‘TUF 24’ Recap: Episode 8

By Mike Sloan Nov 2, 2016
After a hiatus for a few weeks due to the Major League Baseball Playoffs, The Ultimate Fighter returns with round two of the flyweight tournament. In round one, all eight fights ended in finishes and there is wonder if the fighters will continue the trend beginning with tonight’s episode.

Team Cejudo teammates Alexandre Pantoja and Kai Kara-France will stand opposite each other in this fight and to say that Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White is excited would be an understatement. He admits that he loves nothing more than when teammates fight each other and is reliving the glories of the stoppages that tonight’s adversaries enjoyed in their opening round battles.

The episode begins with coaches Henry Cejudo and Joseph Benavidez throwing the contestants a party at the TUF house and the backyard is loaded with drinks, food and various other forms of entertainment. Benavidez is having heart-to-heart talks with some of his fighters at the pool table, telling them philosophies he’s learned over the years while Cejudo is having fun in the yard and acting like a hooligan. Benavidez pokes fun at him and tells him to be more like a role model, but Cejudo takes offense to it and they begin bickering. It doesn’t last long and the segment of the show segues into Kara-France and Pantoja’s training.

After the first commercial break, Benavidez brings in legendary striker and coach Duane Ludwig to help out. It’s revealed that Benavidez wants to invite Team Cejudo into the open training with Ludwig, but he doesn’t want Cejudo himself in there. Ludwig understands and agrees with the move because he doesn’t want Cejudo to see his training because “Bang” coaches Benavidez outside of the house. Cejudo, surprisingly, obliges because he wants his fighters to learn from everybody, but he seems jilted.

After several uneventful scenes with Ludwig’s training session due to no real drama between the coaches unfolding, it’s time for Kara-France’s training segment and then the official weigh-ins. Both men come in right on the money and the fight is set in stone. There are quite a few more mini-segments of Kara-France and Pantoja prepping for their pivotal matchup and, finally, it’s time to fight.

The matchup begins with Pantoja missing a high kick that leads to a scramble. Pantoja is looking to drag this battle to the canvas immediately, but Kara-France has superb takedown defense. The Kiwi misses a head kick and is shoved to the ground and when he rolls back up to his feet, the Brazilian is all over him, quickly seizing his back. After about 30 seconds, Pantoja takes him down but Kara-France wants no part of the ground game and explodes back to a standing position. With both men calmed down, the contest slows a bit and it turns into a glorified kickboxing match. They trade kicks to the legs and body, but neither flyweight has the advantage. Pantoja shoots in again but his shot is from too far out and he’s easily stuffed. Kara-France absorbs a nasty left shin to the ribs with about 80 seconds remaining, the best strike of the fight thus far. A pair of thudding leg kicks are courtesy of “Don’t Blink” with 30 seconds left and Pantoja clearly isn’t a fan of either one. The round ends and it’s close, though the Brazilian was busier. 10-9 Pantoja.

The second begins with Pantoja unfurling another wicked kick to the body. Kara-France takes another one and then misses badly with a lazy left hook, though the Brazilian doesn’t counter it. They trade leg kicks 90 seconds in and continuously punch from too far on the outside for anything to land. Kara-France seems tentative about getting into exchanges and has to withstand several nasty thwacks to the legs. Pantoja is denied a single-leg attempt and has to swallow a short left hand for his effort, but he shakes it off. They exchange a few punches in the center of the cage but Pantoja is the cleaner, more accurate striker of the two. The Brazilian has a pair of head kicks blocked, which leads him to try for another takedown. “Don’t Blink” stuffs him again and splits away to reset in the center. Another vicious kick to the leg from Pantoja and he wins the second round 10-9 as well.

After two close, hard-fought rounds, the judges render a decision in favor of Pantoja, ending the stoppage streak. White doesn’t seem too pleased about how the fight unfolded and says that both men played it too cautiously.

Next week’s fight will be No. 5 Hiromasa Ogikubo taking on No. 13 Adam Antolin. Previews of next week’s episode show teammates Tim Elliott and Eric Shelton getting into a heated, drunken exchange at the house as well as clips of the show’s featured bout.

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