the outside with his kicks and long combos. Kemran made attempts to mix it up in the clinch and mat as well, though he was unable to secure a takedown on Battle. The chin of Kemran was on full display, eating everything Battle threw at him, though he absorbed his fair share of strikes.
The second round saw more of the same, with an even higher pace from Kemran, as he sought to close the distance. He was unsuccessful for the most part, as he basically walked into Battle’s punches. He had little answer for Battle’s kicks either, particularly his leg kicks, and found little relief on the mat. The bout lasted the full two rounds, with Bryan clearly up on the judges’ scorecards with his striking volume.
When the cards were read out, Bryan Battle emerged with a unanimous decision, moving him onto the semi-finals. Lachinov will remain in the TUF house to train under the tutelage of Ortega.
This was the first win for Team Volkanovski, slightly improving the 4-1 playing field. As the episode wound to a close, the next bout was teased. Ortega decided that the next Bantamweight clash to take place would be Dan Argueta (5-0) against Ricky Turcios (10-2), which will undoubtedly result in a wild back-and-forth.
Tune in next Tuesday for the coverage of that episode!
Categories: The Ultimate Fighter