On Wednesday, Dec. 3, the UFC aired the 11th episode of the 20th season of its famed reality show, The Ultimate Fighter.
The show is serving as a title tournament for the first time in its history, showcasing the 115-pound, women’s strawweight division.
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.
*Due to the ACL injury suffered by No. 9-ranked Justine Kish, Kish and Torres switched teams.
For the third quarterfinal bout, No. 1 seed Carla Esparza took on her Team Pettis teammate Tecia Torres.
Esparza wasted little time looking to shoot for a takedown, but Torres stayed upright. The pair exchanged briefly on the feet before Esparza again looked to take the fight to the ground. Torres was able to stay light on her feet and break free of Esparza’s grasp multiple times in the opening minute, but Esparza was able to transition to her back along the fence near the midpoint of the round. Just as Torres appeared to find separation, Esparza put her on her back and scored with punches. Torres was able to return to her feet in the final minute of the frame, but Esparza earned another takedown to end the round on top.
Torres opened round two with combinations to slow Esparza’s advance. Esparza again looked for takedowns, but Torres landed punches to stay on her feet. Esparza got in deep on a single-leg attempt, but Torres exhibited great balance. A powerful double from Esparza put Torres on her back along the fence. She took the back of Torres while standing, but Torres was able to work out of the position. Torres transitioned for a takedown attempt of her own late in the round, but Esparza stuffed it and ended the fight on top.
The scorecards rewarded Esparza for her efforts and granted her a spot in the semifinals.
The final quarterfinal bout saw Team Melendez’s Rose Namajunas lock horns with Team Pettis fighter Joanne Calderwood.
Namajunas came out firing with a wild combination. Calderwood took it and came back with kicks. Calderwood pressed forward and pushed Namajunas to the mat. Namajunas quickly attacked with an armbar from her back, but Calderwood defended. Calderwood looked to posture up from the guard, but Namajunas was active off her back. As Calderwood tried to pass, Namajunas returned to her feet. Namajunas pushed Calderwood against the cage and scored with short punches and knees before earning a takedown.Calderwood used the cage to get back to her feet and delivered a big elbow from the clinch. The fight again hit the ground and Namajunas looked for a heel hook. Calderwood escaped, but was Namajunas transitioned to a kimura to sweep. Namajunas connected with short left hands from the top as the round closed.
Calderwood delivered a push kick that sent Namajunas to the ground to open round two. She quickly recovered and fired back with a side kick of her own. Namajunas closed the distance, but Calderwood secured the clinch and attacked the body with punches and knees. Calderwood landed a big elbow, prompting Namajunas to shoot for a takedown. Calderwood defended and landed in the guard of Namajunas. Namajunas applied a kimura on Calderwood’s left arm and forced the tap.
On the show’s final episode episode, No. 1-ranked Carla Esparza takes on No. 5-ranked Jessica Penne and No. 7-ranked Rose Namajunas faces off with No. 14-ranked Randa Markos to determine who will fight for gold at The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale on Dec. 12 in Las Vegas.