Wow. Emotional episode. Anyone who watched it knows what I’m talking about. For everyone else, I won’t spoil it yet. This one is all about Jessica and Roxy.
The Ultimate Fighter is such a staple of mixed martial arts entertainment now that we sometimes forget how it fits into the careers of these athletes who have been competing for years. Jessica Rakoczy and Roxanne Modafferi have different, yet equally extensive backgrounds. Rakoczy is a world boxing champion and Modafferi is revered as a pioneer of women’s mixed martial arts. For most of us, we’re seeing these women for the first time but it’s really just the next step in their already incredible journeys.
Before we get to the meat of the episode, there’s an appearance by Dennis Hallman who, unfortunately for him, was apparently brought in to play Ronda Rousey’s "monster of the week" (just think of Rousey as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"). Even more unfortunate, he doesn’t seem to know his lines. Edmond Tarverdyan gets his jimmies rustled for the second consecutive week and this time it’s Rousey’s turn to step in for her teammate. She calls Hallman out for picking a fight when he knows it would get Tarverdyan kicked off the show. This would be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that she’s essentially putting Hallman in the same sort of situation where she can say whatever she wants without fear of reprisal. Hallman disappears after that and we can only assume that Rousey literally devoured him.
I sometimes wonder why Dana White is still featured in the credits when the fighters themselves have been cut out. Other than the ego stroke, it is fair to say that he plays an important role every year. On this particular episode, he has to be the babysitter for Tarverdyan, refusing to leave the gym parking lot until both teams have departed peacefully. There’s a lot of shouting and threats and White says there will be a resolution some day. No hyping Rousey/Tate II here, no sir.
Hey, I made it through that whole scene without mentioning that time Hallman wore a Speedo. Oh...damn it!
It’s training time and the elephant in the room is addressed: girls and guys need to train together more. The motion is put forth when Modafferi requests that Raquel Pennington turn down the intensity as they grapple, which makes Pennington feel like she’s wasting their time. That’s easy for her to say, considering she’s a large bantamweight while Modafferi is really a flyweight. Miesha Tate decides to let the guys and girls mix it up (brown chicken, brown cow!) and everyone seems to be up for it, especially Sarah Moras. Moras goes full speed at Louis Fisette, until he’s had enough and takes her down. In his testimonial, he comes off a little too proud of his "beating" (his words) of Moras. Say it with me now: Lives with parents! To Moras’ credit, she shrugs it off and is happy that the training has brought the team closer together.
Shayna Baszler and Modafferi share a cool moment practicing Japanese and Baszler expresses her love and admiration for her one-time opponent. See what I’m saying about this show being a part of a journey? There is this whole history that these women have together and it informs all of their interactions in the house. Baszler shows her soft side, reminiscing about the time she defeated Modafferi and then Modafferi took her for a tour of Tokyo right after. Roxy really brings out the best in everyone.
If the last episode was all about Chris Holdsworth, this one is indisputably the Roxy show. She breaks out the Japanese, needing subtitles like she’s Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and that’s just the beginning of her showcase. When Anthony Gutierrez says he wants to get "a handful", Roxy coyly replies "A handful of what?" Gutierrez is left speechless. Just to show that she’s not all sunshine and lollipops, she crushes a defenceless juice box.
In her defence, the juice box was being kind of a prick.
In a testimonial, she espouses the virtues of smiling, explaining that the muscle movement sends a message to the brain to release stress relieving chemicals. She also reveals that she was inspired by "Dragon Ball Z". Someone should set her up with Marcus Brimage. Her positive message is capped off by a corker of a quote:
Modafferi: My parents always said: "If you shoot for the stars, you might reach the sky." I like that saying.
Also, crocodile socks.
My body is producing a lot of endorphins whenever Roxy is on television.
On the flipside, we have Rakoczy who carries around the emotional baggage of a tragic upbringing. She breaks down talking about her abusive step-father and the subsequent death of her mother. According to her, her mother died six months after Rakoczy moved out. The body was cremated and the cause of death was never discovered. The step-father moved to Cuba. It’s tough to watch, but there are some heartwarming moments for her in the episode. Aside from her dedication to her son, Rakoczy acts as the de facto mother of the house. Not too many contestants who can claim to have done that before.
Ultimate Fighter house, forever unclean!
Four episodes in and Rakoczy is the first to go straight bikini on the scale. Step up your game, fellas. As for Roxy...
Modafferi has a unique way of dealing with pre-fight jitters, creating a giant doll out of toilet paper rolls that she dubs "Plato". Despite being an inanimate object, he still has more charisma than the entire cast of TUF 16. Forget Holdsworth, Plato might be the breakout star of this season. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll be seeing him in the UFC’s flyweight division as he looks to be about 124 pounds light, give or take a pound.
His wisdom is palpable.
We get another scene with Julianna Peña writing a teammate a letter. The raucous, frat boy reactions of last week are replaced by a genuinely tearful reaction from Modafferi. I’ll take that trade off.
Rakoczy starts off smart, keeping her distance and changing levels. At the first sign of pressure, she gives up a takedown all too easily. Interestingly, Modafferi refuses to commit to fighting from Rakoczy’s guard, instead hopping around until she gets side control. Rakoczy exerts a lot of energy, but she can’t shake Modafferi. The positions get reversed, though Modafferi is still controlling the action and threatening with arm bar attempts. Rakoczy avoids a heel hook with a cool looking forward roll. Modafferi has the first 10-9.
Roxy over pursues and gets rocked. This time, Rakoczy listens to her coaches and stays standing. She has also been getting away with some serious fence grabbing. I understand that it is instinct taking over, but the referee messes up by not taking a point away. Modafferi looks tired and after some sloppy grappling it is Rakoczy who ends up on top, though Rousey doesn’t approve:
Rousey: No, Jessica! Why would you jump into the f**ing guard?!?
Stunningly, Rakoczy uses raw power to Modafferi off of the mat and deliver a power bomb. A follow-up right goes unblocked and the fight should be over. I’m going to hunt down this ref for allowing Modafferi to take unnecessary punishment. Finally, it’s called off. Grrr...
Everyone is heartbroken for Modafferi who yells out in disappointment. Tate matter of factly says "Oh...poor Roxy." On any other season, I would scoff at a coach reacting like that to the end of a fight but man...poor Roxy. Modafferi calls Rakoczy over and after words of encouragement are exchanged, Rakoczy helps her up. It’s getting dusty in here. On the way back to the locker room, Modafferi asks that she be left alone. Baszler walks up to embrace her and the two veterans break down. Seriously, dust is getting directly in my eye right now.
The Team Rousey locker room is in a good mood after a fight for once and Rakoczy does a funny dance to celebrate. There’s no good screenshot, but she’s a middle-aged white woman dancing on national television so you can fill in the blanks yourself.
Rakoczy brings one home for Team Rousey (and Team Canada!)
One more fun note: I popped into Roxy’s chat room (IRC y’all!) after the episode aired and not only was Modafferi there, but the "Queen of Spades" herself showed up. I asked her for a response in regards to viewers who might think she comes off as arrogant and she said "tell them my retort to knowitalls (sic) is a middle finger." Make of that what you will.
Next week: Louis Fisette v. David Grant! Fisette is in full douche mode with the sunglasses indoors. Must...support...fellow Canadian...ugh...