TUF 23 REPORT 6/29: Rough weight-cut dominates episode eleven of “Team Joanna vs. Team Claudia” season

By Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief

There are only two episodes left on the 23rd season of The Ultimate Fighter, with three finalists yet to be determined for next Friday’s finale event in Las Vegas. Tonight we get the first strawweight semfinal bout, with Team Claudia’s Lanchana Green and Amanda Cooper squaring off. Time for the rundown.

-As has been the case most of the season, Dana White opens things up laying out what he sees as the narrative of the fight between Green and Cooper.

-Gadelha brings Miesha Tate in as a guest coach. Based on the timing of Dana White’s skype call from London last week, this was either right before or right after Tate won the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship at UFC 196.

-Cooper’s having some trouble making weight, and this season is the first time she’s ever had to make 115 lbs. She said her body’s having trouble with the quick turnaround in hitting that mark. She’s essentially got an opposite issue from what typically happens in the house, where fighters who normally compete at lower weight classes fight on the show a class up so the cut’s not an issue.

-The coaches on Team Claudia, like in last week’s fight, are stepping back and not game-planning with either fighter, instead letting them dictate what they’re doing so as not to overly influence one of the fighters over the other on their team.

-Boredom sets in for everyone in the house, so they put together a homemade bowling game and set up a tournament, complete with homemade medals. Green talked up how civil everything’s been in the house, and how everyone’s pretty much gotten along regardless of how the fights have played out. Definitely a change from season’s past.

-Green said she was prepared for any of her teammates, and believe each of them would have been a significant challenge based on their respective skill sets. She worked a lot on takedown defense in order to utilize her Muay Thai base. She talked about how the UFC’s decision to add strawweights made her feel she could make competing in this sport a legitimate living. Here’s hoping she snags a contract better than a TUF winner sooner than later.

-We get a brief aside to Team Joanna’s training, as the final fight of the season will pit her team’s Khalil Rountree and Josh Stansbury against one another, guaranteeing a member of Jedrzejczyk’s team in the finals.

-Back to the house and Cooper’s miserable weigh-in.

Cooper: “I definitely wish it was already off and I didn’t need to worry about this tonight.”

-She only got down to around 120 lbs. the night before, and she woke up in the morning still needing to cut a little more than three pounds. These types of weight cuts are the absolute worst thing about this sport, and it’s even more awful to actually see the fighter suffering through those days and even hours trying to get to a certain point when they started off too high to safely make it down.

-Dana White said he understood Green having to make weight three times in a row is difficult, but also added that the fighters all knew they’d have to do it coming in.

White: “That’s what I love about this. This is where you find out who’s mentally tough enough to be here. Can she overcome this third weight cut, and can she win the fight? This is literally what this competition is about.”

-Gadelha thinks Cooper didn’t realize how hard it would be to make weight this many times in a six-week period. Andrew Sanchez thinks Cooper should have tried working some of it off rather than sit in the sauna, but didn’t want to push it on her.

-Green said she’s not entirely wanting to face someone in Cooper’s condition, as she wants to earn a victory over Cooper at her best, but she also wonders whether or not Cooper missing would mean she gets a bye.

-Unsurprisingly, Cooper comes in at 117.5. She’s given one extra hour to cut that final pound and a half. White says if she misses weight she’ll be out of the competition. Green hits her mark and it’s time to continue The Passion of Amanda Cooper.

White: “The bottom line is you’ve got to make weight. If Amanda blows this, she’s going to regret it the rest of her life.”

-The entire team tried to help Cooper hit the mark, while Cooper talked about how scared she was to miss the mark knowing it’s entirely on her. This is awful to watch, and even if she hits the mark she’s likely to be debilitated due to the toll this can take on someone’s body. She was thankful for her team’s help, but she was just extremely drained after the efforts to hit the mark. They get towels out so she can strip down for the final weigh-in, and she hits the mark. Gadelha said it made her feel good that they did their job in getting Cooper there.

-Cooper says she won’t be able to sleep at night if she goes home without being a finalist. Green thinks Cooper’s going to struggle late in the fight if she can stuff her takedowns early on.


ROUND ONE: Green landed the first hard strike of the fight with a solid right hook. Cooper connected on a short combination that did damage shortly thereafter. She pressed Green to the cage and landed a few more in combination. Green landed a solid leg kick followed by a right hand. Cooper again connected in the center. She landed a grazing head kick that may have done some significant damage. She landed a big right hand as she tried to back Green up to the cage. Cooper shot for a single leg and scored the takedown off the cage. Green tried to kick her off, but Cooper gained side control after blocking an upkick on her way back in. She tried to lock up a crucifix, but had to settle for just a few strikes. Green tried to escape, and managed to get Cooper back to her guard. Cooper landed some hard knees to the thighs of Green while in the guard. She tried to posture up for a few strikes. She got to her feet in Green’s guard, ate an upkick, then got to side control. She passed quickly to mount, but was too high and Green escaped. However, she quickly scrambled to take Green’s back and went for a choke. Green tried to fight out of it, but she couldn’t escape and tapped out. Damned impressive work after that awful cut from Cooper, especially in that transition to back mount.

WINNER: Cooper via submission (rear naked choke) in the first round

-Dana White after said he wasn’t sure if Green just didn’t know how to defend the choke or if she froze in the moment. He was also extremely impressed by Cooper’s performance after that cut. Gadelha said it was hard to watch her team fighting one another, and Green took the loss extremely hard.

Green: “As soon as I tapped I knew ‘that’s it, I’m out.’ I’m absolutely devastated.”

-Cooper said her dreams became a reality and now she gets to compete in the finale.

Next week, Tatiana Suarez faces Kate Jackson to see who meets Cooper in the finals, while Khalil Rountree and Josh Stansbury meet to find out Andrew Sanchez’s finale opponent. That’s all next Wednesday, so join us here then!

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