TUF 23 REPORT 6/23: Coaches challenge, first semifinal on episode ten of “Team Joanna vs. Team Claudia” season

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

The Ultimate Fighter 23’s latest episode was delayed to the overnight hours on Wednesday due to weather delays for a live Copa America soccer game on Fox Sports 1, so our recap is coming a bit late. The semifinals for TUF 23 are now set after last week’s quarterfinal matchup, and Team Claudia’s been dominant in winning seven of eight spots in this next round. Those fights start this week. On to episode ten!

-Cory Hendricks is still a question mark into the semifinals due to his shoulder injury. It’s a pain issue more than anything, but the pain has been severe, and he hasn’t been able to do a whole lot in training because of it.

Hendricks: “I might be down but I’m not out.”

-Gadelha tries to convince Hendricks that he doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone by fighting through the injury, and doesn’t think he should fight. He wants to fight through the pain, but Gadelha thinks he needs to be healthy and not put himself at further risk

-Dana White gives the fighters and coaches a night on the town in Vegas, so the next segment focused on that. Gadelha was getting annoyed by Jedrzejczyk trying to put on a happy face and be nice to everyone after her actions in the gym.

Gadelha: “You can’t show your respectful for one day while you f*** up for six weeks.”

-Hendricks is miserable during their night out in pain, and he’s now questioning whether he’s going to step up to fight. They flash to two days later and Hendricks finally opts to pull out of the competition. It’s disappointing for him, but the pain hasn’t subsided. Gadelha told him it’s the best decision he’s made, and she says she’s going to talk to White herself to get him another opportunity in the UFC. It’s an unfortunate spot for him, but it’s the right move with how clearly miserable he’s been.

-White says now he’s got to bring a fighter back, and it could shake up the current semifinal matchups because of that. Khalil Rountree and Josh Stansbury don’t want to fight one another, but if Rountree’s the one brought back they could go that route. Andrew Sanchez says even though he’s fighting his teammate in the next round he doesn’t want that matchup to change as he’s been mentally preparing for it that whole week. They play up the numerous possibilities for who could be brought back.

-Back from a break, Jedrzejczyk and Gadelha have a Skype call with White, in London for the Silva-Bisping fight during filming in February. He decides to bring back Rountree, which isn’t entirely unexpected. White keeps the other semifinal matchup the same, and Rountree will now face his teammate a second time in Stansbury. White says he’ll give Hendricks an opportunity to fight on the Finale event when he recovers from his injury, and it’s the right move. Gadelha was ecstatic about that news, and she was happy to pass that news along because she felt responsible for getting him to drop out of the fight.

-Rountree’s happy to be back in the competition, but it’s not the most pleasant thing to go through, and he’s already had to do it once this season. He’s having a hard time getting himself into the right mindset for it, especially after he lost to a friend in Hendricks earlier in the season.

Rountree: “No one’s been through this s*** before… Let me deal with it the way I need to deal with it.”

-Sanchez is happy to have the matchup stay the same because he’s been preparing for it, but Gadelha’s understandably a little bothered with the reality that her team has to face each other at this point. She does hand the reins on prep for the fight to both fighters and what they want to do so the assistant coaches aren’t overly influencing one over the other. Spicely breaks down a bit in the cage over the reality of fighting a friend and training partner, an issue that Sanchez doesn’t seem to have a problem with. So it’s not just Rountree here.

-Coaches challenge time, Dana White’s favorite thing every year. Looks like the coaches will be in ridiculously elevated dunk tanks for this one. The coaches are shooting air rifles with tennis balls to a target, and when they get dunked it’s into ice cold water. First to 100 wins, and they can get dunked up to five times in this competition. Winning coach gets $10K, with $1,500 for each of their fighters.

-Gadelha gets the first shot, and it’s straight out of American Gladiators. They trade shots with these oversize air cannons. Gadelha gets up 30 points to none on the first two shots, and Jedrzejczyk goes in. Jedrzejczyk then sends Gadelha down with a dead center shot. Jedrzejczyk went in a second time, then a third after they continued trading shots. Gadelha went in a second time. Jedrzejczyk tried to distract Gadelha on the final shot, but she hit the target once more to send Jedrzejczyk into the water for a fourth time to win the money.

Jedrzejczyk: “I’m gonna make my money my money our fight. Take this ten thousand, I’m gonna make millions on our fight.”

-Dana White puts himself on the platform and gives Gadelha three shots to dunk him to earn an extra $5K for himself and an extra $500 each for her team. White was extremely shaky and nervous while awaiting his fate, and Gadelha nailed the first shot to send him into the water.

-Jedrzejczyk says it was a stupid competition, and the real fight happens on July 8. She’s still expecting to knock Gadelha out in that fight.

-Little time left in this episode, which means the fight between Spicely and Sanchez won’t be lasting long tonight. White lays down the grappling acumen of both fighters into the fight. White tried to say there are no friends in this game. We get all the typical fight day words from both fighters as they get to the fight itself.


ROUND ONE: Sanchez rocked Spicely early after a brief feeling out period, then followed with a head kick. He grabbed a Thai clinch near the cage and did some damage. Spicely tried to shoot in, but Sanchez stuffed it, landed a bunch of strikes, and as Spicely got to his feet he was sent down immediately with a flurry of strikes. Spicely covered up on the ground and the ref stepped in.

WINNER: Sanchez via TKO

-Sanchez was completely focused into the fight, but then had a hard time with the win itself afterward seeing Spicely grounded and hurt. After they had changed and were back in the gym both were in tears and emotional about the fight. Here’s the disconnect between Dana White and fighters themselves, as he says there are no friends and he found out who wanted it in this, while Claudia Gadelha understood the emotional toll it took on both fighters.

-Sanchez is now the first finalist set for the July 8 Finale, while the women’s semifinals kick off next week. Thanks for checking out our report, we’ll be back next week for episode 11!

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