The male cast has been a pleasant surprise. After the first episode, I assumed they’d be pushed to the side in favour of the females to make the most of a fresh idea. But Louis Fisette, Anthony Gutierrez and, of course, Chris Holdsworth have made the most of this opportunity and for better or for worse have established identities that the fans can latch on to. Whenever these guys get their shot in the UFC, we’ll already have an idea of who they are and that can only help their careers.
As good as the men have been, the women have been spectacular. Not only have all the fights been good, but their personalities have shined to the point that I can throw out vague descriptors and you’ll probably know who I’m talking about: The nerdy one. The fashionista. The grizzled veteran. The mother. That’s not to say that they’re one-dimensional, rather that they have hooks that draw you in and allow for further embellishment.
Am I the only one who has been pondering how an all-female show would have looked? At the very least, I’m confident that such a format would be embraced in the future. You go girls.
In a quirky twist of fate, Jessamyn Duke finds herself facing off with a woman she was supposed to fight in her pro debut, Raquel Pennington. This week’s fight essentially hypes itself, so that gives us time for more important matters.
Julianna Peña is bored and that means it’s time for a makeup and wardrobe overhaul! The "dolling up" of Pennington contrasts nicely with her background. Interspersed with shots of Peña applying eye liner is Pennington’s testimonial, where she elaborates on how being a homosexual affected her identity and family life. It’s on the nose, but it works. This makeover segment is an Ultimate Fighter first, though I’ll bet Georges St-Pierre offered to spring for some mani-pedis at some point during TUF 12.
Pennington is testing fate by rocking some extraordinarily tall stilettos the week of a fight. Luckily, she and Sarah Moras manage to escape injury. Their stylist is less than impressed.
Peña: Come on! You girls look like frickin’ linebackers.
Patrick Willis is more graceful than this.
Team Tate’s guest star this week is esteemed Muay Thai trainer Melchor Menor. Anyone who tuned in part-way and thought that was Cung Le, congratulations: You’re a racist.
Miesha Tate says that Pennington is the strongest girl on the team, but a slow starter. In a two round fight, that is problematic. Just to recap, Pennington got into the house by submitting one of the elimination round’s most well respected fighters, Tonya Evinger. She looks good sparring with Cody Bollinger and...hold up...
What in the hell is going on with the shorts on this show?
...what was I saying? Oh yeah...
The fighters are hooked up with an awesome looking party and before you ask, no, Roxanne Modafferi doesn’t don a bikini in this episode. Roxy, you coy seductress. There are some nice slow motion shots of the Hooters girls and Tate (yowza!) that make up for it. I guess. *sigh* What’s Holdsworth up to?
But of course.
Someone is missing and it turns out to be Duke who decides to stay home and focus on preparing for the fight. Say it with me now: BOOOOO! Kidding aside, Duke has a lot in common with Pennington. Her past is littered with other people trying to decide what she should be. She is a tall, thin, pretty woman and that naturally led to modeling and acting gigs. It didn’t take. Mixed martial arts, by nature of it being an individual sport, encourages fighters to be themselves and that is what draws people like Duke and Pennington to it. That, and the fact that they’re a couple of bad ass chicks.
Back at the party, Ronda Rousey does a dorky referee dance in honour of Herb Dean and "Big" John McCarthy. While I’m sure it will make for a lovely animated gif, it is somehow neither cute nor sexy nor endearing to me in any way.
I’m leaning more towards "embarrassing".
A drunken Gutierrez causes chaos in the house. He’s screaming for no reason and jumping into the girls’ beds. Pennington is pissed especially with a fight coming up. When she confronts him, he gives her the Shaggy defence. As punishment, the girls surround Gutierrez when he wakes up in the morning and flip over his mattress. I’m not sure how being toyed with by a trio of amazons is punishment.
I’ve had dreams like this before.
Take one look at Duke’s frame and you can see why she was born to strike. I find it interesting that in the footage we see she’s training with Peggy Morgan, one of the few girls who can match her dimensions. Wouldn’t you want her to spar with a shorter, stout opponent to better prepare her for Pennington? Couldn’t they just have thrown Manny Gamburyan in there? As tall as she is, Duke admits that she needs to use her range better.
No weigh-ins this week, but we do get a better look at Duke’s physique.
Holy s**t, she is ripped.
Duke starts off like she’s supposed to, throwing a lot of kicks and scoring points. She ends up getting a standing guillotine, but is hesitant to commit to it. That’s a smart decision as I’ve seen plenty of fighters kill their arms early in a fight going for a guillotine submission that just isn’t there. If you’re not comfortable doing something, don’t do it. They get off the cage and the action doesn’t stop. I love the way Duke comes forward. She’s like the Terminator (Summer Glau, that is).
Every time Duke goes to clinch, Pennington blasts her. That doesn’t always work unless you have the hand speed for it, which she does. Pennington’s volume one-ups Duke’s precision in my books and I give her the first round 10-9.
In the second round, Duke is really struggling to keep Pennington outside. I could see how the fight might be close, but Pennington is pouring it on. For a while, it looks like Duke can’t land anything hard. Pennington takes two big knees to the face and I realize that she just might have an iron jaw. I thought Pennington got both rounds, but it goes to a third and I’m not complaining. The story is the same as the second round and Pennington is peaking at the right time. I actually give her the fight 30-27. Incredible output from both girls.
The other fighters love what they saw. Shayna Baszler sums it up with some unintelligible grunts. Now that I think about it, that’s how I sum up a lot of exciting sports moments. Like when you see a nasty dunk, you just go "uuuuuunh" or "WHOOOO!" The fight draws Griffin/Bonnar comparisons and I think we all need to settle down.
Rousey flips Tate off, which comes off as ridiculous, especially after such a riveting contest. It’s one thing to be playing for the cameras; it’s another to be begging for attention. That moment was for the fighters, not her. It is nice to see her consoling Duke, who makes no excuses. She’s just frustrated that she didn’t finish.
I saw many people picking Duke and Pennington to make it to the finals after they were seen with Dana White at the Mayweather/Canelo fight. I wonder if this changes your mind. Maybe he just wanted to reward them for putting on what will likely end up being the fight of the season. There’s still a good chance that Duke is brought back as a replacement (Jessica Rakoczy has a nagging shoulder injury) and wouldn’t it be fitting if these two got three more rounds on a bigger stage?
Her first stitches. Her first win in a UFC cage.
Next week: Tate picks Canadian Josh Hill to face Englishman Michael Wootten. For the colonies! By the way, this also means that the last male fight will be Cody Bollinger vs. Anthony Gutierrez and the last female fight will be Sarah Moras vs. Peggy Morgan.