The Ultimate Fighter 30, Episode 9 — And Your First Finalist Is

Zac Pauga The Ultimate Fighter 30
Zac Pauga Credit: ESPN

It’s semifinal time for The Ultimate Fighter 30.

Julianna Pena will have fighters facing one another in the heavyweight semis. She’s had experience with that, facing a teammate, Sarah Moras, during her own stint on TUF.

Jordan Heiderman will face Zac Pauga in one of the heavyweight semifinals. But there are bigger problems for Pena, however — one of her fighters smells of alcohol during practice. Pena pulls Helen Peralta aside, who says she had a few shots because she was upset at being eliminated from the tournament.

Peralta then returns to the TUF house, and defends her choice to drink prior to practice to Laura Gallardo, who she has determined ratted her out. “Why would you go tell the coaches behind my back, I just don’t get it?” Gallardo actually apologizes, but while Peralta insists that she was only hurting herself, showing up to practice with a few drinks in you is not a good look.

Perhaps the biggest shock, however, is that this is practically the first drama of the season (prior to Peralta’s foible, there was Juliana Miller being upset that Bobby Maximus was friends with fighters on the other team, but that barely qualifies). And rather than smashing doors and urging teammates to let her bang, they hug it out.

The coaches’ challenge also arrived on Episode 9 of TUF 30, entitled “Bring You Lunchbox.” It’s axe throwing, and Amanda Nunes gets out to a sizable lead, 18 to 10 after four rounds. Another round, and it’s 24 to 10. Pena needs three bullseyes in a row to win, and that’s not happening.

“I’m not throwing axes, I’m throwing bombs, and when it really matters, and when it really counts is inside that octagon when we fight again,” Pena says afterwards.

Zac Pauga gets a birthday cake next, as Team Pena sing him Happy Birthday. He’s 34, and a heavyweight, so he can have his cake and eat it to. What’s more wild about this? Prior to 2016, this clip wouldn’t have been able to air (without royalties being paid), because Warner/Chappell Music (WMG’s publishing arm) held a frankly invalid copyright claim on Happy Birthday, a song that dates back to 1912 in its modern form. It was finally struck down in 2016, as part of a class-action lawsuit against against the company, who had raked in millions of dollars every year for a song they didn’t even legally own the lyrics to.

History lesson over. The fighters weigh in, Heiderman at 247, Pauga at 244. Pena brings in her fighter’s own coaches, rather than corner against one of her own. That, apparently, is a first in TUF history.

The Ultimate Fighter 30: Jordan Heiderman vs. Zac Pauga

The pair start out trading, with Pauga having more success, landing his jab several times. Pauga holds center, Heiderman has his back to the fence, circling. Pauga mixes in some kicks, and his corner is flat-out loving what he’s doing early: showing patience, picking his shots, and mixing in low kicks. Heiderman, losing on the feet, looks to flip the script with a takedown attempt. Pauga doesn’t make it easy; Heiderman has a body lock and throws Pauga to his knees, but he’s right back up, and they break. Pauga fires a spinning back fist and a knee to the body in the final minute, forcing Heiderman to backpedal. He caps off the round with a front kick.

Round two saw Pauga put Heiderman away early. A left hand rocks Heiderman in the opening minute, and he immediately goes into defense mode. A couple of follow-up strikes, and Heiderman goes down. The ref waves it off — and Zac Pauga is going to the finals!

Official Result: Zac Pauga def. Jordan Heiderman by TKO

Next week will be the first women’s flyweight semifinal.