MMA

TUF 30 Episode 6 Recap

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Fight fans were treated to another episode of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) Season 30 on Tuesday, one which featured a hotly anticipated women’s flyweight rematch between Team Nunes’ Claire Guthrie and Team Pena’s Juliana Miller. A professional animosity between the two competitors will take center stage at episode’s end, but Tuesday’s episode had plenty of narratives to go around, such as the mounting injuries on Team Nunes and a growing distrust between Miller and some of her teammates, the latter of which was teased on last week’s episode.

TUF 30 Episode 6 Recap

The episode opens with Head Coach Julianna Pena taking her team on a field trip to Calico Basin where they have embarked on a hike. Pena was looking to create a change of pace for her fighters to get them out of the gym and find their place in nature. Pena went on to share with her team how she deals with pre-fight stress, and there seems to be a considerable amount of buy-in from her fighters. Miller was especially appreciative of the hike, being an avid outdoorswoman herself.

Viewers then get a look at the first fight that unfolded between Miller and Guthrie last year. Pena disputed the result somewhat, citing a lack of damage and aggression from Guthrie, who otherwise controlled the larger part of the fight. Miller told the cameras she is out for revenge, wishing she still had a zero in the right column of her record.

Evolving player-coach Bobby Maximus of Team Pena can then be seen back in the house talking to teammate Zac Pauga about what Miller will need to do to beat Guthrie this time. Pauga said Miller can scrap and can definitely win the fight, but needs to get it together mentally. Last week, Maximus, who worked extensively with a sports psychologist in the years leading up to the show, was openly criticized by Miller for being too friendly with the opposition, giving Guthrie along with fellow Team Nunes flyweight Brogan Walker tips for how to keep sharp mentally. Maximus said he hasn’t changed his behavior at all, saying he wants the same for everybody in the house and that he hopes they all use their platform in a positive way and treat the show as an opportunity for growth. Having said all that, Maximus puts Miller over as a fighter. Was Maximus ultimately in the right for his candidness with Walker and Guthrie? Perhaps. There may be a line to it, but as is the case with every season of TUF, the time spent in the house as teammates and opponents is short lived and such a small portion of a fighter’s career. Since Miller didn’t seem to have any reason to distrust Maximus, she probably overreacted and it’s tough to fault the 43-year-old heavyweight for wanting to impart wisdom to anybody willing to listen – regardless of shirt color.

Over at Team Pena, Guthrie is about 17 pounds off weight less than a week out of the fight. It’s certainly an improvement on what Chantel Coates had to deal with a few episodes ago, but Guthrie is not worried, mentioning having dealt with tough weight cuts in the past. Guthrie is a 26-year-old from St. Joseph, Michigan training at Elevation Fight Team in Denver, Colo. As a result, she is getting to train alongside comparable flyweights such as Miranda Maverick, Montana De La Rosa and Mallory Martin. Guthrie could have as much upside as any of those names, however, for her youth in the sport and ability to smoothly blend striking with grappling. She lives in a studio apartment with her boyfriend, Jose Mariscal, an 11-6 professional fighter in his own right. She also has a full-time remote accounting job, and enjoys the balancing her two professional loves. An avid competitor throughout high school, Guthrie’s story feels very similar to Team Pena’s Laura Gallardo. Also an athlete by nature, Gallardo walked into a jiu-jitsu room and fell in love with the martial art, having found a sense of belonging. The same held true for Guthrie, who says she didn’t know when she would end up with the UFC but knew it would eventually happen and that she just needed to be ready for when that day came. She believes she can win the whole competition.

On the rematch with Miller, Guthrie mentions the first fight, which was contested in the state of Kansas, had open scoring, an idea that MMA journalist Ariel Helwani has become the head cheerleader of in recent months. Open scoring is when the fighters, corners and in most cases the fans are privy to the judges’ round-by-round scoring totals in real time. Because of this, Guthrie says that while Miller’s camp felt the decision was controversial, she immediately had a read on how the judges were scoring the fight, and thus fought the fight to their liking.

A certain MMA writer might say open scoring has no place in the sport, but perhaps that is a tangent for another time.

Miller details what she has been going through in her personal life with her grandmother, who is currently sick. Miller, who is from San Diego, Calif., was actually raised by her grandmother. She grew up in an otherwise broken home and is half American and half Brazilian, though she was raised in California. Miller got into martial arts after being in what she calls a toxic relationship that saw her on the receiving end of a series of beatings. As a result, she wanted to “fight and not get arrested for it.” She calls herself a wild spirit, and is admittedly a little crazy, but also extremely motivated and the hardest worker in the room. She trains at 10th-Planet Jiu-Jitsu in San Diego. As a result, ground fighting is her forte, and makes no bones about what she’s looking to do her opponent: take them down and beat them up. This makes it all the more puzzling why she would stress out over Maximus’ dealings with Guthrie and Walker, but nevertheless, she seems intently focused and game for her rematch with Guthrie.

Pena, who praised Miller’s warrior spirit, implored her fighter to take more calculated risks and to clean up the details and mistakes she made in the first fight. She also notes that Miller can put a stamp on the tournament with a win over Guthrie, the favorite in the eyes of many.

Viewers then got an update on Guthrie’s weight cut. There appears to be some drama brewing, as Guthrie has begun to resort to drastic measures in order to make the weight due to the house having what she described as a “lack of hot water.”

“I don’t know how I’m gonna make weight, but we’ll see,” Guthrie said.

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With more than 35 minutes remaining in the episode, the weigh-ins commence. Miller has no problem making the weight and is looking lean and mean. UFC President Dana White calls her, “a dynamic fighter with some slick jiu-jitsu.” Guthrie is next to weigh in, and as was teased in last week’s preview comes in at 127 pounds, one pound over the flyweight limit. According to Guthrie, she had something of a Charles Oliveira situation where she had expected to make the limit after having weighed in on the electronic scale at the house. Removing her clothes managed to shave off half of a pound, but Guthrie will have 60 minutes to wake her body up and cut the remaining half pound.

On a second attempt, Guthrie appears to be less than a quarter of a pound over the limit. With time running out and a Hail Mary looking more and more necessary by the minute, Guthrie opts to have assistant coach Nina Nunes cut her hair in an attempt to make the 126-pound limit. With Head Coach Amanda Nunes pumping her fist full of Guthrie’s locks, the Elevation Fight Team product is on weight and the rematch with Miller has been made official.

“She thinks like a champion,” Nunes said. “She was very focused through the whole thing and you gotta do what you gotta do, you know?”

Viewers then get a look back at the time TUF alumni Sijara Eubanks opted to cut her own hair to make weight going on to win her fight via second-round kimura.

Guthrie outlined the stakes on the way to the building, and similar to Miller called fighting and opportunity to be a bully and not be vilified for it. Miller says she is prepared to unleash a side to her the world is yet to see in order to win this fight. Both fighters have bright futures in the sport. Guthrie skill set for her age experience in the sport is something to behold, but the same can be said for Miller, who has a star quality to her that could make her a star in the sport sooner than later if she can string some wins together inside the Octagon. However, only one can advance in the tournament and only one can become the next Ultimate Fighter. Who will come out on top? The answer is imminent.

The Fight

Chris Tognoni is the referee, which means this fight is definitely going the full 10 or 15 minutes.

The ladies get right after it with Miller making good on her promise to fire hands right down the pipe. Guthrie takes a more MMA-based approach to the fight, however, clinching up with the taller Miller, who eventually gets her back off the cage and starts landing some nice knees to the body. As they separate, viewers get a better look at how the two match up on the feet. Both seem to be having trouble finding their range, though Guthrie seems to be having a little more success early. Guthrie opts to clinch again, and just as it seems Miller has regained the upper hand, Guthrie reverses her, ending up on top for a brief amount of time. Once again, Guthrie is showing more tools in the early going, mixing in some leg kicks before landing with her lead right hand, but gets a warning from Tognoni to watch her fingers.

Miller starts to have more success over the final 90 seconds, closing the distance on Guthrie and landing some big shots from short range. However, with one minute to go, Guthrie stung Miller with a big straight that stopped her in her tracks, definitely the most impactful strike yet. The two fighters end up in an over-under clinch again and continue the phone booth combat before the round comes to a close. Guthrie seemed to be landing the cleaner shots, and it is showing on Miller’s face. As it stand, that should be a 10-9 round for Guthrie.

The second round begins with a similar amount of aggression to the first. Despite being the longer fighter, Miller seems to be having her most success when brawling with Guthrie, as the Team Nunes fighter appears to have a decided technical advantage on the feet. Guthrie then opts for a level-change, but Miller is able to control her in butterfly guard before transitioning to a more offense guard that causes Guthrie to yield back to the feet. They clinch again, and both fighters have to have landed at least five good knees at this point. Guthrie’s shots also seem to be generating more of a reaction out of Miller than the other way around. Finally, Miller is able to return the favor with a big left hook to Guthrie at around the two-minute mark. She follows up with a flurry of seven or eight punches before taking Guthrie down and taking her back almost immediately. Miller looks powerful on top, with this being more reminiscent of the strategy she promised to employ going into the fight. Miller is able to maintain back control for the final minute of the round, and with that being a clear 10-9 Miller round, it seems like a third round is imminent.

“Good fight! Good fight,” White said from cage side.

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Tognoni informs the fighters there will be a third round, and Miller opts to not sit down in between rounds. She might also be the legitimately fresher fighter, given the discrepancies between weight cuts. Guthrie is able to get the better of the first grappling exchange and take down Miller. However, Miller is able to use her long legs to reverse Guthrie in what first appeared to be an attempt to take the back that became an armbar attempt that came dangerously close to being completed. Miller eventually gives up on the armbar attempt voluntarily in order to assume top position, a move that’s probably not seen enough in high-level MMA. With half the round down, it is Miller controlling Guthrie in half guard, though the lack of offense could result in a stand up at some point. At that moment, Miller begins raining down strikes, but is warned to watch the back of the head by Tognoni. Guthrie is then able to initiate a scramble and return to her feet, but Miller stays on her, backing her up to the cage. Guthrie is able to avoid Miller’s takedown attempts, but eventually returns to her back in a Hail Mary guillotine attempt. It doesn’t pan out, however, and Miller is able to take her back one more time, putting a stamp on an incredible performance that drew a standing ovation out of the UFC President.

Juliana Miller defeats Claire Guthrie via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)     

Aftermath

The potential that resides in both fighters was evident in their TUF rematch, but Miller’s ground game already appears to be UFC-caliber, and that could make her a problem in the flyweight division.

Nunes believes her fighter tired over the course of the fight, which seems like a reasonable assessment considering the weight cut. White praised Miller’s hunger, saying fights like this are what he likes to see on The Ultimate Fighter. Backstage, Miller said she was willing to die in the cage, but believed in her coaching and knew she’d be fine. She admits to being scared and nervous, but emphatically and enthusiastically overcame her fears to get the win. Humble in defeat, Guthrie tips her hat to Miller and says she has some things she needs to work on. It might be too early to suggest a move up to 135 for Guthrie, but with a little more gas it’s possible she could have put up more resistance in the third round and even potentially taken the second round with a little more activity.

After the fight, White congratulated Miller personally.

“When I see someone lay it on the line like that, those are the kind of fighters I want in the UFC,” White said. “Those women reminded me of exactly why we do The Ultimate Fighter, and when you go out there and deliver like they did, I definitely noticed.”

With two quarterfinals left, the last heavyweight fight is next on the docket. Next week will see Team Nunes’ Chandler Cole take on Team Pena’s Jordan Heiderman with the last spot in the heavyweight semifinals on the line. Both fighters appear confident, but Heiderman sensed weakness in Cole because he blinked during the stare down. Whether or not that holds true will have to wait until next week’s episode.

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