Unlike other seasons of the popular reality series, TUF 20 doesn’t feature aspiring fighters hoping to make it to the UFC. This season features established fighters that have been signed by the organization competing for a UFC title guided by opposing coaches lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and former Strikeforce lightweight titleholder Gilbert Melendez.
For the first time in The Ultimate Fighter history, the fighters were seeded and the opening round match-ups were set during the first episode. The matches were predetermined. The bouts could happen in any order, but the fighters knew who their first opponent was going to be.
“Our matchmakers have seeded the top 16 fighters,” said UFC president Dana White. “The way it’s going to work is the no. 1 will fight the no. 16. No. 2 will fight no. 15 and so on and so on.”
The coaches were not shown which fighter was seeded where, but were given the opportunity to evaluate the athletes before making team selections. Once a coach selected a particular fighter, her seeded opponent automatically went to the other team.
Team Pettis won the customary coin toss and opted to select the fight fighter, allowing Team Melendez to choose the first match-up. Coach Pettis selected Invicta FC strawweight champion Carla Esparza first. Esparza was the top seed, so the no. 16 seed, Angela Hill, automatically went to Team Melendez.
Coach Melendez selected undefeated Tecia Torres as his first pick. Torres was seeded at no. 3, so the no. 14 seed, Randa Markos automatically became a member of Team Pettis.
For his second selection, Coach Pettis chose Scottish Muay Thai fighter Joanne Calderwood. Calderwood was ranked no. 2. She’ll fight the no. 15-seeded Emily Kagan, who went to Team Melendez.
Coach Melendez decided upon Rose Namajunas as his second selection. Namajunas was seeded no. 7 by the UFC matchmakers. She’ll face no. 10-seeded Alex Chambers in the opening round.
Pettis picked former Invicta FC atomweight champion Jessica Penne as his third choice. Penne was ranked no. 4. She’ll face the no. 13 seed Lisa Ellis, who automatically went to Team Melendez.
For his third selection, Melendez selected the no. 11 seed Heather Jo Clark. Clark will face her rival, no. 6 seed Felice Herrig in the opening round. The two have fought before and had an intense face-off during the team selections.
For his final team pick, coach Pettis went with Justine Kish. Kish was ranked no. 9 and will fight the no. 8 seed Bec Rawlings.
Melendez selected the no. 12 seed Angela Magana as his final pick, leaving Team Pettis with no. 5 seeded Aisling Daly.
Carla Esparza, Joanne Calderwood, Jessica Penne, Justine Kish, Felice Herrig, Alex Chambers, Randa Markos and Aisling Daly make up Team Pettis.
Tecia Torres, Rose Namajunas, Heather Jo Clark, Angela Magana, Bec Rawlings, Emily Kagan, Lisa Ellis and Angela Hill make up Team Melendez.
FIRST FIGHT PICK:
Since Team Pettis opted to pick the fight fighter, Team Melendez gained matchmaking control and the right to choose the first fight. Coach Melendez decided to call on his first pick, Tecia Torres. She was seeded no. 3 and her predetermined opponent was no. 14 seeded Randa Markos.
THE FIGHT: TECIA TORRES VS. RANDA MARKOS:
Torres took the center of the cage and landed leg kicks early. Markos pressed forward and worked to get the fight to the ground. Torres defended the first takedown attempt and delivered a steady dose of short left hands from the top position. Markos secured a takedown, but was unable to inflict any damage while Torres landed from the bottom and worked for a reverse triangle choke. MMAWeekly scored the first round 10-9 for Torres.
The two exchanged leg kicks in the early going on the second stanza. Torres pressed forward and landed a kick to the body, but Markos caught the kick and took Torres to the ground. She controlled Torres from the top position while working in elbows and punches. Markos easily won the frame and forced a “Sudden Victory” round.
The two exchange strikes through the first half of the final round. Markos landed a knee from the clinch that had Torres looking to get the fight to the ground. Markos defended the takedown attempt and took Torres down late in the round. Torres battled her way back to her feet only to be taken down again and mounted.
The judges scored the fight for Markos by unanimous decision. The no. 14 seed took out the no. 3 seed and eliminated one of the favorites.
“I feel awesome. I feel amazing. This is what I came here for,” said Markos following the upset win. “I told you guys that I’m here to win, and I think I showed that. Tecia is a tough chic, but I knew my ground game was way better than hers and all I had to do was take her to the ground… and I knew it was over from there.”
“I didn’t bring it together here. I should have tried harder. She was strong,” said Torres after the first loss of her career. “She obviously pushed harder tonight. It was her night. She deserved it. I did think that I won, but she deserved it.”
With Markos’ win, Team Pettis gained matchmaking control. Coach Pettis called on his second pick, Joanne Calderwood, to keep the ball rolling. The no. 2 seed faces the no. 15-seeded Emily Kagan of Team Melendez.