TUF 29: Eye on the Prize, and the Upset of the Season

TUF 29 cast and Dana White
Credit: Zuffa/UFC

When Ultimate Fighter 1 winner Forest Griffin showed up at the start of this week’s TUF 29 installment, entitled “Eye on the Prize,” it was all a reviewer could do not to hit the fast-forward button. That’s no disrespect to Griffin, a legend whose place in the sport’s history will forever be secure. Rather, Griffin was taking part in a shameless plug for one of the UFC’s sponsors, under the guise of a team vs. team challenge.

The show’s fights this season have been entertaining; the antics kept to a minimum, at least on camera. This week, however, with the second semi-final fight looming, TUF 29 stepped away from fighting to see Team Ortega and Team Volkanovski working as a pit crew. The challenge, get one tire off and a new one on the truck provided. Whoever completed the challenge first was the winner.

Can you guess the sponsor?

For those keeping score, it was a win for Team Volkanovski. The teams then returned to the TUF house, with Volkanovski and co. enjoying a sushi dinner. Given the lack of options during lockdown, that at least was a sight for sore eyes.

After a bit of bonding between the two coaches and their teams, it was on to fight prep for the middleweight semifinal. Alexander Volkanovski predicted a knockout for his fighter, Bryan Battle. Andre Petroski, meanwhile, said he was “overly confident” in the match-up, saying that no one had been able to stop his wrestling to date. Coach Ortega noted that Petroski had “vicious power” in his hands as well.

Petroski, not surprisingly, went right for a takedown as the the fight got underway. Petroski grabbed a leg, but Battle showed some solid balance, staying upright as Petroski tried to dump him. They’d end up in a clinch before breaking apart and returning to center. On Battle’s next attack, Petroski changed levels and landed a brief takedown. They were right back up, again battling in a clinch. But action was later paused due to an accidental headbutt, which left Petroski bloodied. With Battle incensed, the ref called for a replay, which showed the damage being done from a knee.

Battle was right to be upset. Still, when the fight resumed, Petroski landed another takedown, and worked on taking the back, getting one hook in, then another. Battle rolled, but Petroski stayed on him. When Battle turned to move into mount, Petroski instead got on top. He then transitioned to the back, then to mount. Some ground n’ pound opened up a rear-naked coke opportunity, but Battle survived to the end of the round.

Round two saw Battle active on the feet early, firing kicks and knees to the body. Battle had the faster hands, and was finding considerable success until Petroski changed levels and powered through a takedown ninety seconds into the frame. That, however, backfired. Battle popped back up, Petroski pursued another takedown, but his opponent defended with a choke. When they dropped to the canvas, Battle held onto the guillotine, and Petroski, a favorite to win the middleweight tournament, was forced to tap.

A considerable upset. Next up, the second bantamweight semifinal, and the coach’s challenge.