We’re entering the second season of the revamped Ultimate Fighter and I still miss seeing the fighters’ names in the opening. Then again, I also liked the old song and I think Face The Pain should stay around forever. There’s no accounting for taste.
The first thing I notice is that they’ve added short descriptions for all the fighters, a common practice for reality shows like Survivor and Big Brother. For example, David Grant is shown as "Father of Two Sons" and Jessamyn Duke is "Former Model". I hate seeing people reduced to phrases, but it’s another step towards drawing in and keeping that casual audience. The only disappointing thing is that Peggy Morgan and Roxanne Modafferi are listed given "Literature Professor" and "English Teacher in Japan", not "Giantess" and "Nerd" respectively.
"Angel Grove Resident" would also have been acceptable.
We’re barely five minutes in and it is hot tub time! That escalated faster than an episode of Blind Date. It’s a funny scene and I’d call it out for being sexist if not for the fact that the guys from previous seasons have usually done the same thing. I choose to believe there’s a wink and a nod there too for those expecting cheesecake.
Chris Holdsworth: There’s a little "Hot Tub Time Machine’ action goin’ on!"
Spoiler: Tim Gorman suffers a hamstring injury that forces his removal from the show. To his credit, he tells them he wants to stay even if it means fighting with one leg. This is a huge blow to the cast as he’d already established himself as the house d**k. You know the folks responsible for casting were crying their eyes out. He’d just gone on a tirade about how he didn’t feel comfortable practicing with women and that there was no way any of them would ever submit him. Ah, we’ll miss ya Timmy.
Th-th-th-that’s all folks!
The good news is that his replacement is Louis Fisette. Winnipeg is back in the house! Let’s not forget that the last Winnipegian to make it into the house, Roland Delorme, is now 3-0 in the UFC. Fisette’s "deadbeat son" storyline was too good to not be on the show. His description reads "Lives with Parents". Best case scenario: he doesn’t know how to cook or clean and he drives the rest of the cast crazy. Fingers crossed.
Fisette was beaten by Holdsworth in the elimination round and now they’re on the same team. When he sees him again, Fisette says "...you beat me off once but I’m not going to let you beat me off twice." Phrasing.
The narrative in this episode is a classic David v. Goliath story revolving around the match-up between Shayna Baszler and Julianna Peña. One thing I like about TUF and the UFC in general is that these stories can end with David getting squashed. Baszler is indignant, telling Duke that this fight would never be sanctioned outside of the show and repeatedly boasting that Peña doesn’t belong in the cage with her.
Even the members of Team Tate are aware of the mountain Peña is facing. Peña herself went all fan girl on Baszler when she saw her in Strikeforce, even getting Baszler’s shirt from the show. Raquel Pennington says Peña needs to focus on herself, not her opponent. It’s amazing the reverence everyone has for Baszler. Sarah Moras and Pennington both want Peña to at least put up a good fight; not just because she’s their teammate, they don’t want to have to face Baszler at full strength.
Last week I said the guys were an afterthought, but I have to say they’re doing their best to be noticed. In addition to Gorman’s chauvinism, we have Anthony Gutierrez assuming the role of house playboy. He says Moras wants him too badly for him to be attracted to her, Jessica Rakoczy is a cougar and that he and Duke have exchanged some longing looks despite her having a boyfriend. Modafferi deflects him immediately, saying she’s too invested in her career for romance. Roxy is great.
As overconfident as Baszler is, I really like her. You can see she’s had to develop a strong persona and the single minded attitude necessary to continue pursuing one’s dream after so many dead ends. She has a great line about wanting to mind meld with the viewers so they can understand the struggle and see all the epic battles that she’s witnessed and been a part of.
Peña cleans up nicely and she’s proud of it. You could see why Baszler might have a problem with her. The top pick of Team Tate must seem to her like a "style over substance" personality, someone who is part of the new wave of female fighters who are just as likely to grace magazine covers as they are to headline MMA events. I respect Peña for insisting that a woman doesn’t have to sacrifice femininity to be taken seriously as an athlete. At the weigh-in, Peña is all business while Baszler chooses to stick a spade card in Peña’s bra. Earlier, she explained that her "Queen of Spades" nickname came from her past enjoyment of parlor tricks. She says she gave Peña the "death card".
Baszler says the worst part of fight day is getting cornrows, which...hey, waitaminnit! Is that a staff member doing her hair? What the hell?!?
I long for the days when Rashad Evans played house barber.
Coaches are always advising fighters to be first and Peña takes it to the extreme, launching straight lefts and rights from the bell. Baszler is deathly calm and connects with a counter. The hit doesn’t deter Peña who presses the action against the cage. Baszler scores with a couple of trips, the second one leading to ground control. Peña avoids serious damage, working back to guard. She is a hell of an athlete as her defence isn’t great, but she’s able to use her power to get back to the feet. Other than a short burst of ground and pound, Peña spends most of the round on the bottom and Baszler likely takes the first 10-9.
Peña starts off the second verse the same as the first. Both girls look tired. Baszler’s trips are losing effectiveness and one mistake leads to Peña getting on top of her. The neophyte is incredibly active, eventually taking the back and getting a rear naked choke submission! Team Rousey is stunned. Ronda Rousey: Are you f**king kidding me? In all likelihood, Baszler is the more skilled and well rounded fighter, but youth and athleticism go a long way. Peña clearly had more in the tank and no matter how many fights you’ve been in, there’s not a lot you can do when the body is unwilling.
Rousey’s gamble didn’t pay off. She’s both embarrassed and guilt-stricken over not being able to coach Baszler to a win. I’m a sucker for the manufactured drama and seeing Rousey so deeply hurt by Tate’s celebration is good stuff. Tate laughs it all off. She’s friends with Baszler and you can see she’s expressing joy over her team’s win, not Baszler’s failure. If Rousey isn’t acting, then this should make for compelling television; if she is acting, it bodes well for her upcoming appearance in the next Expendables movie.
Rousey: She’s going to pay for every f**ing smile she smirks today. I’m not sure that sentence makes any sense.
The thrill of victory.
Another clash between number one picks! Tate picks Holdsworth to fight Chris Beal. Holdsworth was a favourite going into the house. Add in the fact that Beal has an injured hand and it looks like things could quickly be going pear shaped for Rousey.