The 31st season of The Ultimate Fighter returned for its penultimate episode on Tuesday night, which featured the annual Coach’s Challenge between head coaches Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler, as well as the second lightweight semifinal of the season.
The episode ends with what is sure to be an exciting bout between Team Chandler teammates Jason Knight and Kurt Holobaugh. The winner will face another teammate, of theirs, Austin Hubbard, in the finale.
Those with a subscription to ESPN+ can stream TUF 31 on demand.
TUF 31 Episode 11 Recap
This week’s episode starts at the TUF House. Jason Knight says he and Holobaugh are both going to bleed. He thinks they will both show they are warriors, beat the “p—” out of one another, then “have a beer afterward.” Knight reveals he and Holobaugh were supposed to fight 10 years ago in another promotion. Holobaugh says if the fight goes to a decision, he would be curious to see the punch count.
Both fighters are setting a high bar for their fight, something not usually seen on TUF. They both seem to be more focused on putting on a show than actually winning, which could produce some wild variance. Head Coach Michael Chandler is excited about the fight. He explains that he voluntarily pulled himself out of coaching either fighter, instead opting to divide his coaching staff.
Knight says he hasn’t been working on anything specifically for his semifinal opponent, but that he and Holobaugh know each other very well from their sessions. Knight wants to be the “matador” in their fight, hoping to land three strikes for every Holobaugh strike.
Knight’s mindset is one that is refreshing. He is not putting any extra pressure on himself to perform, and I am curious to see if it shows in the fight.
Need some more action after Dana White's Contender Series? Time to get TUF!
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Holobaugh corroborates Knight’s story of their previous booking in the gym. He says both men were undefeated when they were originally scheduled to match up. Knight says he does not want to be the guy who crushes his buddy’s dreams, but the guy who helps him live up to those dreams. Holobaugh, meanwhile believes he, not Knight, will be the volume king. When the pace begins to mount on his opponent, Knight believes he will be able to snatch a guillotine or accrue a late stoppage.
Chandler, for what it’s worth, spoke glowingly of both fights. He calls their skills a wash, and admitted that while Knight can push a pace, Holobaugh is the more powerful striker.
Now it’s time for the annual Coach’s Challenge! The fighters and coaches arrive at The APEX with no idea what they are in for. UFC President Dana White, a ring girl, and Bruce Buffer are waiting for them, standing in front of a pair of ice buckets. White says this year’s Coaches’ Challenge will be Ice Bath Trivia, which, as you can imagine, is pretty self-explanatory.
Round 1 and 2 are worth one point each, while Round 3 is worth two points. There will be a tiebreaker round, if necessary. The first round of questions, according to White, will be about general UFC history, while the third round will be questions for both Chandler and McGregor about each other. If anyone quite because of the cold, they forfeit the challenge. Bruce Buffer is the host.
From the onset, it looks like both fighters are handling the cold well, and both seem like guys who would use ice baths quite a bit in their recovery.
The first question of Round 1: Who did Mark Coleman defeat at the end of UFC 10: The Tournament? The options are a.) Tank Abbott, b.) Josh Barnett or c.) Don Frye. Both Chandler and McGregor agree that the answer is Tank Abbott.
Taking a cold plunge for the Coaches' Challenge 🥶
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But both are incorrect! The correct answer was Don Frye. No points for either coach.
The second question of Round 1: Who did Jon Jones beat in his UFC debut? The options are a.) Daniel Cormier, b.) Matt Hamill, or c.) Andre Gusmao. An easy question that can be answered by process of elimination, but Andre Gusmao is the correct answer and the correct choice by both coaches.
The third question of the first round: Against whom did Brock Lesnar get his first UFC win? a.) Frank Mir, b.) Mirko Cro Cop, or c.) Heath Herring. But there is some dissention! Chandler chooses Mir, while McGregor correctly chooses Herring. McGregor leads Chandler, 2-1.
The fourth question: Who did Tito Ortiz beat at UFC 25? The answers are a.) Wanderlei Silva, b.) Chuck Liddell, or c.) Randy Couture. Both coaches incorrectly vote for Liddell.
As the questions continue to come in, Chandler takes a decided lead, and is up 5-3 through one round.
The second round comes and goes, and both coaches are holding serve, making a lot of the same guesses. Both fighters incorrectly guess that Carla Esparza was the first female TUF champion. In fact, it was Julianna Pena.
“F—, really?!” Chandler exclaims. “Yep,” Buffer replies. McGregor leads Chandler, 10-8 through two rounds (but that is not a judges’ tally). The third round will be crucial, however, as all questions are worth double. Since McGregor leads by an even number, a tie is in play. White says the coaches have been in the ice baths for up to 20 minutes to this point, which is “absolutely gangster.”
The coaches, who have been very chummy during this challenge, seem to be having a good time. Chandler eventually ties up the score at 14 points apiece, with McGregor due to receive the final question. A correct answer will win him and his team the cash prize. The question is how many of Chandler’s wins have come by way of TKO? a.) None, b.) 11, c.) 13. McGregor essentially has a coin-flip chance, and chooses b.). The correct answer.
Team McGregor wins the money. Chandler, despite having cleaned up in the opening round of fights, is lamenting the loss, but shouldn’t take it too hard.
It is now time for the weigh-ins. The fighters seem to think Knight has a slight edge. After both fighters make weight, Knight leads a prayer with his opponent before shaking hands and walking off. That’s something you don’t see every day.
Knight and Holobaugh are now given the chance to chat with their families. Knight’s brother correctly predicts that his semifinal fight is Holobaugh. Knight proudly tells his family he fully expects both he and his opponents to leave a lot of blood in the Octagon.
As for Holobaugh, he chats with his wife and kids and is, at first, at a loss for words, overcome by emotion. He tells his son the show is just like what he sees on TV.
The fighters are now making their way into the APEX, Knight vs. Holobaugh, two southerners, coming up next!
Mark Smith is the referee. Both fighters come out with steady volume, ready and willing to live up to their promise to put on an entertaining fight. Knight is talking to Holobaugh in the cage, and both fighters are landing, but Holobaugh’s shots seem to have a little more sting. Knight looks like he wants to move forward, but simply can’t, as Holobaugh is doing a great job of cutting off the cage.
“Nice one,” Knight said.
Holobaugh continues to succeed in cutting off the center of the cage. Conor McGregor is here as well, randomly giving both fighters advice from cage side. I guess he’s just here as a fan.
Knight appears able to match Holbaugh’s speed, but Holobaugh is sitting down more on his shots, and has already busted up Knight’s nose. The volume has been pretty even so far, but the power has been totally on the side of Holobaugh. Holobaugh lands another big right straight as Knight checks his hands. Holobaugh comes forward and lands another overhand.
Not sure if this is a 10-8 round, as Knight has slipped every bit as frequently as he’s been sat down, but the damage felt pretty one-sided on the side of Holobaugh. Holobaugh ends the round by blitzing forward and landing a seven-strike combination, mixing in some clinch work.
Round 2 begins with Holobaugh taking the center of the Octagon as Knight immediately yields. Knight predicted coming in he would outstrike Holobaugh 3:1, but he is instead being outstruck at around a 1:3 clip and simply isn’t getting the respect of his opponent on the feet. Holobaugh gets Knight against the fence, and Knight does a good jobs rolling landing a big shot back against his opponent.
Holobaugh lands a body kick, causing Knight to audibly groan. Knight is starting to get the respect of Holobaugh, but only when his back is against the cage, causing his opponent to briefly retreat.
Finally, Holobaugh lands one more massive overhand right, sending Knight backpedaling to the fence. Holobaugh lands a flying knee on the way in, then proceeds to hit a 17-strike combination opened by another knee that finally sends Knight doubling over onto the canvas. Holobaugh finishes with three elbows before the referee steps in.
McGregor immediately calls the fight “a classic bout,” and White calls the fight “the fight of the season.” I can’t disagree.
Kurt Holobaugh def. Jason Knight via TKO (strikes) at 2:56 of Round 2
White happily recaps the fight, and adds that he was very impressed with both guys. It will be interesting to see if Knight’s performance on the show gets him another look in the UFC. His skills are such that he can turn in a wide range of performances, but he is still one of the most entertaining fighters and personalities not currently in the UFC.
Holobaugh is thrilled to get the win, against a close friend, no less. Hubbard, who Holobaugh will be facing in the finale, was extremely impressed with his teammate’s performance, and Chandler adds that “the dude I just saw” can definitely win the competition.
Knight, meanwhile, is being checks out by the medical staff for any broken bones in his face. When given a mirror, Knight actually says he looked better than he thought he would. He admitted he thought he could land something that would slow him down, but that it didn’t happen for him. He is leaving the competition with his head held high.
The next episode will see McGregor treat the fighters to a steak dinner, before Rico DiSciullo battles Cody Gibson in the last bantamweight semifinal of the season. The winner will take on Brad Katona in the finale.