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 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 fifth episode saw two Middleweights meet as Kemran Lachinov and Bryan Battle faced off. 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 winning on the judges’ scorecards with his striking volume and defensive wrestling.
Following that bout, 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.
Following a quick recap of the last bout, the sixth episode, entitled “Let the Games Begin”, picked up right from where the last left off with a breakdown of both Bryan and Kemran’s emotions after their fight. We were shown training footage and a personal breakdown of each of the fighters competing in this episode, getting into interviews and videos from back home, learning more about the personalities of both athletes.
Dan Argueta (5-0) comes in from reputable promotions such as the LFA and Combate. Argueta has picked up four finishes and has gone undefeated in his pro career, using his aggressive style of Mexican Judo. Argueta is particularly slick with his hips in scrambles, and uses positioning well when he is in control.
Ricky Turcios (10-2) is one of the most experienced fighters on this season’s roster, spending most of his career in the Fury FC promotion. Ricky has a fast paced style and he definitely uses his conditioning as a weapon. He succeeds well in a brawl or on the mat, where Turcios favors position. Ricky’s advantages come from his unorthodox style and adaptability, able to succeed wherever the fight goes.
After both fighters made weight, all that was left to do was fight.
Wow, did this fight live up to expectations. The first thing of note was Turcios’ reach advantage, though Argueta parried it through his brute strength, which was clear whenever they exchanged on the mat. The fighters went back and forth throughout the first round, with Turcios finding success with his unorthodox, stance switching movement and constant jab. On the other hand, Argueta found success mixing it up on the mat, along with exploding with hooks on the inside. The round was definitely a close one, but I lean Argueta for a nasty flurry at the end of the round.
The second round saw the scrap continue, with solid offense on both the feet and the mat. When standing, Turcios kept the pressure and pace on, constantly moving and firing. Argueta returned fire with heavy hooks and som e dominant top control, though the scrambling between these two was a sight to behold. Yet another tough round to call, with the entire five minutes being a constant wave of output from both sides, but I gave it to Turcios. With a tie on the scorecards, the fighters were sent to a third round.
The third round saw Ricky primarily dominate from top position on the mat, though Argueta kept his defense going. The pace and positioning of Turcios was too much, constantly threatening submissions and ground strikes on an exhausted Argueta. After a wild brawl in the pocket in the dwindling moments of the round, the fight went to the scorecards. The judges gave a unanimous decision victory to Ricky Turcios, 29-28 on all three cards.
Ricky will advance to the semifinals, while Dan Argueta has been eliminated from the competition. He will remain in the house and continue to train with Team Ortega. After a fight this good, he is bound to be on Dana’s late replacement list.
This win appears to indicate a resurgence from Team Volkanovski, who have won two straight following a string of dominance in the form of four Ortega wins. The final Bantamweight contest of the quarter finals was announced at the end of the episode, pitting Volkanovski’s Brady Hiestand and Ortega;’s Josh Rettinghouse on the docket for next episode.
Stay tuned to our home page for next week’s coverage and any news in the meantime, with the highly anticipated UFC 264 card going down this weekend!
Categories: The Ultimate Fighter