The Ultimate Fighter kicked off its historic 18th season tonight on Fox Sports 1.
As the first season to feature female competitors alongside the usual slate of male participants, this installment of The Ultimate Fighter possesses a built-in hook for viewers, and the debut episode wasted no time sinking in the barb.
Upsets defined the elimination-round matchups, as veteran women and consensus favorites Tara LaRosa and Tonya Evinger were both sent home at the hands of younger, less-tested fighters in Raquel Pennington and Sarah Moras.
Sixteen men and 16 women squared off in the tournament's opening round, and fans were treated to a variety of finishes from these bantamweight hopefuls. Featuring quick submissions and closely contested decisions, episode one adequately set the stage for a successful season of The Ultimate Fighter.
Jessamyn Duke defeats Laura Howarth via submission (triangle choke)
Jessica Rakoczy defeats Revelina Berto via submission (omoplata)
Peggy Morgan defeats Bethany Marshall via TKO (domination)
Roxanne Modafferi defeats Valerie Letourneau via submission (rear-naked choke)
Raquel Pennington defeats Tonya Evinger via submission (guillotine choke)
Shayna Baszler defeats Colleen Schneider via submission (armbar)
Julianna Pena defeats Gina Mazany via decision
Sarah Moras defeats Tara LaRosa via decision
David Grant defeats Danny Martinez via submission (armbar)
Michael Wootteen defeats Emil Hartsner via decision
Tim Gorman defeats Lee Sandmeier via TKO
Chris Beal defeats Sirwan Kakai via decision
Josh Hill defeats Patrick Holohan via decision
Chris Holdsworth defeats Louis Fisette via submission (arm-triangle choke)
Anthony Gutierrez defeats Matt Munsey via decision
Cody Bollinger defeats Rafael de Freitas via TKO
After evaluating the talent cageside, coaches Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate went to work and picked their squads for the upcoming tournament.
Rousey won the coin toss and elected to choose the first matchup, gifting the first pick to Tate. Here is how the selections shook out:
Once the teams were set, Rousey called a quick conference with her confidants and decided on the season's first official matchup.
Brimming with confidence, Rousey matched up her first pick, Shayna Baszler, with Tate's first pick, Julianna Pena. The winner of this matchup will be the odds-on favorite to win the tournament in the women's bracket, and she will also grant her team and her coach significant momentum moving forward.
Rousey's pick was bold, and it showed that she is unafraid and unintimidated in these early stages of competition.
A list of results can only tell you so much about a fighter or a matchup, so here are some major takeaways from episode one of The Ultimate Fighter's 18th season.
- Tim Gorman obliterated Lee Sandmeier and proceeded to exude a bit of Junie Browning-esque confidence/craziness after the fight. He's good, and he knows it.
- Peggy Morgan said in her post-fight interview that she sometimes looks in the mirror and thinks, "Damn, I wouldn't want to fight me." After her first-round annihilation in the elimination round, such arrogance may be justified.
- Roxanne Modafferi is just the best. She's a nerd who teaches English in Japan and happens to be a pretty damn solid fighter as well. Her quirkiness should add a nice dose of comedy to the upcoming season.
- Ronda Rousey pouts a lot.
- Jessamyn Duke elicited high praise from UFC President Dana White, who said she's "not just a tall, skinny girl (but) like, a tall, strong girl." Eloquently put, prez.
- Chris Holdsworth possesses a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and instructs in the fine art at Marc Laimon's renowned academy in Las Vegas. You probably don't want to hit the mat against this guy, a point illustrated by his submission victory in episode one.
- Cody Bollinger showed off some insane submission defense before crushing Rafael de Freitas late in their fight. With his strong wrestling, powerful hands and ridiculous ability to escape submissions, Bollinger is the early favorite to represent Team Tate in the finals.
- The teaser for next week's episode showed some crying, some bickering and some ill-advised antics at the house. Yep, The Ultimate Fighter is back.
What did you think of the first episode? Who do you favor to win the men's and women's brackets? Sound off, and we'll talk about what we learned from episode one.