Previously on The Ultimate Fighter…
The coaches and contestants for Season 30 gather at the UFC APEX with Season 1 light heavyweight winner Forrest Griffin, who is assuming the Dana White role for the season.
In the first fight, Team Pena heavyweight Zac Pauga scored a unanimous decision win over over Team Nunes’ Nyle Bartling.
For the initial fight in the flyweight competition, Pena selected Helen Peralta to face off against Kaytlin Neil.
It’s time for Episode Two of The Ultimate Fighter, Season 30!
Back at the house following the first fight, Bartling is still struggling with feeling like he let everyone down, while teammate Chandler Cole tries to lift his spirits, talking to him about the tournament format of wrestling competitions and how there are always opportunities to get back into the mix.
He and Pauga discuss the fight and how they’re feeling outside, while in their room, Kaytlin Neil talks with Kathryn Paprocki about how many of Julianna Pena’s teammates have migrated to Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas and she’s feeling stabbed in the back by being selected to face her first pick, Peralta, despite everyone on her team knowing her and liking her outside of the show.
She explains in a confessional interview that she’s known Pena and her coaches “for a little bit” and that Pena has been to a couple of her fights, called her last fight, and she expected to be selected by the UFC bantamweight champ. She’s experienced mixed emotions about getting to fight and being tabbed to take on Pena’s No. 1 pick, and wants to know the thinking behind making this particular fight.
The scene shifts into Neil’s home video, where she’s talking to her family back in Utah on a video call, as she trains in Las Vegas. They’re a very close family — she lives 20 minutes away from each of her older sisters — and 11 of them are gathered to speak with her on the other end call.
Neil explains she grew up in the Mormon church, living a very sheltered life that includes having never sipped alcohol. She describes herself as the “black sheep of the family” since she’s 30 years old, has no kids, and is pursuing a career in cage fighting, but notes everyone is super-supportive of her career.
The 5-4 fighter trains at Syndicate MMA alongside a quality group of female competitors — “The Syndi-chicks,” as they call themselves — that includes Roxanne Modafferi and Joanne Wood. Modafferi, a two-time TUF contestant, gives her advice about competing on the show and existing in the house, while Wood asks if she can come with her.
At the UFC APEX three days before the fight…
Peralta talks to Pena about her matchup with Neil, with Pena giving her charge some insights, encouraging Peralta to push her striking.
“I have a feeling you’re going to hit her one time in the head, hard, and that’s gonna be it,” says Pena quietly, not wanting to be too dismissive of Neil’s abilities.
An aggressive striker who has dabbled in bare knuckle boxing, Peralta talks about Neil’s height, acknowledging that it just means there are more opportunities for her to land big shots before confidently forecasting that Neil is going to want to grapple.
“Anybody that I fight is gonna want to grapple,” she says in a confessional interview, “because it’s way easier than trying your luck on the feet if you’re fighting me.”
Her home video kicks off with Peralta being introduced for her professional MMA debut at Invicta FC 27, which she won by first-round knockout. As Peralta explains her path to MMA, footage rolls of her win over current UFC competitor Cheyanne Vlismas, before shifting back to her finish of Jade Ripley in her debut.
Back in the training room, Pena works with Peralta on her get-ups and wrestling defense, knowing that opponents will look to take her down, advocating for her to just get out there and be herself against Neil.
Two days before the fight…
Nunes’ wife, UFC contender Nina Nunes, and their daughter Raegan, stop by the dressing room, where Neil is emotional as Nunes arrives in the dressing room. She sees Neil crying and goes into the back to get caught up on what’s happening with her wife and fighter.
Neil explains that he father passed away after a lengthy battle with addiction issues.
“It was to the point where he was living in a homeless shelter,” she says in a confessional interview, her eyes red and glossy. “For my mental health, I had to cut him out for the past eight years because he was a toxic person to be around.”
She explains to her coaches that she’s not worried about the fight, but frustrated and challenged by the timing of things. It’s already one of the most pivotal weeks of her career, and now this?
Nina Nunes empathizes with Neil and the two coaches try to help her re-focus herself ahead of her fight with Peralta, putting her through her fight prep.
Nunes explains that she liked the fight selection and believes Neil can beat Peralta because of her length and striking ability. Striking coach Roger Krahl encourages her to let the fight come to her, noting that Peralta is aggressive and will bring the fight, while Neil outlines the plan is to stay long, avoid the big power shots, get takedowns underneath Peralta’s wide hooks, and use her full compliment of skills to secure the victory.
More video footage of Neil rolls, beginning with her fight against Invicta FC alum Shannon Sinn. She notes that while her record doesn’t look good at 5-4, she’s 4-1 in her last five fights.
Back on the mats, Neil works on takedowns, with Team Nunes seeing her grappling as a potential avenue to victory against Peralta.
Back at the house…
Fighters from both teams are sitting around the table, where Peralta explains that she wanted to be picked by Amanda Nunes, only to reverse course when Cole tells her Nunes essentially said she was happy to have the eight fighters she got on her team.
Team Nunes’ Brogan Walker explains in a confessional interview that Peralta’s energy is quite different from the energy being cultivated on her team, while Peralta continues to talk about moving up to 135 pounds to face Nunes thanks to a little bit of the liquid courage.
She acknowledges in her own confessional interview that she’s “petty as f***” before more home video footage rolls of her back home in Fairfield, Iowa. She heads into the gym, Ground Zero MMA, and does some pad work with her head coach before doing conditioning, reflexes, and strength drills. She jumps into the frozen lake following time in the sauna before logging another workout and declaring emphatically that she is “going to be The Ultimate Fighter.”
Flyweight Weigh-Ins at the UFC APEX…
Forrest Griffin runs the proceedings, introducing the matchup. Neil is up first and makes 126 pounds, while Peralta comes in at 126 in her Team Pena jersey.
They face off, with different people sharing their thoughts on the pairing, including UFC President Dana White, who calls it “a classic striker versus grappler matchup.”
Ultimate Fighter Flashback, presented by ZipRecruiter…
Tying into Neil’s news from earlier in the episode, the flashback comes from Season 15 — The Ultimate Fighter Live — where Pena’s Sikjitsu teammate Michael Chiesa learned of the passing of his terminally ill father while on the show.
Chiesa honored his father’s wishes for him to remain committed to the competition, orchestrating an impressive run of wins to arrive in the finals, where he submitted Al Iaquinta to join the fraternity of Ultimate Fighter winners.
Fight Day in Las Vegas…
Peralta explains the origins of her nickname, “Iansa,” which is the name of an African orisha of winds, lightning, violent storms, death and rebirth, suggesting it aligns with her own personality.
Neil heads out, speaking about her fight with Peralta as an opportunity to prove to herself that she’s at the level she believes she’s at and is ready to take the next step in her career.
Each fighter arrives at the UFC APEX, gets taped up, loosened up in the back, and now it’s time to fight.
Before she walks out, Pena whispers in Peralta’s ear, “Your dinner is waiting for you inside the jaula (cage)” as her fighter stares straight ahead, offering no reaction. It’s quite an affecting moment.
No touch of gloves and Neil opens with a low inside leg kick to find her range, moving on the outside as Peralta starts to come forward. Peralta rushes in and Neil instantly ties her up and twists her into the fence, landing a couple short uppercuts in close before Peralta connects with a knee to the body ahead of them momentarily breaking into space.
Peralta presses forward again off a Neil kick, backing her into the wall, with Neil working off the fence, looking for knees as Peralta tries to land punches over the top as they happily trade from a collar tie position.
They break into space and Peralta is stalking Neil, slinging looping power shots that don’t land, but allow her to close the distance, prompting Neil to clinch again. They exchange in tight and break once more with two minutes remaining in the opening round. Peralta misses with a wide hook and Neil grabs the Thai clinch, connecting with a knee to the midsection as she spins her into the fence.
Peralta counters with short shots to the body and seems happy to work from the clinch position with the taller Neil, landing the heavier blows as they trade on the feet. On the break, Peralta lands two clean shots and the speed difference is apparent.
Late in the frame, Neil times a level change, getting in on a single, but Peralta defends well and lands kness in the clinch before the two trade to the horn.
Neil shifts to southpaw and is first to offer, feinting level changes and pawing with lengthy jabs and long kicks. Peralta offers a couple looping hooks that are nowhere close, but Neil can’t make her pay for the misses.
Neil continues to be the one moving forward, but neither throw much and they’re landing even less. Neil steps into a long right hand that finds Peralta’s chin, but can’t follow up. Peralta responds with a left hook before catching another right hand from the Team Nunes fighter.
Neil offers a high kick that is blocked, but through the first half of the round, she’s clearly the more aggressive, more effective fighter of the two. Peralta looks to counter with left hooks as Neil reaches forward with a jab, but “Katniss” does a good job of staying long and sticking her with timely shots.
Peralta lands a left hook as Neil comes in, but the Team Nunes representative continues to move forward, closing the distance and initiating a clinch, landing a right on the break. Peralta is only throwing single shots, but sticks a left in Neil’s face, coming forward more heading into the final minute of the round.
Neil lands a right hand that draws Peralta forward looking for a counter, but there is nothing there. Neil tries to push Peralta back with jabs, but the Team Pena fighter comes forward behind powerful swings, catching air, but getting closer to finding the target. With 10 seconds remaining, Neil ducks under for a takedown, putting Peralta on the mat while the Team Pena rep hunts for a guillotine as the horn sounds.
Both fighters return to their corners expecting a third round, each side offering advice and direction to their competitors.
And we’re going to the third!
Peralta wastes no time flinging wide hooks, allowing Neil to grab a Thai clinch as she crashes forward. She uses it to put Peralta on the fence and hunt for a body lock, eating a knee and giving one of her own in tight. They trade knees again and Peralta lands a right hand over the top on the break.
Peralta lands a jab and is coming forward, while Neil paws out jabs. A right hand scores for Neil, and Peralta counters with a right hook. Neil fires off a one-two, nut doesn’t build on it. Peralta finds Neil’s chin with a lunging left hook, but Neil responds with a right of her own.
Neil is doing a good job of keeping Peralta on the outside, unable to throw or land, pressing her back behind long jabs and a right hand that scores. She switches southpaw and connects with consecutive lefts before circling out while Peralta tries to respond, catching her with a left hook coming forward.
Neil fakes a level change and lands an uppercut. Peralta lands a low inside kick, but you can see Neil’s confidence surging as she presses forward unbothered. Peralta connects with a left hook, but doesn’t follow up. It’s single shots and then breaks for the Team Pena talent.
Neil throws consecutive one-twos, neither landing heavy, but landing nonetheless. Peralta responds with an overhand right as Neil is off balance, causing her to stumble a little as they reset in the center for the final 30 seconds. Neil paws from range and Peralta lunges forward with a hook to the body, the round and fight ending with Neil shooting a takedown, Peralta stuffing it, and Neil landing a right hand on the exit.
The horn sounds and we’re headed to the scorecards.
Official Result: Kaytlin Neil def. Helen Peralta by split decision
Amanda Nunes rushes in and lifts Neil in the air as the coaches hug and celebrate.
The coaches and Dana White recap the fight, with the UFC President noting both seemed overly cautious and Pena mentioning that Peralta was clinching too much, noting that Neil used her length well. Nunes applauds her fighter’s ability to take Peralta’s best shots, before Pena suggests that Peralta won the first and third rounds, adding that she has to hammer home to her team not to leave it in the hands of the judges.
An emotional Neil celebrates with her coaches, saying how much it meant to her back in the dressing room.
Peralta explains she’s disappointed in herself, while Pena tells her she got robbed. Both Pena and Peralta are a little salty about the outcome, but the fighter pledges to learn as much as she can and to help her team secure victories going forward.
Team Nunes now has control, and selects Mohammed Usman to face Mitchell Sipe, setting up a fight that was supposed to happen on the regional circuit a few years ago.
Sipe tries to chirp to Usman about it as they face off, but the hulking Team Pena heavyweight wants no part of it, staring straight ahead at him, replying, “Let’s do it. Strap in.”