DeAnna Bennett vs. Katja Kankaanpää

Vitamin D: DeAnna Bennett’s Ultimate Fighter 26 Blog, Week 3

DeAnna Bennett TUF 26 Blogger

I fight, I win and now on to the next one. There can only be so much weirdness and lap dancing for now, so it’s someone else’s turn for the spotlight.

I had this gut feeling who Team Gaethje was going to pick since they had the next choice. We lined up for the fight announcement and BAM! Yup, just who I thought was next: Montana Stewart and Ariel Beck. They faced off and it was time to fight prep.

So, Ariel is my homegirl. I had known about her previous tryouts and had seen some of her fights, but I first met her officially the day of tryouts. She is a rock star. In fact, leading into the show and not knowing who was going to be chosen, she was one of the ones I was really hoping would be there. As fate had it, I got off the plane in Vegas and who was there to meet me in baggage claim? That bright shining ball of sunshine! I was like, “Huzzah! This is great! You shall be my friend! This is going to be great!” OK, those were only thoughts in my head at the time, but it came to happen.


Ariel is a farmgirl from Montana, so naturally she was matched up and had to fight the girl named Montana. OK, that’s not why they were matched up, but it just so happened to work out that way. It was great seeing the shots of her and her boyfriend Shae on her home video. During the time in the house, she told us plenty of farm-life stories and so it was great to see the visual to match up with them.

The match-up was a classic striker-vs.-grappler fight. Ariel is a boxer and hits damn hard, and I know this because I felt it… on my face, whereas Montana wrestled in high school and has a strong ground game.

So, this sport is rough. Obviously, it is physically rough, but it is rough on you mentally and emotionally as well. When you commit to something completely and put your heart and soul into something, it can be overwhelming and you get emotional, and some people get anxiety. There is nothing wrong with that.

It was sparring day for our team. We were out on the mats wrapping hands and I was standing next to Ariel. You could tell something was wrong. She excused herself quietly and went back to the locker room. The pressure of fighting and how much you put into it really tests you, and when you are so passionate about something, sometimes the pressure makes you emotional. It’s not a female thing. It’s a human thing.

Ariel was having one of those days when you feel it and have a panic attack; no shame in that. Lauren Murphy went into the locker room with Coach Rich [Pohler] and were with her, helping her through it. I popped my head in to make sure she was OK after they went back to practice, because I seriously care about her and wanted to make sure my buddy was OK. It really sucks to see your friends feeling all that anxiety, and I am not a very verbally comforting person, but I wanted to at least be there for her and let her know she is not alone.

Then entered Eddie Alvarez. I was there for a little bit of him talking to her and I’ve got to say, I already had a huge respect for him, but after his talk with Ariel the respect skyrocketed. As you can see, he really related and brought out the human side of the sport and the intense emotions that come with it. This exchange is one of the many reasons I was extremely grateful to be on his team, and I’m so glad he was able to talk to Ariel and help her out as well.

Now, back to fight prep!

Fight prep for Ariel was about defending the takedowns, using her angles to pick her shots, and using her great boxing. She worked one-on-one with the coaches for that and was looking great going into it. Now, as we were focusing on that, Montana was doing her fight prep.

On a night off from that, Team Gaethje went bowling.

I remember sitting at the house wondering why in the world the other team was getting all dolled up. They told us that they were going bowling and, you know what, good for them. It’s good that they got that team bonding in and got to blow off some steam. It looked like they had some fun.

Weigh-ins came and went, and fight day came quickly for Ariel and Montana. Again, I always get nervous when my friends fight, but I knew Ariel is tough and was going to do great. During warmups, she was looking great and feeling confident, which was awesome. During the walkout, in my head and possibly a little out loud, I hummed The Little Mermaid song where she gets her voice back — you know the one. There was no walkout music, so I provided some, though she was focused and probably didn’t hear it, haha.

The fight started off great. She was getting some good shots off and picking her punches. Blamo, doing great! Montana was able to get it to the ground, though. She threw on a D’arce and although Ariel put up a great effort in defending, she was forced to tap to the submission.


Again, when friends lose, it’s hard. She put her heart and soul out there, and to see her hurt after losing just sucked. There are no other words for it. It just plain sucked. Melinda Fabian and I went and gave her a hug, and like I said, “Feel every emotion. Let it out. There’s nothing wrong with that. Get everything out that night, and the next day we’ll work on being better the next time.” She is a tough cookie and I know she’ll be back with a vengeance, and I want front-row seats to see my friend lay the smack down, because, dang it, I think she’s awesome and a winner, no matter what happened in that fight. I mean it.

Montana went out there and did her thing and so high five to her. She’s a good person and she is on to the next round.

Next up: Lauren Murphy and Nicco Montano. Lauren was Team Alvarez’s next pick for the fights. Stay tuned for next week to see what’s up. Toodles, y’all.