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TUF S18:E2 Rewind: Pena eliminates Baszler; coaches rivalry heats up

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This season of TUF is off to a great start so far. We are one episode in and we lost one fighter to injury, welcomed a another one, had one upset; Anthony Gutierrez stepped up as the self-proclaimed house stud, and the Ronda and Miesha rivalry has escalated. Buckle up, and strap yourself in because this is going to be one fun wild ride this season.

You have to feel for Tim Gorman, who suffered an injury that forced him to exit the house, even with his slightly antiquated caveman views on female fighters. It sucks to get so close and then have an injury take it all away, but do not be surprised to see him on a UFC Fight Night card when he heals. Dana likes fighters who show the desire and the heart to fight despite an injury. We wish Gorman a speedy recovery and look forward to his return to the cage.

Gorman’s misfortune opened the door for Louis Fisette who lost via submission to Chris Holdsworth. Fisette fought a very tough fight against Holdsworth and looked better in his loss then some others did in their wins. He will be a good addition to the house.

Apparently all of the female fighters in the house want Anthony Gutierrez, they just do not know it yet. Somebody had to step up and be “that guy” and Anthony did not hesitate. He is pretty enough and is already featured on a NOS commercial. Many people are just waiting for the tension between the sexes to heat up. What they are quickly finding out is that the women are there to train and fight. They have an added pressure as the first female cast on TUF, and they are not going to give the haters any ammunition. As the season progresses though, as Chris Holdsworth says, “you never know.” Until then Anthony was doing his best to entertain.

The first coaching sessions illustrated the differences between Ronda and Miesha. They both got off to good starts and look like they are going to be excellent coaches this season. They both are very candid about their lack of coaching experience and the pressure they feel to their respective teams. It will be interesting to see how they change and adapt as the season progresses.

Miesha was up first and she set a professional but relaxed environment. She let the team know that herself and her coaches are there for them and they want them to be ready for all of their fights. The first training session was a light one as they had all just fought. Miesha had them work on a distance and movement drill, a few other specifics they saw from the fights and then some free time to train at the end. She was viewing it as a recovery day.

Ronda was a lot more serious and at two minutes past their practice start time she was kicking in the door to run Miesha and her team out of the space. My favorite moment was Ronda using cat-like flicks of her fingers as she is walking behind Miesha, who is obviously walking slowly. Whenever these two get around each other they become like petulant teenagers with the sole goal of torturing the other any way that they can. They also are just looking for reasons to hate the other so every little move is a potential slight. This is especially true for Ronda.

The recent athlete that jumps to mind when watching Ronda is Jordan. They both have that fire and that will that is fueled by the hatred of their opponents. Jordan would look for reasons to feel slighted by his opponents so he could hate them, despise them, and loathe them. He was looking for an excuse for tearing out their hearts. Sometimes it was just the fact that they dared to step on the court with him. You see the same in Ronda, she has that same fire and intensity. For many fighters, athletes in general, anger will take them out of their fight. They get too emotional and make mistakes. It is the main purpose behind most trash talk in sports to take your opponent out of their game and force them to make that one key error. Any edge gained at this level can make the difference. Then there are the Michael Jordan’s and Ronda Rousey’s of this world. They use their anger in a different way. For them it does not make them more emotional – it allows them to focus. They become more clinical, more purposeful and their sole being is now focused on how to destroy their opponent. It is like their anger allows every molecule in their body to work in unison to defeat their enemy. Make no mistake, if you are facing Ronda in that moment you are her enemy.

Once Ronda ran Miesha and her team out of the practice space she then addressed the team. Miesha did her talk inside the locker room and was casual. Ronda has hers in the practice space and everyone was lined up. She talked about the importance of the little details, she encouraged them to ask her and her coaches for any help they might need. She also emphasized the seriousness of the show and their training, and that what they do as individuals reflects on the team as well. Then her head coach, Edmond Tarverdyan, said a few words about believing in themselves and their teammates. He is one of the lesser known and underrated coaches in MMA today. It will be an added bonus getting to learn how his mind works on this season.

The fight itself set a pretty high standard for the rest of the season. The two fighters did not hesitate at all and just came at each other. In the opening few moments of the fight Pena landed a couple of shots to the face of Baszler and the fight was on. From the clinch Baszler got the takedown and took Pena’s back. For a moment it looked like it was going to be a quick fight but Pena fought hard and ended up in guard with Baszler on top. Baszler did some damage from the top but Pena fought back and landed some shots from the bottom including a nice elbow. The round was filled with action with Baszler  slightly getting the best of it. Pena did come on strong in the last thirty seconds but Baszler was able to reverse it and ended the round on top.

The second round started out and with both fighters trading blows on their feet. Baszler was able to land a couple of shots but Pena landed more; everything she threw was a power shot. At the 4:29 mark they tied up in a clinch and Baszler attempted a takedown. Pena fought it off and while Baszler was a little off-balance she was clipped with a left hook to the temple and short right to the chin. This seemed to stun Baszler for a moment and Pena followed with a hard straight lead left that had Baszler gasping for air. She landed another combo and the momentum clearly shifted to Pena at this point. She was the hungrier fighter in that moment and fought with more urgency. When she got Baszler’s back she methodically worked her way into position and locked up the choke and the upset win.

One of the elements of dealing with the show is not just the house and the living conditions but you have to fight without your own coaches. You cannot get into the same pre-fight routine and there is no crowd to feed off. This will often hurt the veteran fighter who is more settled into a routine. For the younger fighters it is all new and they are used to the constant change. This is something Sam Alvey talked about hurting him when he was a fighter on the show. He is one who likes routine and order before his fights. When you are fighting at this level just being slightly off is all it takes to lose. Baszler seemed to fall victim to that and the ferociousness of Pena. Baszler may have had the better techniques but Pena had the passion and the intensity on this night and that won her the fight. She showed a lot of heart and drove a dagger into Team Rousey with this upset.

You have to feel for Baszler who is one of the pioneers of women’s MMA. She deserves a spot in the UFC and some believe she should already be in. She has worked hard and been a great ambassador for the sport. She will get another chance, it was just heartbreaking to see her lose in the first fight, but she did get through injury free and anything can happen during the show.

Ronda took the loss very personally and she shared a nice moment between her and Baszler after the fight. She did a good job of helping keep everything in perspective for her fighter. The loss also fueled the fire between them as Ronda was offended by Miesha celebrating the win and vowed, “She’s going to pay for every fucking smile she smirks today.” This is an example of what I mentioned earlier. Ronda takes Miesha celebrating her friends huge upset win and turns it into Miesha celebrating Baszler’s pain. She then uses it as a reason to hate her even more. She does the same thing with Miesha matching up Holdsworth with Chris Beal who has a hand injury. She called it ” some pussy ass shit,” aka, exactly what I would have done but that bitch beat me to it. Everyone including Beal knows that it is good strategy to pick him first.

The episode ended with Ronda informing Miesha, “Just to let you know that smiling at my girls pain today is one more reason I’m going to fucking destroy you again.” Ronda then marched off ahead and Miesha was mocking her walking behind her. I expect Ronda to vow to destroy Miesha for having two eyes and a nose before the season is over. These two women flat-out hate each other and spending more time around each other will only intensify that hatred. Like I said earlier, buckle up because this is going to be a wild fun ride.

An avid lifetime fight fan who loves to write about it. So kick back, get comfortable and let's have some fun! "Wants me to tell him something pretty." Al Sweargen "Going wrong is not the end of fucking things, Johnny. Fuck no! I have comeback from plenty of shit that looked like it was going wrong." Dan Dority "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." Bill Munny

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