Previously on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter…
Team Ortega targeted Team Volkanovski’s first overall pick in the initial bantamweight clash of the season, sending Liudvik Sholinian into the cage against Mitch Raposo. The strategy paid off as Liudvik rallied to wrestle away an upset victory, putting Team Ortega ahead 2-0 early in the season.
Heading into the third fight of the season, it’s back to the middleweight division, as Team Volkanovski’s top choice, Ryder Newman, steps into battle against Team Ortega’s Tresean Gore, looking to get his team on the board and avoid going down 0-3.
This is Episode 3 of The Return of The Ultimate Fighter.
Inside the Ultimate Fighter house, Mitch struggles to come to grips with his loss to Liudvik, declaring “he’s not better than me,” despite teammates trying to lift his spirits.
Meanwhile, the Team Ortega crew crashes Liudvik’s post-fight interview, Ortega raving about his charge’s performance and plans to ride this momentum all the way through the competition.
At the UFC APEX four days before the fight, Volkanovski explains that Ryder wanted to fight Tresean and the coaching staff agreed, believing it was a good fight.
Ryder explains that his “whole life revolves around wrestling” and the reason he chose to fight Tresean is that he believes he’s the best middleweight on Team Ortega, explaining that he thinks the only path to victory against him is wrestling.
The 3-1 middleweight explains how he got the nickname “Rhino” as highlights of his previous fights play before he’s shown working with Volkanovski, who leads him through some drills as they discuss strategy. Newman explains he has a strong double-leg and lays out the game plan — mix it up standing until an opportunity to wrestle presents itself, at which point, Gore gets put on the canvas and worked over, repeating as many times as required until victory is achieved.
Back at the house, Tresean recalls sleeping in his car in the gym parking lot in the middle of winter, his wife refusing to leave his side. Fellow middleweight Miles Hunsinger, who trains with Ryder at Xtreme Couture and is rooming with him in the house, empathizes with Tresean, encouraging his teammate.
Tresean’s home video rolls, with the 26-year-old South Carolina native introducing his wife Julie and their baby son, Junior. He speaks about his wife’s support and the inspiration that comes from his infant son.
The middleweight hopeful traces his upbringing, where his father was absent, bouncing in and out of jail, leaving his mother to shoulder the parenting load. She fell into addiction issues when Tresean was 10, prompting the angry youngster to act out and land in juvenile detention.
Released at age 17, Tresean found a Gracie Jiu-Jitsu gym and from there, “I lived in the gym,” he says, explaining that without the finances to pay for classes, he did work around the facility — sweeping floors and cleaning toilets — before recommending he find a “bigger pond” to swim in, which resulted in him landing at American Top Team: Team Lima with two-time TUF finalist Dhiego Lima and his brother, standout welterweight Douglas Lima.
Unbeaten in three professional bouts, Tresean has no desire to lose his unbeaten record and says he “wants to be champ within a year” — an extremely lofty goal for the Georgia-based hopeful — who promises he’ll be the hungrier man whenever he’s in the Octagon.
Three days before the fight, Team Ortega congregates to formulate their plan of attack for Tresean, asking him what he knows about Ryder.
“I didn’t look at anything on him, but he just looks like the type that tries to throw hooks and overhand rights and brawl and then run into a double,” Tresean says.
“He’s the guy at the bar that says he fights MMA,” adds Ortega, dismissively. “I do UFC.”
Assistant coach Tiki Ghosn advises Tresean that he needs to be patient. “You want to run in and throw everything and the kitchen sink at this guy, but what you need to do with him is you need to be patient. You’ve got to expose him. You’ve got to be patient. Take your time,” he tells Tresean.
Ortega explains that the game plan is to avoid the big punches and work behind the jab, taking a stick-and-move approach, and if it goes anywhere else, it’s Tresean that needs to be the one initiating those sequences, regardless of whether it’s a takedown or clinch situation along the fence.
Check out every contestant's profile on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter.
After a light sparring session, Tresean tells Miles that he’s “gonna shoot first” because Ryder and Team Volkanovski won’t be expecting it. “They’re preparing for a standup guy; they’re not preparing for a wrestler. If you put a wrestler on their back, they don’t like that.”
Miles explains that he and Ryder have been friends and teammates dating back to Ryder’s amateur days and that while Tresean wants to get the inside scoop on his opponent, he doesn’t feel comfortable divulging information about his roommate, reiterating the information Tresean already knows, like that Ryder is a wrestler.
Tresean goes through a pad session with Ghosn, wrapping up by forecasting that his hand will get raised.
Back at the house, Tresean and Ryder chat and Tresean tells him that Miles hasn’t shared any information with him, which heartens his Xtreme Couture running mate.
“He ain’t a snake,” Tresean says of Miles in a confessional interview. “He ain’t told me nothing about the dude. I know everything I need to know about the dude anyway.”
The impending combatants agree to have some fun out there, shaking hands and showing each other nothing but respect as the day of their collision draws closer.
Hanging out in the living room, Ryder talks with his Team Volkanovski teammates about growing up in Las Vegas and everything else he’s got going on outside of the cage before his home video kicks off with a tour of his condo.
The 26-year-old talks about getting out into nature for hikes and the cleaning business that he launched a year ago before he heads into Xtreme Couture for practice, detailing that he was a two-time national champion wrestler in high school before moving into mixed martial arts.
“When I step into the Octagon, I’m coming to take your soul,” he begins, “and I’m violent. You’re trying to come between me and my dreams, and I can’t let that happen.
“There is no better time to go out there and make a name for yourself than right now, he adds. “And I’m here to take over.”
It’s weigh-in Day at the UFC APEX with Tresean up first, hitting the scale at 186 pounds, with Ryder coming in half-a-pound lighter.
“Stylistically, it’s a fun fight,” says UFC President Dana White. “It’s grappler versus striker, and if Ryder is able to take this fight to the ground, it’s probably his best shot to get Team Volkanovski their first win.”
The middleweights get nose-to-nose as they face off, yapping with one another, upping one another’s intensity as they ready to throw down.
In the house the night before the fight, Tresean and Ryder continue to chirp at one another, Tresean saying he knows everything Ryder is going to do, while the Team Volkanovski representative says he’s going to open with a “flying spinning heel kick,” laughing throughout the exchange.
“I’m not looking for a war,” Tresean says in the confessional. “I’m looking for it to be one-sided.”
It’s Fight Day at the UFC APEX, where Mark Smith serves as the third man in the cage.
Round 1: Tresean takes the center of the Octagon, pawing with jabs as he walks Ryder down, connecting with a low outside leg kick. Ryder counters a low kick with an overhand right that is blocked. Tresean continues pressing forward, offering kicks to different levels, chopping at the outside of Ryder’s lead leg.
Midway through the round, Ryder hasn’t landed much of consequence, with Tresean continuing to land low kicks and dictate the terms of engagement. Ryder just can’t seem to find the range and pull the trigger, feinting and feeling with his lead hand, but never connecting with any real power.
With a minute left in the round, Tresean changes levels, but Ryder stuffs it with ease. As they reset into space, Ryder charges forward, driving Tresean into the fence, where he successfully stuffs the takedown as the horn sounds ending the frame.
In the corner, Tresean asks if he won the round and gets direction from Ghosn, while Volkanovski offers Ryder ways to alter the takedown attempts in order to find more success.
Round 2: Tresean gets back to leading the dance, flicking his jab out there and continuing to offer kicks to different levels. Tresean scores with a clean jab and a low kick, prompting Ryder to drive forward for a takedown, with Tresean pummeling and breaking free off the fence, reclaiming the center.
Tresean looks comfortable as Volkanovski tries to encourage Ryder to get more active, knowing his charge is behind with just over two minutes remaining in the round.
A big right hand lands over the top for Tresean and he continues walking down Ryder, attacking with more kicks. He’s in complete control with a minute left in the round, but remains on the offensive, sticking another clean jab in Ryder’s mush and easily squirming away from a last-ditch takedown attempt.
Official Result: Tresean Gore defeats Ryder Newman by unanimous decision
The coaches offer their thoughts on the fight, with Ortega explaining the strategy behind attacking the legs, while Volkanovski tries to come up with reasons for Ryder’s hesitancy, explaining that they expected him to work for takedowns off the combinations and punches that he landed, praising Tresean for utilizing a strong game plan and delivering a good performance.
Ryder explains that he over-estimated what Tresean brought to the table, saying that he “made him out to be better than he was, and I paid the price for that,” promising to stay ready and grow from this setback.
Team Volkanovski selects the next bantamweight matchup, tabbing Dustin Lampros to take on Team Ortega’s Vincent Murdock, which draws an “Of course” from Lampros as the two square off.