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The Ultimate Fighter

The Return Of The Ultimate Fighter | Episode 9 Recap

It's The First Round Of The Semifinals On The Return Of The Ultimate Fighter. See Which Of The Bantamweights Will Advance To The Finals

Previously on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter…

Liudvik Sholinian took out Team Volkanovski’s first overall selection, Mitch Raposo, while Ricky Turcios did the same to Team Ortega’s top pick, Dan Argueta, setting up a battle of the upset artists to determine who earns the first berth in the bantamweight finals.

This is Episode 9 of The Return of The Ultimate Fighter!

In the backyard of the house, Ricky and Bryan Battle sit out and talk about the experience of being inside the house the last several weeks, with the philosophical bantamweight appreciating the intense focus on fighting this isolation brought.

“I’ve been chasing this since I was a little, itty-bitty, young boy — since I was six years old,” begins Ricky, “putting itty-bitty boxing gloves on and just hitting the bag. That’s how long I’ve been chasing this s***.”

In a confessional interview, Bryan says that around the house, they call Ricky “The Cult Leader” because of his charisma and his thoughtful, insightful ways.

“This is the life that I’ve created with my own two fists,” Ricky says in a confessional interview of his own. “Everything that I’ve done up until this moment has led to this day, as I face the biggest challenge of my whole career, and I’m ready — I’m ready for this moment.”

MORE TUF 29: How To Watch The Return Of The Ultimate Fighter | Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8All Things TUF 

At the UFC Performance Institute, Team Ortega does some warming up ahead of practice, wondering aloud when Ortega and the rest of the coaches will actually show up.

“Brian and the other coaches do have a history of being late to practice,” Andre Petroski admits in a confessional interview.

In the Team Ortega dressing room, Alexander Volkanovski and his fellow coaches hang countless clocks on the walls and other surfaces as a rib on the perpetually late opposing staff.

“Ortega is probably not a bad bloke, but he’s always late,” says Volkanovski. “And that ain’t professional. So we were like, ‘Let’s get a s***load of clocks and stir him up a little bit.”

“I think we’re going to go ‘Ortega Time’ and then ‘Better Late Than Never,’” he tells Dustin Lampros as the team checks out their handiwork in the Team Ortega locker room. To add to the joke, Volkanovski gears down to his undies and sits atop the ledge in the room, with a smiley face clock between his legs.

When Ortega and his team arrive, they all laugh.

Liudvik Sholinian prepares for his fight against bantamweight Ricky Turcios on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC).
Liudvik Sholinian prepares for his fight against bantamweight Ricky Turcios on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC).

In a solo interview, Ortega plays off the prank as lame, taking a jab at Volkanovski, but everyone seemed to get a good laugh out of the effort. He doubles down on dismissing the effort, but his team members liked it, and it was a legit shot at his perpetually tardy ways.

Still at the PI, Liudvik goes through his fight prep, rolling with Ortega, who shows him a few different setups, attacks, and transitions on the ground, with his coach singing his praises for his preparedness and focus ahead of his semifinal clash with Ricky.

“I’m ready for everything,” Liudvik says in a confessional interview. “I don’t care about Ricky’s game plan; I only care about the win. Ricky is a good fighter, but I’m counting only for myself.

“He’s ready. I’m ready. It’s good.”

SEE WHAT THE COACHES OF TUF 29 HAD TO SAY: Volkanovski | Ortega

Three days before the fight, Ricky goes through his prep with Team Volkanovski, beginning with him meditating inside the boxing ring.

“Ricky’s a cool dude, man; very spiritual,” begins Volkanovski. “I don’t want to say ‘weird character’ because he’s a cool dude, but he’s different.

“I feel like when Ricky’s running his own show, there is success there. There is something about (him) where he’s going to have a lot of hype around him and a lot of people loving that Ricky show.”

Ricky works striking combinations with Volkanovski, talking about the importance of his jab in this fight with Liudvik.

Get To Know Ricky Turcios | The Return of The Ultimate Fighter
Get To Know Ricky Turcios | The Return of The Ultimate Fighter
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“My style, I like to mix it up,” he continues. “I consider myself a full freestyle fighter. As I enter the Octagon, I must implement my game and fight my fight; strike, kick, grapple, wrestle, jiu jitsu — use the full mix up and be unpredictable. I believe this will be my key to victory.”

Two days before the bantamweight semifinal fight, Dana White discusses the season thus far.

“When I brought The Ultimate Fighter back this season, I hoped the bantamweights and middleweights would bring it like they have,” begins the UFC President. “I loved the quarterfinal fights and I loved how these guys went in there and battled the way that they did. Because of that, I decided to reward each of the semifinalists with a call home.

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“It’s sort of a way to recharge their batteries as they head into the biggest fight of their lives.”

Liudvik calls his parents on FaceTime, telling them he won his first fight, and explaining in a confessional interview that win or lose, his parents will treat him the same regardless. As an added bonus, Liudvik’s best friend, Vitaly, happens to be with his parents, so he gets the opportunity to catch up with him as well.

He explains that knowing where he comes from, who he fights for is tremendously important to him, and that getting to see his family and friends served as a reminder of that ahead of his fight with Ricky.

Get To Know Liudvik Sholinian | The Return of The Ultimate Fighter
Get To Know Liudvik Sholinian | The Return of The Ultimate Fighter
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Ricky has his call next, checking in with his father, Henry, who lives in El Salvador.

In a confessional interview, Ricky talks about his father’s influence on his martial arts journey — training in the garage, starting at Gracie Barra The Woodlands together, doing Muay Thai — while showing him a set of UFC gloves.

“I swear Dad, I ain’t never cried so much in my whole life,” Ricky says. “My whole heart has been touched so much being here, being away from the family. I literally have been able to train hard physically, but then, as well, be in my mind mentally with the meditation and the techniques that I’ve been doing.

“This is what dreams is made of - these types of moments,” he adds. “For me, this has been one of my deep dreams since I was a young boy.”

It’s back to the UFC APEX for the weigh-ins.

Ricky is up first and comes in on championship weight, 135 even. Liudvik is up next and clocks in at 135.5, making the fight official.

They shake hands, have an intense face-off, and it’s just about time for the first semifinal fight of the season.

It’s Fight Day!

Bantamweight Ricky Turcios gets ready for his fight against Liudvik Sholinian on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC).
Bantamweight Ricky Turcios gets ready for his fight against Liudvik Sholinian on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC).

Ricky reads his journal entry and starts warming up, getting loose before heading to the APEX. Liudvik does the same in the backyard before each man departs for the facility and their semifinal matchup.

Mike Beltran is the third man in the Octagon for the first semifinal fight of the season.

Round 1: They touch gloves and we’re off, with Ricky looking for a kick early, vocalizing all his movements, prompting Liudvik to make similar noises in return. A hard low kick for Ricky spins Liudvik around. Ricky floats on the outside until he’s ready to attack, then comes forward with a double jab and a sharp inside leg kick. Two more low kicks half connect as Liudvik backs away from them.

Ricky continues to throw the kicks and finishes a combination with one to the thigh. Liudvik finally lands something sharp — a left hand as Ricky tries to come forward and close the distance, getting knocked backwards instead. Liudvik missing a high kick, then Ricky misses a high kick before they exchange jabs a couple different times.

Ricky is throwing greater volume and more combinations, again punctuating his attacks with kicks, while Liudvik is going a good job getting just out of range, but only offering singles in return. Ricky presses forward behind combinations and his jab, landing, and Liudvik calls him in, nodding as he gets hit. Ricky obliges, landing another good jab before changing levels and working into the clinch at the halfway point.

FIGHTER PROFILES: Liudvik Sholinian | Ricky Turcios 

Ricky lands a series of short punches along the fence as he controls Liudvik’s position, grinding on him. Liudvik fights his way free, and they trade hard jabs on the break. Ricky goes high with a kick and throws a one-two behind it. Liudvik drives home a right hand with 80 seconds remaining in the round, but Ricky presses forward right away, working into the clinch again.

Ricky lands a series of short punches along the fence, but Liudvik ducks under and escapes to the center. Liudvik reaches with a couple right hands, but Ricky comes forward right away after, finishing a combination with a high kick and landing a good left hand as Liudvik tries to circle away. Ricky chases him down and looks to pour it on in the final seconds.

Liudvik complains about an eye poke in the midst of the flurry from Ricky, but the referee had no reaction to it, and Ricky continues to fire away through to the horn, capping a very strong opening round for the Team Volkanovski representative.

Bantamweights Liudvik Sholinian and Ricky Turcios fight in the semifinals on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Bantamweights Liudvik Sholinian and Ricky Turcios fight in the semifinals on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

As Liudvik walks back to his corner, blood trickles from the left side of his forehead, up in his hairline, which he says happened as a result of a clash of heads.

Round 2: Liudvik is raring to go, requiring Beltran to tell him to move back. He’s a little more active and aggressive out of the chute, but Ricky is game, responding with a stiff jab and a high kick offering. Liudvik hits a beautifully timed level change, getting in on Ricky’s legs and twisting him to the ground in the center of the cage, with Ricky immediately looking to lock up his guard and attack off his back.

Ricky lands a handful of elbows off his back and shows active hips, looking to elevate Liudvik with butterfly hooks. Ricky creates a scramble and gets back to his feet, but Liudvik stays close and controls him along the fence. Ricky forces his way off the fence, and they reset in the center of the Octagon.

Ricky backs Liudvik off with a long combination. They trade jabs a couple times and Ricky presses forward, connecting with a long right hand, backing Liudvik into the fence. Ricky goes for a takedown and Liudvik opts to sit down with it, hopeful to create a scramble or counter in the transition, keeping Ricky stuffed before collecting his legs and working to top position. But Ricky is always moving, scurrying back to his knees, with Liudvik sprawled out on top.

Check out every contestant's profile on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter.

They scramble and Ricky lands elbows to Liudvik’s glute while Liudvik looks for an ankle. Another scramble ensues and Ricky works his way back to his feet, earning vocal praise from his coaches and teammates. Liudvik deep on a shot, Ricky tries to scramble away over the top, but Liudvik transitions to a single leg. Ricky tries to limp leg and Granby roll free, but Liudvik stays with him, grabbing his waist and ending up on Ricky’s back, seated along the fence.

Ricky throws and lands a pair of backward elbows and tries to untangle his legs from Liudvik’s as the Team Ortega representative holds on with less than a minute remaining in the round. Ricky breaks Liudvik’s grip and turns into him, taking top position and looking to attack in the closing seconds of the round.

They scurry to their feet and trade along the fence, Ricky continuing to land at a higher clip and with greater impact as the horn sounds.

Another good round for Ricky Turcios.

Ricky Turcios of Team Volkanovski punches Liudvik Sholinian of Team Ortega on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Ricky Turcios of Team Volkanovski punches Liudvik Sholinian of Team Ortega on The Return of The Ultimate Fighter. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Round 3: Before the round begins, both men point to the giant Howler Head logo in the center of the Octagon, with Liudvik again walking forward, prompting Beltran to guide him back to position.

They exchange a “High 10” and we’re off, with both men seemingly content to stand in the pocket right out of the gate. Ricky continues to be the more accurate of the two, hitting Liudvik with a right, using it to press forward. He’s the fresher of the two, as Liudvik’s strikes look labored, and he drives forward for a takedown attempt.

Liudvik defends it easily and calls Ricky back to his feet, which he’s happy to oblige. Ricky works the jab but eats a couple rights in return as they stand static and trade. He wisely gets moving again and lands to the body and head, chasing Liudvik along the perimeter before hemming him in on the fence. A body shot lands hard for Ricky with an elbow over the top behind it, with Liudvik motioning him in for more.

Ricky grants his requests, lands a couple combinations to the body and head, and Liudvik backs him up with a right hand coming off the fence. Ricky now has a cut on the bridge of his nose and is slowing a little, but he’s still landing the greater volume. Liudvik continues to sling heavy singles and one-twos, but with limited success. As they hit the halfway point, Ricky cranks home two straight rights, the second of which straightens up Liudvik and makes him readjust his mouthpiece.

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They just start getting after it in a phone booth, with Ricky landing combinations and defending well, blocking more punches than Liudvik lands. Ricky drives home a couple clean one-twos, finding the jaw with the second shot, alternating stances as he fires them.

Liudvik has clearly found a home with some of his punches, as Ricky’s nose is covered in blood, but the Team Volkanovski man sticks to his original strategy and sticks his jab in Liudvik’s face.

Ricky starts pouring it on with 90 seconds to go, landing a series of one-two combinations, keeping it simple and effective. Ricky calls for the audience to get loud and Volkanovski tells him not to get careless. Liudvik lands a right hand and shoots for a takedown, but Ricky escapes it easily.

They repeatedly get close to clashing heads in tight, prompting Beltran to warn them multiple times as they hit the final 30 seconds, meeting on the logo in the center and swinging. Liudvik lands a couple good shots, but he just doesn’t have the energy to throw more than singles or the pop in his punches for it to have much impact, as Ricky returns fire and walks him down behind a series of punches as the horn sounds.

This should be a clean sweep of the scorecards for Ricky Turcios.

Dana White gives the bantamweights a standing ovation and praises their efforts.

Official Result: Ricky Turcios def. Liudvik Sholinian by unanimous decision

Ricky Turcios Post-Fight Interview | The Return of The Ultimate Fighter Episode 9
Ricky Turcios Post-Fight Interview | The Return of The Ultimate Fighter Episode 9
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Ricky does his Hadouken celebration, much to the delight of his teammates as the coaches and UFC President recap the fight.

Dana White says he’s surprised Liudvik didn’t look to wrestle more, while Volkanovski talks about Ricky’s pressure and superior striking. Both coaches praise the bantamweights for their efforts in the third round, with Volkanovski rightfully calling it the Fight of the Season.

“This is exactly how you fight your way into the UFC,” says White. “And just like that, Ricky has fought his way into the finale.”

Ricky praises Liudvik for his toughness and the fight, getting a fist bump from Dana.

Alexander Volkanovski Fight Recap | The Return of The Ultimate Fighter Episode 9
Alexander Volkanovski Fight Recap | The Return of The Ultimate Fighter Episode 9
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“Dream big, work hard, stay positive, enjoy the journey, “he says.

Liudvik doesn’t want to do any interviews after the fight, with Ortega and Kemran Lachinov following him to a different room. Ortega tells him he has nothing to be sad about — that it was a great fight and Fight of the Season, praising his heart, and telling him to be proud of himself.

On the next episode of The Return of The Ultimate Fighter…

The teams take a break from training to go head-to-head in a special challenge, and then, it’s time for the first middleweight semifinal bout, as Team Volkanovski’s Bryan Battle squares off with Team Ortega’s Andre Petroski.