TUF 18: Jessamyn Duke Fighter Blog, Episode 4

Riley KontekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 25, 2013


Note: All quotes and material were obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report through one-on-one between Jessamyn Duke and Bleacher Report's Riley Kontek.

Coming off Chris Beal’s loss to Chris Holdsworth, my team was now 0-2 going into the next female fight with Team Tate in control. At the picks the two smallest women were chosen, Roxanne Modafferi and Jessica Rakoczy, my teammate.

It was a fight we would have picked, but we were going to wait until the last female fight because, unfortunately, Jessica hurt her shoulder in the elimination fight against Revelina Berto. She got caught in an armlock and everyone knew she was banged up. After she won her fight against Revelina, she sat on the bleachers for the rest of the fights with an icepack on her shoulder.

So in a perfect world, we'd have opted for more time for her shoulder to heal. But in the TUF house, you don't always do what you want to do; you do what you have to do.

Jessica couldn’t train to her fullest because of her injury. She could barely move her shoulder or even sleep on it. It wasn’t a secret either because she was constantly icing it. It was her right shoulder so all she could really throw was her left punch, which you saw when she was working on a drill with Ronda Rousey. It wasn’t until she was picked to fight that the coaches even started working her right shoulder and grappling. Team Tate knew she was hurt, and that’s why they picked her. Shades of Chris Beal...

The confrontation of the episode was between Coach Edmond and Team Tate’s guest coach Dennis Hallman, a UFC veteran. At one of the weigh-ins, which they didn’t show on TV, Hallman was staring a hole through Edmond. This was the first time we had seen Hallman and for some reason he decided to try and mean mug Edmond. It’s one thing to glance and catch eyes with somebody, but he was making it obvious.

Finally, Edmond spoke up and said, “What’s your problem man, why are you staring at me?” What you saw on the show was Edmond giving Dennis the look back because he was insulted by it.

In the locker room, Ronda was sure Hallman was trying to provoke Edmond into a fight to get him kicked off the show, which would have hurt our team because Edmond was considered the head coach and Dennis was a temporary guest coach for them. We thought it was a cheap tactic, but the episode only shows Edmond’s reaction, not what provoked him. Trust me, Hallman started it.

Edmond has a temper to begin with, so they knew it would push his buttons, but he kept his cool. Of course, Dana White stepped in and tried to calm the situation down saying things like, “This isn’t what the show is all about, this will make the sport bad, please knock it off.”

After that Ronda gave him her word that Team Rousey would not engage in any further confrontations, respond to any so called "pranks" and that nothing would happen.

However, this kind of antagonistic behavior would continue for the rest of the show.  We just couldn’t react because Ronda  told us not to do it. She said when she gave her word, she meant it, and we had to honor that as her team.We did, but the result was Team Tate would kind of bully us knowing that we wouldn't retaliate.

Going into the house, I didn’t really know anything about Jessica Rakoczy in terms of her personal life or the extent of her boxing career. However, she truly became one of my favorite people in the house because she was very passionate about the sport. She was extremely caring and motherly toward us and she had literally everything coming into the house we would need. For instance, somebody would say, “Man, I wish I had a Q-tip” and bam! She would pull out her bag and grab you one.

Of course, she had a heartbreaking background. What she’s gone through is the reason she has the passion she does for this sport. It really is true, boxing saved her life. Had she not found boxing, she wouldn’t be the person she is today.

You can see her passion in each of her fights. She has the most terrifying warm-up I've ever seen, and it’s because she draws on the pain from her past to give her strength and it makes her fight with a vengeance.

As for Roxanne, you can see how positive and friendly she is on the show. That's her true character, and she's just impossible not to like. Everyone got along with her, and she was really fun to be around.

She was making that toilet paper man in our room and at first I was like, “This is really what you’re doing right now?” Then a couple minutes later, I'm on the floor helping her and having a blast. Her playful outlook and happy attitude are just really infectious. That was great because we needed someone like that in the house.

In the cage, though, Roxanne is one of the toughest fighters in the world. She’s no joke when she fights, and people sometimes underestimate her because she is so nice and friendly. She can take a shot and keep coming forward and she's a serious threat on the ground. Going into the fight, we had to stress to Jessica how dangerous Roxanne really was, which gave her a little fear going in, but that’s a good thing because she went into the fight prepared and not overconfident.

Jessica admitted having Roxanne as a roommate and opponent was kind of awkward, but we sat down at the beginning of the show when we chose rooms and discussed the ground rules of what we could talk about and what we would do when inevitably one of us would be fighting her. Would somebody move rooms?

What we decided was that it wouldn’t be a big deal and we would stick with everyone in the room. I could understand the awkwardness Jessica had though, because I don’t like to be buddy-buddy friends with somebody before a fight because that can lead you to treating someone like a sparring partner instead of an opponent. After the fight, I'm all about being friends but beforehand I need some space. That obviously wasn’t the case with the fight between Jessica and Roxanne.

Fight time came and I thought it was a good, competitive bout. Roxanne won the first round with her grappling and positions. She did get reversed at one point and took some damage, but she still took the round. On the other hand, Jessica is extremely explosive and strong, so Roxanne had a hard time holding her down to do any real harm.

At one point, she had her in a really tight armbar. I think because Jessica was such a handful, Roxanne tired out a little bit in the first round. You could see she was a little gassed in between rounds.

Jessica’s speed and accuracy with her punches were the key to her win. Roxanne threw a spinning back fist which she side-stepped and countered hard in the blink of an eye. At one point, Jessica got back on her feet and was adjusting her shorts while avoiding punches to her head. That’s how quick she is. She was still fresh, and Roxanne was definitely getting a little winded.

The refereeing in that fight was some of the strangest I had ever seen. The way he stopped Jessica in the middle of striking Roxanne and screamed in her face was weird. We thought she was hitting Roxanne in the back of the head. He pulled her off to the side and talked to her, but didn’t take a point.

She did grab the fence unintentionally several times but just because it wasn't on purpose, doesn’t excuse it, so she probably should have gotten a point taken.

You can’t give that many warnings. If you are going to give that many warnings, you have to take a point or stop giving warnings. I don’t think taking the point would have done anything to change the fight outcome, but she probably should have been penalized.

The finish of the fight was crazy. Roxanne was lifted up by Jessica and slammed to the mat. Her head bounced off really hard and you could tell from her eyes that she didn’t know where she was. She got hit again, and it looked like it brought her back to consciousness, which happens. One more punch and she was out again, and that’s when the stoppage came. Sometimes you get knocked out and another strike wakes you back up, and that’s what I think was the case there.

The stoppage may have seemed late because Roxanne looked loopy while on the ground, but she was still throwing her legs up for attacks, and we were yelling for her to back off. Roxanne’s dangerous even when she’s hurt badly and that’s why I think the ref let it go as long as he did. That final punch that earned the stoppage may have been overkill, but the ref was giving her a chance to work. 

The mood after Roxanne lost was pretty crappy. We were elated that Jessica won and Team Rousey had gained control, but we were also extremely bummed for Roxy. There was no excessive celebration; everyone was just concerned that she was okay. Of course, being the awesome person she is, she immediately wanted to see Jessica and congratulate her. She truly is a good soul and a class act.

So finally, we got to pick the next fight and Ronda went with Davey Grant from our team against Louis Fissette of their team. She picked Davey because he was ready and had been asking for a fight. He was peaking in training, which is great because that’s when you get the best performance in the cage.

He’s kind of a goofy guy, and a bit of a roughneck in training. He spars hard, wrestles hard, fights hard and overall trains hard. He loves to bang and he loves to get in there and go. We knew he had to get in there and fight right away.

Louis was the guy who lost to Holdsworth in the fight to get into the house but took Timmy Gorman’s spot when he got injured. We viewed Louis as their weakest fighter, so that’s why we chose him. That being said, his fight with Holdsworth showed he could go hard and would probably be a tough opponent. 

We had a ton of confidence in Davey, which was great for me because, if he won and we retained the pick, I would get the next fight. I was supposed to be next if Chris Beal had won, but that didn't happen. Of course, I was feeling very confident Davey could win, so my excitement started building just knowing I'd have a fight of my own very soon.


**Tune in next week to hear Jessamyn's thoughts on the continued tension between coaching staffs, more in-depth stories from the house and her thoughts on the fight between Davey Grant and Louis Fissette as well as the next female fight pick.