This week is precisely what The Ultimate Fighter was created for. Two legitimately talented prospects and truly skilled athletes getting the chance to show that they belong in the UFC.
Jessamyn Duke and Raquel Pennington are two of the most physically gifted members of the cast and are an early taste of the sort of fighters women's MMA will soon be attracting. They are among the few multifaceted fighters competing in women's MMA these days and are true physical specimens that, unlike far too many fighters in both TUF and the UFC's women's division who fight overweight, are right at home at bantamweight's 135-pound limit.
And we got to see them on The Ultimate Fighter.
- All three rounds were close, but Raquel Pennington looked like the better fighter overall by my estimation (I scored it 30-27). Jessamyn Duke's greatest strength is her clinch game and length, which allows her to land some scary knees and pull off some nice submissions. Pennington, though, consistently beat her to the punch and landed some devastating combinations with her hands.
- Skill for skill, Duke is probably the best female fighter on the show. Cardio, though, is the great equalizer. She looked horribly tired in the second round, but seemed to catch a little bit of a second wind in the third. Still, the fight was primarily a stand-up battle and her knees were just too slow to do much damage.
- Enough about Duke, though! Pennington is possibly the front-runner to win the women's tournament now. As I discussed in my guide to the TUF 18 ladies, she has great hands, along with grappling savvy. A two-pronged attack in women's MMA as it stands right now is a rarity. The only major threats among her prospective opponents are Jessica Rakoczy, who is a far more accomplished boxer than her, and Peggy Morgan, who is really huge.
- The fight was a hearty scrap, but I don't know that it was all that intense. Both fighters left it all in the cage, but there was too much wheezing and too few big strikes landed past the first round to really call it one for the ages—in my opinion, at least. It's still an effort both fighters should be commended for.
|Team Rousey||Team Tate|
|Peggy Morgan||Raquel Pennington|
|David Grant||Chris Holdsworth|
|Anthony Gutierrez||Josh Hill|
(Note: Winners are in bold, losers are scratched off the list and the next competitors' names are in italics.)
More notes from Episode 6:
- Raquel Pennington, in case you missed it, is an open lesbian. She discussed her mother's lack of acceptance and her adoration for her longtime girlfriend.
- The difference in the quality of the coaching staffs continues to grow as Miesha Tate brings in Muay Thai champion Melchor Menor to help Pennington against Jessamyn Duke. Menor was actually one of the main coaches on Jason "Mayhem" Miller's team in TUF 14, and joins Thonglor Armatsena, the Team Alpha Male striking coach before Duane Ludwig began his much-hyped tenure with the team.
- Duke is downright chiseled after cutting down to the 135-pound limit and is physically one of the most formidable 135-pound women in the fight business.
- Most of the cast and coaches go to a pool party. Jessamyn Duke opts to stay home, reflect and talk with the camera. When everyone returns, Anthony Gutierrez channels his inner Jamie Yager, annoying Raquel, Julianna Pena and Sarah Moras as they sleep. They get him back by flipping over his mattress as he sleeps as all four of them laugh about it.
- Miesha Tate comes off like one of the mean girls from that movie Mean Girls. While she has been very content in crying foul whenever she gets a rise out of Ronda Rousey, when Rousey doesn't pick a fight, she is more than willing to take swipes at her behind her back. This was on full display when she jeers Rousey after the fight before actually shaking hands with Duke, then complains when Rousey takes issue with it.
- We now officially know all the fights for the next three weeks. Josh Hill vs. Michael Wootten next week, followed by the final women's fight between Sarah Moras and Peggy Morgan, then Anthony Gutierrez vs. Cody Bollinger capping off the quarterfinals.