TUF 23 REPORT 4/27: Penick’s thoughts on episode two of “Team Joanna vs. Team Claudia” season

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

It’s time for week two of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Joanna vs. Team Claudia. Tonight’s episode brings a personal battle between real life teammates and friends Khalil Rountree and Cory Hendricks after Joanna Jedrzejczyk picked that matchup last week. As always, this TUF 23 run down will bring random thoughts and commentary for the hour-long broadcast.

-After last week’s fights to get into the house, the fighters make their way there, and as always it’s eye opening for some of the competitors.

Helen Harper: “A fighter’s wage is not high. Unless you’re in the top of the top, you’re not earning money, you’re not earning decent money. You’re earning enough to live on. Maybe, if you’re lucky. You get to a place like this, a place like the TUF house, and you get to potentially win a UFC contract, it’s just a dream come true. It’s a cliche, but it really is true, it’s just incredible.”

-There’s drama already with living arrangements, with a few of the attached male fighters having issues in winding up in a room next to some of the women. Especially affected is married Muslim fighter Abdel Medjedoub, so some room adjustments are made to accommodate the issue with Cory Hendricks stepping up to make the switch. It’s understandable for the attached fighters to not want any sense of impropriety to be even hinted at the way this show gets edited if they’re not doing anything or intending to do anything that would get them in trouble at home.

-Hendricks’ new roomates Harper and Jamie Moyle warn him to be ready for lots of giggling, “girl talks,” and the best conversations in the house.

-Hendricks’ feet were messed up in his elimination win. They’re bruised up badly, not broken, and he’s warned by the doctor to take things easy to heal up. Unfortunate situation for him to not only be injured, but have to fight a real life friend and teammate as well.

-We go to Team Claudia’s first training session. She admits it’s a new endeavor for her, but some on the team comment on quality that’s been brought in for the coaching staff.

-Off the bat we get our first face to face between Jedrzejczyk and Gadelha back by the locker rooms. They’re face to face for an uncomfortable amount of time, with Jedrzejczyk telling Gadelha to respect the champ, Gadelha laughing her off, Jedrzejczyk getting in a bit of a chest bump and Gadelha pushing her back. No way this boils over this season, right?

Gadelha: “I don’t like the way she tries to bully people. She’s not a person that I want to be around. I’m looking at her every day like ‘oh my god, this girl again.’ … She’s trying to play the mind games. She’s not gonna get me. I’m not here to play games, I’m not here to try to bully anybody. I’m here to work, to Team Claudia, my team. I think she’s here to try to get in my mind, to try to fight me. I will fight her. On July 8.”

-Dana White says he just hopes nothing escalates to physical violence between the two of them before the finale.

Jedrzejczyk: “She’s trying to be very confident, but she’s not. She’s just small, like this (finger gesture). There are going to be some fights, you know? But I’m smart, and clever girl, and we’re gonna play my game. Here in TUF season 23 and July 8 in the Octagon in Las Vegas.”

-That woman’s a worldwide treasure.

-Jedrzejczyk comments on the size differences between the men and women training together, but why she likes that and has gotten to be a champion by working in a similar environment.

-The Team Syndicate teammates hang around in the house talking, bringing up the unfortunate nature of their fight this week. Jamie Moyle comments on Jedrzejczyk saying she wasn’t aware they were training partners before booking the fight.

Rountree: “[We’re going to] answer the question for a lot of people in MMA. There’s a lot of people who are training partners, even in the UFC, who have that question in their mind of ‘what if I have to fight my training partner?’ Well we’re going to show them exactly what it’s like, and leave all the other stuff behind and show that we’re two men who need to handle business and at the end of the day there’s no ill will, and we’ll still be friends and teammates afterwards.”

-Hendricks says he and Rountree have sparred enough that he knows what works best for each of them, and he thinks he has a good idea of what to expect. It’s interesting that he’s somewhat dictating his training on it. He thinks he’s got the ground edge, and admits Rountree’s gotten the best of him on the feet in the past.

Hendricks: “I don’t want to fight him, but it’s just part of the game.”

-Rountree says he got into MMA via his brother and a mutual admiration for The Ultimate Fighter growing up. He says he was a 300 lb. punk rock skateboarding kid who got picked on and made fun of in his community, and now he’s on the show that he says changed his life. That’s a solidly compelling backstory.

Rountree: “I lost the weight of a complete man just to be in this position. Just to be on this stage in front of the world to show what I can do.”

-Harper’s been forced to sit out practice due to bronchitis, and she’s lamenting the ill timing. She and Rountree were bonding early as teammates.

Harper: “It’s kind of frustrating, it’s kind of gutting, but it is what it is, and at least I’m here.”

-Jedrzejczyk brought her belt along to the gym on another day. She talked trash to Gadelha’s boxing coach, who doesn’t speak English, which got under Gadelha’s skin.

Gadelha: “I respect her as a champion, but not as a person.”

-Another hallway conversation before weigh-ins got heated as Gadelha contended she won their first fight, riling up Jedrzejczyk and leading to this exchange at the end of it:

Gadelha: “I know I’m beautiful, you don’t have to look at me all the time.”

Jedrzejczyk: “You’re not.”

-Back at the house after weigh-ins, Harper’s really not doing well. She was drenched in sweat, nearly passing out. Rountree tended to her until they got her off to the doctor. There’s your first sub-plot of the season from a reality TV standpoint. Cute couple if they go that route. Back from the doctor after a commercial break, Harper said she had dehydration, got an IV, and feels much better, setting her up for a potential return to training later in the week.

-Hendricks and Rountree have a heart to heart on fight day.

Rountree: “Regardless of anything, I think we’ll be remembered for this.”

-White says this is a first for TUF, where two teammates from the same gym make it into the house and have to fight each other. But you have to be willing to fight anybody, anywhere, anytime.

White: “To be great, you have to take on all comers.”

-White lays out the bonuses that will be handed out at the end of the season for an incentive to the fighters to perform. Two $25,000 performance bonuses will be handed out, and the two fighters having the “Fight of the Season” will receive the same sum themselves.


Round One: Hendricks landed a hard body kick early. He tried to rush in and got hit with a counter. Rountree landed a hard left hand, then a hard inside kick. Hendricks again tried to push in, only to eat a few strikes. Hendricks shot in for a takedown, but Rountree quickly got to his feet and circled out. Hendricks connected on a hard body kick. He again got rocked as he tried to move in. Roundtree hurt him and grabbed a front choke as Hendricks shot in. Hendricks got out and went to his back, but Rountree made him stand back up. Rountree landed a few more strikes. Hendricks shot in again, this time getting Rountree’s back in a scramble. He got his hooks in and locked on a choke. He got it under the chin and forced the tap! Well then. Both fighter’s weaknesses were on display, Hendricks in his striking defense, Rountree in his ground defense, but that was an entertaining fight. Rough loss for Rountree, and a huge win for the injured Hendricks, who took a ton of damage before getting the choke.

Winner: Hendricks via first round submission

-Rountree went and congratulated Hendricks in the locker room afterward in one of the greatest examples of sportsmanship seen in a while on this show. Honestly the best possible reaction to that loss that he could have had.

Rountree to Hendricks post-fight: “I think that it’s cool because the first loss that I ever took is to a man that I trained with to get here. He f***ing overcame my heavy ass hands. That for me, I was like ‘ok.’ Cory, you proved to me something different today, you proved to me that you f***ing have heart, and more balls than I thought you had. You f***ing won, fair and square.”

-Gadelha said she was going to pick Harper to fight, but she knows she’s sick and doesn’t want to play dirty. That’s a call out on Jedrzjeczyk picking Hendricks for the first fight. Instead next week’s first women’s fight is Tatiana Suarez vs. JJ Aldrich.

-That’s next week, so thanks for tuning in tonight! We’ll be back next Wednesday with our rundown of episode three.

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