The Ultimate Fighter 18 Catch-Up: What’s Happened So Far…

Baszler vs. Pena

Ronda Rousey decided to throw down the gauntlet after episode 1 of FOX Sports 1's "The Ultimate Fighter Season 18." 

Her philosophy was straight-forward: my No. 1 pick is better than your No. 1 pick.  So instead of picking a more traditional fight with a difficult matchup that could immediately put the other team on the defensive, she chose to put her first pick Shayna Baszler against Meisha Tate's overall first pick Julianna Pena.  It did not go well.

During the first round, everything seemed to be going right for Rousey and her selection.  Pena landed a few decent strikes early, but was beaten on the ground for the majority of the round by Baszler.  Pena briefly took top position towards the end of the round and landed some ground and pound blows that looked to have Baszler in a little trouble, but that was it. 

Baszler rebounded and put Pena on her back to end the round.  It was a close round to score, but most would put it in favor of Baszler.  However, that would be her last good moment in the fight.  Round 2 was all Pena as she battered Baszler with knees and eventually took her to the ground.  Once there, Pena was able to stop the submission ace Baszler with a rear naked choke.

After the fight, Rousey was visibly upset and tried to console Baszler as Team Tate rejoiced.  Her hurt for her teammate seemed genuine as she told her that many contestants from "Ultimate Fighter" have lost on the show and gone on to do great things.  However, at no point did that seem to mask her contempt for Tate.  Control had shifted — and Tate saw her opening.

To further her team's advantage in the wake of Rousey's bold first match move, Tate threw a roundhouse right back at her rival.  Her choice for Episode 3's main event: one of her standouts Chris Holdsworth against Team Rousey's Chris Beal. 

Holdsworth's jujitsu tactics looked incredible in his win to get into the house.  Meanwhile, Tate seemed to pick Beal as his opponent for one simple reason: Beal is nursing an injured hand.  Beal looked to be one of the better fighters in his preliminary bout to get in to the house, showing great athleticism coupled with punching power and accuracy.  His injury appears significant enough that Tate was willing to risk Holdsworth against Beal for the prospect of going up 2-0 in the competition, while knocking out two of Rousey's strongest contenders. 

The real question seems to be is this fight pick fueled by retribution for what Rousey did in the earlier episode; or is it just a logical pick to try and take advantage of an injured fighter?  Rousey went for the knockout blow last episode against Tate and it backfired.  It will be interesting to see if the same thing happens one episode later to Tate.

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