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TUF Season 30 Episode 1 Recap

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The Ultimate Fighter Season 30 Overview

The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) has returned for its 30th season this Tuesday on ESPN+. TUF is a reality TV show funded by the UFC that began in January 2005. The reality show features two current UFC fighters as coaches that choose their teams for the season from a pool of up and coming prospects. The prospects then live, train, and compete with each other for a chance to win a six-figure UFC contract. Many of the UFC’s past and current superstars have competed on or won the show like Forrest Griffin (19-7), Rashad Evans (20-8-1), Michael Bisping (30-9), Matt Serra (11-7), Nate Diaz (20-13), Tony Ferguson (26-6), Michael Chiesa (18-6), Kelvin Gastelum (16-8), Kamaru Usman (20-1) and many more. This season’s coach Julianna Peña (11-4) was actually the first female to win TUF and also is the current UFC women’s bantamweight champion.

This season features a coaching matchup between the aforementioned current women’s UFC bantamweight champion Julianna Peña and the former champion Amanda Nunes (21-5).  Peña won the belt back at UFC 269 last December via submission to pull off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the UFC.  Now, the two are returning to action as coaches before they face off in a rematch after the conclusion of this season’s TUF. The rematch does not have a set date yet but it is rumored to be taking place around this July or August.

This season’s TUF will feature prospects at men’s heavyweight and women’s flyweight divisions.

TUF 30 Episode 1 Recap

The first episode of the 30th season starts off with some heart warming moments of the fighters saying goodbye to their families before all communication is cut off from the outside world. Juliana Miller is shown facetiming with her family, as she looks to win the tournament for her ill grandmother and mother. Heavyweight Bobby Maximus is also highlighted in the first few minutes of the episode. Maximus was on The Ultimate Fighter Season 2 and looks to become the oldest fighter to compete in and win the show. Also shown is Mohammed Usman, one of the heavyweight competitors who is the brother of the current UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. The viewers are then given an inside look behind both Team Peña and Team Nunes discussing the perspective prospects before choosing their teams for the season.

Before the teams made their picks, UFC veteran and TUF 1 winner Forrest Griffin was invited out to come speak to the fighters about how he ended up on TUF, the opportunities it brought him, as well as offering some words of encouragement to the fighters. The teams were then chosen for the season.

Amanda’s Picks:

  1. Claire Guthrie (3-1)
  2. Eduardo Perez (4-1)
  3. Brogan Walker (7-2)
  4. Chandler Cole (8-3)
  5. Kaytlin Neil (5-4)
  6. Mitchell Sipe (5-2)
  7. Kathryn Paprocki (3-2)
  8. Nyle Bartling (6-0)

Julianna’s Picks:

  1.  Helen Peralta (5-2)
  2. Mohammed Usman (7-2)
  3. Juliana Miller (2-1)
  4. Zac Pauga (5-0)
  5. Hannah Guy (4-1)
  6. Jordan Heiderman (5-0)
  7. Chantel Coates (2-1)
  8. Bobby Maximus (5-4)

After the teams were finalized, the fighters were then shuttled to the TUF house where they explored their new place and picked rooms. A scene highlights a conversation where Mitchell Sipe was stating that he and Mohammed Usman were originally scheduled to fight but it did not end up panning out. This will definitely make for a good rivalry later on in the season. It was revealed that another two contestants competed against each other previously— Julianna Miller and Claire Guthrie, where Guthrie came out on top.

The first practice is then shown, starting with Coach Peña addressing her fighters and her expectations for the season. We then get an inside look of the work these fighters put in during training and the knowledge being passed to them by their coaches. On the other hand, Team Nunes and her coaches are shown working on a variety of skills as Nunes is looking to have her fighters mix it up this season.

On fight announcement day, Peña picked first as she set up the first fight of the TUF 30 season between heavyweights Zac Pauga and Nyle Bartling.

Zac Pauga was a former senior criminal investigator for the Denver district attorney’s office, where he quit five months prior to the season to focus on training full-time. The viewers were also given an inside look at his beautiful family consisting of his two kids and wife. Pauga was a former football player signed by the Houston Texans and joined a professional rugby league after he was cut. After he stopped playing rugby, the heavyweight signed up for jiujitsu and muay thai where coincidentally the Elevation Fight Team trains. He now trains with the likes of current UFC fighters Alistair Overeem (47-19) and Curtis Blaydes (16-3). Most of his professional bouts have been at light heavyweight and he stated that he is looking to utilize his speed and skill to his advantage while up a weight class.

Nyle Bartling is a strong wrestler with strong grappling abilities who stated he looks to pressure Pauga and finish him on the ground. Bartling grew up on a family farm in Unadilla, Nebraska, with a population of under 300 people. He attributes his strong work ethic to his upbringing and previously won a state championship in wrestling. In 2020, Bartling had rested a jammed gun on his foot that misfired. Luckily, no permanent damage was done, but the incident made Bartling realize that he wanted to commit to fighting full-time.

On weigh in day, both heavyweight fighters were able to make weight.

Zac Pauga defeats Nyle Bartling via Unanimous Decision

The fight format for TUF consists of two five minute rounds, if it is a draw after two rounds the fighters will then fight a third round to determine the winner.

The two heavyweights started off the first round figuring out their range and setting up feints. Bartling shot for two takedowns in the first round but both were stuffed by Pauga. After Pauga landed a heavy knee to the body which hurt Bartling, he followed up with some ground and pound before the fighters got back to their feet. After trading a few shots on the feet, Bartling was able to take Pauga down momentarily. Later on, Pauga missed a knee and fell with Bartling landing on top. Bartling applied heavy pressure, but Pauga does a great job getting back to his feet once again before the round ended.

In the second round, the heavyweights mostly exchanged strikes on the feet as Pauga stuffed most of Bartling’s takedown attempts. Bartling seemed to be the more fatigued fighter towards the end of the second round. Pauga was able to take advantage of a failed takedown attempt and land in side control to end the round. Pauga ended up winning the first fight of TUF 30 via Unanimous Decision.

The fans are given an inside look at the highest of highs and lowest of lows that fighters experience after a grueling fight. Finally, the first flyweight matchup for next week was then announced to be Team Peña’s first pick Helen Peralta vs. Kaytlin Neil. Team Nunes will look to bounce back and find their first win as it is currently 1-0 Team Peña.

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