Randa Markos pulls off the upset to start the season
Randa Markos came into this season as one of the lesser known of the other fighters. Even the UFC did not seem to regard her very highly ranking her 14th, matching her up against one of the favorites the 3rd seeded Tecia Torres. The only loss in Markos’ career was to her teammate on the show, Justine Kish, at RFA 12 on AXS TV last January. While Kish won the close battle, Markos fought with a lot of heart. It was going to be a tough fight for Torres and Anthony Pettis had the chance for the upset in the opening fight to take out Team Melendez’ highest ranked fighter.
Gilbert Melendez chose his top seeded fighter and his first pick to try to guarantee control of the next fight. It seemed like the logical choice but Markos was ready to disrupt those plans. With the upset by her over the top ranked Torres, it was like a liver shot to Team Melendez and it got Team Pettis rolling. Now with a 4-0 start they are in control at that moment and it all started with the battle between Markos and Torres.
Don’t necessarily call it an upset
At a TUF 20 media day Melendez let it be known that he was not happy with the seeding format and particularly with Markos’ low ranking. “I was happy with my first pick,” Melendez said. “But seeing the matchup she got, I knew that Markos wasn’t the 14th seed. I knew [Markos] was one of my top-six picks. I saw one video and it had one of my buddies grapple with her. And I know right there that she was top six. I would have had different seedings.” Anybody who had seen Markos fight going into this season would have had her in the top ten.
As Melendez pointed out she has very strong grappling that comes from her wrestling base but she is also improving in her standup. Markos fights with heart, tenacity and is very strong-willed. The win over Torres makes Markos the new dark-horse. She did the most important thing in a tournament and that is win the first fight.
The best fight of the season so far
Four fights into the season and this is the only fight that went three rounds. One of the great things about the third round on TUF is that each fighter knows what they have to do to win the fight and that is win the round. It is different third round than any other fights in the UFC. We have seen situations where a fighter thinks that they won the first two rounds and coasted in the third only to lose the fight. You never know what is going on in the judges minds. Going into the third round each fighter knew they had won one round on the judges cards. They were not equal rounds and Markos had the momentum going into the third.
The opening round was back and forth with Torres having a slight edge in the standup while keeping Markos at bay in the grappling. Then she had a moment on the ground where she landed several consecutive elbows while they tied up. They did not do a lot of damage but they definitely scored points for her. It was an action filled and entertaining opening round to the season. They proved that at fight can be exciting when it goes to the ground.
It was a close round but accurately scored for Torres as she did enough overall to take it. However, it was also not a round she could feel over-confident that she won it. Melendez said as much that she needed the second round to be sure. It was good and accurate advice from him for his fighter.
Markos had other plans for the second round and exposed a chink in Torres. In her young career, Torres has always been able to get up quickly when the fights go to the ground but those fights were not against wrestlers. In her pre-TUF fights her opponents had strong submission games and it is easier to escape the bottom when you have someone who gives up position to go for a submission.
This was the first time we saw Torres face a strong wrestler with great top control and Markos dominated her in the second round with it. Torres fought back but could not escape Markos and the round ended with Markos in full mount and dropping elbows down on Torres. If there was another 5-10 seconds left in the round than the fight is probably stopped or at least opens up the possibility of a 10-8 round.
Of course the third is the hardest to score
The one downside to the third round on TUF is when the round itself is difficult to score. Of the three rounds the third was the closet of them. It was an excellent back and forth battle to determine who would move on to the next round. Pettis thought it was scored accurately while Melendez thought his fighter won it.
In the first 30 seconds of the round each fighter landed a couple of jabs. They both were tired, the second round was a grueling one, but they were still trying to win the fight searching for an opening. Torres had been the more precise striker during the fight while Markos had used her power and timing to rush in to create her openings.
You could clearly hear Team Pettis cheering for Markos. They were chanting her first name and while that will not win you the fight it does not hurt you to have people cheering for you especially when you are tired and need to dig deep.
As they continued to circle around Torres was a little more defensive and had an intense look in her eyes. While Markos looked slightly crazed and was more aggressive. That slightly crazed look was augmented by her hair. At this point Markos looked like some new horror heroine finishing off the monster in the movie.
Then Torres would come forward behind a flurry and Markos would dance away avoiding the strikes. Moments later their roles would reverse as they continued to try to gain an advantage. With 3:30 left in the round neither had established themselves in the round. You heard Melendez calling out, “We’re winning.” It seems more to influence the judges than a declaration of what was happening in the fight.
At this point Markos has the center of the cage and is stalking Torres. In a round with little action to separate the fighters octagon control can be the difference maker. If you had to lean towards one fighter it seemed like Markos was more the aggressor as she was dictating the fight. There was still time left in the round but with each second that slipped by the slightest edges started to mean a lot.
As she circles away to her left, Torres threw a one-two that Markos slipped and they end up in a clinch for a moment then break apart. Now there are three minutes left in the round and they both are in the center circling closer towards each other. Fakes and feints. Fakes and feints from both fighters.
The first two rounds had been a battle of aggression and each fighter taking shots from the other. Now the final round was a battle over controlling the distance and the space. Each fighter had also diffused the other’s weapons slightly. Torres was attempting almost no kicks unable to risk the takedown after the second round. While Markos was not blitzing in willing to eat some strikes as she could not risk it. Torres had stopped several takedowns and a couple of exchanges like that could give her the round. Now they were battling over who could get inside of the others space and time to gain the edge.
Again it is Markos that takes the center of the octagon and has Torres circling on the outside. Then Markos came forward behind a jab that missed and a right arm that clipped Torres slightly. Torres responded with a body shot. Markos just missed a knee but as they separated she did land a solid right hand the best strike of the round for either fighter.
Torres dropped slightly against the cage and they end up in a clinch and Markos landed a knee to the body. Torres ended up driving Markos against the cage. They struggle for position with Markos trying to turn her and Torres trying to hold her against the cage. It is a grueling battle and both fighters were digging deep. The corners are yelling and again we hear Ran-da! Ran-da! but now there is also Te-cia! Te-cia!
There are two minutes left in the round. Torres has her against the cage but it has been purely a struggle for control. Neither fighter had been able to land any strikes from this position. It was an even battle with Torres able to maintain the slight advantage. They finally separate and they both took deep breaths. There is 1:51 left to determine a winner. At this point Markos had the slightest of edges. Torres had made it close but did no damage so far and Markos had that right hand.
Pettis called out, “one takedown wins the fight Randa.” It is a good read of the moment as there is now 1:39 left and time is slipping away. One big move from either fighter could take the round and the fight. Torres circled first to her left then switching stances and back to her right. She tried to launch an attack but Markos defended it and used the moment to shoot in.
Torres sprawled and defended the takedown. Then it was Torres that drove forward sending Markos back into the cage. They remained tied up when they got off the cage and again Torres seemed to have gained an advantage and it looked like she was going to be on top when they went to the ground. Instead, Markos used the momentum to toss Torres and she comes out in half-guard.
Torres fought frantically from the bottom desperately landing little strikes and searching for submissions. As Torres tried to escape Markos was able to slide around to her back in side-control. After a few seconds Torres stood up and Markos moved fully to her back and got the two hooks in quickly. Torres got Markos down but she was still on her back and Markos drug them to the ground.
They stayed attached in some weird tangled up position and it ended with Markos able to land a couple of blows and on top. With just the last few seconds of the round left Markos once again worked her way to mount and landed one final elbow at the horn.
Both coaches think they have won the final round and the fight at the end. It is easiest to see it for Markos. She did the little bit extra in the final round. Markos controlled the space, dictated the action and did the most damage in the round. The judges agree and she took the UD and moves on to the next round. She will face the winner of the Felice Herrig and Heather Clark rematch, setting up the first matchup of the second round. By taking out one of favorites in the first fight Markos got the season off to exciting start. The win also announced her presence as one of the new favorites for the title.
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