When the cast was announced many fans were picking Tecia Torres to win the show and become the first UFC strawweight champion. She already held wins over Rose Namajunas and Felice Herrig. The UFC seem to agree making her the number three seed for the season. It looked like it was all coming together for Torres.
When the coaches picked their teams, Torres was Gilbert Melendez’ first pick and he then chose her to fight in the first clash of the season. Her opponent was the number fourteen seed Randa Markos – who was vastly underrated. Markos proved that she should have been ranked higher with her upset of Torres.
Suddenly Torres was out. In the very first fight of the season she dropped a tough three round decision to Markos. Then a few weeks later, Justine Kish cannot fight because of her knee and Dana White offers the open slot to Torres who of course said yes.
Haters, hypocrites, a twist and second chances
This is TUF and Dana loves to mix things up so of course there was drama. The twist was now Torres had to join Team Pettis which just made everything awkward for everybody. Her old team was pissed at her for getting the second chance and leaving Team Melendez. While many of Team Pettis did not want to train with her, Carla Esparza being the most vocal about this. It made sense given that they were set to fight in the next round if Torres defeated Bec Rawlings. There is also a little history between them coming into the season.
When Torres defeated Herring at Invicta FC 7, Esparza came into the cage, took the mic and called out Torres. It was a little bizarre to see the champion call out Torres after just her fourth professional fight. Now Esparza will get her wish but she did not seem too excited about it.
In fact, no one was thrilled to have Torres back in the mix. What they will not explicitly say is that it was great to have a fighter as tough and talented as Torres out of the picture. With her back in the path to the title is more difficult.
What was the most ridiculous was how the other fighters were acting about it. Citing the unfairness of it and implying that they would have of course refused the opportunity out of fairness. It is just jealousy from the other fighters because they did not get picked by Dana. Torres was the ranked the highest, her fight was the closest and could have gone either way. It made the most sense to put her back in.
It is what you do with it
Just because Torres got a second chance did not mean she was in the next round yet. She had a difficult fight with Rawlings to deal with first. Rawlings is a strong striker with improving grappling skills and always fights with a lot of heart. All Torres got was a second chance, not a magical golden ticket to the next round.
Not only did Torres have a tough fight in front of her but also a new team and coaches. She went to work focusing on getting ready for her fight and blocking out the drama. Pettis did a great job of not allowing the different clashing personalities to get in the way of the training for the team. When it was time for the fight Torres was ready to show why she was the number three seed.
With only two rounds on TUF it is important to start strong in the first one. Torres was able to do that by controlling the distance and space of the fight. She did this by using her excellent footwork and movement. Several times in the round she would slip Rawlings’ punch on the way in. Then land a couple of quick punches and get out before Rawlings could respond.
Torres also used her kicks to the body to score and help control the distance. Rawlings tried to get in close and had her best success in the round with her dirty boxing out of the clinch. There were very few of those moments though. Her ones were in the last twenty-four seconds of the round but they were not enough for her to take the round. It was close but Torres was up going into the second round.
The second round started out like the first with Torres moving beautifully. This is the fighter people were expecting to see this season. One with beautiful movement. Torres was showing great head movement by slipping strikes and amazing footwork. She switched stances effortlessly and showcased some excellent lateral movement.
They were forty-five seconds into the round when Torres slipped another righthand into initiate a clinch. Rawlings quickly grabbed Torres’ neck and tossed her to the ground. Torres got her into guard quickly and was able to push her off without receiving any damage on the ground.
Rawlings got credit for the takedown but needed to land at least a couple of strikes while the fight was on the ground. During her young career Torres has been excellent at getting up quickly when taken down. The exception was the Markos fight.
Back to their feet and the fight fell back into the same rhythm with Torres controlling the fight. With three minutes left in the round Rawlings needed to find away to make the fight ugly.
They spend the next forty-five seconds with Torres landing and moving when Rawlings is able to get in close and clinch up again. It started out well with her landing a good knee and a couple of uppercuts. Then Torres was able to reverse it and put her on the cage. When they separated Torres landed a nice righthand on the break.
There was a minute and half left in a close round that was edging slightly towards Torres. She landed a couple of nice shots slipped another one of Rawlings and they ended up in another clinch. Rawlings landed several nice elbows as Torres went for a takedown which she got. This negated Rawlings’ takedown from earlier in the round. Torres was able to land multiple shots to the body and a couple to the head before they got back to their feet right at the buzzer.
It was another close round but Torres did enough to get the win and cash in on her second chance. She looked much more like the fighter that people were picking to win the show.
Now we are on to the quarter finals with some sick fights ahead. Up first is Herrig versus Markos. While Herrig is the higher ranked fighter I like Markos in this fight. Herrig can say she was not impressed with Markos’ win over Torres but it was more impressive than Herrig’s performance in her loss to Torres last year.
This is a bad matchup for Herrig who as a striker has improved her wrestling but it is not at the level of Markos’. Look for Markos to use her aggression to close the distance and get the fight to the ground. Once there, Herrig will have to work hard to get up as Markos has excellent top control. Markos will continue her upset run into the semi-finals.
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