Previously on The Ultimate Fighter …
Hey! Do you remember Jessica Penne? Yes, she’s a pretty good fighter. MMARising puts her 12th in the global pound-for-pound rankings. She’s seeded fourth in the tournament on The Ultimate Fighter.
Oh, you didn’t remember she’s on the show? Well, she is. No, really. And she’s fighting fifth seed Aisling Daly, another fighter you might have known before the show but haven’t seen as much this season except to learn about her battle with depression and her love of her Irish training partners.
In other words, we have actual grown-ups fighting this week. People who aren’t fussing with each other over stupid things. That was last week.
This being a reality show, they have to drum up something. So we talk with Justine Kish, who rooms with Daly but is good friends with Penne. She interprets Daly’s lack of an outgoing personality as hatred. We hadn’t seen Kish in quite a while — she was injured and had to withdraw from the competition.
Penne isn’t drawn into anything. She wants to direct her energy toward the fight. You can almost hear the producers crying.
So let’s try some actual fight-related talk. Penne isn’t big on game-planning, but she’s concerned about Daly’s unorthodox style. Got that?
But first, it’s our product placement for Harley-Davidson. Coach Anthony Pettis gives a nice speech about the “Harley-Davidson lifestyle.” Felice Herrig tells us she frequently rides on the back of a Harley-Davidson and was enjoying a chance to actually go “vroom, vroom” herself. I cannot comment on that.
Just before Pettis says “lifestyle” for the 30th time, we see Kish trying to get Penne to lighten up and enjoy herself.
I’m glad I’m not on this show. My confessional would run something like this: “Yeah, how am I supposed to fit my kids on this? And all the gear for soccer practice? Where are the speakers? And why is it so freaking loud? Yeah, I’m going outside to wait for the van.”
As promised, we’re going to see the man Daly calls “the notorious Conor McGregor,” the Irishman who fights pretty well at featherweight and talks even better. He shows up in a dapper vest and tie, as if someone told him people dress up in Vegas. (He is at least going to a press event to sell his bout with Dustin Poirier.) He pulls off the surprise pretty well. Daly is just puttering around the dressing room and starting to walk toward the door when McGregor suddenly pops in. Daly nearly takes him down with a big hug, and they drool together over the UFC belt in the hall.
Daly brings McGregor in to meet the team. Most of them seem unimpressed. But Daly introduces her friends, including Alex the Never Seen on Camera. She admits it might be a bit childish not to introduce the ones who aren’t really her buddies — “Didn’t want anybody getting some love from Conor if they didn’t deserve it.”
We’ve just hit the point in the season where everyone has the thousand-yard stare. They’re physically and emotionally drained. It’s like watching people wait at an airport during a flight delay.
Penne wants her alone time, but Kish won’t have it. She wants to play ping-pong. Penne wants to keep doing her jigsaw puzzle. Kish wants to do something two people can do. She has never seen my family do jigsaw puzzles.
Legendary cutman Stitch Duran pops up for a cameo, wrapping Daly’s hands and asking if she’s primarily a boxer. She says she’s more well-rounded.
Pettis, who has been pretty good about not playing favorites, offers a quick analysis: The fight favors Jessica early, Aish later. Given that we’re only 26 minutes into this episode and already walking to the cage, we may be seeing the “Aish later” part of that assessment.
Tale of the tape: You wouldn’t guess it, but Penne is five years older (31 to 26). She’s also a couple of inches taller with a reach advantage.
After 40 seconds of tentative jabbing and stepping around, Penne gets an eye poke. Referee Herb Dean stops the action and consults with Penne, who’s blinking a lot but seems ready to resume quickly.
In the fight recap later, Anthony Pettis thinks the eye poke slowed down Penne, who kept going for a takedown but couldn’t get it. Daly wound up getting a couple of takedowns herself but opted not to take the fight to the ground. That may have been the difference in a first round with a few clinches and some fierce exchanges.
Round 2: Daly throws hard straight rights. Another clinch, but Daly gets the underhooks and again tosses Penne to the ground and lets her up. They clinch again, and the cageside microphones pick up some heavy breathing from both fighters. It’s an intense fight.
Penne finally gets her takedown late in the round, sneaking her leg past Daly’s to trip her. Daly defends well, but the round ends with Penne on Daly’s back, landing punches. That’s enough to win the round and force us to …
Round 3: And it’s all Penne. Daly goes for the clinch but gets tripped. Penne’s on top again with a lot of time to work. Daly shoes some creativity from the bottom, even going for a leg submission at one point, but Penne keeps top control and lands some punches. Penne, to her credit, remains aggressive and works her way to side control. She slides up and locks an arm around Daly’s neck, never really threatening the choke but leaving herself free to pound away.
Penne finally gives up the position, and they stand again. Realistically, Daly’s only chance at this point is a big KO, but she opts to clinch again. At the horn, they both raise their hands, but there’s no way this fight goes to Daly.
Fight recap: Pettis says it’s one of the best fights of the season. Melendez is impressed as well. The decision, of course, goes to Penne.
In Penne’s dressing room, the coaches hail Daly’s toughness. Penne jokingly complains that she’s not getting any praise.
Penne faces the winner of the Esparza-Torres fight. Gotta like Penne in that one.
The next episode promises both of the remaining quarterfinals, including Calderwood-Namajunas. That’s an impressive fight card.