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The Ultimate Fighter 26 - Ep. 9 Preview

Following the conclusion of the elimination round one week ago, the quarterfinals are about to get underway on The Ultimate Fighter, with two fights taking place on this week's episode. First, No. 1 seed Roxanne Modafferi looks to continue her Ultimate Fighter redemption story as she takes on No. 8 seed Emily Whitmire, who put on a very impressive performance against Christina Marks to punch her ticket to this matchup.

Then, No. 4 seed DeAnna Bennett will attempt to move forward in the tournament as she faces off with fellow Team Alvarez fighter and No. 12 seed Sijara Eubanks. Both of the fights this week feature a teammate versus teammate situation, with Modafferi and Whitmire both training under coach Justin Gaethje.

Modafferi was ranked as the top seed in the tournament and the second pick by the coaches, with Gaethje selecting her to anchor the squad. Modafferi is definitely one of the most experienced fighters on the show, not only because she's been competing in professional mixed martial arts for 14 years, but also because she made a past appearance on The Ultimate Fighter during season 18 when she was competing as a bantamweight.
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Modafferi fell short during that season and then failed to find any success in the UFC, but she eventually moved down to aRoxanne Modafferi defeats Shana Dobson in the opening round of The Ultimate Fighter more natural 125 pounds, where she put together an impressive record while competing in Invicta Fighting Championships. That led her back to The Ultimate Fighter this season, where she looked better than ever in her opening round matchup, where she earned a TKO victory against Shana Dobson.

Now Modafferi's journey towards potentially becoming the first ever UFC women's flyweight champion continues as she faces Whitmire, who is another fighter training out of Las Vegas as she attempts to pull off the upset in the quarterfinal round.

Whitmire has faced a lot of adversity this season, including a rib injury that she thought might knock her out of the competition. Thankfully, she was able to receive some treatment, along with a positive prognosis on her recovery time, which led to Whitmire's fight last week against Christina Marks.

Whitmire wasted no time showing her dominance as she took Marks to the ground and quickly applied her submission arsenal before wrapping up an armbar to get the finish in the first round. It was an impressive outing and it showed that Whitmire has some serious ground skills, which will come in handy while facing a fellow grappler like Modafferi. There's no doubt that Modafferi is the favorite, but Whitmire has looked awfully scrappy all season long and she might just have what it takes to pull off the upset.

In the other quarterfinal fight, DeAnna Bennett will look to build on her last win as she takes on the fighter everyone calls "Sarge," Sijara Eubanks.

It's tough to forget Eubanks from this season of the show because not only was she the fighter who screamed in UFC President Dana White's face after her opening round win because she felt insulted that she was ranked as the No. 12 competitor in the tournament, but she went as far as cutting off her own hair to make weight for her fight. That was one of the more unique moments this season, as Eubanks was struggling to get down to the 126-pound limit and with time running out before stepping on to the scale, she told her teammates to start chopping off her locks to ensure that she made weight.

Now making weight several times during a season is a burden that all of the fighters on the show will face. Some of the competitors are able to stay at a smaller weight, so getting down to 126 pounds isn't that tough, but others like Eubanks are legitimately cutting quite a few pounds to get down to the limit for the flyweight division. Eubanks has already gone through one tough weight cut and it appears she's in for a battle again this week.
Deanna Bennett prepares for her fight in the opening round of The Ultimate Fighter

As Eubanks begin going through another rigorous weight cut, rumors about her struggles begin circulating among the other fighters and it's safe to say there are more than a few people who have faced elimination who would love to get a second chance. No one ever roots for a fighter to suffer an injury or not make weight, but that doesn't mean another competitor wouldn't get the opportunity to step up to the challenge if the offer is extended.

So it's safe to say that no one is rooting for Eubanks' demise but there are a few fighters still healthy enough to fight that will gladly make that weight cut for a chance to re-enter the competition as a quarterfinalist. Of course, that will ruffle more than a few feathers amongst the fighters and coaches so it will definitely be worth watching to see how that all unfolds this week.

Assuming Eubanks is able to hit the mark, she will face a serious challenge this week, as Bennett is definitely one of the toughest matchups of anybody left in the house. With a background in wrestling, Bennett has a skill set that can bring any fight to a screeching halt with her superior grappling and ground control. Eubanks is a powerhouse with a solid ground game as well, but there's no doubt she'd rather not end up on the bottom with Bennett on top raining down shots.

On the flipside, Eubanks will have the advantage with knockout power on the feet and a strong grappling game if she's able to put Bennett on her back. Eubanks will be a force against anybody left remaining in the competition thanks to her sheer size and strength, and Bennett would be wise not to underestimate her in this quarterfinal matchup.

With two fights taking place this week, the action is non-stop as the first two semifinalists will be crowned when The Ultimate Fighter: A New World Champion kicks off on FS1 tonight at 10 pm ET.
Saturday, December 16
8PM/5PM
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Winnipeg, Canada

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