TUF 23 REPORT 5/4: Penick’s thoughts on episode three of “Team Joanna vs. Team Claudia” season

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

We’re back once again this week with a random thoughts rundown on episode three of The Ultimate Fighter 23. Team Claudia’s Cory Hendricks pulled off the upset over real life teammate Khalil Rountree last week in the first light heavyweight quarterfinal bout, and tonight’s episode brings the first women’s strawweight quarterfinal between the first female picks from each team in J.J. Aldrich and Tatiana Suarez. On to the third episode of TUF 23!

-Joanna Jedrzejczyk believes Aldrich is more well rounded than Suarez, and thinks the fight will be about some of the “little details.” She thinks Aldrich is “a real beast.”

-Helen Harper’s bad luck continues this week, as she gets her elbow messed up from an armbar while rolling. It looked painful. She’s rightfully a bit distraught as she just got back into training after being extremely sick the week before, and Jedrzjeczyk tries to comfort her a bit.

Jedrzejczyk to Harper: “Even if they cut your hand off you can’t show them that you have one hand.”

-Harper is going down a bit of a negative path, and she talks about how hard it is for her to be positive when she’s already in a negative state. Feel bad for her at this stage, but she’s got to fight through things like this if she’s going to make it as a fighter at this level. It’s mentally taxing, clearly, but things will only decline for her if she can’t manage it mentally and emotionally. Her relationship with Rountree continues, and he tries to get her back into the right state of mind as she continues getting down on herself over a lot of different things.

-Over to Team Claudia’s camp where we get some back story on Suarez. A former No. 1 ranked women’s wrestler, Suarez battled thyroid cancer five years ago and has persevered to get to this point.

-Gadelha sees this fight with Aldrich as a very good stylistic matchup for them. Suarez says her strategy is to get the fight to the ground and finish her from top position, so Gadelha says they’re working on how to close distance well in order to get Aldrich in that spot.

Suarez: “I don’t care how it looks. If you want to win you will do anything in your power to make that happen.”

-Rountree sets up a donut-eating challenge with Hendricks after their fight on the last episode. Loser gets their makeup done by the women in the house. Rountree wins. Hendricks takes a nap. The dramatic music and editing used for this is hysterically overdone for such a stupid time-waster spot.

-Aldrich gives some background on herself. She’s absolutely not your stereotypical fighter from a looks standpoint, and a somewhat childlike tone to her voice also masks just who she as a competitor.

Aldrich: “When I get in the cage I flip a switch and I’m there to take care of business. You should never judge a book by its cover.”

-Product placement time with a DOOM video game statue and a letter to the fighters from Dana White. The fighters get to play the game in the house, giving them more in house entertainment than they’ve had in past seasons. We get the fighters commenting on the game with clips, and all the fighters get a copy when they head home. Alright then.

-Jedrzjeczyk continues to stare down Gadelha prior to the Suarez-Aldrich weigh-ins, while Gadelha tries to smile and brush every interaction off. Both fighters make weight, and her teammates expect her to control and win. Dana White says he’s expecting a great fight with both being the first picks of their respective teams.

-Time for Hendricks to get his makeup done. Oh, and he gets to wear a Reebok sports bra around the house. Because clearly it has to be Reebok. And Reebok has to be name dropped. He had a couple apples stuffed in there. Everyone gets a kick out of it, because when you have very few forms of entertainment while sequestered in a house like that the bar is quite low.

-On to fight day, both fighters are bringing in significant confidence, and everyone thinks their respective fighter is going to excel in the fight itself. In a surprise to the competitors on fight day, UFC Welterweight Champ Robbie Lawler and former champ and Hall of Famer Matt Hughes show up to wish the fighters luck and to take in the live fight.


ROUND ONE: Aldrich pawed out a jab early. Suarez looked like a much larger fighter in the cage. Suarez shot in, and completed a takedown after Aldrich failed to heed Jedrzejczyk’s call to sprawl. Suarez held control as Aldrich turned into her. Aldrich got to her feet, but Suarez held onto a front headlock before shooting in again. Aldrich landed a couple elbows, but got picked up and taken down again. Suarez got Aldrich’s back and got a hook in. She tried to ride her back and continued working to attack. She went for a rear naked choke but didn’t have position, allowing Aldrich to work back up to her feet and out of the hold. Aldrich tried to get separation, but Suarez stayed on her at the cage and dragged her back down. Suarez got in a few hard strikes as Aldrich again tried to escape. Aldrich again turned into Suarez, who this time locked on a D’Arce choke and tried to secure it with a gator roll. She failed to get it locked on tight enough, and Aldrich again escaped, working out of yet another choke attempt in the process. Aldrich got in some elbows on the cage and held balance to stuff another takedown attempt. Suarez stayed heavy on her while taking some punches and elbows before the horn. Suarez’s round without question.

ROUND TWO: Aldrich landed a hard jab and tried to walk Suarez down to work her strikes. She got in a couple more short strikes. Suarez then shot in and completed another takedown. She postured up and threw down some elbows and punches. Aldrich tried to kick her off, but Suarez wound up heavy in half guard. Aldrich tried turning into Suarez, but gave up her back in the process. Suarez tried to get hooks in but Aldrich got to her feet again. She couldn’t escape, and got slammed on her head off a body lock. Great sustained top pressure from Suarez, who again got Aldrich’s back and got in some work to the body while continuing to control her. Suarez continued working to improve position and she locked on a rear naked choke. She rolled Aldrich over, secured it tighter, and forced the tap. Jedrzejczyk seemed none too pleased to be down two fights to none.

WINNER: Suarez via submission in the second round

-Gadelha, White, and Jedrzejczyk discuss the fight, and Suarez’s impressively dominant performance. Jedrzejczyk though Aldrich gave up on her sprawl and cost herself on the continued takedowns.

-Aldrich took the loss hard, but said she’ll be back in the gym tomorrow

Jedrzjeczyk: “You must want to fight until the end. It doesn’t matter if someone’s gonna say they’re going to be stronger than you or have better wrestling or boxing. It’s all in here (head) and here (heart). It’s all up to you, if you want to win or not.”

-Jedrzjeczyk says she can’t take responsibility for her fighters in the cage, as it’s their performance, and while she’d like to get into the cage and take everyone out herself, she’s not able to do that.

-She and Gadelha get into it again in the hallway before going out for the next fight announcement. Gadelha says she’s not up for mind games.

Jedrzejczyk: “I’m gonna punch you so hard. So hard.”

-For next week, Claudia picks Andrew Sanchez to take on Team Joanna’s Myron Dennis. She says she wants to break Jedrzejczyk’s biggest fighter early. We’ll be back with that next week, thanks for tuning in this week!

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