The Ultimate Fighter 29 returned to airwaves last week for the first time since 2018, with little in the way of innovation to show fight fans.
If nothing else, however, the fight presented on the show at least delivered. That was the case once again in TUF 29’s second episode, “Stake Your Claim” — which saw Liudvik Sholinian do just that in a fight with Mitch Raposo.
The come-from-behind victory, which aired Tuesday night on ESPN+ and TSN, saw Liudvik showing off his Las Vegas crib — essentially an AirBNB he had rented ahead of the show’s filming. The Armenian, who grew up in Ukraine, was even driving a friend’s car. With luck, he’ll be able to afford wheels soon enough. He certainly got off to a good start.
Going up against the undefeated Raposo, Sholinian actually dropped the first round. The younger fighter had an edge on the feet, and was clearly the quicker athlete, beating the Armenian to the punch. Quite literally. But in the second, Sholinian battled back, using his wrestling to full effect — an area clearly his strong suit given his status as a member of the Ukranian national wrestling team.
The second-round comeback necessitated a third round as a tie-breaker. Sholinian was able to take Raposo down early. While Mitch managed to escape and take the back of Sholinian, soon enough he was back on bottom. The third round was, as a whole, clearly in favor of Sholinian, who moves forward in the bantamweight tournament.
On the plus side, “Stake Your Claim” was a drama free episode. Dare we say it, a positive one. The show started with Team Volkanovski watching Rose Namajunas dethrone Weili Zhang at UFC 261 — with “Thug Rose” serving as a clear inspiration for the fighters taking in the event, given her status as a former cast member.
Will the drama-free approach continue on? Clearly not, as we already know from previews for upcoming episodes. And TUF continues to focus on childish antics in the wholly unnecessary Flashback segment.
Perhaps two fights per episode, and minimal “reality,” would be a better idea.