Season 31 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) was back on the air earlier tonight (Tues., July 18, 2023) on ESPN for Ep. 8 of the long-running combat sports reality show, featuring head coaches Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler leading respective squads of lightweight and bantamweight contestants. Remember, immediate replays of TUF 31 are available on ESPN+ (sign up here) following each episode, or you can save yourself an hour and just read our complete recap below.
Missed last week’s episode? No problem! Get full results and recap videos right here.
We kick things off at the TUF house with Landon Quinones Stewart comparing notes with former opponent Jason Knight after last week’s fight, which Knight won by submission. Dana White shows up on camera to remind viewers that Coach Conor McGregor is poised to make history as the first coach to lose all eight quarterfinal fights. It’s up to Rico DiSciullo to upset Hunter Azure and get Team “Notorious” into the win column. DiSciullo (11-2, 1 NC) is no stranger to White and Co., having competed on Season 2 of the “Contender Series” proving ground back in June 2018. That fight ended in a technical knockout loss to Montel Jackson, but the 36 year-old bantamweight bounced back with two consecutive wins — and two consecutive finishes — to earn his spot on TUF 31.
Coach Conor appears to be spending more time in the gym for this episode, probably because the fate of his team depends on it. It’s worth pointing out that “Notorious” is completely winded after pounding on the heavy bag, to the point where producers are forced to add subtitles to help translate his garbled huffing and puffing.
The 31 year-old Azure (10-3) is also a graduate of “Contender Series,” having captured a decision win over Chris Ocon on Season 3 to earn a UFC contract. His first Octagon victory would come over fellow TUF 31 contestant Brad Katona but a ho-hum record of 2-2 saw Azure set sail in early 2021. In the two years that followed, Azure split a pair of fights on the regional circuit and he comes into TUF 31 on the strength of a decision win over Benjamin Hollier for Fusion Fight League in Boise. Azure is already talking about getting back into UFC, climbing the Top 15, and contending for the bantamweight title. Too soon? He’s a four-time Class B state wrestling champion but managed to get outwrestled in fights against Katona and Jack Shore while competing in UFC.
Both fighters make weight without incident.
135 lbs.: Rico DiSciullo (Team McGregor) vs. Hunter Azure (Team Chandler)
Round 1: No touch of gloves and DiSciullo opens with a thudding leg kick. He whiffs on a cross and Azure briefly shoots but DiSciullo breaks away. Azure eats another kick and shoots, gets denied, gets slugged, shoots again. This time he’s able to drag DiSciullo to the ground and he quickly unloads punches from side control. DiSciullo wiggles into half guard. Azure gets lazy with his positioning and DiSciullo gets back to his feet. Azure all over him against the cage. Punches from both sides and Azure drags him down. Sharp elbows from bottom. DiSciullo trying to roll but gets nowhere. The action starting to slow as both fighters get some air. DiSciullo explodes out and gets to his feet but doesn’t get far. Azure chases and yanks him to the floor. DiSciullo warned for having toes in the fence for leverage. Azure raining down punches. DiSciullo has no answer on the ground except to squirm and shake. Someone just hocked a loogey and referee Herb Dean is flummoxed. Round ends with Azure on top. I have it a clear 10-9 for Azure.
After the round, Coach Conor tells DiSciullo to “find that uppercut.”
Round 2: Azure opens with a leg kick. Then another. DiSciullo swings and misses. Flurry of punches sends Azure in reverse. Azure circles out and looks for the takedown but can’t get it. Colossal overhand right from DiSciullo melts Azure. DiSciullo follows up with a flying double axe handle to his downed opponent. Azure is toast. Coach Conor breaks into a sprint and races around the cage like a maniac, then gets into a shouting match with Rosevelt Roberts.
Result: DiSciullo def. Azure by knockout
Here’s where we stand after Episode 8:
135 lbs.: Mando Gutierrez (No. 1) 135 lbs.: Trevor Wells (No. 2) 135 lbs.: Carlos Vera (No. 3)
135 lbs.: Rico DiSciullo (No. 4)
155 lbs.: Lee Hammond (No. 1) 155 lbs.: Nate Jennerman (No. 2) 155 lbs.: Aaron McKenzie (No. 3) 155 lbs.: Landon Quinones Stewart (No. 4)
135 lbs.: Hunter Azure (No. 1)
135 lbs.: Brad Katona (No. 2)
135 lbs.: Timur Valiev (No. 3)
135 lbs.: Cody Gibson (No. 4)
155 lbs.: Jason Knight (No. 1)
155 lbs.: Austin Hubbard (No. 2)
155 lbs.: Roosevelt Roberts (No. 3)
155 lbs.: Kurt Holobaugh (No. 4)
Coach Chandler and his team of UFC veterans win the semifinal rounds seven fights to one.
Now it’s time for the semifinal matchups and here’s what we’ve got: Nothing! Looks like they are holding the fight announcements (save for one) until Ep. 9. Stay tuned next week for that big reveal, plus the start of the lightweight semifinals featuring Austin Hubbard vs. Roosevelt Roberts!