The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) returned to FOX Sports 1 (FS1) last night (Weds., May 23, 2018) for episode six of its first-ever “Undefeated” season. Coaching the cast of 16 mixed martial arts (MMA) hopefuls — split between the featherweight and lightweight divisions — are UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and UFC 205-pound kingpin Daniel Cormier.
“DC” is jumping up in weight to challenge Miocic at UFC 226 in July.
Mike Trizano finally got Team Miocic on the board last week by thrashing Thailand Clark in last week’s episode. This time, Stipe’s top Featherweight pick, Suman Mokhtarian, gets to try to keep the momentum alive at Ricky Steele’s expense.
We start at the house, where Dulani Perry is already running his mouth. Joe Giannetti and Luis Peña get into it with him as he brags that he’s richer than the other fighters and the coaches. We get a priceless clip of John Gunther nervously eating from a bowl and trying not to get involved. Things escalate and Giannetti accuses him of looking for a way off the show.
Perry explains it’s all mind games, which doesn’t exactly make him look better in my book.
Meanwhile, Jay Cucciniello says he wants Luis Peña’s spot. He’s quite proactive about it, working to set up a meeting with Dana White to get his name out.
On to Mokhtarian’s preparation. He’s still nursing his hurt knee, training in a brace. He touts his international experience and his submission variety, showing us footage of his teepee and twister finishes.
Coach Miocic wants him to pressure Steele with his kicks, keep his back on the cage. Mokhtarian claims that, though it might be seen as a “stupid” gameplan, he’ll stand with the karateka.
Steele, sporting kickboxing pants, preps with the rest of Team Cormier. Cormier says he’s a better athlete than one would expect from his quiet personality. Steele has yet to finish anyone as a pro, but we get to see some nice kicks and ground-and-pound in his fight footage.
Cormier acknowledges that Steele is in trouble if he gets taken down and advises him to stay mobile and away from the cage. Steele calls his own footwork “beautiful,” so he certainly believes he’s up to that task.
Back at the house, Mokhtarian talks about his journey into MMA, which began with he and his older brother (current UFC competitor Ashkan) watching the sport. Ashkan, in the throes of drug addiction, took to the sport, and Suman is looking to follow in his footsteps and reach the Octagon.
Ashkan gets subtitles in Suman’s home video, which chronicles the brothers’ trip to Thailand’s Tiger Muay Thai. We also see his home gym, Australian Top Team. He calls his life a “perfect” one, totally immersed in MMA as a gym owner, promotion owner, and fighter. Suman again highlights the important role of his brother in his life.
Rickey Steele’s turn for an origin story. He shares pictures of his daughter with Thailand Clark and Mokhtarian before we move on to his home video. Said daughter plays a starring role in the Boise native’s video, promising to be “the next Joanna Jedrzejczyk.” His grandfather is very positive about Steele’s chances, saying he’ll go far “as long as he don’t get his ass kicked.”
Steele’s a product of SBG Idaho and gives us a glimpse of his workouts, which look suitably grueling.
We’re only halfway through the episode, but it’s already time for the weigh-in. Both Mokhtarian and Steele make the featherweight limit without issue. Before fight time, though, Cucciniello meets up with Dana White to make his pitch. White says he respects Cucciniello’s effort and that he’ll consider it.
With that out of the way, time for face punching.
145 lbs.: Team Miocic’s Suman Mokhtarian (8-0) vs. Team Cormier’s Ricky Steele (5-0)
Round one: Early low kicks from Steele. He’s staying off the cage, just like the doctor ordered. One minute in. Still chopping at that lead leg. Mokhtarian ties up, eats knees to the body. Mokhtarian pressing him into the fence, getting the worst of it, though. Ref breaks them up just over two minutes in. More leg kicks from Steele. Steele grabs an underhook and puts him on the fence, landing knees. Two minutes to go.
Steele still working. Elbow upstairs. Steele looks for a single leg and abandons it when Mokhtarian threatens a guillotine. Steele pressing him on the cage to keep Mokhtarian from bearing down on it. Steele pulls his head out, lands a knee as he eats a right hand. Mokhtarian shoots again. 10-9 Steele.
Round two: Steele keeps punishing Mokhtarian’s left leg. Mokhtarian wading forward, occasionally slinging wide punches. Steele tries a spinning back kick. 2-1 lands for Steele a minute in. Body kick by Mokhtarian. Counter right. Oblique kick from Steele. Head kick. Mokhtarian lands a right hand two minutes in, then they trade hard shots. Steele clips him with the bigger blows and ties up. Two minutes to go.
More good work from Steele. They separate. Head kick from Steele. Mokhtarian tries a head kick as Miocic implores him to keep going. He ducks in for a takedown attempt with a minute to go. Ref breaks them up. Good knee by Steele as he re-enters the clinch. 10-9 Steele.
Final result: Steele def. Mokhtarian by unanimous decision
Here’s where we are after six weeks:
Suman Mokhtarian Jay Cucciniello Kyler Phillips
Joe Martinez John Gunther
Everyone is complimentary of Mokhtarian’s efforts, with Steele claiming he was seeing three of him. Worryingly, Steele says he needs an X-ray of his left foot.
With White in the gym for the fight, John Gunther takes the opportunity to plead for Peña’s spot. Gunther doesn’t sound too confident, admitting he had a “trash performance.” Meanwhile, Steele’s on his way to the doctor for his foot, which he’s had multiple surgeries on before.
Cormier takes the opportunity to tease Miocic about their upcoming bout before they head to the fight announcement: Richie Smullen vs. Alan Zuniga.
See you next week!