For the 30th installment of the core edition of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, the UFC is returning with a season featuring both men and women. The organization has opted to focus on the men’s heavyweight and women’s flyweight divisions in the hopes of providing an influx of new talent to two divisions that could use some depth.
The coaches will be newly minted rivals. UFC women’s bantamweight champion Julianna Pena will coach opposite Amanda Nunes, whom Pena defeated for the strap. They will fight at the conclusion of the season in an anticipated rematch.
In the meantime, fans can enjoy all of the reality-show antics, drama and fight action on ESPN+. The season debut airs on May 2, and it all leads up to the live finale event at a yet-to-be-announced card.
Let’s look at the heavyweight cast of The Ultimate Fighter 30.
Nyle Bartling (6-0, Glory MMA)
Chandler Cole (8-3, Team Oxedine)
Jordan Heiderman (5-0, Bomb Squad)
Rob MacDonald (5-4, Franco Behring)
Zac Pauga (5-0, Elevation Fight Team)
Eduardo Perez (4-1, SBG NorCal)
Mitchell Sipe (5-2, World Crown Sports)
Mohammed Usman (7-2, Fortis MMA)
Best Prospect: Nyle Bartling
Possessing a strong wrestling background and farm boy strength, Nyle Bartling looks to be the best long-term fighter on this cast. He was undefeated with all finishes as an amateur. He turned pro in 2019 and has scored six victories, all by finish. He is excellent with his takedowns and then destroys opponents with big ground-and-pound. If the opportunity presents itself, he will also grab hold of an opponent’s neck and choke them. This guy looks to be the biggest problem on this season.
Dark Horse: Zac Pauga
Normally a light heavyweight, Zac Pauga moves up to the heavyweight division for this season to get his shot at the UFC. Because he will be giving up size to a lot of opponents, he will want to use speed and athleticism in his fights this season. When you consider men of very large size like Mohammed Usman, Nyle Bartling and Mitchell Sipe, Pauga will be likely the smallest guy on the cast. However, he’s still powerful, he is skilled and will likely have a better set of lungs than most. Keep an eye on this guy. I really hope he’s brought on as a 205er post-season.
Long Shot: Rob MacDonald
Rob MacDonald, aka Bobby Maximus, is 43 years old and hasn’t fought an MMA fight since 2009. Is there anything else to say?
The Rest of the Field
Chandler Cole enters this season after a fill-in fight in the 2021 PFL season, where he was bested by Ante Delija. He gave a valiant effort given the circumstances, so it will be interesting to see given he will have as much time to prepare as the rest of the cast.
Jordan Heiderman is another guy to keep your eye on this season. The four-time LFA veteran has proven to be a solid prospect thus far in his pro career, with his most impressive win being a submission of Bellator veteran Anthony Garrett.
Eduardo Perez is one of the lesser-known guys on this season but is known for his striking and knockout power. He could be another darkhorse on this season just given that he’s not as known as some of the other castmembers.
Mitchell Sipe shows his face around the UFC for the first time since 2018, where he was defeated on the Contender Series to Dontale Mayes. Sipe has a wrestling background but has been working hard on his striking to round his game out, entering this season coming off a pro boxing win.
Mohammed Usman is the brother of UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, so he already walks in a heft shadow. The former University of Arizona wrestler is likely the biggest man on the show, physically, and has a lot to prove coming off a loss in the 2021 PFL season to Brandon Sayles.
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