As the quarterfinal rounds get underway on The Ultimate Fighter this week, a team is torn apart when training partners start getting matched up with each other to get to the next round in the tournament that will determine the first ever UFC women’s strawweight champion.
Unlike any previous season of The Ultimate Fighter, the winner of the show won’t just walk home with a nice contract and a future in the UFC. The victor who wins four fights between now and December 12 at the finale will be crowned a champion. With additional reward also comes additional pressure and things are amped up beyond belief this week.
The fallout all begins when UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis has to figure out how to deal with his team when it comes to practices and training. It was a nice moment to see seven of his eight fighters make it to the next round of the tournament, but now that means six of them are going to be fighting against each other to get to the semifinals. Only Joanne Calderwood is left with an opponent from Team Melendez as Rose Namajunas looks to continue her unlikely run towards the title in the next few weeks.
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As strange as it sounds, Namajunas might have the biggest advantage of anybody left on the show considering she has seven teammates who are now dedicated to getting her ready for the next round of the tournament. She doesn’t have any distractions or infighting that could prevent her from being focused. Meanwhile over on Team Pettis, the latest episode shows the squad imploding as boundaries are made and then crossed en route to the first quarterfinal matchup between Felice Herrig and Randa Markos
This is Not a Team Sport
Randa Markos gets ready for her fight
At the heart of mixed martial arts, fighting is an individual activity where two gladiators step into the Octagon and fight for 15 or 25-minutes until one person is declared a victor. But nobody gets there alone and that’s where the concept that MMA isn’t a team sport gets debunked.
No fighter has ever made it to the upper echelons of the sport without a network of teammates, coaches and support system around to get them to the top. Watch any UFC fight whether it’s the main event or the first prelim of the night and inevitably if a microphone comes out in a post fight victory speech almost 100-percent of the time there is gratitude given to the people that got them there.
The Ultimate Fighter is a completely different animal but also a similar beast as the rest of mixed martial arts competition.
For six weeks, the ladies on this season of the show have trained, drilled, sparred and helped each other get ready. The reality was all along that they might be fighting each other in the quarterfinals, semifinals or the finals of the entire show. It’s possible some of them held back in training to prevent a potential teammate from seeing the best of them before the competition. There’s also the chance that without going at full speed before a fight with teammates to help them push to get better, the result won’t be there in the end.
The next episode of The Ultimate Fighter puts two extremely different viewpoints up for the competitors on Team Pettis and the simple fact is neither philosophy is wrong.
One side of the argument says that fighters who are about to step into the Octagon together shouldn’t be training side by side in the moments leading up to the fight. Some fighters need that mental edge of not seeing the person they’re fighting while going through a training camp and that’s not uncommon. Then again there’s another school of thought that says training isn’t fighting and working with somebody who will be an opponent shouldn’t deter the eventual work that has to go into getting a win.
Felice Herrig and Randa Markos each fall directly on one side of this coin or the other and before it’s all done this week, these two teammates will descend into real disdain for one another based mostly on a huge difference of opinion. The fallout drags other fighters in the mix as well as the coaches and this is one episode that absolutely cannot be missed.
Felice Herrig vs. Randa Markos
Felice Herrig is prepared for battle
The matchup this week pits No. 6 Felice Herrig against No. 14 Randa Markos.
Markos proved in her opening round matchup against No. 3 seed Tecia Torres that despite her novice record, she’s anything but No. 14 in this competition. Markos is a fierce wrestler with strong takedowns, submissions and a solid, fundamental striking arsenal as well. Undoubtedly when the rankings were read to start the season, Markos was immediately fueled by motivation to prove the critics wrong. She eliminated Torres, which has to be seen as one of the biggest upsets in Ultimate Fighter history, but it also put the spotlight on Markos as a real threat to take home the UFC strawweight title.
Her opponent, Felice Herrig got through an epic grudge match in her first fight by defeating Heather Clark and judging by what you’ll witness in the upcoming episode there will be plenty of bad blood going into her second fight as well. Herrig seems to react well when there’s a little bit of emotion riding into her fights so the extra intensity may serve her well. Herrig is a veteran fighter coming from a Muay Thai background, although as witnessed in her fight against Clark, she also has an underrated ground game.
This will be a very intriguing battle because Markos was able to surprise Torres as a relative unknown in the opening round of the tournament. The Canadian fighter won’t have that benefit in her second bout against Herrig, but maybe it won’t matter. Markos looked like a legitimate threat to win the gold in her first bout and it might be hard to stop this locomotion from pulling straight into the station for the finale on December 12 in Las Vegas.
All this goes down plus the latest edition of the coaches challenge where Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez go head to head with a boatload of cash on the line to the winner.
The only way to see all the action is to tune into The Ultimate Fighter this Wednesday night at 9pm ET on FOX Sports 1. You don’t want to miss this one.