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TUF 30 Episode 10 Recap

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The Ultimate Fighter: Season 30 (TUF) returns with another semifinal bout, this time in the women’s flyweight division.

Last week saw Team Pena heavyweights collide when Zac Pauga stopped Jordan Heiderman in the second round to become the first fighter in the house to secure a spot in the finale. Pauga’s opponent will likely be determined next week with teammate Mohammed Usman set to meet Team Nunes’ Eduardo Perez in the second semifinal, but for now, all eyes turn towards women’s flyweight with Team Pena’s Laura Gallardo taking on Team Nunes’ Brogan Walker at the conclusion of this week’s episode.

TUF 30 Episode 10 Recap

The episode opens at Adrenaline Mountain in Las Vegas with Team Nunes engaging in some team bonding outside the house. Head Coach Amanda Nunes spoke on the importance of her team getting some fresh air and getting to see a different side of the area. Walker showed her teammates how to sling, something she used to do back in Guam.

Back in the gym, Team Pena Head Coach Julianna Pena is getting her fighter, Gallardo, ready for her semifinal fight with Walker. Pena stresses the importance of Gallardo moving forward, but that she likes the matchup with Walker. Gallardo, who trains with UFC strawweight Ashley Yoder, remarked how this is the matchup Pena wanted all along, and similar to Walker’s last fight against Hannah Guy, Pena notes how the vast majority of Walker’s attacks come from the right side. As a result, the game plan will be for Gallardo to “shut down” Walker’s right hand with the hope that the fight will trend in her direction from then on. Gallardo adds that as long as she sticks to her style she believes she can have a lot of success.

As things shift back to the house, Walker is seen on a zoom call with her sister, catching her up on the goings-on in the tournament. Walker then shows her sister her journal, which features pages upon pages of written content from her time living in the TUF House. Walker says that with all the emotions she had going on, today she feels at peace and sees the cage as her home. She feels she is ready to step in physically, mentally, and spiritually, and given the immense amount of journal content she is working with, it is tough to argue with that.

Nunes and Walker then return to the gym to prepare for the Gallardo fight. Nunes believes Gallardo will struggle with her fighter’s style, specifically when it comes to getting in close for takedowns. As for Walker’s lingering knee issue, Nunes says she has seen Walker turn a corner in training, admitting that while she would be able to push harder if healthy, what she is able to give should be enough to “finish” Gallardo.

“She’s going to let you feel a little comfortable, and then she’s going to re-attack,” Nunes said. “So, you have to [make her think about coming in] with [feints and] knees from far away.”

Walker admits that when she entered the sport, she was primarily a striker with no grappling experience. Initially, she thought she would just be able to strike and survive against opponents, and relishes having felt that side of competition. She understands there are blind spots that come with such a mentality, and having tools in her bag only adds to her confidence as a fighter.

Back in the house, it is Gallardo’s turn to facetime her boyfriend, Jesse, and their dog. Gallardo admits it cannot be easy to have a girlfriend who is all-in on fighting and appreciates all the support her boyfriend can give her. Through having a dog, Gallardo is reminded of how seriously humans take life and how dogs are conversely playful, curious beings who generally just want to be loved. Gallardo also reveals that like Walker, she too has been journaling in off-hours to keep herself busy.

Approximately 17 minutes into the episode, it is time for the fighter weigh-ins. NSAC Executive Director Jeff Mullen is back to add a more professional flair to the weigh-ins, and Walker is first to weigh in. She weighed in at 126 pounds. Teammate Claire Guthrie believes Walker’s footwork and wide stance will allow her to acquit herself well against a wrestler like Gallardo. Gallardo is next to weight in, coming in at 124. Teammate Juliana Miller says that while Gallardo may be at a size disadvantage, she can take a “wet blanket” approach to the fight and have no problem holding Walker down. Team Nunes’ Kathryn Paprocki, who fought Gallardo in the previous round, believes Gallardo is a one-trick pony and that her teammate has more paths to victory.

With that, it is time for The Ultimate Fighter flashback. This week’s flashback takes fight fans back to Season 23, when Tatiana Suarez ran roughshod on the rest of the house en route to winning the TUF 23 crown. The narrator called Suarez a “current rising star” in the UFC, which couldĀ point to her eyeing a return to the Octagon soon.

On the ride to the Apex, Walker is thinking about all the people who believed in her and helped her on the journey to this moment, saying how she is hoping to give those people “a return on their investment.” As for Gallardo, she says she is getting in the cage for herself and that doing this journey for someone else is “completely stupid.” Both fighters believe they have something to prove, with Gallardo mentioning how every fight is the fight of her life. Of course, there is plenty at stake here, and this fight should be extremely compelling from a style standpoint. Will Gallardo be able to successfully implement her wrestling? Will Walker be able to mix things up enough to keep the fight at distance? Will Gallardo show fight fans a new wrinkle to her game? Will Walker be able to find a finish? Plenty of questions are about to be answered with the first women’s flyweight semifinal of the season imminent.

The Fight

Though both fighters are both 32, Walker will bring a two-inch height advantage as well as a three-inch reach advantage with her into the cage. Jason Herzog is the referee. Both fighters come out in a similarly open stance, with Gallardo immediately faking a takedown to land a hard right hand that gets the attention of Walker. Gallardo is then able to get double-body locks on Walker, but Walker is able to get her back to the cage before Gallardo is able to complete the takedown. After about 25 seconds, Walker is able to get the whizzer and get her back off the cage, the first positive moment for her over an eventful first minute of action. Gallardo again fakes a shot to land a right while Walker is struggling to find her range. Gallardo then opts to shoot again, this time getting deeper on Walker’s hips than the first time, but Walker again is able to get her back to the cage and defend. Gallardo then breaks her grip as action returns back to the center. Walker is starting to land some leg kicks in order to help her find a rhythm, and at around the halfway point is starting to land her lead hand. Nunes tells her fighter there’s “no need to rush.”

Gallardo is able to get off a couple calf kicks before finding a home for her jab. Walker misses a right hand, then misses again after a scramble leads to a short flurry from both fighters. Despite being at a reach disadvantage, Gallardo seems to have found her range quicker, hitting a pair of jabs on the chin of Walker before closing the distance with another deep shot on the hips. Walker’s size and strength seem to be keeping her standing in these exchanges against the cage (Gallardo is probably more of a 115-pounder in the UFC, after all), but after taking several short knees from Gallardo, she is able to again get off the cage with 10 seconds to spare and land some good shots in chaos to end the round.

The round should be a clear 10-9 for Gallardo, who masterfully mixed striking with grappling, using the threat of the takedown to land some big shots on the feet. In spite of this, UFC President Dana White sitting cageside calls it a “tough round.”

Pena tells her fighter to keep controlling space but that she is doing great, while Nunes again tells Walker “not to rush” and to see everything. Of course, if that was a unanimous 10-9 for Gallardo, there may have to be a sense of urgency out of Walker in the second round. Despite being among the most technical fighters in the house, Walker actually seemed to do better when the fight was less-than-clean.

The second round starts with Walker taking on the role of aggressor, looking to use her size to bully Gallardo up against the cage and neutralize any ability she has to get the fight to the ground. However, Gallardo is able to handle this and get her own back off the cage, but as action returns to the center of the Octagon, Walker seems to have found her range, taking an early lead on strikes. Soon, a glancing left straight from Walker drops Gallardo briefly, but she is able to recover quickly and regain her own sense of range. A Walker right hand is answered by a Gallardo right hand at around the three-minute mark, with Nunes telling her fighter “you can take her down too.”

The action hits a bit of a lull from here for the next minute, with referee Herzog warning Walker to “watch the fingers.” Walker seems to be the more active fighter from a volume standpoint, landing two or three hard leg kicks despite missing as many times with her pawing jab from the right side. Gallardo comes back with a nice left hand, then lands a jab of her own before Walker connects with a left hand. Eventually, Walker overcommits on a shot, causing Gallardo to once again achieve a body lock against the cage. Pena screams at her fighter to “pull her off the fence,” but again, Walker is able to muscle her way off the cage with both fighters still tied up. Walker is then able to control Gallardo in a front headlock position. Herzog warns that both of Gallardo’s hands are down, so Walker wisely uses her momentum to lift Gallardo up high enough to land some legal knees, though most if not all were to the body. Still, high-level stuff from Walker to end the round, as Vicente Luque managed to finish Randy Brown in a similar fashion. Walker rides out the position, presumably taking the second round.

White continues to remark from cageside how close the first round was.

“I mean, if you’re going to give somebody points for takedowns, you should give the other girl credit for not getting taken down once,” White said. A truly baffling comment from the UFC President who has only seen a few thousand fights in his lifetime, considering takedown defense is not and has never been explicitly named in the judging criteria as a manner in which a fighter could win a round.

Pena tells Gallardo she would have had the takedown has she kept her hands locked.

“When you see the bull coming, that’s when you’ve got to shoot,” Pena said.

Nunes told Walker that her jiu-jitsu is way better and to put her on the floor.

As the third round begins, both fighters look plenty fresh, a testament to the work they’ve been putting in on the show. Both combatants take a more measured approach to this third round, which will likely decide who moves on to the finals. Gallardo wins the first exchange, getting in, then out, then back in, and back out to land three or four punches while Walker fails to find a home for her hooks. Walker later responds with a nice kick to the body followed by a right hand but continues to struggle finding her range on the overhand left. Gallardo lands a nice inside leg kick of her own, as Herzog again warns Walker to “watch the fingers.” Walker lands a good jab, then hits a beautiful left straight, setting up a beautiful striking exchange that forces Gallardo to shoot. Walker is able to successfully sprawl, and Pena urges her fighter to “turn the corner.”

Gallardo is able to make her way back up, but eats a knee from Walker on her way up as this round has taken a bit of a turn. Both fighters are able to land hard left hands as the final minute gets underway. Walker gets the better of the exchanges in the final minute, mixing things up effectively with kicks to the body and being able to better land her jab. It might be tough to make a compelling argument to give rounds two or three to Gallardo, but Pena tells her fighter she believes she won anyway. Ultimately, this fight came down to size, as Gallardo would have likely been able to wrestle a lesser opponent to the ground, but with Walker being a true flyweight, she was able to negate the wrestling and keep things more within her wheelhouse.

I have it 29-28 for Walker. Pena has it 29-28 for Gallardo. White shockingly has it 30-27 for Walker, so it is anybody’s guess as to how the judges saw this fight.

The judges do award the decision to Walker, however, and end up making the right call in the end.

Brogan Walker defeats Laura Gallardo via Unanimous Decision

Aftermath

White says that Gallardo, while smaller, looked faster, and that with Walker’s knee being in as bad shape as he knows it to be, he likes that she is able to shrug it off and fight through the pain. He adds that when Gallardo couldn’t get the takedowns, it was almost as if she didn’t have a “Plan B.”

Pena says that while Gallardo “got beaned” a few times in the third round, she was otherwise doing great on the feet with landing strikes of her own. Nunes says “Brogan has everything” and that she was comfortable with the matchup, even if the fight hit the mat. White says it will be fun to see what she can do in the UFC. If Miller happens to defeat Kaytlin Neil in the other women’s flyweight semifinal, it will make for an interesting stylistic matchup in the finale with Walker battling another grappler, but one who can match her size and make the fight ugly on the feet.

Walker celebrates the win, saying her next step is to get back to the drawing board and evolve “like a Pokemon.” On the other side, Pena comforts her fighter, with Gallardo steadfast in her belief she won the first two rounds.

Next week’s episode will see UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman comes to the TUF House to talk to his brother Mohammed ahead of his heavyweight semifinal fight against Perez.

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