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Welcome back for Episode 8 of Season 28 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” We begin with Macy Chiasson’s training session, where she is lighting up her training partner while her coach Kelvin Gastelum sings her praises. One of the least-experienced competitors in the competition, she only holds two professional mixed martial arts bouts, both wins, and last won a decision this past May at Invicta FC 29.
Next, we meet Larissa Pacheco. She tells us of her family back in Brazil, where they live in the northern portion of the country. Realizing her future was elsewhere, she relocated to Rio de Janiero, so we take a trip to her home, a small island within the city limits called Gigoia. In a quiet community where she lives alone, she lives to train while working hard with her new family at the Tata Fight Team -- home to a few UFC fighters like Thiago Santos, Polyana Viana and formerly Alex Oliveira.
Back at the “TUF” house, Maurice Greene has dipped into the sauce again, much to the dismay of his fellow teammates. Stumbling around the house loudly at all hours of the night, his disruptive presence is starting to wear on the other castmates and likely the audience as well.
Heading over to Pacheco’s fight preparation, coach Robert Whittaker has confidence in her abilities no matter where the fight goes. The only fighter this season that has competed inside the UFC, she has never gone the distance in any of her 13 fights. A two-time UFC competitor making her debut at 19 years-old and one of the youngest to ever sign with the promotion, her bouts were unsuccessful as she became one of only seven female fighters in company history to get stopped in their first two Octagon bouts.
Her opponent, Chiasson, then shares her own story of living through Hurricane Katrina in her home smack in the center of New Orleans. She takes us through a regular weekend, where she celebrates with a feast on most Sundays with upwards of 30 family members. Backed by a supportive family, she went to college where she informs us that she started training initially in Krav Maga; she was hooked and trains every day at more than one camp.
With Pacheco billed by a teammate as one of the largest featherweights in the house, we finally get a glimpse of a fighter going through a tough weight cut. Surrounded by her coaches and teammates, they all go through the process with her for support. Utilizing every resource at the UFC Performance Institute, she gets down to a weight where she can finish the rest of the cut in the house. There’s no telling how tolling this is on her, but she is showing serious signs of strain and fatigue. Finally, all weight cut questions are answered when both Pacheco and her opponent make weight at the featherweight limit of 146 pounds.
As this is the last fight before the semifinals begin, Justin Frazier and Greene decide to “tailgate” the fight by polishing off a bottle of Patron together. A little bit of trash talk between them and Anderson Silva ensues, and after that passes it’s time for the “Fight” part of “The Ultimate Fighter” to begin.
Tale of the TapeTeam Gastelum: Chiasson is 5’11” 146 pounds, has a 72” reach and a record of 2-0.
Team Whittaker: Pacheco is 5’6” 146 pounds, has a 70” reach and a record of 11-2.
Referee Chris Tognoni oversees the action as we are set to wrap up the opening round of the season. The two meet in the center of the cage and immediately exchange, with Chiasson throwing kicks while Pacheco counters with punches and leans into a clinch. Getting her arms around Chiasson, she presses her against the cage where Chiasson breaks free and the two trade again. After a brief back and forth, Pacheco again engages the clinch and tries to trip her opponent.
On her second try, she lands Ben Duffy’s favorite throw -- a hip toss -- and gets Chiasson down to the canvas. After suffering a few good punches to the jaw while on her back, Chiasson gets back to her feet and presses Pacheco against the cage. Pacheco decides to go for a guillotine and Chiasson throws her to the ground for her trouble. Popping out of the guillotine and establishing half guard, she makes Pacheco pay for that submission attempt. Bullying Pacheco and taking her back, she briefly tries for a rear-naked choke before bailing on it to flatten her out with punches. While Referee Tognoni continually pleads “watch the back of the head,” Chiasson lands seven punches to the back of her opponent’s head before punching elsewhere and then lands at least two more. With nowhere to go, a helpless Pacheco takes several more shots and the ref calls the fight. Chiasson wins the fight by first round TKO, and evens the score to four wins a piece for the teams.
With this win, the season worked out perfectly so far, with two fighters from each team in each weight class advancing, avoiding the prospect of teammates fighting just yet. The meeting between UFC President Dana White and the coaches could not have been more amicable, where they work to pick the matchups together. Each coach lists their best fighters, and in a great bout of matchmaking Dana listens and matches them up exactly in that manner.
This is the first time since Season 17 in 2013 featuring Jon Jones against Chael Sonnen, other than the ATT vs Blackzilians season, where no teammate has had to fight one another in the second round of the competition. Showing a bit of concern for his fighter, Gastelum notices Greene’s state of pure inebriation and repeatedly chides him to act professionally since Dana is in the room. Without further ado, here are the four semifinal matchups:
Heavyweight: Team Whittaker’s Michel Batista vs. Team Gastelum’s Justin Frazier
Featherweight: Team Whittaker’s Julija Stoliarenko vs. Team Gastelum’s Pannie Kianzad
Heavyweight: Team Whittaker’s Juan Francisco Espino Diepa vs. Team Gastelum’s Maurice Greene
Featherweight: Team Whittaker’s Leah Letson vs. Team Gastelum’s Macy Chiasson
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