The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 31 was back on the air for the final time earlier tonight (Tues., Aug. 15, 2023) on ESPN, marking the season finale of the long-running combat sports reality show, featuring head coaches Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler leading respective squads of lightweight and bantamweight contestants. If you missed tonight’s episode you can catch an immediate replay available on ESPN+ (sign up here) or you can save yourself an hour and just read our complete recap below.
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We kick things off at the APEX facility and Coach McGregor is preparing Rico DiSciullo for his semifinal bout against Cody Gibson. DiSciullo is the only fighter from the “Notorious” squad to win a fight this season so Mac is giving him a little extra attention in practice. DiSciullo refers to Gibson as a “really tough challenge” but also identifies multiple holes in his opponent’s defense — making him vulnerable to “big shots.”
We kick it over to the TUF house and Coach Chandler arrives to host a Louisiana Crawfish Boil. In the distance we can see some of the contestants playing pickleball. Chandler claims he ate “about 60” crawfish and then immediately starts searching for beer. I felt like that was a setup to promote McGregor’s new Irish Stout but alas, he just wanted a cold brewski.
Later that night, “Notorious” takes his squad to Hanks Fine Steaks in Las Vega for a fancy-shmancy farewell dinner. Not surprisingly, the restaurant is housed inside the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa, which is owned by the Fertitta brothers. Everyone at the table takes turns saying nice things about one another and they end with a toast — and $1000 in casino chips. I’m a big fan of crawfish but I think would have preferred to be a part of Team McGregor on this night.
Time to switch gears and focus on the fight. Gibson is working through a knee injury and it doesn’t sound like Chandler is confident of the victory, even though he reassures Gibson, “you’re gonna win.” The 35 year-old “Renegade” claims he can win most fights on his jab alone, which doesn’t sound like the best gameplan considering what happened to Hunter Azure, who was ranked No. 1 in the house until he ran into DiSciullo on Ep. 8 (recap here). Gibson appears to be cranky from the weight cut and starts yelling at Brad Katona for ... just about everything. Katona insists the bad blood is “rooted in fear” and I feel like we are getting set up for a potential finale between these two at UFC 292 this weekend in Boston.
Time for the weigh ins and everything goes according to plan: 135.5 for Gibson and 136 for DiSciullo. Both fighters get to call home for 10 minutes to talk to their respective families and Gibson got a little weepy when he saw his kids. DiSciullo kept it together a little better and used his call home to “recharge.”
Time to fight:
135 lbs.: Rico DiSciullo (Team McGregor) vs. Cody Gibson (Team Chandler)
Round 1: No touch of gloves and a feeling out process. DiSciullo opens with a thudding leg kick. Then another. DiSciullo lunges forward but appears to slip and fall down. Gibson seizes the opportunity, jumping on DiSciullo and dragging him to the floor. Quick scramble and Gibson takes his back. Body triangle applied. DiSciullo in big trouble. Gibson looking for the neck, can’t find it, so he blasts away with punches. DiSciullo squirming his way in defense and Gibson grabs the neck, then switches to punches. Coach Chandler screaming at Gibson to keep the body triangle. DiSciullo still has first-round cardio so he’s able to twist and turn his way to freedom but Gibson still on top. Side control for Gibson. DiSciullo wiggles out but that allows Gibson to jump on his back for a second time. DiSciullo in survival mode. DiSciullo flips to his back but Gibson rolls him back over and starts dropping bombs. McGregor screaming HALF GUARD RICO! HALF GUARD! Gibson pounding away. DiSciullo miraculously escapes out the back door (Gibson rode a little too high) but can’t find his footing, giving Gibson a chance to drag him right back to the floor. Gibson dives on top and locks in the arm-triangle choke. DiSciullo groans, taps, then screams the “slip” cost him the fight. He was losing that round 10-8 and had no answer on the ground so I’m not sure that’s an accurate assessment but that is just my opinion.
Final result: Gibson def. DiSciullo by submission
Here’s where we stand heading into the final fights at UFC 292:
TUF 31 Semifinals:
155 lbs.: Austin Hubbard (No. 2) vs.
Roosevelt Roberts (No. 3)
155 lbs.: Kurt Holobaugh (No. 4) vs.
Jason Knight (No. 1)
135 lbs.: Brad Katona (No. 2) vs.
Timur Valiev (No. 3)
Rico DiSciullo (No. 4) vs. Cody Gibson (No. 4)
TUF 31 Finals:
155 lbs.: Austin Hubbard (No. 2) vs. Kurt Holobaugh (No. 4)
135 lbs.: Brad Katona (No. 2) vs. Cody Gibson (No. 4)
Who will be the next “Ultimate Fighter?” Find out at UFC 292 this weekend in Boston!