TUF Season 31 Episode 2 Recap

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The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): Season 31 returned with its second episode on Tuesday night, which took another step forward to moving along the growing feud between UFC lightweight stars Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler.

This week’s episode is a double fight episode – two for the price of one! We will see the bantamweights take their turn in the spotlight, with Team McGregor’s Trevor Wells taking on Team Chandler’s Timur Valiev as veteran and prospect cast members fight to advance in the tournament.

Those with a subscription to ESPN+ can stream TUF 31 on demand.

TUF 31 Episode 2 Recap

The show opens with a recap of the past episode. For what its worth, my recap of the season’s first episode can be found here.

To my surprise, we are moving right along into the next fight, which looks to be taking place at the top of the episode. Valiev and his team arrive to the Apex to weigh in against his opponent, Wells. Valiev reveals the two are roommates in his confessional, but just as it seems we’re about to get profiles on both fighters, Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) executive director Jeff Mullen asked to speak with Coach Chandler ahead of the fight. Mullen reveals that Wells has not been cleared to compete.

As Chandler and his coaching staff openly wonder what this will mean for their fighter, Valiev, Wells details his frustration with the situation. He reiterates that he showed up, made weight, trained hard, and did his job as expected, but that cold sore on his face is what is ultimately preventing him from stepping into the cage. As cold sores are highly contagious viral infections, the doctors could not clear him to compete.

For the record, I had Valiev pegged to go far in the tournament, as there is but one matchup that I think could give him serious problems as he looks to make his way back to the UFC. I would even argue he shouldn’t have been cut anyway. Similar to when the UFC parted ways with Saidyokub Kakhramonov, there are times when this company makes you go, “WTF!”

As Chandler breaks the news to his fighter, McGregor consoles his fighter, telling him that these things just happen sometimes and it’s part of the job. UFC President Dana White enters the fray and explains the situation to both teams, noting that the plan is for Valiev and Wells to fight the following week if Wells is cleared to compete. If Wells is not cleared to compete, Valiev will get a walk-over into the semifinals.

Chandler’s coaches raise the issue of both fighters, but Valiev specifically, having to make weight two weeks in a row. White admits that was something he hadn’t considered, but that he would be open to a catchweight and they could cross that bridge when they get to it.

With Valiev vs. Wells officially on ice, the tournament’s next matchup is revealed to be Team McGregor’s Mando Gutierrez taking on Team Chandler’s Cody Gibson in the 135-pound division. White talks up Gutierrez, mentioning he has been on the UFC’s radar for a little while now. Gutierrez is a veteran of LFA and XFC, and actually appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series but got schooled on the ground by Raul Rosas Jr., who was 17-years-old at the time. While the veterans are actually getting a second crack at a run in the UFC, The Ultimate Fighter is a second chance for Gutierrez as well, in a way.

We then get a look at Team McGregor’s training sessions as Gutierrez prepares to fight Gibson. Though he may not have been present at the weigh-ins for Roosevelt Roberts vs. Nate Jennerman, McGregor seems to have taken a hands-on approach to training his fighters and is fully in the trenches with his fighters which has to be a cool experience for the prospects. After Gutierrez details the gameplan, which is to close the distance and log some top control time against Gibson, he asks McGregor about the emotions he confronts in the locker room before making the walk to the cage for his fights.

As action shifts to the TUF House, Roberts talks about Landon Quinones of Team McGregor and how he is not a fan of his “big mouth” and how dismissive he is towards the veterans. Quinones gives his side, saying he knows he has the skills to compete in the UFC while the veterans, having been cut once before, do not. Obviously, the UFC has shown itself to not always be the meritocracy Quinones thinks it is, and that’s also to say none of the veterans have improved since leaving the promotion. Things begin to get heated between the two in the kitchen as poor Jason Knight is just trying to cook his dinner in peace. Roberts tells Quinones he doesn’t like him and isn’t willing to waste time talking to him anymore. The two agree to disagree and go their separate ways.

Now it’s time to learn a little bit more about bantamweight veteran Gibson. As it turns out, Gibson’s first fight in the UFC came against Aljamain Sterling, the man who would go on to become the UFC bantamweight champion and a man who is slowly but building an all-time divisional resume for himself in the most talent-laden division in the sport. Gibson’s last appearance in the UFC came in 2015 when he dropped a decision to Douglas Silva de Andrade, another fighter who is still going strong into his late 30s.

Gibson is spending what seems to be ample time on the mats with grappling coach Robert Drysdale. Chandler says the goal with Gibson is to make sure he believes he can do it, citing his build for the weight class and skillset. Gibson and Chandler also share a touching conversation about adoption. While Chandler has notably adopted two children of his own, Gibson reveals he is a child of adoption himself as well as the fact he recently connected with his birth family for the first time.

This proves to be segue into a deeper profile on Gibson, exploring his life at home. He has a wife and two daughters, and lives in Templeton, Calif. He trains out of The Pit in San Luis Obispo alongside WEC and UFC alum Antonio Banuelos, and is shown hitting the pads.

Back at the TUF House, Gutierrez is sharing pictures of his own friends and family with his housemates. We now get a glimpse into the life of Gutierrez. The 26-year-old represents Mexico, but lives up north in East Lansing, Mich. where he relocated to supplement his fighting career. He trains out of Murcielago MMA and lives at home with his two younger brothers, his girlfriend and his dog, a rare Husky-Pitbull designer breed. He also works as a barber on the side to help pay his bills.

Gutierrez got into mixed martial arts through amateur wrestling, and while he admits his amateur career didn’t work out quite the way he envisioned it would, he didn’t really go into too much detail about it. He trains alongside fellow UFC welterweights Khaos Williams and Joaquin Buckley under Head Coach Joaquin Murcielago, and all three are great sources of information and inspiration for the bantamweight hopeful.

Speaking of haircuts, the last clip before weigh-in day shows Gutierrez giving a haircut to Coach McGregor in the TUF House, who seems satisfied with the new look (which is admittedly not too different than the one he was already sporting). McGregor shares a beer with some the fighters, who credit him for his energy and enthusiasm.

The weigh-ins come next for both fighters, and it is worth noting that Gutierrez is Team McGregor’s top-seeded bantamweight, making Gibson the fourth-seeded bantamweight on Team Chandler, so it will be telling to see if the fight plays out as such. UFC President Dana White also notes the size difference between the two. While both fighters weighed in under the 136-pound allowance, Gibson stands at 5-foot-10 and is a massive fighter for the weight class who wears his weight well. Fighters from both teams are picking their respective teammates, but are all in acknowledgement of how tough of a fight this will be for both competitors.

The Fight

Gutierrez comes to the cage in a cowboy hat, which soon finds its way onto the head of his coach. McGregor seems to be doing his best Champ Kind impression, and has the look of a man who just sold his oil refinery business and is now looking to buy a basketball team.

Jason Herzog is the referee. As promised, Gutierrez seems intent on closing the distance early and nullifying Gibson’s length, though the larger Gibson only came in with a one-inch reach advantage. However, Gibson does well to stop his opponent, instead pummeling for under hooks and tying him up on the cage. They soon separate and end up back in the clinch after trading a handful of strikes. This time, Gutierrez sustains a cut on his nose before the two fighters break again.

Gutierrez hits a big leg kick, but seems to be growing impatient with Gibson dictating the pace of the fight in the early going with his takedown defense on cage work. As Gutierrez aims to reset, Gibson surprises him with a huge switch knee up the middle that lands flush and knocks Gutierrez to the mat. It almost looked like a bicycle kick, but Gibson is able to tuck his leg in and finish with the knee instead of the door.

Gibson lands a few finishes shots on the ground before Herzog waves the fight off in favor of “The Renegade.

Team Chandler moves to 2-0 while taking out Team McGregor’s top bantamweight contender.

Official Result: Cody Gibson def. Mando Gutierrez via Knockout (Switch Knee) at 3:24 of Round 1


All parties acknowledge how competitive the fight was up until the knockout, while Chandler credits his fighter for his ability to take instruction mid-fight and find the finish. McGregor, dejected and defeated once again, calls the result “unlucky” but it will be interesting to see how many setbacks he’ll need to face before he snaps.

Gibson credits his coaches for instilling the confidence in him he needed to get over the finish line. He believes confidence was the missing piece for him in his first UFC run. If that is the case, the 35-year-old could have a chance to surprise once again in the semifinals.

Gutierrez, visibly disappointed in himself, is consoled by the veterans on Team Chandler as he heads back to the locker room having now absorbed defeats on both DWCS and TUF.

Team Chandler will look to make a perfect 3-for-3 next week when veteran Austin Hubbard fights prospect Aaron McKenzie.

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