After a wild opening round, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 29 heads into the endgame tonight (Tues., July 20, 2021) as deadlocked coaches Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega look to claim victory in the inaugural semifinal.
Gilbert Urbina’s absolute rout of late replacement Micheal Gillmore evened the score at 4-4 last week, capping off a four-fight comeback from Team Volkanovski. Bantamweight Ricky Turcios, who defeated Team Ortega’s first overall pick in Dan Argueta, will look to give his squad their first lead against fellow kingslayer Liudvik Sholinian.
The current lineups:
Mitch Raposo, Dustin Lampros, Ricky Turcios, Brady Hiestand
Ryder Newman, Gilbert Urbina, Aaron Phillips, Bryan Battle
Dan Argueta, Liudvik Sholinian, Josh Rettinghouse, Vince Murdock,
Middleweights: Andre Petroski, Tresean Gore,
Micheal Gillmore, Kemran Lachinov
Over in the house, Turcios chats with Bryan Battle about the unique experience of living in the TUF house. Battle speaks highly of his teammate, affectionately referring to him as a “cult leader” for his incredible charisma.
The (presumably) next morning, Team Ortega crankily waits for their coaches to actually arrive. Even Andre Petroski, who’s been quick to stick up for “T-City” and his crew this season, admits that they’re consistently tardy. Josh Rettinghouse says that the team’s “learned to deal with it.”
Where one team seems frustration, another sees opportunity. Volkanovski and his crew absolutely inundate the Ortega locker room with clocks, after which “The Great” sits atop their shelf with a smiley-face clock in front of his groin. Once he finally arrives, Ortega is genuinely tickled.
Gotta say, I approve. Wholesome, harmless, and genuinely amusing.
Now that the coaches are actually in the training center, it’s time for Sholinian’s fight prep. Ortega describes him as a low-maintenance sort of fighter who only really needs the coaches to provide water, while Sholinian himself compliments Turcios’ “crazy” style but assures the camera that he’ll be ready for it.
On Turcios’ side, we get a dramatic view of his meditation session. Volkanovski struggles to describe his fighter, though he has nothing but nice things to say about him. In the first bit of actual gameplanning we’ve seen for this matchup, Turcios claims that his jab will be his key to victory. As far as his own self-assessment, he labels himself a “full freestyle fighter” and highlights the importance of being unpredictable.
Two days before fight night, Dana White recaps the quarterfinals alongside a montage, revealing that their efforts impressed him enough to offer each of the semifinalists a call home. Sholinian has a heartwarming chat with his parents, including a surprise appearance from best friend Vitaliy. It’s nice to see his face light up as he both talks to them and talk about them, even when they torque him by saying Elon Musk populated Mars while Sholinian was incommunicado in the TUF house.
Turcios, meanwhile, calls his dad in El Salvador. It’s another lovely moment, albeit a bit funny since it’s obvious to see where Turcios got his high-energy mannerisms and speech patterns from.
Time for the weigh-ins. 135 on the dot for Turcios, 135.5 for Sholinian.
This week’s flashback covers TUF 27’s John Gunther, complete with screaming alpaca and Gunther’s impression of said screaming alpaca. Good times.
Let’s get some violence going. Still only halfway through the episode, so I’m thinking this goes the distance.
Bantamweight Semifinal: Ricky Turcios (Team Volkanovski) vs. Liudvik Sholinian (Team Ortega)
Round one: Sholinian steadily advancing as usual. Turcios spins him around with a leg kick. Inside low kick this time. Sholinian falling short with his punches so far. One minute in. Turcios shoots, denied, gets buzzed by a jab. Sholinian head kick misses by inches. Jab exchange. Turcios follows up with a leg kick, starting to get his own jab going. Head kick attempt, more low kicks two minutes in. Turcios now doing the pressuring and he shoots against the fence. Two minutes to go.
Sholinian manages to shove him away. Turcios continuing to find success with the jab. Brutal right cross from Sholinian prompts a flurry and shot from Turcios. One minute to go. Short punches from Turcios in the clinch. Sholinian spins him around and separates. Good 1-2 from Turcios, then a nice combination. Really pouring it on at the end of the round. Sholinian turns to complain to the ref and nearly gets wheel kicked in the process. More punches until the bell. 10-9 Turcios.
Round two: Sholinian’s sporting a cut, which he claims is from a headbutt. Let’s see if that affects anything.
Back to trading jabs. Good right hand from Sholinian. Turcios tries a spinning kick, then gets planted on his back by a lovely double-leg. Turcios looking to bring up his guard, landing elbows from his back. One minute in. Turcios tries to elevate, manages to turn onto his knees and stand. Sholinian pressing against the fence. Turcios separates and gets to circling. Good right cross. Jab exchanges. Another sharp right form Turcios, who bites on a feinted shot but turns the sprawl into a takedown attempt. Sholinian sprawls and sets up on top in guard. Turcios Goes to his knees once again and shoots. Sholinian defending with a cradle with a minute to go.
Sholinian turns it into his own takedown attempt. Turcios whacks him with hammerfists from the awkward position. A scramble ensues and they return to the feet. Sholinian shoots, turns it into a rear waist lock. Granby roll from Turcios, who has to avoid a back take. Good elbows behind the back and he spins into top position. Sholinian scrambles up, gets pressed against the fence. Sholinian elbow, Turcios punches. Another big late surge by Turcios. 10-9 Turcios.
Round three: Turcios definitely looks like the more amped of the two, pushing forward with jabs and rights. Sholinian’s own shots seem labored, but he manages to sprawl on a shot and waves Turcios up. Turcios pushing forward behind the jab, lands some more leg kicks. Sholinian trying to find a home for looping right hands. One minute in. Big flurry from Turcios. Sholinian waves him on but getting beaten up on the fence. Good body shots. Now Sholinian finds the mark with a right hand. Good exchange two minutes in. 1-1-2 lands for Turcios. Again. Sholinian pops him with a right hand and gets blasted by combos in return. Sholinian game as hell but Turcios is tearing him up at this point. Two minutes to go.
Right cross lands for Sholinian but it’s not enough to stem the steady tide of punches coming back his way. More heavy combinations for Turcios, walking through Sholinian’s return fire. Head kick attempt from Turcios. Sholinian shoots, denied. One minute to go. Trading labored punches. Turcios tells him to trade with him in the center and eats two monstrous overhand rights for his trouble. They continue to slug until the bell. 10-9 Turcios.
Final result: Turcios def. Sholinian by decision
The victorious Turcios gives us another Shinku Hadouken while a dejected Sholinian marches out of the cage. The sobbing Ortega rep initially refuses his coaches’ attempts to console him, but finally accepts “T-City’s” kind words and a hug.
We’ve got the coaches’ challenge next week, which appears to be a NASCAR pit stop battle, then Bryan Battle vs. Andre Petroski in the first Middleweight semifinal. See you then!