We’re two fights down, and one big massive impending coaching staff brawl into the 18th season of The Ultimate Figher now. With episode 4, we get more coaching drama, as well as Roxanne Modafferi taking on Jessica Rakoczy in the second women’s quarterfinal bout. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
We rejoin our teams after the fight selection, starting with Team Armbar. Coach Rousey is not happy that for the second week in a row, one of her injured fighters has been selected to do battle. It is then revealed that Rakoczy suffered a separated a/c joint in her shoulder during her preliminary bout with Revelina Berto. “Ragin'” is unfazed by this, and has Coach Rousey’s backing. Back in the locker room for Team Cupcake, Roxy Modafferi thanks her team in Japanese, and assures them she will give it her all. When Julianna Pena tries to dump on Rakoczy’s ground skills, Modafferi is quick to show humility and refuses to underestimate her opponent. “The Happy Warrior” is glad to be selected for the third fight, and feels confident that she will continue the building of her team’s momentum. In a cutaway, Louis Fisette gives what may be a less-than-accurate assessment, claiming that Team Tate is relaxed and on the same page, while Team Rousey is on the verge of imploding. The issues with Pena from the last episode seem to contradict his statement, but we will see how things go.
After everything is done, we see Tate talking with Dennis Hallman, who she has trained with in the past and has brought in as a guest coach. As they leave, we see Hallman giving the eye to Rousey’s lead trainer Edmond Taverdyan, who responds in kind as Tate narrates the scenario, saying that the fiery Armenian was trying to stare him down as he has done to the rest of her coaching staff. We then see footage of Taverdyan and Hallman exchanging numbers, offering to fight any time, with the one-time speedo afficianado then challenging the Team Hayastan coach to step into the cage with him right there. Taverdyan went along, noting that it seemed like Hallman was trying to get him kicked out of the show, an assertion that was supported by Team Rousey members in their post-episode blogs. They also noted that, contrary to what was shown, Hallman had been engaging in staredowns with Taverdyan that entire day. Regardless, Ronda Rousey stepped in and prevented her lead coach from stepping into the training area with “Superman,” and instead confronted him herself. She told Hallman that if he really wanted to fight Taverdyan, to do it at a time when it would not give his friends a professional advantage as Hallman talked mostly-inaudible trash as he was not miked. What I did see was the former UFC welterweight smirking the whole time, blaming the situation on Taverdyan and saying that it would be a death sentence for him. As the exchange was going on, members of both teams’ coaching staff walked up to provide back-up if necessary. As the current and former UFC fighters neared the end of their exchange, we see Miesha Tate walk in with an expression somewhere between bemusement and disappointment. We hear her narrate about how she never expected things to be so bad, but said that Rousey descended into a “piss fit” upon her team losing the first fight. We cut back to the end of the exchange, with “Rowdy” telling Hallman that if he wants to be a man, to do it when the cameras aren’t around. With Taverdyan already ushered away, Hallman tries to look big, claiming he’ll wait for the cameras to leave.
We are then treated to a monologue from Ronda who talks about how disrespecting members of her team is not something that is taken lightly, and that they find a way to make people pay. She states that she’s the only one who can officially fight, and that it will be against Tate. After she’s done, we see the all the coaches with Dana White. Miesha Tate is calling for an apology from Edmond, who feels that Team Tate is instigating things with their talk. Tate claims that nobody has talked at all (not necessarily true, see last episode’s lounge scene), which Taverdyan turns back on her, saying that the Team Cupcake coaches “can’t talk, because you f–k up already the way you talk.” The Armenian then accuses Team Tate of bringing in people to talk and start things for them, while Miesha calls for an apology from him, which garners a call for an apology from Hallman as well. We cut to Dana White, who blames the whole situation on Bryan Caraway and his threat on Twitter last year. We cut back to the scene, with Coach “Cupcake” calling for another apology from Edmond, claiming he threatened her boyfriend off camera, to which he responds that he only said, “I’ll see you.” He says that it’s not a threat, and that Team Tate latches on to little things he says. After more back and forth, he-said, she-said drama, everybody eventually gets to the parking lot, where “Uncle” Dana literally has to play babysitter and lecture the coaches. After receiving assurances that no further pranks or drama will go forward, we move on.
Next up is a Team Tate training session, which begins with noted hard-sparrer Raquel Pennington complaining about Roxanne Modafferi’s desire to go lighter. When “Rocky” goes to vent her spleen about it to Coach Miesha, who tries to calm her down, explaining that not only is Modafferi smaller than the rest of the women on the team, she learns in a different, more technical way as opposed to being just being shown something once and going for it. We cut back to Pennington, who talks about wanting to be able to spar with the guys because they’re stronger and quicker. In response to this, “Cupcake” (finally) decided to start pairing up men and women for sparring. Pennington is placed with Cody Bollinger, Modafferi gets Josh Hill, and the fearless Sarah Moras is placed with self-admitted parental sponge Louis Fisette in the initial pairings. Both Hill and Fisette get cutaways, detailing how they don’t like sparring with women and not feeling like they go hard enough. Fisette also details how Moras goes 1000% in sparring, and claims he took her down and “laid a beating on her.” The beating, however, looked more akin to the kind of slapfight that can occur during a BJJ street self defense class. We cut to Moras sparring with Bollinger and saying that she talks smack when she’s on the bottom. We cut to “Cheesecake” talking about how training with the guys is what she does back at Toshido MMA in Kelowna, home of TUF 17 castmate Michael Hill and former home of Rory MacDonald, and that it brings the team closer together.
Back at the TUF house, we see Jessica Rakoczy tending to a wound on the calf of teammate Davey Grant while Jessamyn Duke narrates, talking about how “Ragin'” has become the “house mother” of the show. Rakoczy, in a cutaway, agrees the she is the motherly type, as we see footage of her cleaning around the TUF house, including scrubbing out a bathtub and pulling Anthony Guttierrez’s “dirty ass” out of her bed. Shayna Baszler adds to the lovefest, saying that she takes care of the house, and that everyone in the house would fall apart with out her.
As we segue into another training session with Team Armbar, we see Rakoczy doing solo work with a swinging tennis ball hung from the ceiling as she talks about her determination to get the 1st win for her team. While at the training center, the former boxing champion discusses how training has been difficult for her due to the shoulder injury she suffered in the preliminary fights, and how it frustrates her. We jump to Coach Ronda, who re-iterates her displeasure with her opposing coach’s strategy of picking off injured fighters, but that what “Cupcake” doesn’t know is that, “Jessica doesn’t give a f–k,” and can separate herself from all the mental chicanery going on. We see footage of Rakoczy working on her ground game with Rousey and Jessamyn Duke, as well as sparring with Ronda in the cage, while both of fighter and coach assert their confidence going into the match. “Rowdy’s” last words as the segment ends are, “We will show everybody that fighting with integrity isn’t a disadvantage.”
Later, at the TUF House, we find Roxanne Modafferi giving her old friend Shayna Baszler some Japanese lessons. We get a voiceover from “The Queen of Spades,” talking about her first time meeting and fighting Roxy 8 years ago in Japan, when Modafferi was considered one of the top women in the sport. Baszler got the win, but in “such Roxanne fashion,” ended up being shown around Tokyo by “The Happy Warrior,” who also said that she hoped the win would give Shayna enough of a push to be famous. Modafferi gets her turn to speak next, detailing her story of going to Japan to teach English and train MMA 8 years ago. The 10 year veteran of the sport talks about how she had to come and try out for TUF, as she wants to reach the top of anything she attempts, which in this case is the UFC. Josh Hill is shown next, praising the unassuming Modafferi’s kindness, and saying that if seen on the street, people would never take her a fighter. After a clip of Modafferi in crocodile socks messing around with Peggy Morgan, we jump to Jessamyn Duke, who praises Roxy’s purity and genuine nature. “Sharkbait” Gutierrez also chimes in, after we see him getting shot down by Modafferi again, praising her positive attitude and fun take on life while we see the pair swordfighting with spoons. Finally, we return to Modafferi, as footage of her playing around with Shayna Baszler and her NERF gun is shown, talking about her nickname, and encouraging people to physically smile, as it will help stimulate their brains in a positive manner.
It’s time for another Team Tate training session, “The Happy Warrior” talks over the footage, detailing how she got into martial arts for fun as a youth. She started Tae Kwan Do at 13, inspired by Power Rangers and Dragonball Z, before transitioning to Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, before finally being introduced to the UFC. While in college, Modafferi made the decision to pursue a career as professional fighter, and moved to Japan in an effort to work, train, and fight since a day job would be necessary at that stage of WMMA’s development. Now, with The Ultimate Fighter, she’s hoping to finally be able to be a full-time fighter. We segue now to Coach Miesha, who talks about Modafferi’s strengths as we see footage of her training with Team Tate’s lead striking coach, Master Thong of Next Generation MMA. Tate praises Modafferi’s ground game, and feels that she’ll be ready for Rakoczy, no matter where the fight goes. Modafferi finishes off, saying that while she knows her opponent is a boxer, she still needs to be prepared for anything as “Ragin'” submitted her opponent to get into the house, but is still aiming to finish the fight in the first round. As the segment ends, we see Modafferi, in typical fashion, telling “Sharkbait” her training session was excellent, as she crushes a juice box for emphasis and laughs.
That night, in the Team Rousey Ladies Room, we start to learn more about Jessica Rakoczy. When asked if she went to school, “Ragin'” reveals that she only finished high school, and mentions that she had a “really terrible stepfather, but that made me the person I am today.” In a cutaway, Rakoczy starts to shed some light, in tears, talking about how her step-father was abusive to her mother, brother, and herself, and that she moved out at age 15, somewhat disappointed in her mother for not being stronger. Around Christmas-time 1993, while Rakoczy was staying nearby her parents’ home, she received a phone call telling her that her mother was dead. Jessica breaks down into tears, unable to go further into the story, as we fade to images of her warming up in the UFC training center. After Rakoczy regains her composure, she talks about being a “crazy kid” who didn’t care about anything, but was saved by a friend who brought her to a boxing gym. Through boxing, “Ragin'” was able to reclaim her life, going on to claim 8 world boxing championships after going professional. Now, at 36, this is her last and only shot at making the UFC. This moves into Rakoczy working with Manny Gamburyan and another Team Rousey coach in the cage, who are working on a good defensive strategy that will allow her to work her boxing. The Hamilton, ON native admits to being concerned with “The Happy Warrior’s” ground skills, but is confident that if she sticks to her game plan, she will be able to fight her own fight.
We go to the weigh-ins, with both women not only making weight, but coming in below the target. Louis Fisette feels that Roxanne is a gamer, and will take the fight with her ground skills. Jessamyn Duke makes the claim that Jessica’s hands and footwork are the best of anybody in the house, period, and that her technical striking will create issues for her Team Tate opponent. When it’s time for the traditional face-off, “The Happy Warrior” breaks out her nun-chaku while Rakoczy produces Shayna Baszler’s NERF gun and had some fun before assuming their positions. This marked the first time Modafferi has been seen with anything resembling a hard look on her face in the show to date. We cut to Peggy Morgan, who feels that Rakoczy will get the KO over the much-loved Modafferi. Dana White finishes the segment off, stating that while Roxanne has “all the jiu-jitsu,” Rakoczy’s hands are equally lethal, and that her ground game shouldn’t be under-estimated.
It’s Fight Day Eve in the house, and we see Roxanne Modafferi keeping herself occupied with a mass of empty toilet paper rolls, which is justaposed with Jessica Rakoczy getting her cornrows put in for the fight. Modafferi breaks out the masking tape, and starts putting together the cardboard tubes as Jessamyn questions if this is her standard prefight ritual. We see “Ragin'” discuss the awkwardness of the situation, living and rooming with someone she has to fight, before walking into the room as Modafferi reveals the fruits of her labor, a human-sized TP roll “man” with a paper plate for a head named “Plato.” We next cut to Roxy, who agrees that it’s an awkward situation, especially because she now views her opponent as something of a “big sister.” Everything ends on a positive note, though, with jokes and laughter abounding.
It’s fight day, and we see Rakoczy mentioning in a “talking head” piece that this is the first time she’s ever trained for a fight without her son around. She misses him, and sheds a tear, joking that it makes her, “look like a pussy.” She views winning her fights and this competition as a way of securing a future for herself and her son. We cut to Modafferi, who mentions that she was given a note of encouragement from teammate Julianna Pena, which we see causing a some weeping as she reads it in the house. This earns Pena a thank you and a hug from “The Happy Warrior,” which she returns with a pledge to always have Modafferi’s back.
At the UFC Training Center, we see both women getting ready for their fights. After getting their hands wrapped, we see a brief shots each woman warming up with their coach. The focus shifts to Rakoczy, whom Coach Rousey feels is going to take the fight, saying that she’s looking fast and determined, and stating that, “we see it in her face, this girl is something else today.” This was later backed up by members of Team Rousey in their blogs, with Jessamyn Duke stating that this was the most frightening warm-up she’s ever seen. When the spotlight turns to Modafferi, we get Coach Miesha discussing how Roxy is prepared, and that she will get the takedown, and hopefully the submission. As Rakoczy walks to the cage, we hear her talking about how she is visualizing where the fight will go, and is seeing her hand raised at the end of the fight. Roxanne tried to clear her mind, going by the Jedi Code of “There is no emotion, there is peace,” and hopes to let instinct take over when the fight starts.
Roxanne Modafferi (Team Tate) vs. Jessica Rakoczy (Team Rousey
Round 1 starts with both women exchanging strikes from the outside. Modafferi lands some jabs and a leg kick, and Rakoczy comes back with a 5 shot flurry to the body. “Ragin'” lands some more shots, but Roxy backs up, resets, and drives forward with the jab, eventually taking her Team Rousey counterpart down against the cage. Modafferi lands in guard, lands some shots, and tries to pass guard while Rakoczy uses upkicks and a good knee shield to try and prevent this. Roxanne passes guard and takes side control around 1:20 into the round, and puts the pressure on. The Canadian fighter grabs the fence in order to try and get some leverage, but it doesn’t help as the American ex-pat starts to land some ground’n’pound. Rakoczy grabs the fence again as she tries to escape “The Happy Warrior’s” top pressure, and is warned by the ref as Team Tate’s representative lands more shots. Near the half-way mark, “Ragin'” Rakoczy manages to explode out from under Roxy and get to her knees, but she can’t quite shake off the veteran grappler until 2:50, where she manages to end up on top in Modafferi’s guard. Roxanne goes for the kimura from guard, and then transitions it into an armbar attempt as Rakoczy again digs her fingers into the fence momentarily to try and keep her balance. Jessica starts to lift Modafferi up for a slam, but the vet wisely lets go. This allows the boxing champion to land a hard shot before falling back into “The Happy Warrior’s” guard. Another armbar attempt by Roxanne is easily shucked by the single mother, who takes the opportunity to land some ground’n’pound of her own before getting her posture broken down. Roxy shifts to high guard, looks for a straight armbar, only to have Rakoczy escape again. Modafferi shifts for the leg lock, but Rakoczy rushes out and escapes before getting caught. Both women on their feet, Roxy throws a body kick that misses, then goes for a Sonnen-esque spinning backfist that also misses the mark. Modafferi works her jab, then changes levels and drives forward for a takedown, only to have Rakoczy stuff it against the cage. They clinch, with Modafferi landing a knee strike to the head with 35 seconds left in the round. Roxy scores with the trip takedown at 4:38, and retains top control while landing some shots on the scrambling Rakoczy till the end of the round. 10-9 round for “The Happy Warrior.”
Between rounds, Tate and Caraway tag team and give advice to Modafferi, praising her efforts and telling her to keep getting the takedown in the second round. Edmond Taverdyan is in there telling Rakoczy that she’s too faster for her opponent and can stuff her takedowns, then “box the f–k” out of her after making her miss.
Round 2 begins with both women exchanging shots before Modafferi starts to bullrush in to try and clinch up for a takedown. It doesn’t quite work, as Rakoczy, while backpedalling, rocks her with a hook 14 seconds in. Both women clinch up against the cage, with “Ragin'” landing hooks in close. “The Happy Warrior” tries to pull guard and manages to suck the Canadian in off of some punches, nearly catching a triangle armbar that she releases before being picked up. Modafferi goes for a sickle sweep, but Rakoczy avoids it and both women are back on their feet. Roxy eats a couple of punches before attempting a spinning back kick, which Jessica avoids before coming back with a left hook that drops her American opponent. Rakoczy trying to finish with punches while “The Happy Warrior” drives forward for the takedown. They end up against the cage, Roxy still looking to take it to the mat, and nearing success as Jessica grabbed the cage. At 1:17, the ref tells the pair to stop mid finishing-stream and calls time at 1:19, directing Rakoczy to a neutral corner. Everybody is perplexed, with Team Rousey correctly noting that there were no illegal blows. As it turns out, the referee was issuing a warning for grabbing the fence, noting that he would take a point if it happened one more time. The fighters are reset in a similar position, and the fight is restarted with both women going straight to exchanging knees in the clinch. Roxy manages to get the takedown with 3:30 left, but is reversed shortly after by Rakoczy, who ends up on top in the sprawl position. Modafferi sucks her back into her guard, but is caught working for high guard, lifted up by Rakoczy, and powerbombed down onto the mat with a sickening thud. From there, “The Happy Warrior” is running on auto-pilot, pretty much out, and eating punches and elbows from “Ragin'” who breaks off at a couple of points, expecting the ref to stop the fight. Eventually, he clues in, and the underdog gets the TKO win at 2:32 of Round 2. It was definitely a late stoppage though, and I score it as a 7/10 on the Joe Warren Scale (1 being acceptable, 10 being Pat Curran’s ridiculously late stoppage win over Joe Warren)
Jessica Rakoczy def. Roxanne Modafferi via TKO (Slam+punches) at 2:32 of Round 2.
Team Rousey celebrates with hugs for their victorious underdog while Team Tate tends to their fallen warrior. It doesn’t take long before everybody’s attention turns back to Roxanne, who let out a despairing scream of, “No!” when she came to. Her first words after this are, “Where’s my big sister?” A question she kept repeating until Coach Tate clued in that she wanted to see Jessica, who came right over to her. The pair embraced tearfully, with Rakoczy telling Modafferi that she will only get stronger from this, and “The heart stuff is what makes you a champion.” The members of both teams were visibly emotional as they looked on, giving an ovation as Jessica helped Roxy to her feet. Rakoczy talks about being glad to win, but that it was bittersweet having to get that win over her new friend, Modafferi. She does, however, find gratification in knowing that the win is a step forward for her and her son’s futures. As Team Tate leaves the cage, Miesha tries to give Roxanne a shoulder for support, but Modafferi asks her, “Just leave me, please.” Shayna Baszler comes up and hugs her long time friend, who starts bawling on her shoulder. Baszler, in a cutaway, talks about knowing Roxy’s pain, going out there and working for 10-12 years to try and show everyone that you’re one of the best, and that her friend really is one of the best, and a pioneer. In her post-fight inteview, Modafferi says it wasn’t her day, but that she will work hard to perfect her technique.
After both teams get a moment to recompose themselves, it’s time for the fight selections. Team Rousey now has control, and she chooses to place the dirtiest player in this game, Davey Grant, against Team Tate’s replacement fighter, Louis Fisette. They go for the staredown, with Fisette continuing his trend of not coming off well by donning a pair of sunglasses and standing with his fists on his hips. Rousey felt that Grant was the most ready to go, and noted that his switch has flipped for him to get serious. Tate states that Fisette lost to the best submission artist in the house, and does not believe that Grant has the ground game to handle the training partner of UFC fighter Roland Delorme.
Now, this episode was good, in that it got the coach drama out of the way early. We know, Miesha likes to push buttons where she can and try to look innocent, and Ronda doesn’t respond to any of that well. Now that the pattern has been established, hopefully it can be focused on less. In terms of getting to know the fighters, I thought this is where the episode excelled, as I learned a lot about Rakoczy that I was unable to find anywhere else. The fight was good, and I did not see that ending coming. Modafferi’s two TKO losses have now both been the results of powerbombs, and that has to suck knowing that your only two losses of that nature are both going to live on in the other person’s highlight reels. I don’t have much to say on the Grant vs. Fisette fight, but I do look forward to seeing one of my favorite people on Twitter – and a regular in MMASucka’s daily Tweetstars – Dr. Ann Maria De Mars on the show. So, with all that done, here are the current standings.
Team Tate (2-1)
- Julianna Pena (1-0)
- Sarah Moras
Raquel Pennington (0-1)
- Roxanne Modafferi
- Cody Bollinger
- Chris Holdsworth (1-0)
- Josh Hill
- Louis Fisette
Team Rousey (1-2)
- Jessamyn Duke
- Peggy Morgan
- Jessica Rakoczy (1-0)
Chris Beal (0-1)
- David Grant
- Anthony Gutierrez
- Michael Wooten