The penultimate episode of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 29 hits ESPN+ tonight (Tues., Aug. 10, 2021), featuring coach Brian Ortega’s latest attempt to avoid a reverse sweep from Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski’s resurgent squad.
Team Ortega suffered its sixth consecutive defeat last week when Bryan Battle choked out top Middleweight pick Andre Petroski, ensuring that “The Great” will see at least one representative in both tournament finals. Looking to halt their takeover is Vince Murdock, who faces Brady Hiestand in the second Bantamweight semifinal.
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,
Andre Petroski, Tresean Gore, Micheal Gillmore, Kemran Lachinov
We start outside the APEX, where Ortega accepts a delivery from a friend who deals in exotic pets: some absolutely gigantic pythons that he releases in Team Volkanovski’s dressing room. Brady Hiestand is the unfortunate soul who first opens the door and completely freaks out, while his teammates quickly follow suit.
Volkanovski initially thinks they’re fake, but gets a bit more animated when he realizes they’re real. At his request, Ortega and his friend put the bigger one over Volkanovski’s shoulders, where it seemingly gets alarmingly close to actually trying to constrict him.
Once the fun’s over, it’s over to Hiestand’s fight prep. Volkanovski has enlisted the aid of Donald Cerrone, who gets a slick highlight package to go along with his intro. He gives the team a pep talk, then joins them on the mats. Everyone involved seems to have a great time.
Back in the house, Hiestand and his teammates talk about Murdock before we get into the latter’s fight prep. Murdock has a heart-to-heart with Ortega, who speaks highly of how his mindset has improved. In terms of actual gameplanning, Murdock focuses on maximizing his cardio and taking Hiestand into deep waters, while Ortega tells him not to let Hiestand tie him up on the fence.
Murdock does, however, admit that he’s dealing with an MCL tear in his left knee. He’s still more than confident in his ability to punch his ticket to the finals.
Before we get to see if he’s right, it’s time for the Coaches Challenge. This season, it’s cornhole. The American Ortega enters with a considerable edge in experience, but the pair are evenly matched in the early going. “T-City” racks up a 6-0 lead, only for “The Great” to tie it up soon after. Ortega scores eight unanswered, but Volkanovski starts to claw his way back into it.
Unfortunately for the Aussie, it’s not enough, and Team Ortega walks away with some extra dough thanks to a 21-11 victory. He even asks Dana White for some extra money, then shares that with Team Volkanovski in his kindest moment of the season.
Fight prep resumes on Hiestand’s side. He admits that he enjoys being the underdog, and Volkanovski works to get him ready for Murdock’s sharp counters. “The Great” believes that his charge can find the finish if he gets his hands on Murdock and drags him to the mat.
No drama at the weigh-ins, where Hiestand enters at 134.5 and Murdock hits 136.
This week’s flashback covers TUF 20, where Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez coached a pair of all-female teams. We get to see some violent highlights, culminating in Carla Esparza’s dominant submission of Rose Namajunas on the Finale.
Before we get to the violence, it’s time for Murdock and Hiestand to call home. Murdock catches up with his six-months-pregnant wife, but despite her mentioning a puppy, we are cruelly denied any sight of them. We do, however, get a touching story about how they got married before his brain surgery, as they didn’t know what would happen afterwards. Their wedding photo is delightful.
Hiestand, meanwhile, calls his mother and brother. Said brother is extremely eager to learn whether Hiestand’s rolled with coach Craig Jones and is very excited to hear that he has. It’s a very wholesome call, and Hiestand seems pleased that he got the opportunity to make it.
Less than 15 minutes to go before the episode ends, so it looks like we’ll be getting a finish. Let’s find out.
Bantamweight Semifinal: Brady Hiestand (Team Volkanovski) vs. Vince Murdock (Team Ortega)
Round one: Murdock circling, Hiestand launching kicks. Well-timed double-leg from Hiestand puts Murdock on his rear against the fence. Murdock swatting him with hammerfists from his back. Hiestand manages to settle in guard. One minute in. He passes to side control, dropping elbows. Brutal upkick from Murdock. Hiestand continuing to ride well, retakes side control. Two minutes in. More elbows and punches. Murdock tries to scramble up, gets caught right back in the same position. More good GnP. Two minutes to go.
Hiestand looking for his back, gets it, then hammers him with left hands until the ref intervenes.
Final result: Hiestand def. Murdock by TKO (punches)
On the stool, Murdock informs the doctor that he blew out his previously injured left knee in the “first f*cking minute.” Hiestand’s over the moon, and Dana White admits that he’s looking forward to his clash with Ricky Turcios in the finals.
Team Ortega, meanwhile, carries Murdock back to the locker room. He admits that losing that way “sucks,” and he’s incredibly broken up, admitting that it’s getting harder to handle the constant setbacks in his career.
Just one episode left, which will see Gilbert Urbina square off with Tresean Gore in the second Middleweight semifinal. Same time next week!