TUF 23 REPORT 7/7: Penick’s (delayed) report on final episode of “Team Joanna vs. Team Claudia” season

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

Note: The final episode review of TUF 23 was delayed due to Wednesday night’s breaking news regarding Jon Jones and UFC 200.

It’s time to close out another season of The Ultimate Fighter, as tonight we find out the final two competitors set for Friday’s Finale event. Andrew Sanchez awaits the winner of Josh Stansbury vs. Khalil Rountree in the light heavyweight finals, while Amanda Cooper awaits either Tatiana Suarez or Kate Jackson at strawweight. On to the final episode!

-Dana White opens another episode setting the stage for tonight’s final two fights. White’s narration has come off all season as recorded-well-after-the-fact and only partially aware of what’s actually been going on.

-Once again we’ve got two of Claudia Gadelha’s competitors facing off in the Suarez vs. Jackson bout, and Gadelha expects it to be a ground battle, though she has no idea what to expect.

-Suarez believes she’s been training harder than Jackson throughout the season, and she’s confident she can dominate the fight to earn a submission victory.

Suarez: “I don’t care if someone is in the same room or if they’re practicing with me, because I know I give it a hundred percent.”

-Gadelha continues to be aggravated by the mere presence of Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and says she has to keep her urges at bay until July 8.

-At weigh-ins, both fighters hit their mark, and Cooper says she expects to meet Suarez in the finals. White believes Suarez’s grappling will be too much for Jackson, and he comments on both being the top two picks from Gadelha in the strawweight field.

-Suarez thinks she’s done more work than any of the other fighters in this competition, and has her mind focused solely on winning this tournament. Jackson says it’s easier to fight someone you don’t know, but that won’t stop her from doing everything she can to win the fight.


ROUND ONE: Suarez tried to move in close early on, closing distance and fighting off a kick. She landed a hard body kick, got a clinch, and scored a nice throw to take the fight to the ground. She had the arm headlock, but nicely improved her position by transitioning to side control on the other side. Jackson tried to move her to half guard, and eventually got it briefly to guard as Suarez landed strikes. Suarez targeted Jackson’s already badly bruised left leg with several strikes. She continued working to improve position, then looked to set up a choke. She was grabbing for the guillotine as Jackson tried to scramble out and up, then locked it on tight while Jackson was on her knees. Jackson tried to fight it off briefly, but as Suarez brought it back to the ground, she locked on the guillotine from top position that Jackson had to submit to in desperation. Nasty work. Really good work from Suarez, who could be a very legitimate competitor in this strawweight field.

WINNER: Suarez via submission in the first round

Suarez: “I’m very excited to be fighting in the finale. I belong here. The journey doesn’t end here, I just continue to fight and fight… My end goal is to win this whole thing, so I’m still not content yet.”

-Now we turn to the Stansbury-Rountree fight, with Rountree continuing to grapple with the fact that he’s got to fight yet another friend and teammate after already losing to real-life teammate Cory Hendricks in his last fight. Both fighters continue to bond while in the house, and will still have to face off against one another to make it to the finals.

-Stansbury said he thinks Rountree is the most explosive striker in the house, but believes Rountree’s cardio and ground game can be a weakness. That’s an area he believes he can exploit. For Rountree, he knows he’ll have an issue if he gets taken down, but thinks he’s capable of scoring the KO himself before that happens. Jedrzejczyk opts not to make a prediction, saying she’s going to sit on the bleachers and support both fighters.

-Rountree’s looking at this fight like it’s going to be his last chance to get an opportunity in the UFC, because a second loss inside the house could close that door on him. Both fighters talk up how much the fight means to them while lamenting having to fight one another.


ROUND ONE: Decently tentative start, but Rountree opened up with a very solid combination about 30 seconds in, then stuffed a shot. Stansbury then dropped Rountree with a left, but Rountree popped up before Stansbury could follow up. Rountree then landed his own flash knockdown and followed with several hard strikes in combination. Both let each other off the hook in those spots. Rountree landed several hard body kicks, then added a few more strikes to keep up the attack before slowing a bit. He connected on another hard kick to the body. Stansbury landed a left, but got hit by a counter. Rountree scored with a short uppercut. Stansbury came up bleeding off an exchange. They traded wildly in the center in two different exchanges, with Rountree getting the better of each. Stansbury then popped Rountree’s head back with a few jabs. Rountree swung and missed wildly. He tried to rush Stansbury back to the cage but ate several strikes. Stansbury landed a few hard knees in a brief clinch and Rountree’s face was bloodied up badly. Both slowed a bit given the amount of offense they’d each thrown in four minutes. Stansbury tried to work his jab to keep Rountree at distance. Rountree then dropped him with a hard left hand that stunned him badly. Rountree connected with a front kick, then landed several strikes on the ground before the ref stepped in. Brutal fight.

WINNER: Rountree via TKO in the first round

-White and Jedrzejczyk broke down what they just watched. Jedrzejczyk said it was hard for her to watch, but thought it was the best fight of the season. White felt justified in bringing Rountree back.

-An emotional Rountree struggled through his post-fight interview to talk about what it meant to him to get to this point. Stansbury was heartbroken by the loss, but gave Rountree credit and hoped the fight was enough to bring him into the Octagon.

-White called it an “awesome season” of TUF before setting the stage for the two finals bouts in Tatiana Suarez vs. Amanda Cooper and Andrew Sanchez vs. Khalil Rountree, as well as the main event title fight between Jedrzejczyk and Gadelha.

-The season ends with Jedrzejczyk and Gadelha facing off, Jedrzejczyk calling Gadelha a “little whore” in Portuguese and trying to start a fight, which as Dana White claimed earlier this year happened when cameras stopped rolling.

That fight, along with the two finals bouts, come to Fox Sports 1 on Friday night, and we’ll have live round by round coverage on that main card. Thanks for joining us for these recaps throughout the season, and tune in for the finale event on Friday night!

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