Bellator MMA alum Kaytlin Neil questioned why she was picked to face top seed Helen Peralta in the opening moments of The Ultimate Fighter 30’s second episode, entitled “Time to Eat.”
Neil will be no stranger to many MMA fans; “Katniss” trains with Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, and has appeared for Invicta FC, LFA, and Combate Global in addition to Bellator. In her introduction to TUF fans, she calls herself the black sheep of the family. Both her sisters are married with children; “I’m 30 years old, no kids, and I’m fighting in cages. I realize I’m the crazy aunt of the family,” Neil says of her life thus far.
Peralta, meanwhile, is touted by UFC women’s bantamweight champ Julianna Pena, who knows opponent Neil quite well. “I like what I see so far in my practice,” says Pena, who seemed to think Peralta’s power is the key to victory.
Neil then gets the most tragic news possible before one a training session: her estranged father has died. Despite the distance between the two, she’s clearly devastated.
The Ultimate Fighter 30 Episode 2: Peralta vs. Neil
The second fight of the season did not go according to plan, especially if you were Julianna Pena, who seemed to expect a knockout blow from her fighter.
Peralta opened the affair with a slow motion leg kick and spinning back fist. When the pair clinched, it was Neil in control, driving Peralta into the fence, and later going body-head with a few short punches. She added a knee before they break. On the next clinch, however, Peralta would rip the body several times. After that, Peralta was found taking some big swings, forcing Neil to clinch up in order to weather the storm. Later in the round, they’d trade knees in the clinch.
Between rounds, Peralta’s corner told her to stop clinching. But Neil would ensure the fight got to close quarters again in the second. Towards the end of the frame, however, Peralta would find some space, again taking some big swings, and landing a right hand. Her corner urged her to press, with Pena clearly warning her that she didn’t have much time left. Instead, it was Neil landing a late takedown, with Nunes cheering her on.
With two rounds in the books, they headed to a deciding final round. Almost immediately, Neil put Peralta on the fence. Peralta reversed, Neil reversed again, and the two traded knees. Back at center, Neil fired a high kick, as the pair circled. Neil showed a healthy respect for Peralta’s power, but was more active in terms of volume. Peralta stuffed a takedown attempt. Peralta would land a right hand with about 30 seconds left that put Neil off-balance; Neil would shoot for a takedown late, and finished with a bit of clinch work.
Official result: Kaytlin Neil def. Helen Peralta by split decision
Interestingly enough, UFC President Dana White could be overheard saying Neil might have pulled it out at the end of the third round. Turns out, he was right, with “Katniss” winning on two of three scorecards. She also overcame an unfortunate tragedy to triumph in the fight.
With Amanda Nunes in control of the next pick, she went with Mohammed Usman vs. Mitchell Sipe, which looks like it’ll be a heated match-up for week three of The Ultimate Fighter 30.