Two First-Round Finishes Set Half The Semi-Finals On TUF 26

The ninth episode of The Ultimate Fighter: A New World Champion featured two quarter-final bouts. Top seed Roxanne Modafferi faced fellow Team Gaethje teammate and No. 8 seed Emily Whitmire while No. 4 seed DeAnna Bennett and No. 12 seed Sijara Eubanks of Team Alvarez met inside the Octagon. After the episode, half the semi-finals were set.

First Fight: Roxanne Modafferi vs. Emily Whitmire

Whitmire was winning the striking exchanges in the early going of the opening round.  Her right hand found a home regularly.  Modafferi unloaded a spinning back fist and Whitmire took the opportunity to try and take Modafferi down.  After a battle for position along the cage, Modafferi secured a takedown and landed the half guard position.  Modafferi moved to side control before mounting Whitmire.  Whitmire gave up her back and tried to scramble free but Modafferi remained on her back.  Whitmire rolled and Modafferi transitioned to the mount position and hammered away with punches and elbows.  With two seconds remaining in the round the referee stopped the fight. Modafferi became the first fighter to advance to the semi-finals of the tournament. 

“I feel awesome right now. I feel very proud of myself for my fight. I feel I showcased some of my standup, good movement. I’m just happy I could get the win,” said Modafferi. 

“I just started freaking out,” Emily told friend and training partner Miesha Tate following the loss.  “I literally was just like, God, please just call it before the bell because I didn’t want to come out for the second round.”

“I gave up on myself. I feel like I’ve done that before in fights, and it just sucks,” an emotional Emily said. “I have a lot of things I need to work through within myself.”

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Second Fight: Sijara Eubanks vs. DeAnna Bennett

Eubanks nearly missed weight causing several fighters to begin cutting weight in case Eubanks didn’t make the 126-pound limit.  She was a pound over at the weigh-in and given an hour to drop the excess weight.  Former Team Alvarez member Lauren Murphy immediately went to the sauna and began shedding pounds.  Coach Eddie Alvarez and Eubanks ordered Murphy to leave the sauna because it was Team Alvarez’ training time and she was no longer on the team.  Murphy went outside in the Las Vegas heat and continued to cut weight in case the opportunity to return presented itself.  It did not.  Eubanks weighed in at exactly 126-pounds minutes before the hour expired.  

Despite the difficult weight cut, Eubanks scored the knockout of the season.  Bennett was looking poised and in control when Eubanks unleashed a head that landed flush.  Bennett was unconscious on impact and dropped to the canvas.  Eubanks didn’t follow up with another strike.  It was a walk-off KO.  

“Every time I hit a challenge, I hit a rough weight cut and I followed it up with a great fight.  I had a rough weight cut and followed it up with a good fight.  I’m telling you, it’s coming together, ” said Eubanks following the KO win.  “It feels like suns, the moons and the stars are lining up in my favor.  I just feel so unstoppable right now.”

Next Fights   

Next week’s episode will also feature two quarter-final bouts and official set the field of four remaining in the semi-finals.  No. 2 seed Barb Honchak of Team Alvarez will face No. 10 Rachael Ostovich-Berdon of Team Gaethje and No. 6 seed Montana Stewart and No. 14 seed Nicco Montano Team Alvarez teammate will compete in the final quarter-final match-up. 

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