The Ultimate Fighter 32: Team Grasso vs. Team Shevchenko Debuts

Valentina Shevchenko and Alexa Grasso, UFC 285
Valentina Shevchenko and Alexa Grasso, UFC 285 press conference Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

We’ll be recapping each episode of The Ultimate Fighter 32 this year, with the show kicking off on June 4, 2024. Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko are your coaches, while featherweights and middleweights are featured.

After taking 2019 and 2020 off, the UFC‘s once-flagship reality TV show, The Ultimate Fighter, returned in 2021, and has churned out one season each year since. And while it has since been surpassed by Dana White’s Contender Series in terms of relevance and as a feeder system for the UFC, it’s still fun to watch a tournament format where there’s only one (well two, with two weight classes featured per season) true winner.

Maybe it’s because the UFC was founded with the tournament format. Maybe it’s because DWCS has Dana White all too often playing Oprah, giving everyone a contract- it’s rather surprising an audience member hasn’t been signed to the company yet.

In any case, The Ultimate Fighter 32 debuted on Tuesday night, with flyweight rivals Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko serving as coaches on this year’s installment, with a coaches’ fight likely for the Sphere in September.

TUF 32: Episode 1 Recap

The episode starts with an intro, then pivots to Grasso saying it was once her dream to coach TUF. Shevchenko says she’s happy to be “leading this season,” and both coaches then take a look at this season’s crop of fighters in an open workout. A coin flip follows to determine the first flip, and women’s flyweight champ Grasso wins it, picking Guillermo Torres, a fellow Mexican. Giannis Bachar of Greece is last, going to Team Shevchenko.

UFC President and CEO Dana White then gives a pep speech, telling the group “this is the biggest opportunity you’ve ever had,” before welcoming them to The Ultimate Fighter. Then it’s off to the TUF house!

Since Grasso took the first pick, Valentina Shevchenko picks the first fight. She opts to go to the featherweight division, pairing up her own Roedie Roets with Team Grasso’s #1 pick, Guillermo Torres.

Like all recent seasons, TUF 32 seems to stray from the early-season standard of highlighting bad behaviour, instead giving a glimpse into the personal life of the fighters competing each week. In episode one, we learn the Roets, representing South Africa, was at one point pursuing the Olympics, but put that aside to focus on MMA.

We also get some interesting training quirks from Valentina Shevchenko. Well one anyway.

Like Roets, who has fellow South African Dricus Du Plessis to look up to, Torres has a fellow Mexican fighter holding gold in the UFC— in this case his coach, Grasso. He’s been living in Arizona and training with Fight Ready, working to support his daughter, who stays with his ex-wife back home in Mexico.

Both fighters make weight on weigh-in day, and then it’s off to the races! The first fight of The Ultimate Fighter 32 goes the distance.

The Ultimate Fighter 32: Roets vs. Torres

Round 1:

Round one starts and inside of a minute, they’re grappling, but when a takedown doesn’t materialize, Roets winds up pressing Torres into the fence. They come off the fence, clinch up again, and wind up in a scramble before Roets again takes the fight back to the fence, looking for a body lock and firing knees. Despite Torres being unable to free himself, Roets doesn’t do much with the position and the ref urges him to work. Instead, they come off the fence, at least for a moment, before heading back there with all of 90 seconds on the clock. More knees from Roets, who can’t land much but was still in control until the final 40 seconds, when Torres reverses.

Round 2:

Torres’ brother tells him they need “lots of feints” in round two. Really, when they need is lots of offense. He finds that early in the frame, landing a kick to the body, then a takedown that sees him on top, in half guard, with over four minutes on the clock. Coach Shevchenko tells her fighter to “get up” but he’s well away from the fence and can’t seem to make a scramble happen initially. Grasso meanwhile likes the pressure she sees, telling her fighter just that: “good pressure, good pressure” she calls out. Torres is active enough to prevent a standup, even when not landing a ton. But when he tries to pass to mount, Roets nearly escapes and soon enough, he’s free, reverses and gets on top. Shevchenko tells him to finish the round there. “Don’t let him get out!” He moves to mount, but Torres reverses! There’s still over a minute on the clock and the second has been Torres’ round.

Round 3

It felt like round three would be needed, and it was. A Torres leg kick tripped up Roets early. Roets went to the body with a kick, and a moment later changed levels, grabbed a leg, and went after a takedown, staying on it and chaining his attempts together. Torres stayed upright, made it to the fence, and grabbed underhooks, though he couldn’t turn Roets/reverse the position. Soon it was  Roets with underhooks, the pair battling for head position. Roets then dove on a leg and nearly gave up position; Torres took the opportunity to scramble free. They’d clinch up at center with half a round remaining, but eventually, Roets grabbed a body lock and dragged things down. Torres nearly reversed, but Roets was able to control from the back, though unable to get hooks in. Torres posted up by the fence, but that allowed Roets to land a knee to the face once he was up. Ten seconds, and they trade a little more before the final horn.

Official Result: Roedie Roets def. Guillermo Torres by unanimous decision

While Torres may have had the most dominant round, the second, Roets took the first and third, relying on control time and wrestling and bouncing back from a rough second frame. That gave him the win in a performance Dana White called “very impressive.”

“I knew it was going to be a scrap in the wrestling department, a scrap on the feet, a scrap in the grappling exchanges,” Roets said afterwards. “And to have the better of that, it’s absolutely amazing. I’m just happy I had my hand raised at the end of the day.”

Shevchenko next picks the first middleweight fight, Finland vs. Russia, which will come next week: Omran Chaaban vs. Shamidkhan Magomedov.