TUF Season 31 Episode 6 Recap

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The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): Season 31 returned this week for the sixth time this season with a familiar theme to the last five episodes: Will Conor McGregor‘s team pick up its first win of the season?

Now may be as good a time for the McGregor’s team of prospects as ever. This week’s episode will be headlined by a lightweight clash between McGregor’s top-seeded fighter as well as a protégé of his at SBG Ireland, Lee Hammond, and UFC veteran Kurt Holobaugh.

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

TUF 31 Episode 6 Recap

This week’s episode opens up at the TUF House, where Holobaugh is having a conversation with teammate Roosevelt Roberts about where they stand in their respective careers. Roberts picked up a victory in the season’s opening episode when he scored a quick knockout of Nate Jennerman. The two fighters seem to share the mindset that now that their worst nightmares have been realized, the only place they have to go is up.

Holobaugh begins to recap his career in MMA. The 36-year-old had his career get off to a promising start, winning his first nine fights before getting booked to fight UFC veteran Pat Healy on the main card of a Strikeforce show. While he ultimately came up short, he proved enough to the UFC brass for him to stick around post-Zuffa Takeover, and made his UFC debut shortly after. He dropped another decision to Steve Siler, however, and found himself on the outs. He went on a tear post-UFC, compiling an 8-2 record before resurfacing on Dana White’s Contender Series. While he beat Matt Bessette as a massive favorite, the bout was overturned to a no-contest after Holobaugh was found to have used an unapproved IV. The UFC, however, had seen enough to bring Holobaugh back into the fold anyway, but he went 0-3 and would be bounced from the promotion for a second time.

He is a combined 0-4 inside the UFC cage over two stints, but now finds himself in a position to secure a third stint with the promotion. Holobaugh says he never saw himself getting another shot in the UFC, but that could be a very real possibility now for the Franklinton, La. native.

We then get to learn a bit more about Hammond, a countryman of McGregor’s as well as a teammate. Remember, much was made prior to the show about McGregor campaigning heavily to get “one of his guys” on the show. That guy turned out to be Hammond, who has been a mainstay at the gym since he was very young. Hammond is constantly inspired by his mentor, who showed him he could achieve anything he put his mind to. McGregor (and Hammond’s) coach John Kavanaugh evidently highlighted Holobaugh as a potential show winner, and McGregor believes a victory here can completely change the course for his team.

Back at the house, Holobaugh resumes his conversation with Roberts, which segues into a montage about him discussing his life at home in Louisiana.

Holobaugh and his wife acquired a property encompassing 20 acres, a small farm, and numerous animals. In addition, they have a blended family consisting of Holobaugh’s three children from a previous relationship, his wife’s child from a previous relationship, and their own child. In the montage, they all enjoy a hearty crawfish boil together, followed by a transition to Holobaugh’s visit to one of the two gyms he and his wife both own and manage.

As for this week’s fight, Holobaugh compares the matchup with Hammond to a “grown man taking on a little boy.” There may be something to that. Holobaugh’s experience will is a factor that no prospect on Team McGregor will be able to match, and if he can play on it, he might be able to be just a tad better in the crucial moments which could be enough for him to get his hand raised. Nevertheless, he is in full acknowledgement of how volatile the fight game can be.

Head Coach Michael Chandler, for what it’s worth, is fully and completely behind Holobaugh’s “grown man” mindset and approach to the fight, putting his fighter through rigorous drills to best prepare him for a war of attrition. He is looking to make sure Hammond “feels” Holobaugh at all times, even if the fight has to deviate from the initial game plan.

It’s now time to learn more about Hammond’s home life, and we even get to meet his mother. He continues to reside at home because it provides him with all the necessities he requires, as his mother clarifies. She highlights the immense dedication and effort her son, a 5-0 professional, has put into reaching this stage, even recalling instances where he would skip school in order to train. His journey commenced with jiu-jitsu, which captivated him from the start, leading him to participate in several of McGregor’s training camps before ultimately transitioning to a career in MMA.

While he is 5-0, Hammond also compiled a 15-5 amateur record, so he is far more tested than most 5-0 prospects. McGregor says it is Hammond’s dream to follow in his own footsteps, and calls The Ultimate Fighter a great path for him to realize his dreams and aspirations.

Speaking of McGregor, “Mystic Mac” is once again noticeably absent from the weigh-ins. Chandler uses the situation as an opportunity to clarify why it is so important for him, as a coach, to support his fighters in any way he can. This includes being a presence at the weigh-ins.

Both fighters make the lightweight limit. Brad Katona of Team Chandler, who won last week, holds the distinction of having trained with Holobaugh while on the show and with Hammond as a member of SBG Ireland. He is picking Hammond to submit Holobaugh in the second round, and there are definitely a couple different ways to look at his assessment.

UFC President Dana White chimes in on the matchup before the fight, and says while it’s tough to discredit the belief McGregor has in Hammond that Holobaugh has been in the UFC twice and his finishing mentality could make him a tough out in this spot.

The Fight

Herb Dean is the referee. Hammond starts fast, timing a takedown on the veteran Holobaugh before going to work from the guard. Holobaugh, however, seems settled and mounts some minor offense from the bottom before attempting to work his way back up. As he works his way back up by way of a wrestling transition, he ends up putting Hammond on the bottom with a single leg takedown. When Hammond returns to his feet, Holobaugh retains a body lock, but Hammond winds up back on top and in a more advantageous position for his efforts.

Hammond posture up and lands a HUGE elbow that pleases his coach at cage side. Hammond is comfortable in the half guard, but can’t seem to work his way into mount. Holobaugh uses the separation Hammond created to get closer to the cage but continues to eat ground strikes from Team McGregor’s top lightweight. As Holobaugh regains his footing, he is unable to prevent a slick back-take from Hammond, who lands another unorthodox elbow strike that stuns Holobaugh, but does not come close to “ending it” as McGregor is contesting live. The round ends with Hammond in firm control, and things are looking up for Team McGregor.

10-9 Hammond through one.

Holobaugh seems intent on changing his fortunes in the second round, landing a couple slick jabs. He eventually catches a Hammond kick, but rather than fight it, Hammond pulls guard to obtain control in the next ground exchange of the fight. Hammond sweeps, but pulls guard again looking for a guillotine. It is tough to say how close it is, but Hammond does manage to sweep to mount before letting go of the choke to try something else. Hammond is now looking to work out of half guard and this fight is getting away from Holobaugh quickly.

Nearly two and a half minutes into the round, Hammond is having little issue maintaining top control as he continues to land short, damaging elbow strikes from the top. Holobaugh tries to hail-mary scramble out of the position, and the slipperyness of both fighters allows him to do just that while creating enough separation from Hammond to end up on top. Hammond counters this with a leg lock, but Holobaugh is again able to sweep, ending up on top as he attempts a mounted guillotine initially out of side control. What at first seems like a feeble attempt grows more and more serious by the second, however, likely through the positional struggle between the two fights. Holobaugh rolls his way back into mount as his coach urges him to squeeze. Amazingly, he is able to get enough of a squeeze on Hammond to force the tap, capping off the season’s best comeback yet.

Wow! A lot to process after this one.

Kurt Holobaugh def. Lee Hammond via Submission (Guillotine) at 3:30 of Round 1


Coach McGregor is BESIDE himself after this defeat, letting out a big yelp as if he just watched his pet get run over by a truck. Coach Chandler admits he didn’t love the matchup for his fighter, and credits Hammond for his size, length and talent. However, Chandler credited his fighter’s resolve and basically suggests the ending came down to Holobaugh capitalizing on one mistake. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

McGregor says he still believes Hammond to be the better fighter, but he seems to be a bit less settled in the actual situation. Hammond believes he made a rookie mistake. Holobaugh credits his family’s belief in him for helping him pull through.

As Holobaugh gets his hand raised, the theatrics seem to be far from over. Chandler is egging on McGregor from outside the cage, and McGregor has no problem clapping back.

“Stacking ’em up!” Chandler chides.

Chandler approaches McGregor in the cage after “Mystic Mac” credits Holobaugh on a job well done. McGregor says some of these “kids” made the UFC before Chandler did and the two come nose to nose.

“I’ll break your nose, you little fool-yeah,” McGregor darts back. “You tink! You little Bellator tink!”

At that moment, McGregor puts his hands on Chandler giving him a hard shove across the cage. Chandler is loving it, and McGregor is incensed. Amazingly, nobody is between them and McGregor is taking off his sport coat.

“Are we gonna fight right now?” Chandler asks, to nobody in particular.

White, who was sitting cage side, exploded out of his seat and ran as fast as you will ever see him run into the cage to make sure something doesn’t happen. Luckily cooler heads prevail as Chandler proclaims he will keep “stacking ’em up.” McGregor refutes Chandler’s claims about being there for his team at the weigh-ins, chalking up his not being there to delegating to his coaches.

“He’s 0-6, I knew that was coming,” White said.

Next week, McGregor tries to settle himself down ahead of the first of two of the final quarterfinal bouts. His team has had a historically bad start to the competition, and Landon Quinones will need to get through UFC veteran Jason Knight in a Fight of the Season contender.

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