On Wednesday, Sept. 10, the UFC kicked off its 20th season of its famed reality show, The Ultimate Fighter.
The show will kick off the promotion’s 115-pound, women’s strawweight division with the reality show serving as a title tournament for the first time in its history.
The roster for The Ultimate Fighter 20 started to take shape late last year when the promotion announced its acquisition of a number of strawweight fighters from the Invicta FC roster, including reigning champion Carla Esparza, unbeaten Tecia Torres, Bellator veteran Felice Herrig, undefeated Scottish fighter Joanne Calderwood, Australians Bec Rawlings and Alex Chambers, Rose Namajunas and Emily Kagan.
On April 28, the UFC held tryouts to find eight additional cast members who would join the Invicta imports and round out the field of 16 on the show. On July 3, the promotion revealed those additions: Heather Jo Clark, Aisling Daly, Lisa Ellis, Angela Hill, Justine Kish, Angela Magana, Randa Markos and Jessica Penne.
The season filmed for six weeks beginning in July. The season was coached by former Strikeforce champion and UFC title challenger Gilbert Melendez and current lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. Pettis and Melendez will fight for the 155-pound title following the show’s conclusion.
For the show’s opening round fights, the fighters were ranked from No. 1 to No. 16 by UFC matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby and matched accordingly. Team Pettis won the coin flip and opted to pick the first fighter. When a fighter was selected, their opposing-ranked fighter was automatically put on the other team.
In the first bout of the season, coach Gilbert Melendez selected Tecia Torres to face off with Randa Markos of Team Pettis.
Torres came out firing combinations on the feet which prompted Markos to shoot for a takedown. Torres sprawled and rained punches on Markos from the top. The fight returned to the feet and Torres landed multiple kicks. Markos exploded for a big takedown, but Torres countered with an active attack from her back. Torres locked on a reverse triangle choke and delivered a series of strikes, but Markos was able to survive the frame.
The second stanza began with more kicks from Torres, but Markos was able to catch one and bring the fight to the ground. Markos passed to half guard, then side control briefly, but Torres recovered her guard. Torres attacked with an armbar from her back, but Markos was able to escape. Markos worked to mount late in the round and dropped elbows on Torres until the final bell.
With the fight even after two rounds, the fight went to a sudden-victory round. Markos landed a nice combination to begin the round, but Torres answered. Torres scored with a nice flurry of punches, but Markos continued to march forward. Markos looked for a big knee, but just missed. Torres pressed the fight against the cage, but the fight stayed upright. Markos dove for a takedown, which was stuffed, but she was able to drag Torres to the ground in the final minute. Markos transitioned to the back of Torres and worked hard until the final bell.
The judges rewarded Markos for her efforts, giving the lower-seeded fighter that first upset of the season.
On episode two, No. 2 Joanne Calderwood will face off with No. 15 Emily Kagan.