Episode 2 of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 18 begins with the customary recap of last week’s premiere, which saw coaches Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate choose four men and four women each following the elimination round.
Rousey threw out a curveball to conclude the episode, pairing her No. 1 pick, Shayna Baszler, against Tate’s top choice, Julianna Pena. That fight will go down tonight, but first, the fighters must move into their living quarters.
Once everyone has settled on a room and a twin bed, several of the housemates grab their bathing suits and jump in the outdoor Jacuzzi.
“A little hot tub time machine action going on,” Chris Holdsworth muses while lingering in the door frame. Let’s just chalk that one up to nerves and some lacking social skills, shall we?
“You never know,” he continues in a confessional. “There are eight guys and eight girls in the house. There are six weeks. I know there are some single girls in the house and some single guys, so we’ll see what happens. There are a couple attractive girls, but we’ll see how things play out.”
OK, never mind. We’ve crossed into creeper territory now.
The next day, Tim Gorman discusses the moral implications of going “100 percent” against the women in training. While Gorman is not comfortable with the idea, Baszler and Sarah Moras urge him to treat them the same as he would male training partners. For his attitude, Moras vows to tap Gorman in practice.
Team Tate meets up at the gym, and coach “Cupcake” takes it easy on her pupils in order to allow them to recover from their fights. She quickly notices that Gorman suffered an injury in the qualifying round and pulls him aside. Gorman confesses that he tore his hamstring, but he vows to continue fighting in the competition.
Rousey arrives with her posse and hollers at Tate to get her team out of the gym at exactly 6 p.m. Tate is irritated by the move, but Rousey believes taking charge in such a way will pay psychological dividends down the road. Rousey tells her team to take the competition 100 percent seriously, and assistant coach Edmond Traverdyan gives them an additional pep talk before taking the fighters through their paces.
Anthony Gutierrez plays coy while pretending to woo just about every woman in the house, but his overblown advances have fallen on deaf ears. Meanwhile, Baszler confesses to her teammates that she believes Pena is in over her head, and Pena appears to be concerned about Baszler’s level of experience. Teammate Raquel Pennington tells her to stop worrying about Baszler’s skills so she can focus on preparing herself for the fight.
Baszler details her background, explaining her “Queen of Spades” nickname came from her sleight of hand card magic. The veteran recounts how her first fights were held in warehouses for just a few hundred dollars, soon after expressing her relief and excitement that all of her hard work has paid off and that the UFC is finally promoting women’s MMA.
On the other side, Pena confesses that she is feeling the pressure of being in the house. She also reveals that she takes pleasure in accenting her femininity in response to the stereotypes that often come with being a professional fighter. Tate’s charge found MMA through a cardio kickboxing class and never looked back. Both Washingtonians, Tate and Pena have previously trained together. “Cupcake” hopes Pena can keep the fight standing to avoid Baszler’s vaunted submission game.
Meanwhile, UFC President Dana White brings Gorman and Tate into his office, where he informs Gorman that his hamstring injury will prevent him from competing. Though Gorman protests, White tells him straight out that he is done. Louis Fisette, who was submitted by Holdsworth in the qualifying round, will take Gorman’s place.
Both Baszler and Pena make weight, and Baszler slips a queen of spades into Pena’s top in an effort to get in her head. On fight day, Baszler makes her intentions even more clear in a confessional.
“I’m not going to lose to her. She doesn’t deserve to be in the same ring as me. She should be coming to my seminars and learning from me,” says Baszler. “She wants to get in the ring and thinks she has a chance. Not going to happen.”
Pena comes out swinging to start the fight and bulls Baszler against the fence, but the veteran takes her down and briefly secures back control before landing in guard. Pena tries an armbar, but Baszler easily defends. Pena then uses a whizzer to stand, though Rousey’s charge puts her right back down and passes to side control. Baszler looks for a guillotine, but Pena rolls with it and lands in Baszler’s half guard. Pena drops some serious elbows and hard punches to the temple before Baszler scrambles and hits another single-leg takedown to end the round.
Both women swing wildly to begin the second stanza. Baszler cracks Pena with a hard knee, but her opponent fires back with a nice straight right hand. Pena then rips off a nasty left hook that stuns “The Queen of Spades,” and Pena now appears to be the fresher fighter. Pena pins the vet against the fence and unloads with knees to the face. Pena hits a trip and passes to side control before taking Baszler’s back. She slides her forearm under Baszler’s throat and gradually finds her squeeze, forcing the longtime pro to tap out.
After the fight ends, an emotional Rousey laments that she cannot take away Baszler’s anguish over her missed opportunity. Baszler is obviously heartbroken, while Pena celebrates with her teammates in the locker room.
“It was my job to make sure that they got through this, and I failed today,” says a tearful Rousey. “I saw Shayna hurting like that, and I saw Miesha just smiling at her pain. She’s going to pay for every smile she smirks today.”
Tate now holds control and picks the next fight, selecting Holdsworth to fight Rousey’s Chris Beal, who is nursing a hand injury.