The last quarterfinal heavyweight matchup is on deck in this week’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) and will see Team Nunes’ Chandler Cole look to brave through an arm injury to overcome Team Pena’s Jordan Heiderman. The injury bug has hit Team Nunes to varying degrees this season, but Cole’s injury seems mild in comparison to what Brogan Walker might have to fight through next week. Regardless, the winner of this week’s Cole-Heiderman matchup will set the four-man heavyweight semifinal field, providing clarity on who the real contenders for the TUF 30 crown might be.
TUF 30 Episode 7 Recap
Episode 7 begins at the TUF House, where women’s flyweights Claire Guthrie and Juliana Miller are chatting after going to war in last week’s featured fight, objectively the best of the season so far. The mutual respect between the two fighters is prevalent, with Miller telling her rival it takes two fighters to put on a great fight. Miller says she feels like she slayed a giant by beating Guthrie, though the “giant” she’s referring to is actually the self-doubt in her head and not actually her opponent. In fact, Miller thanks Guthrie for the fight, calling her a savage while saying she hopes the two can fight again one day in the far distant future.
Viewers then get a look at Heiderman’s preparation for the Cole fight. Head coach Julianna Pena is complimentary of Heiderman’s practice room attitude, saying he will do whatever it takes to get his hand raised. Heiderman puts over Cole’s wrestling, describing both himself and his opponent as wrestlers who like to brawl. Assistant coach Mike Valle preaches to Heiderman to keep his left arm up at all times, treating it as a shield against Cole’s overhand right. Pena adds that a gigantic right hand is all Cole has, so if the arm injury to Cole happens to be on the right side, Heiderman might be able to make quick work though it is also important to note that this information is still not known to Team Pena, nor is Brogan Walker’s knee injury from a few weeks back. Heiderman says he will control the fight the whole time and will be ready for whatever Cole brings, whether it is an overhand right or a double-leg takedown.
Back in the house, Bobby Maximus is having a “therapy session” with Cole, asking him to tell him his story, providing a great segue for the viewers to learn a bit more about Cole. Cole reveals he is a corrections officer in his home state of Virginia, and that he is always trying to keep a positive attitude with his co-workers as well as the inmates themselves. Cole also says the reason he wants to be in the UFC is to set an example for kids like him, and to show them you can achieve your dreams regardless of where you come from. He also recognizes, however, that hewill also need to be successful at that level to fully achieve his personal goals. The 27-year-old then took the viewers on a tour through his hometown of Coeburn, Va., which has a population of 1,957 people. Coeburn is a very poor town, with Cole mentioning how he and all of his friends were on food stamps growing up. Just like Miller revealed in the last episode, Cole’s grandmother raised him, calling her his best friend.
Cole (8-3) trains daily at Wise County Combat Club, the local MMA gym in Coeburn. He also spoke of his love for competition, which is what drew him to wrestling initially. That competitive nature eventually translated to MMA. Once he went pro, Cole knew the sport could be a good career for him. He also has a three-year-old daughter who he’s looking to provide for, and a win over Heiderman can go a long way towards that. Cole believes he can win the show because of how far he’s already come being where he’s from. Head Coach Amanda Nunes believes Cole’s best path to victory is to take Heiderman down, noting how well he moves at heavyweight for only being 5-foot-10.
As far as the Heiderman matchup itself goes, Cole believes he wil need to push the pace, keep things at short range and limit the mistakes. Nunes at this point mentions Cole’s elbow injury, though it is not initially acknowledged what arm the injury is on. Cole is then seen wearing a bandage on his right arm, making for an interesting storyline heading into the episode’s featured fight. If Heiderman is intent on defending Cole’s overhand right by keeping his left hand right, could it make him more susceptible to be taken down? If so, Cole’s arm injury could work to his benefit, as it could force him to fight a sound game plan and take the path to least resistance. However, Cole reveals he is worried that his coaching staff is pushing his arm too hard, knowing full well he can’t win the fight if he doesn’t make it to the cage.
The heavyweights of Team Pena are hanging out at the house and cooking dinner as Heiderman sheds some light on his story. He is a welder who makes good money, but had to quit his job to come on the show, and prior to that had difficulty finding time to train, working up to 60 hours per week during the summer. The Norfolk, Neb. native lives with his girlfriend along with his one-year-old Yellow Lab puppy. He has a gym in his basement where he is able to lift weights, train cardio and hit the bag when he’s not in the gym. He trains at The Bomb Squad in Dodge, Neb., a converted cheese factory that’s become a full-blown MMA facility. He has fought for LFA previously and has compiled an impressive 5-0 record to start his career. He is a self-described “freestyle” fighter, comfortable with wherever the fight goes.
Fight fans are then introduced to “Fitness Chandler,” Cole’s alter ego who is addicted to in-home workouts, stretching, and working with resistance bands. Zac Pauga casts doubt over Cole’s ability to go far on the show, mentioning his weight while adding that there is a reason he looks the way he looks.
“They don’t judge a book by its cover, but there’s a reason books have covers,” Pauga said.
Cole doesn’t share Pauga’s belief about himself, however, mentioning how people are just jealous that someone of his size and body type can move the way he does.
Little more than halfway into this week’s episode, it’s time for both fighters to weigh in. “Fitness Chandler,” headband included, is first to step on the scale, tipping the scale at 264.5. Heiderman follows, weighing in at 247. Despite a near 20-pound discrepancy between the two combatants, Heiderman will have a decided height and reach advantage, so the path to victory kind of writes itself, especially considering the limitations on Cole’s right arm.
For the flashback segment, fight fans get a look back at UFC welterweight Nate Diaz’s time on the show. The controversial star finished each of his fights in the house and went on to defeat Manny Gamburyan to win Season 5.
Cole says he is not going to shy away from “crushing dreams” if it means getting his hand raised. He calls the fight personal in that it is standing in the way between him and putting food on his daughter’s table. If that’s the case then every fight would be personal by nature, and that may end up working in his favor. Heiderman says his favorite part of competition is testing himself physically and mentally and that he won’t stop until he reaches his goals. The 30-year-old says he hopes Cole brings his A-game because he’s going to need it to defeat him.
With that said, the time for talk is over, as the final heavyweight quarterfinal matchup is about to get underway.
Chris Tognoni is the referee. Initially, Heiderman is able to keep Cole at range, who threw almost exclusively kicks before unloading an overhand right 45 seconds in, signifying his elbow is perhaps in better shape than was conveyed. The size difference is paramount, with Cole looking like he might have a light heavyweight frame despite maxing out at the heavyweight limit. He does. however, connect on an overhand right against at the 2:45 mark, and is able to draw Heiderman into a firefight briefly before the larger heavyweight settled back into range. Three minutes in, the round is close with Heiderman having the quality of exchanges on his side while Cole had quantity, though there is still plenty of time left for someone to make a statement. Heiderman is able to keep Cole at range with a teep kick, but Cole answers with a spin to his right side, connecting flush on a spinning wheel kick that put Heiderman on wobbly legs and eventually sent him to the ground. The huge shot drew a big reaction out of UFC President Dana White at cageside, and Cole is now looking to finish Heiderman on the ground with 50 seconds left in the round. However, Heiderman explodes back to his feet and is now looking to make up some ground. The larger man has begun to get busier on the feet, but it won’t be enough as the round has all the makings of a Cole round, with damage clearly in his favor following the knockdown.
Pena tells her fighter to stay focused in between rounds, and her fellow coaches also tell him he will need to finish the round “because they’re giving out 10-8 rounds now.” The round in question was absolutely in no way a 10-8 round, but the team’s attempt to motivate the fighter to get busier is respectable, as imploring a fighter to win the round is not always enough. At least now Heiderman knows he will need to leave it all in the cage if he wants to advance in the tournament. As for Cole, his corner tells him to keep busy with the leg kicks.
As Round 2 gets underway, Cole is once again outworking Heiderman on the feet as the larger man is struggling to find his range. Cole seems to have an answer for everything Heiderman is throwing, but the unbeaten Heiderman eventually connects on a nice 1-2 that he’ll surely be looking to land again. Nearly two minutes into the round, Cole’s volume seems to be slowing, and the leg kicks are beginning to look a bit more labored, causing Heiderman to connect over the top once again. Heiderman is now beginning to find a home for his lead left hand, landing one before connecting on a right hook that causes his opponent to answer with another leg kick. With two minutes to go, Heiderman is likely up in the round, but his corner wants to see more.
“Again! Again! Again! Again Please! Again!” Pena called out.
A forward flurry by Heiderman with just over a minute to go has him up decidedly in the second round, but Cole is able to land his best right hand of the round as Heiderman lands with a weaker right hand of his own. Heiderman walks Cole down over the final minute of the round and is successfully able to avoid danger to sting his opponent with his jab on repeated occasions. As the bell sounds, Forrest Griffin remarks to White that “Red may still have it,” though this feels like a clear 19-19 heading into a third round. Nunes also thinks Cole got the second, though this really does feel like wishful thinking with Heiderman being the fresher fighter. Sure enough, both fighters are told there will be a third round to decide the contest.
Cole connects on a nice combination early to give him a great start to build on. Heiderman is trying to stick and move, but he seems ill-equipped to do so without limiting his striking volume. Whenever he is able to open up, he leaves his chin in the air, causing Cole to catch right on cue in another wild exchange, first with a right hook before landing another right hand that knocks Heiderman down despite it being a more glancing blow. As Heiderman is able to jump right back up to his feet, it felt more like a slip at first watch, but on further examination the sheer force behind the punch did, in fact, knock Heiderman down, putting him significantly behind with four minutes still to go. As Cole rushes in however, Heiderman is able to connect with a right hand of his own to send his opponent retreating back to the center. Cole finally shoots the first takedown of the fight, but it is ill-timed from a significant distance and Heiderman is able to stuff it easily and take the back. Rather than looking for hooks, Heiderman is able to hold Cole in position from the side and land 22 unanswered hammerfists. Tognoni has no choice but to step in, and just like that, Heiderman advances to the semi-finals by way of third-round finish. Wow. A weird ending for Cole after taking such a swift lead in the third, but great on Heiderman for making the most of his position, as gift-wrapped to him as it was.
Jordan Heiderman defeats Chandler Cole via TKO (punches) at 1:14 of Round 3
Nunes calls it “bullshit” that the fight had to see the third round, but Cole did not really have a standout moment that would have given him the second round. Heiderman controlled the distance better, using his movement to get inside and outside and he was able to turn up the volume while landing his hardest strikes of the fight to that point. That is also not to mention that were this a professional bout, Cole would have seen a third round regardless of the judges’ scorecards and would have suffered the same fight anyway.
Pena noted her fighter’s hesitancy in the exchange in the first round due to the heavy defensive emphasis. She calls Cole’s wheel kick “the nicest she’s seen in her entire life.”
“That kick came out of nowhere,” White added. “Forrest and I jumped out of our seats. We thought the fight was over. Jordan popped right back up though. I can’t believe he ate that kick and managed to recover. He is one tough kid.”
Nunes continues to harp on how her team thought they had won the first two rounds, but it is an opposite attitude that was seen coming from the victorious corner. The blunt advice between the first two rounds caused Heiderman to operate with a greater sense of urgency, and as a result, was able to finish the fight when his opportunity finally came. Pena credited her fighter’s heart in the winning effort, while Heiderman mentions he got the dog fight he wanted.
Cole is extremely emotional after the fight, but Nunes reminds him that the journey is not over yet. Team Nunes continues to say Cole got robbed by the judges, but even in a best-case scenario the round just wasn’t clear-cut enough to merit a unanimous or majority decision. When the round is as close as that round was, fighters, and more specifically their corners, cannot hang their hat on it and call it a day like Team Nunes did. In a way, Cole’s corner failed him, as he seemed ill-prepared for the fight to get extended, although, again, three-round fights are standard in professional MMA. However, massive credit goes to Cole for throwing his right hand with such ferocity in spite of his elbow injury.
The last fight of the quarterfinals is then unveiled, with Bellator and BKFC vet Hannah Guy from Team Pena set to take on Invicta FC contender Brogan Walker of Team Nunes. Walker noticed that Guy was shaking during the staredown, but whether or not this actually represents fear remains to be seen. Walker will need to overcome a faulty right knee, however, if she wants to advance to the semifinals, meaning that fight will be one to monitor for next week. It is also revealed that Dana White will be at the Apex to unveil the semifinal matchups at the conclusion of the last women’s flyweight quarterfinal.