The 20th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which debuted to widespread praise on Wednesday, will end with the crowning of the inaugural Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight titleholder.
After getting a brief look at the usual tryout process and glossing over eight fighters the UFC brought over from Invicta Fighting Championships, the initial episode also laid out an important shift in how the competition will play out this season. The broadest deviation from the previous 19 iterations of the show comes with Season 20 revolving around seeded competitors. No longer do the coaches pick their squads like a pick-up game. Much like the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the No. 1 seed will face No. 16, No. 2 will take on No. 15 and so on.
Coaches Gilbert Melendez and Anthony Pettis did not know the seeds coming into the show -- UFC President Dana White did -- and created their squads after observing who performed best during training. When a fighter was picked by either Melendez or Pettis, the competitor seeded in the opposite bracket was put on the other team. In simpler terms, all of the opening-round pairings had been previously decided.
The full “Ultimate Fighter 20” bracket is listed below:
#1 Carla Esparza (Team Pettis) vs. #16 Angela Hill (Team Melendez)
#8 Bec Rawlings (Team Melendez) vs. #9 Justine Kish (Team Pettis)
#5 Aisling Daly (Team Pettis) vs. #12 Angela Magana (Team Melendez)
#4 Jessica Penne (Team Pettis) vs. #13 Lisa Ellis (Team Melendez)
#2 Joanne Calderwood (Team Pettis) vs. #15 Emily Kagan (Team Melendez)
#7 Rose Namajunas (Team Melendez) vs. #10 Alex Chambers (Team Pettis)
#6 Felice Herrig (Team Pettis) vs. #11 Heather Clark (Team Melendez)
#3 Tecia Torres (Team Melendez) vs. #14 Randa Markos (Team Pettis)
The women will battle for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, plus $25,000 bonuses for participating in the “Fight of the Season” and “Performance of the Season.”
The first fight of the season came out of Bracket B, as the third-seeded Torres faced the 14th-seeded Markos.
Torres opened with strikes, using kicks to batter Markos’ legs. The two women clinched against the cage, where Markos attempted a takedown but failed. They moved towards the center of the Octagon and Torres came in with wild punches, but she ate a knee for her efforts. Markos tried to capitalize and scored a takedown, but she wound up engaged in a scramble. They got back on their feet, and Markos landed a clean punch, ducked under and took the fight to the mat for the first time. Torres went for a body triangle but ate a plethora of knees to the body as the round ended.
The two women exchanged low kicks to open the second frame. Markos scored a takedown and began delivering elbows from half guard. Markos managed to posture upright and briefly got caught in an armbar. Torres continued to get pounded with elbows and, unlike the first round, had no answer. The round featured Markos putting devastating shots on Torres’ face.
The judges decided a third frame was necessary. Both came out tentative, obviously tired from the first two stanzas. Markos opened up and landed two good shots, which forced the No. 3 seed to tie her up against the steel mesh. Markos circled off the cage and opened up with the strikes again. This resulted in Markos scoring a crucial takedown late in the round. Torres managed to escape, but Markos immediately took her back to the canvas and finished the third round in a dominant position.
Markos was awarded the upset, defeating Torres by unanimous decision to advance to the quarterfinals. Episode two will feature the second-seeded Calderwood against the 15th-seeded Kagan.